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From left, 3rd Infantry Division Operations Officer Lt. Col. Peter Bayer, division commander Maj. Gen. Buford "Buff" Blount and Capt. Erik Berdy, the general's aide, stand next to the Army's new command-and-control vehicle as they watch exercises in the Kuwait desert. The new vehicle allows the commander to keep pace with battle leaders in a fight.

From left, 3rd Infantry Division Operations Officer Lt. Col. Peter Bayer, division commander Maj. Gen. Buford "Buff" Blount and Capt. Erik Berdy, the general's aide, stand next to the Army's new command-and-control vehicle as they watch exercises in the Kuwait desert. The new vehicle allows the commander to keep pace with battle leaders in a fight. (Marni McEntee / S&S)

UDAIRI RANGE, Kuwait — It may not be as sexy as James Bond’s latest ride, but the Army says its new command-and-control vehicle will give warriors the upper hand in any battle.

Using the body and guts of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle, the first advantage of the Assault Command Post is that it can travel up to 45 mph — fast enough to keep up with maneuvering Bradleys and M1 tanks, said Maj. Brad Gavle, officer in charge of one Assault Command Post during 3rd Infantry Division exercises in the Kuwait desert.

“This allows the commanding general to move around the battlefield with the Bradleys and tanks, which normally would outrun him” in the old version of the mobile command post, Gavle said. “He can place himself in the precise place where he can have an impact on battlefield.”

Satellite tracking

In addition, the new command-and-control vehicle, or C2V for short, has a satellite tracking system that allows operations specialists inside to keep tabs on other command vehicles during the pitch of battle. On a computer screen inside, leader vehicles show up as blue icons spread out across a grid.

Known as blue-force tracking, the satellite system also can be used for communications and intelligence-gathering while the vehicle is on the move.

Before, leaders would ride in M113 armored personnel carriers, a modified version of the Vietnam-era troop carrier. Soldiers in signal vehicles driving alongside took some 30 minutes to set up antennas for communications, which could be used only while the signal vehicles were stationary. The Army, it seems, has finally gone mobile.

To be sure, Gavle said, troops still have an old-fashioned topographic map on the new C2V’s wall with Post-it notes marking where all the battle leaders are located. That way, if computers go down, they have a backup system, he said.

“This is analog,” Gavle said, pointing to the map, “and this is digital,” he said, referring to the blue-force tracking screen.

The Army contracted with the United Defense company to build around 20 of the vehicles in the late 1990s, said 3rd ID Operations Officer Lt. Col. Peter Bayer.

But the vehicles have been in storage until recently, when several were distributed to various units. Along with his division, which received three vehicles, Bayer said the Army’s Germany-based V Corps received a few.

Tests in the desert

The 3rd ID tested the vehicles for the first time last week during a weeklong exercise in the Kuwait desert. Despite a few bugs, reviews were generally favorable.

Bayer said, however, that the division’s commander, Maj. Gen. Buford “Buff” Blount, preferred the M113 vehicle because, at night, he could strap on night-vision goggles and watch the action with his own eyes.

In the new armored vehicle, the only opening is a roof hatch and the only way to see the battlefield is via computer screens and radar blips.

“I’m a tanker by nature,” Blount said shortly after he emerged from the new vehicle. “This is going to take some adaptation for me. But I’m much more impressed with what we can do on the inside than I thought I would be,” he said.


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