which is a Joint Forces Command effort to enable the U.S.
and allied militaries to share a single geographic representation of the battlespace. That is just one of several Defense
Department projects under way to bring about the total
integration of command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance
(C4ISR) and fire-control capabilities of the armed services
that Goldwater-Nichols envisioned in 1986.
JFIIT’s role in the effort is to conduct assessments of
joint fires practices and capabilities and provide recommendations and solutions to improve them, said Marine
Col. L. Ross Roberts, the director of the multiservice
organization of 120 military and civilian personnel.
Roberts, a former artillery officer, fighter-attack pilot
and student at the Air Force War College, said a goal of
his organization is to improve existing equipment or promote new equipment that would bolster joint operations. JFIIT also recommends tactics, techniques and
procedures that can enhance the utility of equipment or
demonstrate how it could be better used by joint forces.
The organization works closely with a unit called the
Joint Fires Coordination Measures, Joint Test and
Evaluation, based at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. Formed by
the Pentagon’s Operational Test and Evaluation office in
2004, it is charged with improving the services’ ability to
integrate their fires for greater combat effect in the complex fight against terrorists and other asymmetric threats.
JFIIT has been conducting a series of mini-tests and
risk reduction events in preparation for a field test this
spring of procedures and systems that would enable a
joint or coalition force to quickly and safely integrate
weapons from air, land and sea
platforms in support of ground
Part of their effort has been testing the services’ various C4ISR systems and procedures to determine
if they can work together to integrate their fires in a carefully
defined zone of the battlefield that
they call a Joint Fires Area.
A JFIIT concept under assessment is called Geographic Area
References, “which is a way to lay
down the battlespace in a common
grid,” Roberts said.
The idea is to allow the commander in the air operations center, a thousand miles away from the
fight, to have the same reference
with respect to the battlespace as
the brigade commander in the tactical operations center or aviators
flying over the battle.
The difficult part is to integrate into the common
picture all of the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets in the battle area. The gaps in interoperability are largely in the exchange of data as experts in
different communities reach different conclusions on
how a piece of data should be defined.
“The problem is to get everybody to agree on a common set of attributes for a particular piece of data,”
Roberts said. “It’s the Apple or IBM computer analogy.”
Sensors must utilize a standard reference frame for
conveying information about the location of targets.
Some have suggested this might be accomplished by
the equivalent of a “software jig” to be used in the
design of all programs.
For older equipment not designed to operate in a
joint environment, the Joint Forces Command is
encouraging industry to devise software translators
that would enable all systems to communicate with a
Roberts acknowledged that there still are gaps in the
services’ ability to coordinate their efforts, but said the
consensus in the joint community is that “the gaps are
The services are required to ensure the systems they
buy can work in the joint environment, but they also
have to support the requirements of the individual services. As each piece of equipment goes through the long
developmental process from conception to deployment,
it faces budget and timeline constraints.
At times, “the joint requirement gets left on the floor,”
Roberts said. ■
Jfires is an extension of the Tactical Component Network, an integration tool
Raytheon has been developing for about seven years that can work across different communications systems and various platforms to give every tactical
commander a view the same operational picture.