Army to test handheld systems

The Army will soon field test 100 handheld devices that will provide commanders and soldiers a picture of the battlefield, following the devices' success on vehicles in Iraq.

The handheld devices will provide access to the Army's Force XXI Battle Command, Brigade and Below (FBCB2) system, which displays a map or aerial photo of the area in which a commander needs to move. The system, linked to a command post through satellite, provides not only location information but also chat capabilities and route mapping that can be shared with the entire command.

The goal is to share a picture of the battlefield with commanders and soldiers. The system is intended to support mission requirements, such as target identification and graphical combat area displays that give commanders their precise location and the location of allied forces.

The technology was first deployed in Afghanistan and more widely used in Iraq, including use by joint forces and coalition forces. Until now, however, the system was mounted only in vehicles, so dismounted troops were still forced to use the map and compass system that has been in place for centuries.

"In the past, we've focused on mounted forces because it's been hard to get something that a soldier can carry with these capabilities," said Army Col. Nickolas Justice, program manager for FBCB2. "From the beginning of the program, we have been told that it must be integrated with the dismounted soldiers."

Justice said neither the Army nor Northrop Grumman, the contractor that designed the system, have developed a final solution yet, but Justice said he hopes soldiers and Marines will get it soon.

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