U.S. Army delivers new blue force tracking system to Korea

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — The Army’s next-gen­er­a­tion friend­ly force track­ing sys­tem that equips Sol­diers with a faster satel­lite net­work, secure data encryp­tion and advanced logis­tics for improved tac­ti­cal com­mu­ni­ca­tions and sit­u­a­tion­al aware­ness has deployed to instal­la­tions in Korea.

The Army has begun field­ing the Joint Capa­bil­i­ties Release to Korea. This upgrad­ed capa­bil­i­ty is a crit­i­cal part of the Army’s tac­ti­cal com­mu­ni­ca­tions net­work and will improve sit­u­a­tion­al aware­ness.
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This marks the first time Sol­diers out­side of eval­u­a­tion and train­ing exer­cis­es will be equipped with the soft­ware-enhanced Force XXI Bat­tle Com­mand Brigade-and-Below/Blue Force Track­ing, or FBCB2/BFT, known as Joint Capa­bil­i­ties Release, or JCR.

The Army’s Project Man­ag­er FBCB2, assigned to the Pro­gram Exec­u­tive Office Com­mand, Con­trol and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions-Tac­ti­cal, began field­ing JCR in April to the 2nd Infantry Divi­sion, and var­i­ous for­ma­tions of the 8th Army. Field­ing to Korea will con­tin­ue through Sep­tem­ber and includes fit­ting more than 1,000 plat­forms with the upgrad­ed capa­bil­i­ty.

Deliv­er­ing JCR to the penin­su­la was accom­plished one year ahead of sched­ule and ful­ly syn­chro­nized with unit train­ing require­ments, said Brig. Gen. Chuck Tay­lor, 2nd Infantry Divi­sion, deputy com­mand­ing gen­er­al-maneu­ver.

“This JCR-BFT improves our readi­ness to sup­port our mis­sion in the Repub­lic of Korea‑U.S. Alliance espe­cial­ly mis­sion com­mand on the move,” said Tay­lor, who pushed for the ear­ly field­ing. “Our mis­sion readi­ness will be sig­nif­i­cant­ly increased with JCR-BFT. Since BFT is our com­mon tac­ti­cal mis­sion com­mand fight­ing sys­tem, JCR-BFT map­ping, encryp­tion and user defined open archi­tec­ture is an expo­nen­tial leap for our Sol­diers.”

FBCB2/BFT is a crit­i­cal part of the Army’s tac­ti­cal com­mu­ni­ca­tions net­work that Sol­diers rely on for sit­u­a­tion­al aware­ness. The sys­tem includes com­put­ers, glob­al posi­tion­ing equip­ment and com­mu­ni­ca­tion sys­tems that work in tan­dem to pro­vide near real-time infor­ma­tion to com­bat lead­ers at the tac­ti­cal lev­el. Sol­diers inside vehi­cles can plot the loca­tion of ene­my, friend­ly and neu­tral objects and exchange com­mand and con­trol mes­sages.

Because 8th Army units must main­tain “Fight Tonight” readi­ness, the JCR field­ing was tai­lored to each Major Sup­port Com­mand using the “crawl, walk, run” strat­e­gy,” said Jeff For­gach, readi­ness man­age­ment chief for Project Man­ag­er FBCB2/BFT. The “crawl” phase came dur­ing test­ing at the Net­work Inte­gra­tion Eval­u­a­tion (NIE) 12.1 last fall, while the cur­rent field­ing to forces in Korea serves as the “walk” phase. The “run” phase will come this Octo­ber when JCR field­ing to 13,000 com­bat plat­forms in Afghanistan begins.

“We’re con­fi­dent in the net­work, we’re con­fi­dent in the soft­ware, but one of strate­gies was small steps,” said For­gach. “Kick the tires and let’s see how it per­forms. Korea is a diverse envi­ron­ment of scope and scale and 2ID does have day-to-day mis­sions in sup­port of the host nation. We know they’ll embrace the capa­bil­i­ties, they’ll uti­lize it and they’ll give us valu­able lessons learned that we can adjust if nec­es­sary in prepa­ra­tion for Afghanistan.”

The 2nd Infantry Divi­sion is the first unit to receive JCR for maneu­ver plat­forms, said For­gach.

“There was a thirst for these capa­bil­i­ties. This lead­er­ship very aggres­sive­ly pur­sued the best capa­bil­i­ties avail­able from the entire ASA(ALT) (Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of the Army for Acqui­si­tion, Logis­tics and Tech­nol­o­gy) mar­ket­place,” said For­gach. “They made this hap­pen.”

Among the many upgrades JCR brings is the pre­miere of JCR-Logis­tics, which inte­grates FBCB2/BFT capa­bil­i­ty with Move­ment Track­ing Sys­tem. MTS is a vehi­cle-based sys­tem that tracks com­bat sup­port and com­bat ser­vice sup­port vehi­cles, as well as oth­er assets. It offers a Radio Fre­quen­cy Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion capa­bil­i­ty to pro­vide in-tran­sit, real-time vis­i­bil­i­ty of crit­i­cal car­go.

The MTS JCR-Log pro­vides the tech­nol­o­gy nec­es­sary to com­mu­ni­cate with and track tac­ti­cal wheeled vehi­cles and car­go in near real times, , enabling the safe and time­ly com­ple­tion of dis­tri­b­u­tion mis­sions in sup­port of full spec­trum oper­a­tions. The upgrad­ed capa­bil­i­ties result in a seam­less, two way sit­u­a­tion­al aware­ness and mes­sage exchange between con­voys and the maneu­ver for­ma­tions to which they are deliv­er­ing goods.

“JCR-Log rep­re­sents a sig­nif­i­cant upgrade to the cur­rent capa­bil­i­ty set for MTS,” said Jim Carv­er, MTS field­ing man­ag­er. “Most sig­nif­i­cant­ly, the abil­i­ty to have two-way sit­u­a­tion­al awareness/common oper­at­ing pic­ture with the maneu­ver ele­ments in the the­ater of oper­a­tions is key.”

Train­ing man­agers from MTS and FBCB2 worked togeth­er and joint­ly devel­oped pro­grams of instruc­tion and tech­ni­cal man­u­als that allow for greater flex­i­bil­i­ty in new equip­ment train­ing pre­sen­ta­tions and a supe­ri­or prod­uct for Sol­diers.

Oth­er JCR enhance­ments include access to the type one secret net­work through the KGV-72 encryp­tion device, allow­ing users on-the-move to send secret data and inter­op­er­ate com­plete­ly with the com­mand post. JCR also incor­po­rates a new chat func­tion and instant mes­sag­ing capa­bil­i­ty. A pow­er­ful new map engine will allow Sol­diers to ren­der images and a Self Descrip­tive Sit­u­a­tion­al Aware­ness fea­ture allows for units to change task orga­ni­za­tion in the field.

JCR also uti­lizes the BFT 2 net­work, a new satel­lite infra­struc­ture that can han­dle sig­nif­i­cant­ly more data than the first BFT. This capac­i­ty increase allows for more fre­quent and larg­er mes­sage traf­fic, and in many cas­es cuts the system’s refresh rate from min­utes to sec­onds.

JCR capa­bil­i­ties will mod­ern­ize the way low­er ech­e­lons com­mu­ni­cate and nav­i­gate in the­ater, and test­ing of JCR at recent NIE events received pos­i­tive feed­back from Sol­diers.

Staff Sgt. Cody Moose, 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Divi­sion, said the chat room fea­ture proved a huge capa­bil­i­ty and was wide­ly used.

“I think it’s the best sys­tem we’ve test­ed so far and it seems like it’s work­ing per­fect­ly, exact­ly how it’s sup­posed to and how they told us it would,” said Moose. “It’s super easy to use. That’s the best part. Any­body that’s been on a chat room before knows how to use it.”

Capt. Luis Albi­no, com­man­der of C Troop with­in 1st Squadron, 1st Cal­vary Reg­i­ment of 2/1 AD, referred to the upgrad­ed FBCB2 as one of the best tools he’s seen in his sev­en years in the Army.

“I know where I’m at. I know where all my bud­dies are at. If the radio is down, I can still send a text,” said Albi­no. “They’ve made it more user friend­ly for the guys. That’s a tool they like.”

U.S. Army