May 16, 2014 --
Amid the sprawl and dust of Fort Bliss, Texas, and nearby training areas, the Joint Battle Command-Platform system faced its first trial by fire. The Army-led program completed its multi-service operational test and evaluation in mid-May with more than a battalion of Marines on hand to test out the capabilities of the system in joint operations with the Army.
Test results should be available in the summer with program managers planning to field the command-and-control system, also known as JBC-P, to the units in the next year or so.
“JBC-P is a joint digital, battle command information system that provides enhanced map imagery, integrated command-and-control and situational awareness information to tactical commanders and leaders,” said Maj. Steve Musick, the program’s project officer at Marine Corps Systems Command at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia.
“Marines will have a better understanding of the operational picture on the battlefield,” Musick said. “They can use that understanding to concentrate the effects of all of our various combat weapons systems.”
The major explained that the platform provides a whole host of information about the battlefield – friendly forces, reported enemy positions, reported civilian entities, etc. – and consolidates them onto a digital display for real-time reference for warfighters. It also provides the ability to pass orders and graphics, which gives the warfighter the capability to visualize the commander’s intent and scheme of maneuver.
The JBC-P family of systems falls under the purview of Marine Air-Ground Task Force Command, Control and Communications at MCSC. The command is the Marine Corps commandant's agent for acquisition and sustainment of warfighting systems and equipment.
The JBC-P test is part of biannual Network Integration Evaluations staged at Fort Bliss. In November 2013, the system underwent a developmental test. Once it passes the operational test and evaluation, the Marine Corps decision authority – the MCSC commander – will make a decision on fielding the system to Marines.
JBC-P is one of 12 systems under evaluation during the full range of military operations in the harsh terrain at Fort Bliss.
"That's what makes the [evaluations] so critical and so important for modernization," said Army Col. Greg Baine, chief of brigade modernization integration for Brigade Modernization Command. "It adds in that operational relevance to what it is we're looking for. You can't accomplish the same thing solely in a lab."
Musick emphasized that JBC-P is an Army program in which the Marine Corps participates. For the Marine Corps portion of the evaluation, Musick works closely with his counterpart, Capt. Ben Parente at Marine Corps Operational Test and Evaluation Activity at Quantico.
“MCOTEA gets involved during operational tests as the Marine Corps operational test agency,” Musick said. “MCSC is in a supporting role during an operational test. The goal of the exercise is to prove the system works and Marines are trained properly on it. Then we can move forward to field the system to the Marine Corps.”
The Network Integration Evaluations have been a valuable stepping stone for JBC-P development with the Marine Corps getting more engaged with each exercise.
“We’ve taken the results of previous tests to improve the software of the system, which is the primary interest of the Marine Corps,” Musick said. For developmental tests last November there were about 40 Marines involved. This time, for the operational test, we have a full battalion, along with a company of assault amphibious vehicles. That’s about 900 Marines.”
A successful JBC-P test will add yet another check mark to Network Integration Evaluation accomplishments. Since their launch in 2011, the NIEs have evaluated more than 170 systems and helped move them along to fielding.