Australia Turns to Elbit for its Battle Management System
Battle management systems are designed to cut through the “fog of war” by tracking unit location and passing data, so friendly units and command centers can keep track of what’s going on. These BMS systems-of-systems change the kinds of operations commanders can plan and execute, and also reduce the risk of friendly fire.
The US Army’s FBCB2 system is colloquially known as “Blue Force Tracker,” after the component that shows the location of all friendly forces and identified enemies on a digital map, and allows the exchange of messages and data. Allied armies without such systems find it difficult to work with the Americans, and Australia’s DoD has faced criticism over this gap. That began to change in March 2010, when Israel’s Elbit Systems Ltd. won a major contract for Australia’s LAND 75 Phase 3.4 (Battle Management System) and LAND 125 Soldier Combat System Phase 3 programs…
Background: LAND 200 and the BMS
Australia’s “Hardened and Networked Army” push has many components to it, but one important milestone involves fielding a networked brigade with cutting edge technology in battle management and communications systems. The BGC3 will form the basis of a land combat identification (Blue Force Tracking) system by providing commanders with a near real-time Situational Awareness display of friendly force locations. Australia expected to complete its BGC3 program in 2012. Final Acceptance is now scheduled for 2014.
The LAND 200 nomenclature is the combination of the following projects/phases:
- LAND 75 Phase 3.2 & Phase 3.3. Battlefield Command Support System (BCSS)
- LAND 75 Phase 3.4. Battle Management System – Mounted (BMS-M)
- LAND 125 Phase 3. Battle Management System – Dismounted (BMS-D)
The BMS is the central component of the Battle Group and Below Command, Control and Communications System (BGC3) that is being jointly delivered by the LAND 75 Phase 3.4, LAND 125 Phase 3A, and JP 2072 Phase 1 projects. It will incorporate a mobile, data capable communications system, and be able to exchange combat information with BCSS and other Land BMS.
A Track Management System (TMS) will provide the capability to receive and exchange track data between various systems. TMS has adopted the Variable Message Format (VMF) message standard, and as such will be able to exchange information via VMF to BMS, AFATDS artillery direction systems, and any others such as ARH. TMS also includes strategic and intelligence feeds at the Secret level.
LAND 75 Phases 3.2, 3.3 and 3.3B BCSS was a digital command post system used for deliberate planning, operational monitoring, controlling and reviewing functions. The BCSS provides the higher level command and control processes, while the BMS handles lower-level tactical information. Saab Systems Australia has been busy migrating Australia’s Battlefield Command Support Systems (BCSS) to a Windows NT-based system, during LAND 75 Phases 1 to 3.3. The BCSS acquisition project phases were closed in early 2013, and all BCSS activities are now managed in sustainment.
Elbit Systems’ LAND 75 Phase 3.4/ LAND 125 Phase 3 BMS set will represent the core of the Australian Army’s future BMS capability. It will be integrated in over 1,000 Army vehicles (BMS-M), and equip over 1,500 soldiers (BMS-D). As of June 30/13, they’ve delivered BMS installations or installation kits for:
- Mack Truck: 90
- Unimog Truck: 207 (85)
- G-Wagons: 388 (110)
- Bushmaster PMV: 237 (225)
Actual installations are shown in brackets, and Mack Trucks are undergoing Functional and Physical Configuration Audits in preparation for vehicle installation. Australia’s DMO says that during 2013-14, Phase 3.4 will deliver at least 2 motorized infantry Battle Groups worth of Army equipment, to support consideration of the Final Operational Capability decision after it’s used in Exercise Talisman Sabre 2013 (July 5 – Aug 5/13). All interoperability development and testing is scheduled to be complete in 2013-14.
Contracts & Key Events
Dec 22/13: Elbit Systems announces a $229 million pair of Australian contract modifications for Risk Reduction Activities, and additional Battle Management Systems. The exercised options and risk reduction survey and quote were separate items, but both fall within the existing contract. Work will be performed over the next 3 years. Sources: Elbit Systems, “Elbit Systems Awarded Options and Risk Reduction Activities Under Extant Contract Valued at Approximately US$229 Million to Supply Additional Battle Management Systems to the Australian Defence Forces”.
Dec 17/13: ANAO Report. Australia’s National Audit Office releases their 2012-13 Major Projects Report. LAND 75 Phase 3.4 is listed with a total budget of A$ $308 million. The Bushmasters are both the project’s primary focus platform, and its biggest issue. Access to these blast-resistant vehicles has been problematic at times, and despite a large number of deliveries (235) and installations (225) so far, the installations are only a preliminary design baseline. Worse, several other projects are trying to install different equipment in the same vehicles at the same time, creating competing requirements for space, power, etc. Managing all of that is a challenge, and has been turned over to vehicle designer Thales, who could come back and require changes to the Bushmaster’s BMS-M.
Dismounted troops are the other concern. As ANAO explains, “The user community do not accept and use the BMS-D.” This is normal for initial “Infantry-21” system, which often create issues with carry weight, required power, and tactical awareness. Australia is looking at the possibility of changing its entire specification set. They’re looking for ways to reduce size and weight, and are wondering whether a tiered BMS-D system that can add an subtract items based on mission needs would be feasible or helpful. Of course, it’s a military, so they also talk about emphasizing doctrine and “human ergonomics training,” which amounts to “try and force troops to use it.” Beyond these issues:
“Meeting the design approval requirements continues to remain a challenge for the program as the project is exposed to multiple platform design authorities that creates a complex management environment…. Managing the interfaces to ensure that the system specifications can be achieved remains a key challenge…. Several key staff left the Project Office which was not adequately manned to support the execution of the contract. The rapid expansion of the workforce resulted in steep learning curves for the new staff, leading to a subsequent backlog of work that is still being resolved.”
March 2013: Testing. Final ADF Tactical Data Link Authority testing on the final BMS software release is completed. Sources: ANAO Major Project Report, 2012-13.
January 2013: BMS. The DMO signs Contract Change Proposal 13 (CCP013) with Elbit Systems Ltd., aligning installations etc. with the Army’s Brigade rotation cycle per the December 2011 decision. It also removes BG3 installation from Australia’s modernized M113AS4 tracked APCs, lowering the budget by A$ 7.0 million. Sources: ANAO Major Project Report, 2012-13.
April 20/12: IOC. BMS Initial Operating Capability (IOC) is declared by the Chief of Army. It was supposed to happen in July 2011, but ANAO explains that:
“Longer than expected Operational Test and Evaluation (OT&E) activities were required to fully explore risk areas of interest to Army and Defence Science and Technology Organisation. The initial round of OT&E activities in 2011 following Exercise TALISMAN SABRE 2011 were inconclusive.”
December 2011: BMS. The Prime Minister agreed to align the LAND 75 Phase 3.4 Final Operational Capability (FOC) with Army’s Brigade rotation cycle, pushing the date from April to December 2013. The approval was linked to a Basis of Provisioning change sought by Army. Sources: ANAO Major Project Report, 2012-13.
June 5/11: LAND 200. BAE Systems Australia announces an $A 4.9M million contract from Elbit Systems to upgrade 777 military vehicles with a Battle Group and Below Command, Control and Communications (BGC3) system under LAND 200. The modifications and installation of Mack & Unimog trucks, Bushmaster mine-resistant PPVs, and M113 tracked Armoured Personnel Carriers.
BAE Systems Australia will carry out the installation activities on the Mack, Unimog and Bushmaster vehicles at the Meeandah Military Facility in Brisbane, and on the M113 APCs at the new 7RAR Facility at Edinburgh Parks in northern Adelaide.
June 2011: Testing. The first set of VMF messages are complete, allowing demonstration of the interoperability element with other ADF systems. Sources: ANAO Major Project Report, 2012-13.
Aug 31/10: LAND 200. Harris Corporation announces a 3-year, $9.5 million contract from Elbit systems to provide engineering services under Australia’s Land 200 communications modernization program, by integrating its tactical radio systems into the Battle Management System being developed by Elbit.
Harris radio systems will form part of the secure communications backbone for the ADF’s Land 75, Land 125 and Joint Project 2072 command, control and communications modernization programs, including authorized purchase of “Type 1” encryption. Harris radios supplied to Australia will include the AN/PRC-152-C multiband handheld radios, AN/PRC-117G wideband, AN/PRC-117F multiband, and AN/PRC-150-C high-frequency (HF) manpack radios; but the PRC-152-C is the largest component. It will connect soldiers to the ADF’s central Battle Management System, serve as a hub for other soldier-carried C4 devices, be plugged into VRC-110 vehicular amplifier adapters in more than 1,000 armored vehicles.
June 14/11: BMS. BMS-M Initial Materiel Release (IMR) achieved. Sources: ANAO Major Project Report, 2012-13.
March 15/10: BMS. The A$ 331 (about $298 million) contract will see Elbit supply, integrate, install and support of a Battle Group and Below Command, Control and Communications (BGC3) system for the Australian Army over the next 3 years. Australian DoD | Elbit release [MS Word]
November 2009: LAND 75. Government 2nd pass approval for LAND 75 Phase 3.4.