U.S. Army Clears FBCB2 Upgrade for Fielding

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A screen view of an early version of FBCB2 JCR displayed at the AUSA 2009 exhibition. Photo: Defense Update
The U.S. Army has approved the fielding of a major upgrade for its Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below (FBCB2) system, called Joint Capabilities Release (JCR). JCR implements next-generation capabilities with FBCB2, by increasing network bandwidth, security, situational awareness and response. Better suitable for communications and operation on the move communications, the system is refreshing situational pictures within seconds rather than in minutes.

To gain higher communications speed JCR is implementing Blue Force Tracking 2 (BFT 2), a high-speed force-tracking satellite-communications network offering communications update 10 times faster than the existing BFT. In addition, the new system will enable troops to share critical, sensitive information through the system’s new Programmable In-Line Encryption Device, which is fully compatible with JCR. Other new JCR capabilities include the Commercial Joint Mapping Tool Kit and an over-the-air self-descriptive situational awareness (SDSA) capability. SDSA will eliminate inflexible fixed databases and allow FBCB2-equipped units to change task organizations in the field to meet new mission requirements.

JCR represents a major departure from the original FBCB2 architecture which dates back to 1995. The new JCR approach called the “Battle Command Product Line” (BCPL) eliminates the “stovepipe” development approach taken by earlier command and control systems. It will enable the Army to develop, test, certify and deploy software capabilities faster, and at a lower cost.

The version that will be fielded is JCR-Vehicle L-Band (v) 1.1.1.4 V-4. The Army and Marine Corps are currently testing JCR V1.3.1 and considering it for a fielding upgrade this year. Today, most FBCB2 systems communicate via a satellite-based network; about 30 percent use the Enhanced Position Location Reporting System (EPLRS) tactical radio network.

More than 95,000 FBCB2 systems are currently providing the main situational awareness and command-and-control system for the U.S. and coalition forces. JCR is the most recent upgrade of the FBCB2 system, originated in 1995. Following the Army approval it will be incorporated into the LandWarNet/Battle Command Baseline for fielding to deploying units scheduled to receive FBCB2 software block 2.

JCR also provides a common FBCB2 platform solution for both the Army and U.S. Marine Corps. “The ability to receive and share battlefield data through a broad-based, reliable network is increasingly important and critical to the mission. JCR provides new collaboration tools and other enhancements that are orders of magnitude more capable than what is available to soldiers and Marines today,” said Joe G. Taylor, Jr., vice president of the Ground Combat Systems business unit within Northrop Grumman’s Information Systems sector.

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