Army Spearheads Digital Forces

WASHINGTON (06/29/2000) - The U.S. Army is equipping its First Digitized Division in Fort Hood, Texas, with critical battlefield awareness software and Spearhead, a commercial tank combat computer game.

The software, Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below (FBCB2), is the heart of the Army's effort to digitize its forces and provide soldiers with vital battlefield information, especially their own location and the location of friendly and enemy forces.

It's designed for real use in the battlefield and displays data with icons on a computerized map of the battlefield. Spearhead, the game, has 3-D graphics that enable players to act as platoon leaders with the Army's Third Armored Division, known as the Spearhead division.

The combination of the two turns the 2-D FBCB2 display into a 3-D representation of the battlefield situation, so enemy tanks look like enemy tanks rather than red icons.

The Army's Simulation, Training and Instrumentation Command (Stricom) has combined the two software packages so that soldiers can train on the FBCB2 software before using it in the field and to keep their skills sharp in the future. The service expects to complete fielding the combined package to Fort Hood within 60 days and will equip the remaining force as FBCB2 continues to be fielded, according to a Stricom spokesman.

"The beauty of this is that instead of having to pick up and go through [an FBCB2] manual page by page, you can actually create in a very low-cost environment a scenario that will stress your digital skills, your ability to create and send the appropriate digital messages based on this unfolding scenario," the Stricom representative said. "This could be used for any type of vehicle. The combinations really are pretty much infinite."

Army trainers teaching troops to use the FBCB2 software can use the combined software package to change terrain, threat, time of day, or atmospheric conditions. In addition, individual soldiers, squads or platoons can train interactively from remote locations.

"It provides an anytime, anywhere training capability at extremely low cost.

This entire suite is under US$10,000," the Stricom source said, adding that the Spearhead game is available for less than $40.

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