Boeing: CSEL Radio Upgrade Would Help Protect Downed Pilots

by





BOSTON
— Boeing Integrated Defense Systems of St. Louis




is developing a modification to U.S. military radios used




 to rescue downed pilots and isolated combat personnel that could help protect them against




friendly fire accidents, according to company officials.

The company could begin modifying




 Combat Survivor Evader Locator (CSEL) radios to feed data into so-called blue force tracking




 systems by the end of 2009, assuming formal approval by the U.S. Air Force




, according to Jo-Anne Martin, acting director of business development at Boeing C3 Networks. Blue force tracking systems transmit information on the location of friendly forces and other battlefield information via communications satellites.





While Air Force has not made this capability a formal requirement for CSEL, users have expressed




interest in it




during discussions with the company, Martin said during an Oct. 20 interview at the Milcom 2009 conference in Boston.



Boeing has been developing this capability with its own research and development funds, though Martin declined to quantify the company’s investment




.

The CSEL




 program




was initiated




after rescue operations in Southwest Asia and




Bosnia




 were found to have an “extremely low recovery rate and often exposed the rescue forces to very high enemy threats,” according to a




fact sheet posted on Boeing’s Web site




.





CSEL radios




 are handheld devices that downed pilots can use to relay their location, which is based on GPS data, to rescue forces via the U.S. Navy’s UHF Follow On satellites as well as classified spacecraft,




 said




John Lunardi, vice president of Boeing Networks and Communications Systems.




 CSEL also includes a beacon that operates with an international satellite-aided rescue system known as Cospas-Sarsat




, he said.





The CSEL device can receive




military GPS signals more accurate and more secure than those available to civilians




, according to a Boeing news release dated Sept. 10.



The U.S. Army is the primary CSEL user, followed by the Air Force, Martin said.

The proposed




modification requires tweaking




 CSEL software to enable the radios to feed user-location data




into the Force 21 Battle Command Brigade and Below (FBCB2) system used by troops in combat to monitor the position of friendly forces




.

FBCB2, a blue force tracking system




 




built by Northrop Grumman Mission Systems of Reston, Va., uses GPS transmitters installed on




U.S. military ground vehicles and aircraft to track their position. That data is combined with digital terrain maps and intelligence information on enemy fighters, and




relayed via commercial satellites




to provide a detailed picture of the forces on a battlefield.



Incorporating CSEL position-location data




into the blue force tracking picture




 would




help troops who are firing weapons from aircraft or ground vehicles to avoid striking a downed pilot or other




person awaiting




rescue




, Lunardi




said in an Oct. 20 interview.

Meanwhile, CSEL already has been “credited with dozens of saves,” said




to David Sidman, a Boeing spokesman. He




declined to provide a specific number




.





Boeing delivered its 25,000th CSEL system to the military




 July 31




. Pilots in aircraft like the Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System and Airborne Warning and Control System are potential future users of the radios




, Martin said.

The company also has received international interest in the system from countries like Canada and South Korea, Martin said.