Several armies are in the process of introducing future soldier systems: the United States with FBCB2; France with FELIN; and Israel with their WIN battle management system (BMS) and related digital products such as ‘Fast Road’ for armoured forces.
4th Oct 2012
Battle management systems comes together
Byline: Kym Bergmann / Canberra
Several armies are in the process of introducing future soldier systems: the United States with FBCB2; France with FELIN; and Israel with their WIN battle management system (BMS) and related digital products such as ‘Fast Road’ for armoured forces. Australia is making good progress moving down the digital ‘Blue Force Tracker’ path after what to many seemed a hesitant start. Prime contractor Elbit – using its Israeli experience – is nearing the end of the first phase of what is colloquially known as LAND 200. This is a key activity in progressing the Defence’s long term network centric warfare ambitions.
In fact LAND 200 does not officially exist in the sense of being a discrete funded activity in the Defence Capability Plan, but is shorthand for the inter-related acquisitions taking place under LAND 75 and LAND 125 – with JP 2072 also part of the mix. Defence explains why – for example – LAND 125 does not appear under the major projects list when it appears to be a substantial activity in its own right:
“In relation to the LAND 75 and 125 relationship, LAND 125 Phase 3A has progressed to Government in November 2009, along with LAND 75 Phase 3.4 and JP2072 Phase 1 under the colloquial LAND 200 project omnibus.
“In broader terms, LAND 125 achieved 1st Pass in May 2005 and in 2008 due to project complexity it was divided into 3 phases. LAND 125 Phase 3A (C4I component) scope has been transferred to Land 75 for delivery as part of LAND 200.
“Phase 3B (Survivability) and Phase 3C (Lethality) continue in accordance with their existing scope and schedules; with Phase 3B Year of Decision to occur within FY2013-14 to 2014-15 and Phase 3C Year of Decision FY 2014-15 to 2015-16.
“The 2012-13 Portfolio Budget Statement includes a list of the Top 30 Government-approved major projects by forecast expenditure in the 2012-13 financial year, not the total expenditure over the life of the project. The list does include Land 75 Phase 3.4 and the project description does acknowledge the inter-relationships with JP2072 Phase 1 and Land 125 Phase 3A.”
So now that we are clear on that, Elbit was awarded a contract with a value of $349 million in March 2010 to introduce a Battle Group and Below Command, Control and Communications Systems (BGC3) for the Army – vehicles as well as soldiers. Despite some commercial sniping from the competition – which is ongoing – the company and its partners have made good progress. Elbit is the main contractor for the Battle Management System. Harris and Raytheon are providing the Combat Radio System via separate contracts with JP2072 Phase 1. Saab Systems remains the main contractor for the Battlefield Command Support System. More on all of these shortly.
Following extensive operational test and trial activity, the Chief of Army declared Initial Operational Capability (IOC) earlier this year. Defence explains:
“The IOC scope was to field the system within an Infantry Motorised Company. The fielding of the system in a Battlegroup will take place as part of the Final Operating Capability (FOC) scheduled for the end of 2013.
“A Battlegroup (BG) is a tactical task organised grouping of combat elements based on the headquarters of an armoured or infantry battalion. A BG is grouped prior to an operation with the ability to conduct independent operations. A BG should be organised to contain, or draw on, the elements necessary to fulfill the range of combat functions. For example, a traditional infantry battlegroup should contain combat arms with common mobility and adequate levels of protection; assisted by combat support units to provide manoeuvre and to give indirect firepower; together with service support units to provide sustainment.”
The next major phase of the activity will see the system expand to cover four Battlegroups and their associated vehicles such as Bushmasters.
While Elbit is the system integrator – and rapidly expanding its Australian operations - other companies play an important role:
In January this year Harris Corporation, an international communications and information technology company, received a $223 million order to deliver Falcon® tactical radio systems to the Australian Department of Defence in the next phase of its tactical radio modernization program. The radios are designed to provide Australia's armed forces with reliable and secure Type-1 tactical voice and data communications.
Harris is currently in the process of supplying the Australian Defence Force (ADF) through a phrased approach principally with Harris Falcon III® AN/PRC-152(C) multiband, multi-mode handheld tactical radios for portable line-of-sight and beyond-line-of-sight voice and data communications.
The ADF has also acquired the Falcon II® AN/PRC-150(C) manpack, the world's only type-1 certified HF radio. Both radios were delivered to the ADF under the Joint Project 2072 program. Harris supported delivery, installation and ongoing training for the radios through its Asia-Pacific headquarters in Brisbane.
"This order expands our ongoing collaboration with the Australian Department of Defence, which is working toward developing a networked Australian brigade in 2013," said Brendan O'Connell, president, International Business, Harris RF Communications. "Our solutions and proven expertise in tactical communications are making a difference for ADF forces by delivering voice, video and data across the battlefield. We're also providing the ADF with world-class field support, highlighted by the recent opening of our regional headquarters in Brisbane."
In addition to the equipment contract, Harris was awarded a $15.3 million support and services contract with the Australian Department of Defence. Harris recently opened the Harris Communications Logistic Centre (HCLC) in conjunction with the commencement of Phase 2A, the services and support contract aligning with the delivery of the radios. The established warehouse was officially opened on 17 August 2012 in connection with the ADF and Commonwealth of Australia.
During the opening Alan Callaghan the VP of International Sales and Managing Director of Asia Pacific stated “The opening of the facility epitomizes the very best of teamwork between the DMO, ADF and industry, and further reaffirms Harris’ unswerving commitment toward ensuring that the Australian War Fighter is supplied with the very best networked communications available in the world.” The HCLC increases the Harris footprint within the Asia Pacific region and significantly enhances the service and support capability through the provision of:
• 4,900 sq/m of warehouse facility
• 600 sq/m of office space
• Test and pack area
• Bulk storage area
• State-of-the-art security systems
• Large cryptographic vault
• Ample room for a very significant additional Systems Integration Laboratory
Raytheon Australia has provided a range of systems engineering and equipment installation, as well as set-to-work maintenance and integrated logistics services under subcontract to Elbit Systems Limited in support of the LAND 200.
Raytheon Australia has also provided communications engineering support to Elbit in relation to the EPLRS and MicroLight family of radios that were procured under JP2072 Phase 1. This capability forms the data backbone for the Battle Group Command, Control and Communication (BGC3) Mission system being procured under LAND 200.
As mentioned above, Saab’s is part of the activity by virtue of developing and supplying Army’s Battlefield Command Support System under LAND 75.
The current in-service version of the Army’s planning System; Battlefield Command Support System (BCSS) is known as Release 8.1 Final. This year it will be receiving a refresh known as Release 8.1 Service Pack 1 - which has a major focus on sustainment and improving supportability. Next year, an optional “plug-in” called Commander’s Briefing Tool will be delivered.
Concurrent with these developments, BCSS transitioned from acquisition to sustainment from July 2012 and is being managed by the Command Support Systems Sustainment Systems Office (C2SSO), located in Melbourne.
For the technically minded, the key features of Release 8.1 are:
BCSS Release 8.1 Final BCSS Release 8.1 Final was rolled out to Regular Army Units in March 2012. This is the first release of BCSS since 2006. Saab provided Train the Trainer training to Army’s BCSS Trainers, the Defence Force School of Signals (DFSS). Saab has also provided on-site technical support to BCSS Trainers and Users, including the 3rd Combat Engineer Regiment (3CER) in August 2012. The endorsed capability strategy is for BCSS to be in service until 2018.
Role BCSS is the Australian Army’s deliberate planning system. It is typically used ‘pre H-hour’ for command and control and planning, tasks.
Functionality R8.1 Final delivers enhanced communications allowing BCSS to operate over EPLRS radios; provision of Network Management Suite of Tools to support pre-deployment configuration, testing, data transfer from Deployable Networks to Barracks Networks.
EPLRS By providing an interface that allows BCSS to operate over EPLRS radios, the system will provide rapid communications between BCSS nodes, more robust communications via a mesh network and more rapid distribution of orders and documentation via messaging. Use of EPLRS radios will allow BCSS approx. 50 times greater throughput than with the legacy Raven radios.
Battle-map Release 8.1 Final includes a battle-map from ESRI.
Set Up Release 8.1 Final is faster for users to set up and deploy. Systems administrators will find it easier to use and manage.
Aide Memoire Release 8.1 Final comes with a BCSS Set Up Guide in Aide Memoire in a ‘vuey-tuey’ format. This quick reference guide fits into a pocket or basic pouch and is made of water proof paper with pockets for maps and orders.
DRN / DSN In parallel with R8.1 Final the BCSS Project Office has developed a ‘Virtual BCSS’ providing access to the system on the DRN and DSN. This supports on-going use of the system in the barracks.
Hardware The new BCSS version is being rolled out on military specification ruggedized Dell ATG laptops (dual core, 4GB RAM; 120GB HDD) and IWS (dual core; 3GB RAM; 320GB HDD) vehicle fits.
Enhanced network management capability Administrators can prepare their plans for an operation, and apply that plan directly to multiple workstations, reducing the time and manual effort required. Once the network is setup, automated backup tasks prevent data loss that may otherwise occur from hardware failures. Problem identification (and hence resolution) is made possible with an automated tool that checks BCSS installations for problems.
There has been some speculation about whether the Australian BMS will be able to interface with the systems of other nations – especially the United States. Both Elbit and Defence have been conscious of the issue and have been aware of the sensitivities – if not outright paranoia – of Washington. However, the news so far is encouraging. The Australian system has undergone a number of exercises involving the US and while this has been hardware-limited to brigade and below, data exchanges using Variable Message Format (VMF) are understood to have been very successful.