Think command and control.
The Army is designing a new command-and-control networking infrastructure to connect stove-piped systems and merge them into one system that collects mapping, fires information, airspace deconfliction, force tracking technology and intelligence data.
Command Post Computing Environment (CPCE) is a developmental effort to synchronize command center mobile and fixed-site applications, such as data in vehicles or information consolidated in a forward operating base.
Currently, command-and-control elements present a complex and often hard to manage collection of systems for users and system administrators, which can challenge efforts to share combat-relevant information in real time, Lt. Col. Jack Shane Taylor, CPCE program manager, said in an interview several years ago.
The Army anticipates having the first CPCE unit equipped by 2019.
“User interfaces in the past had to deliver all of their own infrastructure. We want to get rid of all these disparate systems and provide common architectures, a single solution which will reduce the burden we put on those networks,” Taylor said.
The concept is to update graphic user interfaces, or GUIs, which are dated and less intuitive.
Taylor added that, while soldiers have been adept at leveraging data-sharing benefits from each individual program, the experience has underscored the need for more streamlined and integrated systems.
“The goal is to reduce the amount of mediation that is required,” he said.
This is particularly relevant because the various command-and-control technologies are inter-dependent, Taylor explained.
By using standard IP protocols, the system facilitates interoperability and fire control, Satcom networks and other mission command systems can more quickly inform and update one another.
For instance, fires coordinates from an Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System, or AFATDS, can more quickly be assessed alongside force-tracking location data or mission-command on-the-move developments, Taylor explained.
Force location data, which can change quickly in combat, is more quickly relayed to command and control battlefield management applications such as Command Post of the Future.
A moving digital map, updated by high-speed satellite, can refresh quickly to pass on changing coordinates of vehicles in transit. This technology is made possible by the Army’s now-developing Joint Battle Command – Platform system, or JBC-P.
JBC-P is the next-generation of Blue-Force Tracker technology which uses a much faster uplink and downlink satellite connection, called Blue Force Tracker 2, or BFT 2. This reduces latency and provides faster refresh, letting soldiers instantly know the location of fast-moving friendly and enemy forces.
Mobile connectivity and streamlining data interoperability vastly improves Army expeditionary operations, such as early entry maneuvers, Taylor said.
JBC-P is slated to go on the Army’s emerging Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle as well as Strykers, Bradleys and Joint Light Tactical Vehicles, he explained.
The CPCE will enable the Army to develop and field applications through a web-based technology for use by tactical and operational commanders, Army developers said.
“Using any government-authorized laptop connected to the appropriate classified network, commanders and staff can log into the web-based framework, called the Ozone widget framework, to access these apps,” an Army statement said.
The apps provide the commander with three-dimensional views on a digitized map for operational and intelligence awareness for ground and air reporting, field artillery commands, logistics, alerts and incident reporting.
Merging force tracking data with intelligence information is also an essential element of JBC-P. Units on the move using the system can readily access Tactical Intelligence Ground Reporting system, or TIGER, as a way to see which particular areas along a route may have caused problems in the past or included enemy activity.
TIGER is woven into JBC-P to network the forces and give soldiers immediate access to pertinent combat detail. Data distribution systems with CPCE are integrated so that traffic can quickly pass between systems and give commanders an opportunity to make faster, more informed decisions in combat. Common software structure and IP Protocol also facilitate more rapid message exchange, Taylor said.
“All of the systems will be pulling from the same data source,” he explained.
This integration is also important to the Army’s “mission command on-the-move” Satcom network called Warfighter Information Network – Tactical Inc. 2, or WIN-T. Sharing information in transit vastly expedites combat manver tacticeus.
(This story first appeared in 2017)
Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army - Acquisition, Logistics& Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.