Satellite-Based Broadband Service Keeps Mobile Troops Plugged In

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A high-speed, mobile connectivity capability aimed at dramatically increasing joint commanders’ access to operational information on the battlefield will enter service in Europe and Iraq later this year.

The Command and Control on the Move (C2OTM) system will provide joint commanders with a satellite-based mobile broadband service as they move around the battlefield, giving them access to the same information available at a fixed joint task force headquarters.

The first customers for C2OTM will be the U.S. Army’s V Corps, which will start taking deliveries in July, and the Multi-National Force-Iraq, scheduled to begin receiving the equipment in October.

U.S. Joint Forces Command (JFCOM), which has sponsored and managed the C2OTM program, says the new mobile connectivity will increase collaboration and situational awareness. It also will mean that a commander will no longer have to trade capability for mobility. With C2OTM, a joint commander can chat with staff in various locations, pull up recent imagery of a target area or pinpoint enemy movement with the click of a mouse while sitting in a Bradley fighting vehicle, aboard an aircraft carrier or flying toward a theater of operation.

“Traditionally, in order to get a lot of data to the joint force commander, he’s had to pay a price,” said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Steve Fahey, C2OTM project lead. “He’s had to stop and connect using larger, less-mobile assets. He can do it in his headquarters, but when he hits the road, he often has to trade his connectivity for mobility.”

Based on commercial Ku-band Code Division Multiple Access satellite technology, each C2OTM system has two mobile terminal cases for each vehicle, a half-meter antenna, a secure, spread-spectrum modem and secure handsets. Industry partners on C2OTM include Cisco Systems of San Jose, Calif.; Expand Networks of Roseland, N.J.; General Dynamics of Falls Church, Va.; Harris Corp. of Melbourne, Fla.; Titan Corp. of San Diego; and ViaSat Corp. of Carlsbad, Calif.

The C2OTM program is one of several managed by JFCOM, an increasingly important player in intelligence and command-and-control systems.

The command has replaced its Joint Forces Intelligence Command with the newly designated Joint Transformation Command — Intelligence (JTC-I), which includes a joint intelligence laboratory. JTC-I, which was established in April in Norfolk, Va., will emphasize the command’s expanded role in optimizing intelligence capabilities to support JFCOM as the lead agent for defense transformation.

“The challenge is to make intelligence personnel and units full members of the training experience, not just enablers,” Harold Stine of JTC-I said April 6 at the JFCOM/National Defense Industry Association Industry Symposium in Portsmouth, Va.

The laboratory will be a hub for assessing, experimenting with and demonstrating joint intelligence capabilities. JTC-I also will serve as a test site for intelligence products and tools, and will focus on improving joint targeting, bomb damage assessment, collection management, human intelligence, analysis, production and dissemination.

“We want to make sure we have an inventory of capabilities and industry resources that we can tap into and exchange ideas,” said the lab’s director, Navy Capt. Deborah Effemey.

JFCOM’s role in intelligence is growing with the importance of joint operations in campaigns such as the Iraq war, which have made command-and-control systems a top priority. “With command and control, if we don’t get jointness right, we are inefficient at best, ineffective at times and deadly wrong at worst,” said Maj. Gen. Charles Simpson, JFCOM’s director of requirements and integration.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld ordered the command to coordinate the services’ efforts to develop battle-management systems. This led to the Joint Battle Management Command and Control effort, through which JFCOM helps decide which command-and-control proposals are funded, sets requirements and oversees program development.

JFCOM also has established a Web portal that allows multinational services in Iraq to share classified, sensitive and unclassified information. “This allows information sharing at every level, especially with coalition partners and the Iraqi government,” said Monica Shephard, director of joint prototype pathways at JFCOM Joint Experimentation.

Iraqi Portal is an open-standard, open-architecture, open-source portal that integrates current disparate data and documents so that authorized partners can access and share the information they need. The portal allows information-sharing across all security levels. It also provides text-chat capability and a Web-based common operational picture.

Future developments could allow for a fully automated transfer of information among the coalition’s numerous networks. “There is a need to be able to share information at every level, down to the tactical level, so we knew this was important,” Shephard said.

Navy Adm. Edmund Giambastiani, commander of JFCOM, said JTC-I will work with academia, industry and other intelligence organizations to develop new capabilities for the joint warfighter.