Printer Friendly

FOS with PSS integrated: nowhere for the enemy to hide.

Major General David P. Valcourt, then Chief of Field Artillery, said "Overcoming TLE [target location error], our bane for more than 30 years, will deliver the 'keys to the joint effects kingdom' to our observers." ("Crossed Cannons on Your Collar: Change and Opportunity--Steady in the Harness," March-June 2004). He was right.

With that charter and to respond to the warfighters' needs, we integrated the mounted forward observer system (FOS) and precision-strike suite (PSS) application to overcome TLE. As a "joint reuse" effort, this allows the FO to use the joint PSS software on his hand-held digital device to locate targets precisely enough to execute them with precision-guided munitions (PGMs) or as close air support (CAS) missions. With PSS integrated into FOS, the FO at the tactical level can determine accurate coordinates in just seconds vice waiting much longer for target "mensuration" at much higher levels.


The FOS-PSS integration gives the FO the option of employing the integrated software when executing PGMs or employing the original FOS. The target area resolution of FOS (only) has been decreased significantly. FOS now provides a one-square-meter resolution vice its former 10-square-meter resolution.

Completely understanding what this integration means to the joint warfighter requires revisiting the capabilities of each application.

FOS. This is a system developed by the Fire Support Software Engineering Division, Communications and Electronics Command (CECOM), located at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, to be the primary support for FOs, fire support teams (FISTs), FA commanders, fire support officers (FSOs) and survey teams in their mission areas. FOS provides automated capabilities in both mounted and in limited dismounted configurations. As a mounted integrated subsystem, it is a critical to the Bradley fire support team (BFIST), Knight, Stryker and combat observation lasing team (COLT) vehicles.

FOS interfaces with the advanced FA tactical data system (AFATDS) and weapon systems through a standardized signaling and messaging protocol set while maintaining compatibility with legacy systems via legacy signaling and messaging protocols. FOS also maintains a direct link with maneuver's Force XXI battle command brigade and below (FBC[B.sup.2]) to clear fires in the fire support mission chain. FOS processes and translates this mix of data types and then sends it to the tactical operations center (TOC) and weapon platforms. This extensive interface network is shown in the figure.

FOS initially was developed during the late 1980s before the emergence of self-locating FA platforms or PGMs and before we had joint FOs (JFOs) helping joint terminal attack controllers (JTACs) control aircraft dropping precision ordnance in Types 2 and 3 CAS. In addition, our forces now operate in an urban environment with a high density of innocent civilians, calling for very accurate target locations--one round per target. These requirements exceed the accuracy and target resolution capabilities of previous observer devices.

Previous FO automated systems only could locate targets down to the nearest 10 meters on the X and Y axes, addressing only the requirements for open-area fires saturation and laser-guided munitions. This limitation, coupled with the inherent error in the observer's location and sensors, caused a look for a way to achieve more precise battlefield accuracy. Enter the PSS software.

PSS. The Naval Weapons Center at China Lake, California, developed the PSS application. The National Geo-spatial Agency (NGA) at Bethesda, Maryland, has approved and validated PSS as a tool for determining precision geospatial coordinates. PSS prepares image datasets, called the digital point positioning database (DPPDB), to pull precise geospatial coordinates for target engagement. These classified image datasets are available to the unit from NGA on DVD and are ordered just as any other digital map data through Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

For the last several years, PSS has enjoyed much success, primarily with Special Operations Forces (SOF) employing it in Operations Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Iraqi Freedom (OIF). The Joint Forces Command (JFCOM), headquartered at Norfolk, Virginia, sponsors PSS and has worked with the services to integrate the capability into each of the appropriate CAS suites used by SOF and conventional JTACs.

The PSS application gives extremely tight resolutions using stereoscopic images with a point-and-click target-location capability. NGA has preprocessed these images into three-dimensional resolutions. This allows the trained FO to see a static top-down omni-view of the target location that is accurate enough--in some cases more than accurate enough--to employ all current and planned precision fire-and-forget munitions.

PSS also augments FOS' capabilities with fragmentation rings definable by the user to determine the danger zones and potential for collateral damage before the munitions are fired. This allows the FO to conduct a collateral damage estimate (CDE) quickly.

Integrated Capabilities. As a result of prototyping FOS with PSS-SOF, the Fire Support Software Engineering Division contacted China Lake and JFCOM in June 2005 to enter into a joint reuse effort for the PSS software. The Fire Support Software Engineering Division's integration effort began on 1 November 2005. The integrated system completed qualification testing on 13 January 2006.

The integrated FOS-PSS software will be released to OIF and OEF rotational units in the Second Quarter of FY07, potentially coinciding with the fielding of the 155-mmExcaliburunitaryPGM. (See the article "FA PGMs--Revolutionizing Fires for the Ground Force Commander" in the May-June edition online at

FOS is already being incorporated into the JFO Course taught at Fort Sill. This facilitates Types 2 and 3 CAS. The JFO Course will certify the JFOs on PSS, based on NGA certification standards.

The FOS and PSS integration brings significantly reduced TLE and increased support for collateral damage assessment. This integration uses FOS' extensive interface, communications and messaging capabilities to provide a verified unbroken digital message chain from the observer through command and control systems to the weapons delivery platforms. The integration provides a resolution and accuracy more than sufficient to employ all PGMs with a standard of 90 percent circular error (CE) and lateral error (LE).

The integrated FOS checks each fire request against all fire support coordination measures (FSCM) and geometries plus, when connected, Blue Force Tracker information in the FO's immediate target area. This facilitates AFATDS' clearance of fires processing through all AFATDS nodes before the fire mission is sent to the delivery platform, which factors in additional information, the commander's pre-programmed guidance and battlefield and higher level insights.

With "hands-free" communications already established, the FO can use this system to send all artillery or mortar munitions down range onto the specified targets in 30 seconds or less after the mission is initiated. Because the FO can locate the target precisely in seconds, it decreases the time it takes to clear fires and execute air-dropped or FA precision munitions. This decrease in clearance time, in part, is due to the CDE's being passed by the FOS integrated system through AFATDS to the targeting cell.

Using FOS-PSS, the stationary FO can locate his own position as precisely as he can the target's position. The FO can determine a precise enough location to calibrate his laser.

The integrated FOS displays a static daylight image of the area of operations (AO) at night. It helps the survey teams with initial location accuracy and serves as a quick check point for survey calculations and procedures.

The integrated system operates on the ruggedized handheld computer (RHC) and the standalone computer unit (SCU). Due to the system's size and processing demands, the integrated FOS and PSS won't work on the existing handheld terminal unit (HTU) and lightweight computer unit (LCU). PSS will not load on these platforms with FOS installed.

In the future, the integrated FOS user will have dynamic, highly accurate scene matching using near-real-time images from a variety of sources, such as commercial satellite images (recently validated by NGA). The scenes, without the associated error terms, have approximately the same accuracy as the static images currently used with PSS.

The improved FOS without PSS is very accurate for locating targets and the FO's position to employ conventional munitions. But when using PSS integrated into FOS, the FO can employ the fire-and-forget PGMs 24/7 in all weather conditions and respond very rapidly with the effects the ground force commander needs. FOS with PSS truly has delivered the keys to the joint effects kingdom to our FOs.

Milton B. Smith is the Chief of the Systems and Software Engineering Branch within the Fire Support Software Engineering Division, Communications and Electronic Command, located at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. He has more than 32 years of service, 22 of which have been in the Fire Support Software Engineering Division where he worked on the Tactical Fire Direction System (TACFIRE), produced the first fielded FA system written entirely in Ada, and led the Fire Support Software Engineering Division to achieve the Carnegie Mellon University Software Engineering Institute's highest rating for Capability Maturity Model Integrated. He also has served as Branch Chief and Deputy Chief of the Fire Support Software Engineering Division and Acting Chief of the Fire Support Software Engineering Division. He enlisted with the last group of Army draftees in 1972, serving for more than nine years in the Army.

The author would like to acknowledge the contributions of the following in developing the Forward Observer System (FOS) integrated with the Precision Strike Suite (PSS) software: LTC James Chapman, Product Manager for Fire Support Command and Control, (FS[C.sup.2]), part of the Program Manager's Office for Battle Command, Communications and Electronic Command, Fort Monmouth, New Jersey; Christopher Boggs, Program Manager of PSS, Joint Forces Command (JFCOM), G6, Norfolk, Virginia; Michael Wirtz, Project Manager for PSS, Naval Weapons Center, China Lake, California; and COL John Haithcock, Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) Capabilities Manager (TCM) FS[C.sup.2], Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
COPYRIGHT 2006 U.S. Field Artillery Association
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2006, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

 Reader Opinion




Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Smith, Milton B.
Publication:FA Journal
Date:Sep 1, 2006
Previous Article:Joint tactical targeting for base security in Iraq.
Next Article:A tattoo honoring Lieutenant General (ret) John A. Dubia.

Related Articles
TLP for Light Company Fire Support Planning for the Defense.
Light Force Modernization.
The leaders' reconnaissance: company FSO recon of an objective.
3ID COLT employment in OIF.
ETS Pulliam's focus on Standards[TM] helps meet goals in English and Math; California district taps teacher-leaders to spearhead program...
Excalibur Unitary PGM down range in Iraq.
The service economy: car sharing is the new consumer model.
FA PGMs: revolutionizing fires for the ground force commander.
The new precision-guided mortar munition [PGMM].
Precision guidance kits (PGKs): improving the accuracy of conventional cannon rounds.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2015 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters