BOSTON — The U.S. Army is preparing to begin industrial production of a command and control system that can be installed on ground vehicles to give mobile forces access to the same battlefield information that typically has been available only at fixed-site command centers.
The Mounted Battle Command on the Move (MBCOTM) program has yielded the Common Army-Marine Corps Command and Control Vehicle (CAMC2V) system , which processes and displays information from a variety of sources and relies in part on links through Ku-band commercial communications satellites . The system was developed in-house at the Army’s Communications-Electronics Command at Fort Monmouth, N.J., with collaboration from the U.S. Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command in Charleston, S.C.
The system, designed for officers managing large-scale maneuver operations, is seeing limited use by U.S. forces in Iraq today, according to Lt. Col. Michael Ryan, MBCOTM product manager at Fort Monmouth. The system displays the battlefield location of friendly forces based on data from the Army’s Force 21 Battle Command, Brigade and Below system. Data on the disposition of enemy forces, which comes from a variety of intelligence sources , also is displayed on the CAMC2V system, he said.
The Army is gearing up to hand production of CAMC2V upgrade kits over to industry, even though the system has received less-than-enthusiastic reviews so far from forces operating in the field, Ryan said in an Aug. 30 interview. Service officials are drafting a request for proposals for an initial production run of 125 units through 2013, he said.
Ryan noted that the Marine Corps is planning a separate procurement of CAMC2V upgrade kits.
Beginning in 2008, the CAMC2V packages will be installed aboard Army Bradley Fighting Vehicles, Strykers and light tactical vehicles, Ryan said. If those systems perform well, the Army could order an additional 77 units, he said, declining to discuss program funding or potential contract values.
Planned enhancements include making the CAMC2V system compatible with the U.S. Air Force’s Wideband Gapfiller communications satellites, which are slated to start launching next year, according to an Army budget document.
The origins of the MBCOTM program date back to 2002, when William Wallace, then a lieutenant general serving as commander of the Army’s 5th Corps, identified a need for mobile command centers to support large-scale maneuver operations, Ryan said. Wallace has since received his fourth star and now serves as commander of the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command.
Wallace publicly articulated the need for an MBCOTM-type system during an October 2003 hearing of the House Armed Services terrorism, unconventional threats and capabilities subcommittee, where he said commanders need to be “untethered” from fixed-site command posts. “Stationary command posts, in my judgment, do not support large-scale maneuver warfare,” Wallace told the committee.
Wallace told the committee that during the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, he had a prototype mobile system that provided battlefield situational awareness and said he hoped to see a similar capability in the hands of lower-ranking officers in the future. Ryan said the CAMC2V system is being used in Iraq today , but acknowledged that the system has garnered mixed reviews to date.
The most frequent complaint is that the system is not user friendly, which Ryan said is attributable to the fact that forces have not had adequate opportunities to train with the gear before being deployed overseas.
The Army began providing such training at Fort Hood, Texas, in July and expects to begin providing training at Fort Lewis, Wash., in January, Ryan said. This task will become easier as the Army fields more CAMC2V packages, making the system more readily available domestically for training purposes, he said.
Another issue, Ryan said, is that the war in Iraq has evolved in such a way that the deployed CAMC2V systems are not getting into much of the action. The initial phases of Operation Iraqi Freedom featured large-scale maneuvers managed by senior-level officers — the type of scenario for which the CAMC2V system was designed. Today, however, the war has become one of small-scale firefights against guerilla forces. Ryan said the CAMC2V system was designed for brigade-level commanders and above, whereas most of the fighting in Iraq today is taking place at the company level.