Several Marine Corps ground vehicles are getting an upgrade, thanks to an Army-Marine Corps program called Joint Battle Command-Platform. JBC-P gives commanders across the battlespace better command, control and situational awareness than ever before.
Marine Corps Systems Command has fielded nearly 1,100 of the systems to the M88 Tank Retriever, Assault Breacher Vehicle and High Mobility Multi-wheeled Vehicle, or HMMWV, platforms since July.
“JBC-P is the Marine Corps’ primary command, control and situational awareness tool for the battalion and below,” said Capt. Jamie Claflin, JBC-P project officer at MCSC. “It allows the commander to see friendly forces in his area of responsibility in real time—including other services—and also provides situational awareness data that is reported into the common operating picture.”
Commonly referred to as Blue Force Tracker by Marines, JBC-P is a family of systems that includes Joint Capability Release software and legacy BFT mounted systems.
This first iteration of the system, JBC-P Increment I, provides faster satellite communications, secure encrypted transmissions, and enhanced interoperability with the Joint Tactical Common Operation Picture Workstation, or JTCW, it feeds. Satellite communications provide long-range capability many vehicles did not have before.
“JBC-P also features a multi-function screen with mapping and message management environments,” said Ignacio Filgueira, lead engineer for JBC-P at MCSC. “Operators can select different functions including a real-time chat room capability where they can send and receive messages, use icons on a map that show other [JBC-P-equipped] vehicles, position information, adversaries, threats and shared SA and C2 capability with JTCW.”
The Army’s legacy Blue Force Tracker system was procured by the Corps in 2003, through an urgent universal need statement in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The JBC-P program is still led by the Army, but they partner with the Corps through an agreement called an Authority to Participate granted by the MCSC commander.
“The agreement means the Corps now has a formal requirement [for the system], which dedicates funding to the program and gives us more leverage to ensure Marine Corps needs are incorporated into the software and hardware,” Filgueira said. “Our relationship with the Army also allows us to share contracting vehicles, and testing and development resources.”
From an operational perspective, the Army manages a 24/7 Network Operations Center provides visibility of the Blue Force Tracking network, not only between the JTCW and JBC-P, but across the services.
“Through the BFT network, the two services can communicate seamlessly with each other and if they have any issues with their network, the NOC provides a reach-back help desk with personnel standing by to ensure they remain connected,” said Lt. Col. Shane Sims, the Army’s product manager for JBC-P. “The NOC personnel pride themselves on remaining operationally available 100 percent of the time for our forces worldwide.”
This partnership provides tactical and operational forces the ability to communicate with and see each other as they execute critical missions. It also leverages each service’s contracts to take advantage of cost savings.
“Today, through JBC-P, Soldiers and Marines are no longer burdened by operating with two separate command and control/mission command systems,” Sims said. “By using the same system, the Marine Corps and Army know where each other are in relation to the enemy. JBC-P enables them to communicate on missions together, which is a huge tactical and operational advantage over our adversaries.”
More upgrades are on the horizon for JBC-P. Beginning in fiscal year 2018, MCSC’s JBC-P team will begin fielding JBC-P Increment II to additional Marine Corps platforms, including the Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement, Logistics Vehicle System Replacement, Assault Amphibious Vehicle, Light Armored Vehicle and High Mobility Artillery Rocket System.
The Increment II upgrade will include new, improved hardware for the additional vehicles, and will be implemented as a technical refresh to vehicles previously equipped with Increment I. Increment II will give Marines a modernized graphical user interface with preformatted messages to ease and speed communication between JBC-P systems. It will also provide a new terrestrial communication capability that allows Marines to communicate using data-capable radios when satellite communications are denied or degraded.
“For Marines, it comes down to the situational awareness piece and—whether you’re a vehicle commander, unit commander or convoy commander—being able to see who is around you,” Claflin said. “Just as important, JBC-P is also another means of communicating back and forth. At the end of the day, most Marine Corps vehicles will have those capabilities.”
The JBC-P team at MCSC is part of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force Command, Control and Communications program office. MC3 develops and sustains MAGTF command and control systems; counter-improvised explosive device and Force Protection systems; tactical communication systems; and networking and satellite communications for the Marine Corps.
Story by Monique Randolph