Coalition tests new communication devices

9 Jun 2004 | Lance Cpl. Athanasios L. Genos

Driving tanks and other armored vehicles in the rising heat and increasing amounts of dust, Marines got acquainted with new electronic devices in a friendly fire prevention exercise here June 8.

Ground-to-ground fighting was the main focus of the exercise.  The Joint Combat Identification Evaluation Team headed up the six-day exercise here.  Along with the American armed forces, there were military members from the United Kingdom as well as from France.

The Marines testing the new devices are hoping to eliminate firing on their own troops.    The two main devices being tested and evaluated are the Battlefield Target Identification Device and the Radio Based Combat Identification. 

All coalition forces in the field are using the BTID.  This device is capable of identifying a “friendly” vehicle over three miles away in less than one second.  The main vehicle equipped with the BTID sends out a signal to another vehicle, also with BTID.  When a vehicle with the device makes contact with one of their own, the controller will hear “friend, friend, friend,” indicating no need to fire.

“We took the French BTID, the UK BTID and the US BTID and we used them with each other and they all replied back, ‘friend, friend, friend,’” said Army Lt. Col. Mike Fowler, chief of ground combat operations of JCIET at Eglin Air Force Base.  “That is a major breakthrough.”

Three months ago, the equipment being used for the exercise was being used in laboratories on tripods, and now they are being used with vehicles.  This change was made to enable more chances to capture data from a combat environment.

“I have not had any problems with it while in the field, it has helped out greatly,” said Lance Cpl. Mike Taylor, a gunner in Delta Company of 2d Tank Battalion. 

The RBCI is an update to some of the currently used radios.  The RBCI helps prevent air-to-ground attacks on allied troops by being able to see beyond the sight of the troops and use in helicopters and fixed wing air support.  Forward observers use the RBCI to locate a target and identify troops around the target.  Once the forward observer has identified his troops and the enemy, the observer can call in for air support using his RBCI. 

Vocal recognition is not needed when calling in the air support.  The call is made through the device stating how much and what kind of ammunition to use along with the exact coordinates. 

“The battlefield can be an incredibly confusing place and making decisions can be significantly difficult.  Any piece of equipment that can reduce the friction of war is worth evaluating and integrating into combat operations,” said 1st Lt. Clark D. Carpenter, Combat Joint Training Field Exercise Public Affairs Officer.

A week before the exercise was to commence, the evaluation team gave the Marines here some equipment to get acquainted with.  To ensure good data would be recorded, there was a rehearsal. Time was then taken to make any needed corrections to equipment or procedures. 

When working during the exercise, Marines would start the day with the main preparations.  Completing the mission came next, with a detailed debriefing afterward.  This was the normal schedule during each day of the exercise.  In September 2005, there will be a similar exercise in the United Kingdom. 

With the great success of these new devices, the future looks to be promising.  The testing of the devices is another step forward to safer combat environments.  “The culminating event for the BTID and RBIC will be in the UK,” said Fowler.  “This will show how they will work in a different environment.”