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The US Marine Corps has been enhancing its command and control capabilities. Since July 2016, the corps has rolled out 1,100 units of its next-generation blue force tracker. While end users may not have noticed much of a change, the new device is more robust on the back end and sets the stage for a future round of upgrades.
According to c4isrnet.com, the Joint Battle Command-Platform, or JBC-P, is an outgrowth of a joint Marine-Army effort that dates back to 2003. Service leaders say it gives commanders enhanced command, control, and situational awareness.
JBC-P makes a number of improvements upon the prior iteration, most notably the inclusion of an inline encryption device.
In the new version, “the end user can feel better about operations security, knowing that the information is protected as it moves from system to system,” said Capt. Jamie Claflin, JBC-P project officer at Marine Corps Systems Command.
The latest version delivers interoperability with other military services via the Joint Tactical Common Operation Picture Workstation, something that was not available in the original blue force tracker, Claflin said. It also offers faster satellite links.
Most significantly, the release of JBC-P takes what had been a joint-services effort and makes it more firmly a Marine-specific enterprise. By delineating the Marines’ formal requirements, the agreement ensures Marine Corps needs will be built into future software and hardware iterations, said Ignacio Filgueira, lead engineer for JBC-P at MCSC.
JBC-P Increment II is slated to field in fiscal 2018 to additional Marine Corps platforms. Planners say that next round of upgrades will include changes more readily visible to the end user.
For example: The system relies on a set of installed definitions to send different message types, such as situation reports and medical evacuations. The next version will have a greater variety of preformatted message types, including more ground-based messages, Filgueira said.
Designers also plan to make the interface more intuitive and user-friendly. “The layout of the buttons has changed to the side of the screen, so if a vehicle is moving through rough terrain, the user can hold the side of the display and still work the system with just their thumb,” Claflin said. “Before, it was harder to use the system when you were on the move.”
The next increment also could include a terrestrial capability, which would allow users to run the system via data-capable tactical radio at times when satellite links are degraded or unavailable. It also is slated to include a “chat” function for rapid text-based communications.