Communication network for soldiers
[ By Lt General (Retd) P.C. Katoch]
Communications for soldiers have undergone rapid changes. It is possible to deploy even independent subsquad elements and coordinate their activity and firepower as they remain networked into the Battlefield Management System (BMS). Modern intra-squad specialised radios offer effective communications within the squad and between combat teams, enabling effective operations. Digital information through hand-held computer displays provide unprecedented situational awareness and information combining integrated navigation, observation and orientation devices, optimising optronics, digital compass, GPS systems and laser rangefinders for combat orientation and coordination. Maps, sketches, overlays, aerial imagery, sensor data, intelligence information and standard reports are shared/generated. Soldiers can communicate with UAVs and call for air strikes and other remote controlled weapon platforms.
US Army uses the FBCB2 for battlefield management at brigade and below. The system is deployed in Stryker Brigades. It has demonstrated improvements in combat effectiveness and is leading the endeavour to digitise the US Army’s battlefield for 21st Century Soldier. Important features include, near real time, accuracy of locations, automated icons and ubiquitous platforms — expanded range of operation, reduced communication time, coordinated manouvre capability by night/bad weather, faster decision making, better certainty, reduced fratricide and increased lethality. The Land Warrior programme was launched in 1994 to build initial capability and then a Land Warrior Stryker Interoperable.
The first interoperable systems were delivered in 2005 for testing and assessment after which it was decided to merge the programme with the Future Force Warrior to enable more efficient spiral development of new technologies and eventually develop the Ground Soldier System (GSS); the next generation of Land Warrior. 900 Land Warrior systems and 300 vehicle-integration kits were received by 2009. The system is modular and tailored for the soldier’s task and mission. The unit commander decides the components of Land Warrior that will be deployed for a mission. The two main Land Warrior configurations are for the soldier and the squad leader. The soldier version includes a radio with short range inter-squad voice and data communications. A squad leader’s system includes a multi-band inter- and intra-team SINCGARS compatible radio, a keyboard and hand-held flat panel display.
The British Army has the P-BISA – Bowman as BMS based on tactical and secure voice and data communications. Soldier modernisation is being progressed under the FIST (Future Infantry Soldier Technology) Program. Five main areas of capability identified are C4I (command, control, communications, computers and intelligence), lethality (weapons and sights), mobility (navigation, size, weight), survivability (clothing, stealth, body armour) and sustainability (logistical considerations).
Every infantry soldier may have FIST. Unit commanders will specify equipping tailored to operational and mission requirements. Soldiers will have a small encrypted radio that operates over a lineof-sight, short range to other members of his unit. The patrol leader’s radio will communicate with forward operating base. The network system will reroute automatically to allow continuity of operation when a communications link is broken. Voice and data communications can be relayed to the soldier directly or via drone relay links from HQs, which have downloaded battlefield commands, information and images from forward observers, UAVs, remote sensors and other airborne or satellite surveillance assets. Soldiers will have a GPS, a dead reckoner and map displays to increase situational awareness. Helmet displays, wrist-mounted displays, hand-held and laptop computers and communications systems are being considered. 35,000 sets of FIST kits are expected to be procured and the systems will be deployed in the British Army, Royal Air Force Regiment and Royal Marines entering service between 2015 and 2020.
The French Army has deployed some 1,500 systems of T-BMS – Commander Battle in their Special Forces, Intelligence, Mountain Infantry, Parachute, Light Manouvre Brigade and French-German Brigades. Sub-systems include GIS Information System (vector, raster, elevation maps, synchronised 2D/3D view, navigation aids, etc), situational display services (tactical editor, military symbols, order of battle, ID cards), messaging services, mission preparatory services (map workshop – terrain study and interpretation of the battlefield, plans and orders preparation, itinerary planning, radio network configuration etc), mission executive services (situational awareness including blue force tracking, automated sharing, graphics and alerts, orders and reports generation, logistics status management), and after action review services (replay of operational sequence, recall/review tactical changes, messages received, etc). Israeli Defence Forces have the ‘Hunter’ system combining all C4I efforts in the ground forces to achieve full operability, synergising doctrine, manpower, planning, development and training. Platform integration includes the non-line of sight platforms (mortars, artillery, MLRS), manoeuvre platforms (tanks, Infantry, reconnaissance elements, Engineers, logistic elements, intelligence elements), airborne platforms and air defence. The project to integrate vari-
Users can trade chat messages with an operator of FBCB2, which enables warfighters in vehicles and aircraft to exchange messages – such as the location of an enemy or an improvised explosive device – and share a common operating picture of the battlefield