Next-Generation FBCB2 JCR on the Test Bench


Northrop Grumman Corporation has delivered the next version of Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below (FBCB2) software to the U.S. Army to begin formal government testing. The new software, called Joint Capabilities Release (JCR), provides a common FBCB2 platform solution for both the Army and U.S. Marine Corps.

FBCB2 is the key situational awareness and command-and-control system used by U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. More than 85,000 FBCB2 systems have been deployed worldwide. The company was awarded the first FBCB2 development contract in January 1995 and introduced the system in the early 2000s. Offering comprehensive situational picture showing updated positions of friendly forces, FBCB2 was one of the main contributors to the U.S. victory in the land campaign of the second Iraq War in 2003. The system links communication devices, sensors, vehicles, rotary-wing aircraft and weapons platforms in a seamless digital network to provide a clear, continuous and common picture of the battlefield. Most FBCB2 systems communicate via a satellite-based network; about 30 percent use the Enhanced Position Location Reporting System, or EPLRS, tactical radio network.

A screen view of an early version of FBCB2 JCR displayed at the AUSA 2009 exhibition. Photo: Defense Update

After 10 years in service FBCB2 is still useful but the current version of Blue Force Tracker (BFT), the core element of the system takes minutes to refresh friendly force position locations. JCR will solve that by fielding a new transceiver (BFT-2) and network upgrade, capable of updating friendly positions in seconds. Other new JCR features and functions include a commercial joint mapping tool kit; Type 1 encryption for relaying classified information; and an over-the-air “self descriptive situational awareness” (SDSA) capability. SDSA will eliminate inflexible fixed databases – one of the biggest complaints of the old system – and allow FBCB2-equipped units to change task organizations in the field to meet new mission requirements. The new FBCB2 also enables live streaming ‘picture in picture’ to be integrated on the display; it also provides for color marking of specific elements – a unit formation or vehicles in a convoy, obtaining better situational awareness in complex situations, where multiple friendly forces clutter the screen.

Future JCR releases will provide additional services including open office file transfers, image downloads, chat and instant messaging. Furthermore, the new system architecture is based on modular, reusable, upgradable and interoperable elements of the ‘Battle Command Product Line’ (BCPL) architecture developed by Northrop Grumman to extend the system through all users – combat command, aviation, dismounted soldiers, logistics and fires.