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Battlefield Combat Identification System (BCIS)

Until the fall of 2001, the Army had a program in place to develop a combat ID system. A Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) award was scheduled for 3QFY99 with fielding to the 4th ID at Ft. Hood TX. scheduled to begin in FY01. However, budget constraints led the service to cancel it, along with 16 others. Following termination, top service officials, including Under Secretary Les Brownlee, asserted that fratricide would be reduced simply through the improved situational awareness the Army expects to achieve as a digitized force. The Army now appears to have adjusted that stance. Service leadership subsequently confirmed that the requirement for a combat ID system is still valid and ordered a survey of available -- and relatively inexpensive -- solutions. The Battlefield Target Identification Device (BTID), which is NATO STANAG 4579 compliant, is an updated version of the Battlefield Combat Identification System (BCIS).

The canceled Battlefield Combat Identification System was a real good system but also really expensive. Its millimeter wave radar technology was promising; however, the leadership said BCIS was not affordable when you have to put it on so many platforms across the Army. Service officials are hoping to find a low-cost alternative that perhaps uses different technology. The price tag for BCIS was between $30,000 and $40,000 per vehicle, depending on the type of platform. The "A-kit" needed to integrate the system onto the host added another $20,000 to $30,000. Service leadership has indicated the sum of those two pieces is beyond the Army's current means.

The Battlefield Combat Identification System (BCIS) reduces the risk of fratricide by identifying BCIS-equipped targets under degraded environmental conditions. Fratricide is the employment of friendly weapons and munitions with the intent to kill the enemy or destroy his equipment or facilities, which results in unforeseen and unintentional deaths or injury to friendly personnel. In a 13 August 1991 news conference, Department of Defense officials announced that during the Persian Gulf War 35 Americans were killed and 72 wounded by "friendly fire". As these incidents of fratricide occurred in Operation Desert Storm, a number of "Quick Fix" solutions were provided to the troops.

As targeting and weapon systems continue to improve in lethality and range, the development of better fratricide avoidance systems must continue. Combat Identification is a critical requirement for the battlefield of the future. It is recognized that the highest payoff is achieved through positive hostile identification. If this cannot be achieved to the required degree of performance under all battlefield conditions, it will be necessary, at least, to ensure that friendly forces are not engaged. Additionally, the engagement of neutrals should be minimized. Therefore, a combination of non-cooperative systems, cooperative systems, and improved use of Situational Awareness (SA) would be employed simultaneously on the future battlefield in a variety of implementations depending on weapon system requirements and economic constraints. The successful Battlefield Combat Identification System (BCIS) development program, provided system hardware in 1995 that has met and/or exceeded the Army expectations for capability and performance.

BCIS is a millimeter wave (mmW), question and answer combat identification system capable of identifying friendly ground combat vehicles at 150-5500 meters ground-to-ground and 150-8000 meters air-to-ground. The BCIS interrogation is triggered automatically by activation of the shooter platform's laser rangefinder or interrogation button, which sends an encrypted, directional query message to the targeted vehicle. If the targeted vehicle is friendly and equipped with BCIS, its transponder answers with an encrypted, omnidirectional friend message. A friend light is illuminated in the gunner's sight, supplemented by voice confirmation. If no answer is received, a voice message indicating unknown is provided the gunner, who continues the engagement using tactics, techniques, and procedures. The target identification process is completed in less than a second, enabling the gunner to make a rapid fire/no-fire decision at the point of engagement. BCIS is a Horizontal Technology Integration (HTI) program and an integral part of the Army's digitized battlefield effort. The system incorporates a digital data link (DDL) feature that provides local situational awareness (SA) updates (friend identification, GPS location, and unit identification) to vehicles within one kilometer of each other at 5 to 6 second intervals. DDL also enables SA information exchange between vehicles when interrogated.

BCIS is a secure, encrypted question and answer identification system which provides a high confidence, ground combat vehicle identification capability. The system operates in the millimeter wave (mmW) frequency region at 38Ghz. The "Shooter Platform" has an interrogator antenna boresighted to the gunners targeting system and integral with the platforms laser rangefinder sub system. Other major components of the BCIS system integrated on the platform are shown below. The receiver - transmitter unit and display module are mounted in the vehicle commander's area.

BCIS allows the gunner or commander to make a rapid shoot/don't shoot decision at the point of engagement. Shooter platforms, e.g., tanks and fighting vehicles are equipped with BCIS interrogator/transponder units that are used to interrogate suspect platforms, and respond to interrogations from other shooters. The interrogation process is automatically triggered by activation of the shooter's laser rangefinder, sending an encrypted query to the targeted platform. If the target is friendly, its transponder receives the query and responds with an encrypted answer (nonshooter platforms are equipped with BCIS transponder only units). When the interrogator receives an encrypted answer, it gives a "friend" response to the gunner/commander. If an invalid answer, or no answer is received, an "unknown" response is provided to the gunner/commander who then must continue using engagement tactics, techniques, and procedures. Responses are provided visually in the gunner's sight, and/or as an audible tone on the intercom system eliminating the need for a gunner to remove his eyes from the target.

The program equipped 62 vehicles in 4th Infantry Division with BCIS and participated successfully in Task Force XXI Advanced Warfighting Experiment at the National Training Center, 2QFY97. Conducted military utility assessment of system as part of Joint Combat Identification Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD), FY97-FY98. Continued development and testing of BCIS low cost design hardware, FY98. Began development of installation kits for Abrams (M1A1) and Bradley (M2 ODS), FY98.

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