Kitz examines commercial software for US military firepower coordination

McLEAN, Va. — Overhauling the U.S. military’s legacy software that coordinates battlefield firepower can be accomplished with off-the-shelf products and the system does not need to be built from scratch, according to the Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications- Tactical boss Mark Kitz.

“I don’t want a software development program from scratch,” Kitz he said Jan. 11 at the Army IT Day conference in Northern Virginia, organized by the nonprofit Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association International. “The military has several failed software development programs.”

The Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System, or AFATDS, has been used by troops for decades to coordinate mortars, guided missiles and close air support. PEO C3T is seeking its replacement after considering the age of the system and back-end dysfunction.

However, rather than relying on a single contractor to create an original, monolithic program, the office takes a modular, consortium-based approach that responds to each prospective vendor’s specialties and existing offerings.

“We want to adapt things that exist today, and we want to be able to iterate and integrate a lot of commercial technologies and technologies that have been developed by government and industry,” Kitz said.

The agency in November released a request for information on AFATDS and the development of the associated Joint Targeting Integrated Command and Coordination Suite, or JTIC2S.

The automated AFATDS program is intended to shrink the window between gathering intelligence and firing in response. It combines situational awareness and targeting data in near real time. It is also considered the digital cornerstone of many projects associated with the Interoperable Long Range Precision Fires Group, including the extended range artillery effort and the precision missile effort.

“Today, we have a really strong ability to do wildfires, but it’s not built for how we need to share data in the future.” Colonel Matt Paul, project manager at PEO C3T, said in November. “We want to work with industry to modernize our fires capability so we can share dynamic data, enable sensor architectures on a shooter, and be able to iterate the program over time.”

Leidos in 2017 won a contract worth tens of millions of dollars to work on AFATDS. The Virginia-based company at the time promised to improve functionality, update user interfaces and simplify training models. The company is the world’s 16th largest contractor when ranked by defense revenue, according to Top 100 Defense News analysis.

Colin Demarest is a reporter at C4ISRNET, where he covers military networks, cyber and IT. Colin previously covered the Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration – specifically Cold War decommissioning and nuclear weapons development – ​​for a daily newspaper in South Carolina. Colin is also an award winning photographer.

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