Army showcases airborne C2

The Army unveiled prototypes of its Army Airborne Command and Control System (A2C2S) during a Dec. 19 demonstration at the Pentagon, showcasing a system it hopes will standardize the communication of battlefield information for personnel aboard Black Hawk helicopters and on the ground.

Maj. Anthony Potts, assistant product manager for A2C2S, said the system achieves the Army's goal of horizontal technology integration because it uses a standardized platform, regardless of whether it is deployed in a Black Hawk, on the ground or in another type of vehicle.

The system hosts the Army Battle Command System and provides access to the Tactical Internet as well as to situational awareness information, intelligence data and mission plans. It also includes an integrated suite of radios, up to five user stations, a multiprocessor unit and software for several command, control and communications systems, including the Maneuver Control System and the Global Command and Control System-Army.

The A2C2S represents a leap forward based on the speed with which it can be deployed, Potts said. "It takes a battalion about three hours to get a digital battalion tactical operations center set up," whereas the new system can be established in about 8.5 minutes on the ground and taken down in about 12 minutes, he said.

After a briefing inside the Pentagon, the Army and Raytheon Co., the prime contractor on the $116 million A2C2S deal, invited reporters to see the new system aboard a UH-60 Black Hawk along with a ground-based counterpart on the Pentagon's helipad.

The display illustrated the standardization of the system regardless of its location, featuring five reconfigurable workstations and two, larger common displays aboard the helicopter, and a similar setup on the ground with the same capabilities.

Lt. Gen. Peter Cuviello, the Army's chief information officer, said the current command and control systems are fairly large and require lots of personnel, but the A2C2S has been downsized and is "mobile, agile and sustainable on the battlefield."

"We needed to take the technology and downsize it with the right bits of information so a commander gets the information in a more [streamlined], knowledge-based way," Cuviello said. "This is a prototype not just for technology; it's a prototype for determining requirements."

Potts said the system could also be used for homeland security applications, possibly assisting "first responders" at the state or local level or with the Federal Emergency Management Agency when dealing with an attack or natural disaster.

However, there is "no charter and no funding" for that potential use, although the Army is doing preparatory work on those initiatives. "If the Army calls, we'll be ready to go," Potts said.

The first completed A2C2S systems are scheduled to arrive at the end of next year, Potts said.

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