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MTS: A Success Story
for Battlefield Logisticians

The Movement Tracking System (MTS) is a critical battlefield enabler for combat support and combat service support (CSS) soldiers. MTS is bridging communication gaps that have existed for years within the CSS community. It is making up for the low number of frequency modulation (FM) radios in CSS units and overcoming the limitations of FM radio line-of-site communications caused by long range or mountainous terrain.

MTS is a commercial off-the-shelf product that has been “semiruggedized” to provide vehicle operators and their leaders with digital National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency maps, global positioning system (GPS) location data, and L-band (long band) satellite two-way text messaging. MTS computer systems come in two configurations: a mobile system that can be mounted in any tactical wheeled vehicle and a laptop control station for use at platoon, company, battalion, or brigade headquarters. The system enables soldiers to see the position of, and communicate with, other MTS-enabled vehicles and control stations. Leaders can pass critical information, route and mission changes, and other information to their soldiers while the soldiers are on the road conducting missions.

A Proven Success

MTS proved its worth early in its initial fielding to the 4th Infantry Division (Mechanized) and 1st Cavalry Division in 2001. At the March 2001 Division Capstone Exercise-1 conducted at the National Training Center (NTC) at Fort Irwin, California, MTS was used to request medical evacuation of a soldier injured in a vehicle accident in the training area. FM radios in several vehicles at the scene could not be used to contact anyone because they were out of range. However, one vehicle had MTS capability, which enabled the unit to call in a medical evacuation request. In a similar incident during another division capstone exercise at the NTC the following November, personnel used MTS messaging to communicate with medics, who instructed them on how to conduct medical triage and provide stabilizing medical care to the victim until medical personnel arrived.

In countless other MTS success stories during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), lives have been saved on the battlefield. OIF greatly increased the need for MTS. MTS has become a critical link in controlling and monitoring logistics convoys in Iraq; it has been used in ways that are beyond the doctrinal concept for its employment.

The success of MTS’s on-the-move satellite communication capability has had a dramatic and sweeping effect on the combat arms and joint communities. The Project Manager, Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below (PM FBCB2), saw the potential for the use of this mobile satellite communications system with FBCB2. Faced with the limitations of line-of-site radio systems and interruptions in command and control communications, he saw the need to incorporate over-the-horizon satellite communications. The PM FBCB2 successfully integrated the L-band satellite technology used by MTS into the FBCB2 suite of equipment to establish the Army’s Blue Force Tracking program. Blue Force Tracking and MTS systems allowed Army and Marine Corps units to communicate over vast distances and provide critical command and control during the movement of forces from Kuwait into Iraq.

MTS+

MTS was fielded initially with commercial off-the-shelf hardware and proprietary software. When the program was conceived over 5 years ago, the long-term vision for it included a strategy for preplanned product improvements. Based on increased usage and lessons learned by soldiers during OIF, that preplanned product improvement strategy evolved into a focus on specific changes and improvements to be implemented in MTS by June 2005.

The Phase I significant enhancements to MTS resulted in MTS+, which has successfully passed developmental, technical, and user testing. MTS+ fielding began in June.

MTS+ contains an embedded military GPS card and an embedded radio frequency identification (RFID) interrogator within the new L-band satellite transceiver, model MT–2012. The embedded GPS card in the MT–2012 transceiver improves the system’s antijamming characteristics and eliminates the need for a separate, external GPS device (currently the Army’s precision lightweight GPS receiver).

The embedded RFID interrogator is the enhancement of most significance to logisticians. The interrogator can read active RF tags placed on cargo or containers loaded onto the back of a vehicle. Active RF tag data are transmitted through the MTS server to MTS control stations and fed to the RF in-transit visibility server. Other control stations can track cargo as it moves across the battlefield, and commanders can redirect shipments on the move as the mission dictates. This capability will revolutionize asset management by providing positive cargo tracking and control and asset visibility to the final destination.

Another Phase I enhancement is a new and more rugged mobile touch-screen computer with version 5.15 MTS software, which incorporates a “911” panic button capability. The 911 panic button feature allows a vehicle operator in distress to push one button on MTS and send a message to all MTS systems that the vehicle is in an emergency situation. The message also provides responders with the vehicle’s bumper number and location.

The new computer is more rugged to withstand extremely hot and harsh environments like that in the OIF area of operations. It also is easier for soldiers to use while riding in a moving vehicle. This feature will provide soldiers a more reliable and user-friendly system.


MTS–II


Phase II, known as MTS–II, should be ready for fielding by February 2006. MTS–II will have an enhanced software package that increases the operational capability of the system’s communications, messaging, and mapping functions and interfaces with other key Army systems. To provide more flexibility to users and meet the demands of military standing operating procedures, MTS–II software will increase free text message length beyond the current 100-character capability and include preformatted messages. The preformatted messages that will be added include common military applications, forms, and reports, such as operation orders; logistics situation reports; maintenance support requests; medical evacuation requests; accident reports; mission-delay reports; repair parts requests; vehicle diagnostic problem reports; and dispatch requests.

The MTS–II software enhancements will provide a more flexible messaging capability and allow better command and control over changing missions. These enhancements will include improved email functions such as instant messaging, email prioritization, and email forwarding; more flexible communication functions such as personalized distribution lists; and the capability to provide vehicle dispatching, location tracking, shipment priority, and task list status.

MTS–II mapping function enhancements will include the use of common military symbols and more flexible and user-friendly loading and updating of maps. It will better support the ability to display different types of maps. MTS–II also will automatically update the current vehicle location indicator on the map as the vehicle moves and show points of interest, such as checkpoints, automatic information technology chokepoints, obstacles, improvised explosive device locations, and contaminated areas. Proximity notifications will alert the vehicle and control station of predetermined “trigger” conditions.

The MTS–II interface priority will be to implement a two-way position feed with Blue Force Tracking.

The future holds some critical and exciting improvements for the Army’s standard MTS. These improvements will empower CSS soldiers on the battlefield in new ways. CSS soldiers will have a highly useful navigation and communication system that also will enable leaders to track cargo on the battlefield.
ALOG

Captain Heather E. Weigner is the Movement Tracking System requirements officer and user representative for the Directorate of Combat Developments for Transportation at the Army Combined Arms Support Command at Fort Lee, Virginia. She has a B.S. degree in biology from St. Bonaventure University in New York. She is a graduate of the Aviation Officer Basic Course, the Combined Logistics Officers Advanced Course, the Combined Arms and Services Staff School, and the Army Acquisition Officer Basic Course.

John E. Laudan is a systems acquisition specialist in the office of the Assistant Product Manager, Automated Logistics and Integrated Systems, at Fort Lee, Virginia. He served as the preplanned product improvements manager for the Product Manager, Movement Tracking System, from June 2000 to January 2005. He holds a B.A. degree in history from Canisius College in New York and an M.S. degree in administration from Central Michigan University.