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
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 is installed
on two M915 truck tractors at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait.
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.
transceiver with embedded GPS and RFID interrogator
takes up less than a square foot of space on top
of a vehicle.
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.
receive instruction on the operation of the Movement
Tracking System at Camp Arifjan.
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.
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.