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October 11, 2009:  Joint Capabilities Release (JCR) is new troop tracking software undergoing field testing by the U.S. Army and Marine Corps. It is designed to provide more options to the current Blue Force Tracking system, which displays positions of U.S. forces, using blue icons on maps displayed on laptop computer screens. It is also expected that JCR will lead the way to an improved Blue Force system known as Joint Battle Command Platform, which is to be ready next year. At that point, 120,000 army vehicles and 20,000 marine vehicles will begin outfitting with new hardware and software.

JCR adds the ability to use a satellite network to send and receive ultra-secure communications, as well as using a new simplified radio network to communicate without satellites if needed. Additionally, video from a UAV can be viewed on a laptop, along with Blue Force Tracker icons showing where friendly troops are. This provides better awareness of the battlefield, which is a huge advantage, especially when the enemy lacks a similar capability. Finally, JCR provides the ability to use commercial imagery (like Google Earth does) from satellites and digital maps.

It is ironic that communication difficulties between services only began to get solved after the first Gulf War in 1991, when numerous friendly fire incidents and strange occurrences such as an Army and Marine division fighting alongside each other, but unable to coordinate their movements, hindered combat effectiveness. The original Blue Force Tracker was adapted from commercial systems used by trucking companies to keep track of their vehicles. -- Mike Perry

 


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