U.S. Army tests digital forces

The U.S. Army will kick off a major new military experiment at Fort Polk, La., on Friday designed to test the effectiveness of infantry units armed with digitized information systems.

The Joint Contingency Force Advanced Warfighting Experiment (JCF AWE) will last until Sept. 20 and will include about 4,000 soldiers. They will take part in realistic combat scenarios against the Fort Polk Joint Readiness Training Center’s opposing force.

The exercise will be used to assess 47 technological and doctrinal initiatives, including the En Route Mission Planning and Rehearsal System (EMPRS), Land Warrior and the Army Battle Command System.

EMPRS is installed on aircraft and creates a wireless local-area network connecting all planes, thereby allowing commanders and soldiers to collaborate en route to their objective.

“EMPRS allows our airborne forces and our light forces to do planning and mission rehearsal while they’re on the way to the exercise,” said Army Lt. Gen. Randall Rigby, deputy commander at the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command. “We really want to disseminate that information down to the company commander, the platoon leader and the individual soldier onboard those airplanes.”

The Army Battle Command System will be instrumental for coordination between light and armored forces.

“That digital Army Battle Command System will go all the way from the platoon or to the brigade level, and we want to measure how those digital enablers allow that commander to fight differently,” said Col. Mike Combest, director of the Training and Doctrine Command’s Joint Venture Office.

The Land Warrior platoon will conduct a nighttime ambush and a nighttime assault on a mock city. Some soldiers will wear the latest version of the Land Warrior system, others an earlier version. The Army has reduced the Land Warrior system from about 65 pounds to 42.

The JCF AWE is part of the Millennium Challenge, a major exercise conducted by Joint Forces Command, Norfolk, Va., in which the services will interact and operate with one another.