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

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