BOSTON — The U.S. Army commanders in Iraq are crediting a new satellite-linked battle- planning system with saving soldiers’ lives, according to service officials.

The Command Post of the Future (CPOF) makes it possible for soldiers to conduct collaborative battle planning from fixed sites dispersed around Iraq, eliminating the need for them to meet at a single location, the officials said.

Without having to travel through potentially dangerous areas on their way to a meeting, soldiers now are able to meet and plan much more frequently than before, the officials said in a Sept. 7 interview.

CPOF includes a Windows-based computer workstation with up to three displays, a server suite, and voice-over-Internet Protocol headsets, according to an Army document.

The displays include maps and screens where commanders can diagram their plans, and have those plans displayed on the screens of other CPOF users. The system, which uses satellite communications links provided by the Joint Network Node ground terminals, is intended for commanders from corps to battalion level, according to the document.

Commanders involved in formulating a plan are able to share their thinking and collaborate using software that provides ” a rich, multi-perspective, shared operational picture,” according to the Army document.

The CPOF program began as a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency effort to create an improved visualization environment for military commanders, according to Steven Waldman, program manager for battle command in the CPOF program office at the Army’s Communications-Electronics Command at Ft. Monmouth, N.J. The Army took notice of the project, and in 2004 signed an agreement with the agency to deploy the system on the battlefield. Under that agreement, the Army contributed funding from 2004 to 2006 to help field the system as part of the war against terrorism, according to the document.

Before the system could be pressed into battle, the military had to solve problems that included latency in the display of information with the satellite communications links, Waldman said. There was a brief lag between the reception of voice and data display, causing the two to be slightly out of sync , he said. Even a slight disconnection between voice and data display can make a presentation difficult to understand and decrease its utility to planning, he said.

Program officials addressed the latency problem by taking a variety of steps to regulate the flow of data in and out of the system, Waldman said. This included using an additional server that handled flow of data between the systems.

More than 500 CPOF systems have been deployed to Iraq and Kuwait thus far, according to Richard Likaka, fielding and operations support lead in the CPOF program office. The Army is expected to decide later this year on the possibility of expanding the fielding of CPOF even further, he said.

Commanders in Afghanistan have not yet requested use of the system, Likata said.

The system has been enthusiastically received by troops in the field, Likata said. Soldiers who now do not have to worry about running into ambushes once or twice a week as they traveled as much as 160 kilometers on the way to planning discussions can now meet more safely through CPOF twice a day, Likaka said.

The more frequent meetings also have an impact on the relevancy of the information discussed, Waldman said. When soldiers met once or twice a week, they risked having the information in their PowerPoint charts become obsolete by the time the meetings took place, he said.

Some future possibilities for the CPOF system include producing a mobile variant of the system, though this effort has not yet been funded, Waldman said. The Army currently has a system called Mounted Battle Command On The Move that gives commanders access to much of the same information they would have in a fixed site command post, but that system does not enable collaborative activity, he said.

One of the challenges with turning CPOF into a mobile capability is the ability to display information, Waldman said. The three-screen display used with CPOF in fixed sites might be difficult to install in vehicles like humvees due to the scarcity of available space, he said.

However, program officials could likely find a way to develop a graphical interface for vehicles as well as dismounted soldiers that would help facilitate planning, Likata said.