— 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




was initiated

after rescue operations in Southwest Asia and


 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,


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


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

person awaiting


, 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.