Academic journal article Military Review

The A2C2S: Extending Battle Command

Academic journal article Military Review

The A2C2S: Extending Battle Command

Article excerpt

THE U.S. ARMY Airborne Command and Control System (A2C2S) helicopter is another step in the evolutionary progress, from fixed, staffed headquarters at the rear of fielded forces to forward deployed command posts that place commanders at decisive points on the battlefield connecting them to their fighting forces through technology. The 4th Infantry Division (ID), the Army's first digital division, put this command and control (C2) platform into the hands of its commanders during counterinsurgency operations in Iraq's Sunni Triangle in 2003.

The division assessed the A2C2S's effectiveness in its current configuration; developed tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) for its use; and recommended improvements. The A2C2S proved its value during combat operations, and the Army should implement recommendations that come from the 4th ID's experience.

The 4th ID's area of operations (AO) in Iraq was about the size of West Virginia. Task Force Ironhorse, composed of the division and its attached units, fought from Kirkuk in the north south to Baghdad's suburbs and from the Iranian border west for nearly 150 miles. Such a large AO challenged brigade combat teams (BCTs) as they planned raids and air assaults with enough tactical surprise to capture high-value targets and hidden weapons caches. In these missions, the A2C2S provided a communications capability and battlefield awareness the division could not achieve through traditional means.

What A2C2S Provides

The A2C2S helicopter has four single-channel ground and airborne radio systems; two multiband radios capable of operating on ultra-high frequency, very-high frequency, or frequency-modulated (FM) modes; and one voice/data satellite communications (SATCOM) radio, which can retransmit voice and data from any of the radio systems. Personnel operating the system's five consoles can use the aircraft's high-frequency radio to talk over the horizon where SATCOM might not be available or appropriate.

The A2C2S's digital capabilities are equally robust. Each workstation can use any battlefield functional area (BFA) application: Maneuver Control System-Heavy (MCS-H); Maneuver Control System-Light (MCS-L); All-Source Analysis System (ASAS); Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System (AFATDS); Air Missile Defense System Work Station (AMDWS); Combat Service Support Control System (CSSCS); and Force XXI, Battle Command, Brigade and Below (FBCB2); and the Enhanced Position Location Reporting System (EPLRS). The A2C2S employs the EPLRS radio and Near-Term Digital Radio (NTDR) to keep the BFAs connected to both the upper and lower tactical internet. Also, a product manager add-on, Blue Force Tracker (BFT), provides an FBCB2-like capability that works through satellite transmissions instead of the division's ground-based EPLRS. The BFT provided 4th ID commanders a way to monitor nondivisional units that fielded BFT as they came into the theater.

Communications and situational awareness. While nothing can be totally flawless, the A2C2S provided the airborne commander better communications than any on the ground. The commander in the A2C2S was frequently the only one on the battlefield who had line-of-sight (LOS) capability and could talk to everybody. This nearly flawless voice communication capability was not the only benefit of operating from the A2C2S. The division's FBCB2 network depended on EPLRS transmitting via LOS to provide blue-force situational awareness. The A2C2S also enhanced the division's EPLRS connectivity and NTDR network, coveting about 25,000 square miles and providing an aerial relay every time the commander flew over the division's AO. Airborne commanders using the A2C2S were nearly certain to receive EPLRS connections. Even if they were not able to receive EPLRS or FM radio communication, they could quickly move to a new location to regain connectivity. A commander in a ground tactical command post (CP) who received poor signals might never regain communications. …

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