The Army’s missile-defense research branch developed a tactical
operations center prototype that is much smaller and more easily
transportable than conventional TOCs.
A TOC is an assemblage of vehicles and tents that house the computer
networks and multitude of radios used by commanders and staffs to
plan the battle and to communicate both with soldiers in the field
and with national authorities.
A mechanized brigade TOC typically is made up of three or four
armored command-post tracked vehicles, which back into a given area
and lower their rear ramps. That area—covered with camouflage
netting—shelters the workstations, servers and radios. Several
dozen operators run the equipment.
The Army Space and Missile Defense Battle Lab, in Huntsville, Ala.,
is spending $5 million over two years to develop a so-called “advanced
warfare environment” that makes it possible to set up a TOC
with only two Humvee trucks (the shelter carrier model) and one
Drash (deployable rapid assembly shelter). About 12-14 people would
be needed to operate it.
Battle lab officials said the Army needs a “force projection”
TOC for air-defense operations—one that can be up and ready
before other units arrive in the theater. It would be an “early-entry
asset” to plan, for example, defensive strategies against
ballistic-missile attacks, said Army Lt. Col. Gregory C. Hoscheit,
chief of training and exercises at the battle lab.
He explained in an interview that TOCs can be downsized simply
by consolidating tasks that require several bulky computers into
a smaller number of commercial PCs, running Microsoft NT or Windows.
“Our goal is to merge capabilities into one box,” he
An effort to develop a mobile TOC began about two years ago, at
the urging of the former chief of the Space and Missile Defense
Command, Lt. Gen. John Costello. “He asked us to reduce the
logistics footprint,” said Hoscheit.
The battle lab’s prototype TOC would be transportable by
C-130 medium-lift aircraft, he said. It also could move on a truck.
The secret to making a TOC smaller is to have software that provides
a single, consolidated picture of the battlefield in a 3-D environment,
he said. That eliminates the use of the separate servers typically
needed for different combat applications.
The computers in this TOC host the “advanced warfare environment”
software, called Aware. The Aware boxes operate autonomously, without
servers. They can connect to the Army Battle Command System—a
collection of 11 computer systems created for various combat applications—and
to the Defense Department’s classified network, the Siprnet.
During a summer visit to the Pentagon, battle lab officials briefed
Thomas White, the secretary of the Army. “We demonstrated
worldwide connectivity via the Siprnet,” said Hoscheit. “We
were able to show a common operational picture through the Siprnet,
without any radios.”
Other services appear to be interested in the force-projection
TOC. Hoscheit said the TOC was used in an Air Force cruise-missile
defense exercise and has been adapted as a command-and-control center
for the Navy Seal special warfare units.
The Army’s new interim brigade combat teams also are considering
the use of these mobile TOCs. The prototype that the battle lab
made for air-defense missions, “has the same applicability
to armor units,” said John W. Buckley, a battle lab engineer.
There are plans to incorporate the IBCT combat platform, the LAV
(light armored vehicle) in the mobile TOC, Buckley told National
The tests done so far have been informal, said Hoscheit. Full-fledged
operational testing could begin in about 18 months.
He is confident that the technology will work, even in a harsh
combat setting. Not every commercial technology is suitable for
the battlefield, often requiring modifications, Hoscheit said. One
of the TOC computers, for example, was running on the USS Coronado,
under a helicopter landing pad. The intense vibration loosened the
memory card. Subsequently, the computer manufacturers changed the
position of the memory card. The computers are MaxPac 7200 transportable
workstations, running on Pentium III processors. They come with
a 17-inch high-resolution liquid crystal display. These workstations
typically are used for computer-aided design, medical imaging, satellite
imagery, military intelligence and streaming video applications.
The TOC’s Windows-based operating environment makes it user-friendly
for soldiers, said Hoscheit. It also enables multitasking. “The
multifunctional computers are the biggest saver,” he said.
“You can nominate targets and do other things on the same
computer.” In the traditional TOC, he added, there are “separate
computers which sometimes have trouble talking to each other.”
One piece of technology under consideration for the TOC potentially
could allow mainstream PCs to receive incoming tactical intelligence
data from national broadcasts—a task that now requires a dedicated
terminal. The technology is called enhanced national tactical receiver,
or ENTR. It is a compact four-channel receiver that can be installed
inside a PC and allows the computer to pick up any of the major
tactical intelligence broadcasts used today. The ENTR technology
still is in development by L-3 Communications. A company spokesman
said that the Army is “trying to understand the capabilities”
of ENTR, which also is being tested by the U.S. Navy.
The TOC could be described as “highly condensed,” said
Leonard Ingram, vice president of Brown International Corp., in
Huntsville. The company is under contract to the battle lab to integrate
the computer hardware with the Army vehicles, shelters and various
Even though the intended use for this TOC originally was ballistic-missile
and cruise-missile defense, it could be adapted to other military
operations, he said. “When you have a command-and-control
and intelligence gathering package like this, and provide a common
display of the ground and air picture, [that capability] is usable
by any commander. ... It identifies red and blue forces.”
The hardware in the TOC is packaged using commercial switches and
routers. “We can route signals easily to various users who
need the information,” said Ingram.
To cut down on the pieces of hardware in the TOC, he added, the
battle lab purchased a digital switch made by Avocent Corp. The
switch digitizes video and other data and transports them in Internet-protocol
packets over traditional networking connections.
The Aware software developed at the battle lab also has become
the foundation for possibly a new command-and-control architecture,
said Linda Johnston, Army program manager for advanced tactical
communications. Her office uses Aware to develop software that can
incorporate Army Battle Command System data feeds into 3-D stereo
environments, which would be used for battle planning, for example.
“We also are looking to incorporate artificial intelligence,”
into the TOC, said Hoscheit. Artificial intelligence in this case
means using specialized software, known as expert agents. An expert
agent can be programmed to search for specific types of information—ranging
from potential threats to vehicle fuel levels. This technology,
ideally, would free up human operators, who would have to spend
many hours searching for information. An expert agent could do that
“With intelligent agents, you can set them up on databases
and they can retrieve information that you want,” said James
E. Saultz, director of Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Laboratories.
The company is not involved in the TOC program, but has been awarded
several million dollars worth of contracts by several Defense Department
agencies for the development of expert agents.
Under an Army research project called “Agile Commander,”
logisticians use expert agents to manage the flow of supplies to
the battlefield, based on current demand. The system alerts logisticians
about supply shortages and other critical information, explained
Saultz in an interview.
Using voice-recognition technology, he said, “You can tell
an expert agent: ‘Find me M-16 rounds.’” The system
then asks “how you want them delivered, how you want them
packaged, when do you want them. It searches the inventory and alerts
the supply center.”