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Recapitalizing JSTARS: the BMC2 suite

Monday, January 4, 2016 11:35
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(Before It's News)

by Justin Oakes
66th Air Base Group Public Affairs

1/4/2016 - HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – Hanscom program officials call it the “brain of the plane,” and as the epicenter for JSTARS command and control, it's an integral part of the overall Joint Surveillance Target and Attack Radar System recapitalization effort.

The battle management command and control suite, also known as BMC2, allows operators to make decisions and direct and control the fight using highly capable on-board data and voice link systems. The JSTARS aircraft detects ground and maritime targets as well as slow-moving, rotary and fixed-wing aircraft via radar, collects the information and then fuses with on- and off-board data in the BMC2 suite.

“In essence, BMC2 is the art of translating real-time battle space awareness, operational guidance and combat potential into decisive action at the tactical level across a wide range of missions including air-to-air, air-to-ground and combat support operations,” said Megan Kozacka, JSTARS Recap BMC2 Integrated Product Team leader.

The BMC2 system itself is made up of commercial-off-the-shelf servers and workstations configured with modular software applications. The system's software promotes mission planning, execution support and automation aids such as data visualization, advanced algorithms for data exploitation and playback capabilities.

Program officials plan to use existing technology for all components of the recapitalization, which includes the “natural evolution” of the BMC2 system.

“The legacy system was at the leading edge of technology (JSTARS debuted in 1991), prior to the exponential growth of COTS technology,” said Lt. Col. John Kurian, JSTARS Recap Mission Systems Branch materiel leader. “Since its inception, the commercial marketplace has grown to support two- to three-year hardware refreshes and standardized data protocols in messaging.”

According to Kurian, much of the existing JSTARS software had to be customized and “invented” to do the job. That won't be the case with the new system.

The Air Force now looks for the ability to easily incorporate best of breed software services. Automated tools, availability of systems and enhancements with modern technology in data visualization are a few of the characteristics being considered for the new BMC2 suite.

Recently, the program office completed an extensive BMC2 risk reduction effort, where members of industry were brought together with program officials to conduct prototyping experiments to design an Open Mission System, or OMS, open-architecture BMC2 subsystem.

“The feedback we received from the risk reduction experiments was extremely valuable,” Kozacka said. “Contractors identified key improvements in the OMS standard to meet functionality and both sides increased their knowledge of the standard. Ultimately, implementation of OMS will result in a streamlined integration of the JSTARS Recap subsystems during the Engineering and Manufacturing Development phase.”

The EMD phase is still on the horizon for the JSTARS Recap team, but the program reached a significant milestone Dec. 10 when OSD approved entrance into the Technology Maturation and Risk Reduction phase.

In August, the program office awarded three contracts worth more than $31 million in total to Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Boeing to continue risk reduction efforts; the contracts include conducting a System Requirements Review and option for additional technical reviews and prototype demonstration.

By reaching Milestone A, Joint STAR Recap is now able to exercise a six-month contract options for each of the three existing pre-EMD contracts.

“We're taking the necessary steps to ensure the new JSTARS system will meet the needs of combatant commanders, especially in regards to BMC2,” Kurian said. “The command and control capability that JSTARS provides is a vital part of battlefield operations.”

(Editor's note: this is the first of four articles in a series on the JSTARS Recapitalization)


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