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By Scott R. Gourley

Representatives from General Dynamics C4 Systems used the 2004 Association of the United States Army (AUSA) Winter Meeting to unveil the latest addition to the Blue Force Tracking (BFT) arena, the HOOK-112 BFT Transceiver.

Based on the General Dynamics AN/PRC-112G Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR) transceiver, the HOOK-112 BFT incorporates Blue Force Tracking cards from Comtech Mobile Datacom.

“It’s a hand held Blue Force Tracking device with two way communications,” explained Frances “Dede” Connors, Product Marketing Manager for Assured Communications Systems, General Dynamics C4 Systems. “It uses L-Band technology – the same modules that are built into the Mobile Tracking system (MTS) used to track vehicles. The difference is that a person could carry this. Ad he could communicate – it has a lot of the same features of our CSAR radio. So he gets his GPS fix. And then there’s the same message feature that we have in our CSAR radio. So he’d transmit his message, fix, and his identification and then he could get a message back from the command and control center. So we can track people and communicate ‘two way’ with them.”

General Dynamics integrated the BFT cards under contract to a company called Innovative Solutions International. Under the ISI contract, General Dynamics will deliver a total of eight prototype radios in late spring.

The prototype radios will reportedly be used in the next phase of the ongoing Personnel Recovery Extraction Survivability aided by Smart-Sensors (PRESS) Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD).

Under sponsorship of the Joint Forces Command’s (JFCOM’s) Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA), the PRESS ACTD is designed to identify, demonstrate, conduct the joint military utility assessment (JMUA) and determine the initial availability of the technical means to correct a range of identified Personnel Recovery (PR) mission deficiencies. These identified deficiencies include: location/ID; tagging, tracking and locating (TTL); situational awareness (SA); and improved survivability of evaders and recovery forces. This will expand capabilities of existing recovery forces and systems, enable support of mandated PR responsibilities and enable new operational concepts for PR operations.

“This is the first time I’ve ever shown the BFT radio and people are really excited about it,” Connors said, explaining that “There are different needs within Blue Force Tracking. The commander, for example, will want a device that has a map on a screen where he can look and see the entire common operating picture. But, for a Soldier who may operating in enemy territory, you may not want that entire range of information to be available. So this device allows him two way communications – we can track him, we can communicate with him, and he can communicate back – but it doesn’t put a map at risk.”

Connors added that, “One of the other benefits is that the technology is exportable so this can be sold to coalition partners as well as U.S. forces. And that’s a real important feature for joint missions.”

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