Hand on the trigger: forward operating bases (and troops) are some of the most valuable and definitely the most vulnerable assets available to any commander. Keeping the front-line forces safe, and doing so without putting innocents in danger, requires an innovative mix of planning, equipment and technology.

Author:Keggler, Johnny
Position:Force protection

A wide array of sensors and weapons are available to protect the forward-operating forces, but too often triggering some of these have caused some form of harm to innocents. Having a man in the loop who must make the final decision on unleashing a round or warhead takes the possibility of harming the wrong person out of the equation.

The selection of sensors varies from the Mkl Mod 0 human eyeball to acoustic, seismic, motion sensitive, thermal and magnetic. These can be located on or in the ground, on buildings, in trees or foliage, in the water or on a flying platform. Other force protection equipment can include stationary or active vehicle barriers, ballistic protection, active or passive surveillance and sensor arrays.

Taking Command

One remote system combines video in its surveillance loop to give the operator a positive identification of possible advancing threats. Textron Systems' Terrain Commander 2 is a covert, unattended early-warning surveillance system for detecting and identifying intruders. The sensors send activation messages to the system's Oasis2 (Optical Acoustic Satcom Integrated Sensor) base station which transmits data and images to protecting forces--with this information guarding units know whether to prepare for attack or simply allow advancing elements to pass.

The Terrain Commander 2 combines acoustic, seismic, magnetic, electro-optical and passive infrared sensors in custom configurations for front-line defensive position protection.

Textron Systems was awarded a contract in June 2006 from the US Project Manager Close Combat Systems to develop an Intelligent Munitions System (IMS) for the Future Combat Systems programme. The IMS combines battlefield intelligence with precision munitions to attack light wheeled and heavy tracked vehicles as well as enemy personnel.

The IMS features built-in self-destruct/self-deactivating and enhanced control facilities to provide the requisite detection, classification, tracking and engagement information in accordance with user-defined parameters. A Commander's Control Station (a PDA-type unit) provides a display of situational awareness from the IMS dispenser module sensors. This information provides for positive control over munition activation--allowing safe passage for friendlies and non-combatants, over-the-air transfer of system control, activation of anti-tank, anti-vehicle, anti-personnel or non-lethal munition or deactivation for safe munition recovery.

The IMS dispenser module includes onboard algorithms that process acoustic, seismic and magnetic data to detect, classify and differentiate between personnel and vehicles. Four Spider anti-personnel grenades protect the anti-vehicle munitions from tampering. Spider munitions are triggered by wireless control with the commander's hand-held PDA.

Land-based Falcon

In 2005 Harris Sensor Systems introduced its remote, unattended intrusion detection and surveillance system called the Falcon Watch. The system includes the RF-5405 Intelligent Gateway, which is a communication node that receives alarms from various sensors (the RF5400 Falcon II Sensor Node) and fuses that information for relay to the unit's operation centre.

Seismic, magnetic and passive infrared sensors are used to detect the movement of vehicles and personnel while the system filters out non-threatening and naturally occurring events. The modular, radio-based system processes the inputs at the point of detection and the...

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