Battlefield Target Identification Device to Improve Coalition Operations IFF

Aviation Calendar 2009

Aviation Calendar 2009

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U.S. Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM) recently wrapped up a demonstration at Eglin AFB (FL) that included some innovative applications of a technology known as the Battlefield Target Identification Device (BTID). 

Bold Quest Plus provided 340 deployed participants the opportunity to look at the performance of coalition combat identification (CCID) technologies designed to enhance combat effectiveness and successful identification of friendly forces. 

Participants from Canada, the United Kingdom, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Special Operations Command provided technologies and forces, including 15 fixed wing aircraft, for the demonstration.

Canadian Forces Maj. Mike Groh, a technical lead at Bold Quest Plus, said participants used BTID in the demonstration to improve ground-to-ground and air-to-ground combat identification.  BTID enables forces to identify each other via query and response.

“BTID allows a vehicle to identify another friend if the friend has a BTID (on board) or as an unknown if the vehicle does not have a BTID,” he said.  “Essentially, what this offers is a quick means for a soldier to quickly talk to his coalition partner should the need arise in the tactical scenario.”

Groh described an application of BTID technology on a Canadian light reconnaissance vehicle in which a gunner operating a machine gun used BTID to scan his zone of fire and determine the presence of friendlies.

He said as a soldier fires his weapon, he has a palm switch that he grabs to initiate the interrogation.  That allows BTID on his vehicle to integrate the cone of fire of the weapon, down range.  Any friendly soldier or vehicle with a BTID transponder would automatically respond to the interrogation within a second.

“Should there be anything in its cone of fire, the machine gun operator will have a ‘friendly in sector’ alert,” he said.  “He gets a blue visual indication if it’s a friendly and nothing if it’s clear.  If it’s clear on his audio set, he’ll hear, ‘clear, sector clear, sector clear.’”

Groh stressed, however, that while BTID can aid in the engagement process and quickly sorting friends from enemies, gunners must continue to abide by established rules of engagement.

“You’re the shooter and you try to identify the unknown vehicle that’s in front of you, you get two returns back essentially, one is friendly and who the other person is…and the other one is unknown,” he said.  “It still doesn’t mean you’re clear to open fire, it means the other person is unknown and they have to go through the rules of engagement as they still could be a friendly.”

John Miller, Joint Capability Development Directorate’s (J8) operational manager for the CCID advanced concept technology demonstration (ACTD), said the U.S. Marines Corps looked at different applications of the BTID technology dealing with air-to-ground combat.

“There was a Marine joint terminal air controller on the ground with a BTID interrogator scanning his target area getting similar responses from any friendly forces that were equipped with BTID transponders,” he said. “This enabled him to send that friendly force information directly to the cockpit of a strike aircrew.  That was another application of BTID done for the first time in Eglin.”

Miller explained this is not the first time there was an assessment of BTID, but it was the first time some of these applications were tested.  He said that was the goal of Bold Quest Plus; to add to previous field evaluations of CCID technologies.

“What’s important here is that the fundamental military utility of BTID has been assessed over the past few years, but what Bold Quest Plus did is add to the assessment with new applications of the same technology being tested,” he said.  “You had the Canadians doing what Maj. Groh just described, the U.S. Marines doing what I just described and all of these other things enhanced the analysis from previous assessments.  This was not a re-do of previous testing.”

Groh explained what he thought was the payoff for attending Bold Quest Plus.

“The biggest thing for us is that we are a much smaller force and what we get to do is work with other forces to develop a capability that is immediately able to be integrated with coalition partners,” he said.  “If we did this alone it would not work out.  We’d bring something to the battlefield, but it might not necessarily work with others.  Here, for everybody, it’s a low cost way to make sure these things are integrated for when they come into operations.”

Miller said this, along with the data collected from the assessments allowed participants to clearly see the value of Bold Quest Plus.

“From our point of view, we obviously collected a lot of information there…pretty confident that having collected that much, we’re going to, in a few months, have some analysis that’s of value in both adding to the assessment of these technologies, as well as pointing a way forward.  So I think it was well worth our time and money and effort to do what we did,” he said.

“It’s very rewarding to work with other nations, other people,” added Groh.  “This is very advanced technology.  It is complicated.  When working with these people, it worked very, very well…personally, very rewarding to make things happen and get it done.”

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