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[infowar.de] JDW 12.03.03: US Army Shares Radios To Avoid Gulf Fratricide
Jane's Defence Weekly
March 12, 2003
US Army Shares Radios To Avoid Gulf Fratricide
By Kim Burger, JDW Staff Reporter, Washington, DC
The US Army is widely distributing its premier tactical communications
system - the Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below (FBCB2) system -
US ground units and allied forces to share information on the
and help avoid fratricide in a war with Iraq, industry and army
The army's 4th Infantry Division (4th ID) is being deployed to the
Gulf region equipped with the full digital capability of the FBCB2
and its Tactical Internet, including the tracking of friendly and enemy
forces and tactical details about the battlefield. The army is providing
more than 1,000 systems to additional units to enable other army, US
Corps (USMC) and allied units to interface with the advanced system and
know each other's location.
The US Army has about 8,000 FBCB2 systems on hand. The US is delivering
about 50 systems for use by a division-level unit of an unspecified
coalition partner through a government-to-government agreement,
said. Training is set to begin shortly. As the UK is the only US ally
providing substantial ground combat forces, it is likely that the three
brigades, particularly 7th Armoured Brigade, will receive the system.
The US 3rd Infantry Division and all other US army units that are likely
be involved in combat will receive the system, an army spokeswoman said.
The USMC is buying a limited number of the FBCB2 systems, primarily to
enable the army to be able to identify the marines, a programme official
said. The USMC's Data Automated Communications Terminals can identify
and army units, the official added.
Friendly-fire incidents were responsible for 24% of US casualties in the
1991 Operation 'Desert Storm', as well as most of UK ground casualties
the 1990-91 conflict. Of the US fratricide incidents, 61% involved
ground-to- ground incidents, according to US government figures.
These accidents, as well as the bombing of a Canadian infantry unit by a
Air National Guard F-16 in April 2002 in Afghanistan, have led officials
highlight the blue-force tracking capabilities of FBCB2.
Col Dennis Rogers, who commands a brigade in the 4th ID, said the system
"allows me to see the enemy, see the terrain and see myself". The
combination with other 'digitised' systems in the 4th ID like the M1A2
Abram System Enhancement Program tanks and M2A3 Bradley Fighting
extends the size of a division's operational area from about 30-50km to
60-100km, Col Rogers said.
Units outside the 4th ID will not have access to the Tactical Internet,
which involves the use of Single-Channel Ground and Airborne Radio
and Enhanced Position Location Reporting System line-of-sight radios.
capability, which provides wireless communications on the move, is
its debut in battlefield operations with the 4th ID.
Instead, other units will be given systems that use a satellite link,
enabling communications at greater range and in complex terrain where
line-of-sight communications are not possible, officials said.
down to the company level will be provided with the systems, instead of
equipping every platform as in the 4th ID.
The capability is similar to that which the army gave to units on
peace support operations in the Balkans. In recent months forces in the
Persian Gulf region and Afghanistan for Operation 'Enduring Freedom'
also received satellite-linked FBCB2 systems, officials said.
Other systems aimed at generating 'situational awareness' and
identification of friendly forces are also being rapidly distributed to
coalition and allied forces, an army spokeswoman said. These include
identification thermal panels for vehicles, the Phoenix infra-red combat
beacon system and glow tapes for soldiers.
Department of Defense acquisition officials have not yet given the final
approval for the FBCB2 and thus it is still considered a developmental
system. An initial operational test and evaluation was postponed from
2002 as work still needed to take place with other communications
that are to interface with FBCB2, officials said. Data may be collected
during operations to evaluate the system, officials said.
The army is moving forward in studying a hand-held version of FBCB2,
screen based on a personal digital assistant. The system operates via
L-band satellite communications instead of the radio-based Tactical
Internet. About 100 systems will be delivered in July for testing.
Northrop Grumman is developing an even smaller version that would
directly with the network, providing a capability for soldiers to leave
their vehicles but still have access to FBCB2 data.
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