September 4, 2013
DARPA Robot Challenge: Disaster Recovery
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U.S. Army and Marine Corps units soon will be equipped with a new family of vehicle-mounted battlefield computers to provide soldiers with better communications and improved situational awareness capabilities. By compressing a variety of operational and mission features into a single computer, the new systems also eliminate the need to have multiple computers running different tasks in the same vehicle.
According to the Army, the Mounted Family of Computer Systems (MFoCS) is designed to make tactical computers more interoperable and to allow soldiers to plan and carry out missions more efficiently. The new computers build on a series of vehicle-mounted command and control tools that the Army and Marines have been equipping their forces with since the late 1990s. The MFoCS consists of basic, intermediate and advanced models. The basic platform configuration is a ruggedized tablet computer. The intermediate model adds a processing unit and the choice of a 12-, 15-, or 17-inch screen. The advanced model consists of the tablet and two intermediate units, for a total of three workstations. The three MFoCS platforms can be quickly reconfigured and customized to fit a variety of missions. The tablets have a detachable 25-foot cable that allows them to be easily moved around the vehicle or outside of it with the cable removed. [ How connected will future automobiles be? Read 5 Ways Big Data Can Improve Your Car. ] "The vision here is to have a single tactical computer for Army vehicles that will run multiple applications. This standardizes the type of computer and at the same time creates a family of different sizes that adjusts to the mission," said Dominic Satili, deputy product manager for Blue Force Tracking, assigned to Project Manager Joint Battle Command-Platform (PM JBC-P), which is overseeing the MFoCS program. In June, PM JBC-P, part of the Army's Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications-Tactical, awarded a three-year, indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract to produce and develop MFoCS to DRS Tactical Systems, Inc. The first delivery of MFoCS computers is scheduled for the end of 2013. This initial batch of machines will be used for integration and testing. The computers are designed to run the Joint Battle Command Platform (JBC), which is the Army's main battlefield situational awareness tool. MFoCS also supports other Army command, control, communications and reconnaissance applications. Putting all of these different applications into a single computer instead of individual pieces of hardware reduces size, weight and power demands -- all things that are at a premium inside cramped military vehicles. As a part of its interoperability design, MFoCS occupies the same hardware footprint and uses the same installation kit as the Army's current Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below/Blue Force Tracking and Joint Capabilities Release systems. Army officials noted that these command and control systems are the predecessors to JBC-P and are used in thousands of vehicles and in every tactical operations center fielded by the service. According to Army officials, MFoCS' interoperability also cuts the cost of the basic configuration computer up to 36% and boosts the device's performance more than 350%.
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