Joint Blue Force in the works

Officials in the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon will review the framework for a system that will provide a common land battlefield picture for warfighters in the Army and the Marine Corps.

A successful review will allow officials in the Army and the Marines to field a single, integrated ground picture capability by 2006. They learned during major combat operations in Iraq last year that soldiers and Marines did not always possess a similar and timely picture of the location of friendly, and when known, enemy forces, said Col. Lance Carroll, chief of the technical integration division in the Army's Office of the Deputy Chief of Programs/G-8. He spoke last week at the MILCOM 2004 Conference: Harness the Power for Force Transformation in Monterey, Calif., sponsored by the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association.

Lessons from last year's invasion of Iraq helped Defense Department officials develop a plan to deploy Blue Force Tracking throughout the military. Army and Marine officials briefed members of the Joint Requirements Oversight Council this past summer on the Joint Blue Force Situational Awareness framework.

Soldiers use the Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below (FBCB2) and Marines the Command and Control Personal Computer system to receive Blue Force Tracking, the locations of the friendly, and when known, enemy forces via blue and red icons displayed on terminals inside vehicles or on handheld devices.

Each system uses different computer protocols, communications architectures and messaging standards that present significant engineering and operational issues, said Lt. Col. Michael Sweeney, chief of the information superiority branch at the Strategic Division of Marine Headquarters' Command, Control, Communications and Computers, earlier this year.

Meanwhile, officials at DRS Technologies announced in October that they received a $39.5 million contract from Army communications acquisition officials to deliver starting next year more than 4,000 rugged units of FBCB2. The deal includes designing and manufacturing computer hard disk drives and processors, displays and keyboards, according to an Oct. 28 company statement.

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