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Air Assault Expeditionary Force tests technologies

By Tracy A. Bailey

FORT BENNING, Ga. (Army News Service, Dec. 1, 2005) – The Air Assault Expeditionary Force is testing more than 40 new technologies at Fort Benning, Ga., including the tough-bot, a two-wheel, remote-control vehicle with mounted cameras.

“I like it. I like the fact that it can save lives,” said Spc. Michael Schakey, Company A, 1st Battalion, 29th Infantry Regiment, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom I with 101st Airborne Division. “It has a multitude of uses, and we find new applications for it everyday.”

Tough-bot send pics to wrist screen

The tough-bot is similar to a remote-control car with the added feature of being able to transmit images to a small display screen the Soldier straps to his wrist. The Soldier controls the tough-bot the same way he would a remote-control car. Only the tough-bot has two cameras on it, so he can see what it sees.

The tough-bot is small enough to maneuver around boxes, trash, objects and just about anything, Schakey said.

“The tough-bot can go under vehicles and look straight up into the undercarriage of a car,” Schakey said.

Schakey said the tough-bot can be thrown into open windows and up stairs. Once inside, the tough-bot can go from room to room to make sure there is not an insurgent waiting to attack Soldiers.

Airship among tech tests

Other technologies in the experimentation phase are the airship, the Soldier radiowave, the small-unit support vehicle, the Force 21 Battle Command Brigade and Below system and the tablet PC, which are tied together.

The airship, which looks similar to the Goodyear blimp, flies about 4,000 feet above the ground and can carry up to three people. In the experimentation phase, the airship has one pilot and carries a communications package.

Dix test was precursor

The Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center is the lead integrator for the experiment. In September, CERDEC conducted the command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, or C4ISR, on-the-move experiment at Fort Dix, N.J.

This precursor to AAEF ensured many of the technologies participating in the experiment at Fort Benning were integrated into the network supporting the experiment, said Randy Zimmerman, team leader with CERDEC.

The airship acts as an airborne receiver to give a seven- to 10-mile receiver range to the communications network, which includes both voice and data, Zimmerman said.

Soldier radiowave includes GPS

The Soldier radiowave is designed for the dismounted Soldier, Zimmerman said. The Soldier carries it on his back and can communicate with Soldiers on the ground or in a technology-enhanced Humvee or small-unit support vehicle.

“In addition to the communication piece, the radio also has a Global Positioning System attached to it,” he said. “Once the Soldier turns it on, the guys back in the humvee can track where the Soldiers are located.”

Currently in theater operations, the Soldier has the capability for voice communications with his squad, but the company commander cannot track him as he would be able to do with the Soldier radiowave.

FBCB2 includes new support vehicle

The small-unit support vehicle and the Humvee – both of which are technology-enhanced – provide the mobile battle-command system, the FBCB2. This upgraded computer system is the command-and-control system for the platoon leader and company commander to communicate with Soldiers and vehicles on the ground.

The company commander sits in the back of the SUSV with the FBCB2 and has the ability to collaborate and share plans with his leaders in other vehicles or with the squad leaders on the ground who have the tablet personal computer – another emerging technology, Zimmerman said.

Tablet PC: pocket-size FBCB2

The tablet personal computer and the FBCB2 are the same – the tablet is a handheld computer similar to a laptop in size, and they interface with each other.

For example, the company commander in the SUSV can instruct the platoon leader on the ground (who has a tablet personal computer) to move away from an area by using his finger to draw a line on the FBCB2 (from point A to point B), Zimmerman said.

“This is a four-year experimentation campaign, and we are in year two,” Zimmerman said. “We figure out what works and helps the force today, and what we can do to help the force of tomorrow. It’s all about saving Soldiers’ lives.”

(Editor’s note: Tracy A. Bailey writes for the U.S. Army Infantry Center Public Affairs Office and Bayonet newspaper.)

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