The historic modernization program links soldiers to a wide range of weapons, sensors, and information systems behind an interface that ICS helped create.
ICS Helps Boeing Deliver Interface for Army Brigade Combat Team Modernization Effort
The most comprehensive weapons modernization program in U.S. Army history is now underway and ICS plays a critical role. The program is designed to enable integrated battlefield engagements by everyone from unit commanders down to individual soldiers and out to adjacent units. Whether assessing overall unit readiness, directing over-the-horizon artillery or going door-to-door to clear insurgents, warfighters linked to modern sensors, systems, weapons and communications can make — and act upon — informed coordinated decisions in split-second time.
It is no exaggeration to say that everything this multi-billion dollar program contains is there for two reasons: to enable 360° awareness of battlefield situations, and to enable an immediate and appropriate response. That is why the role ICS plays is so critical. ICS, under contract to Boeing, provides needed expertise to interface program-enabled assets with the people whose lives depend on them.
The Army Brigade Combat Team Modernization Effort’s warfighter-centered design brings together needed information to form the highest levels of situation awareness in a consistent, easy to use form. The Warfighter’s Machine Interface (WMI) is how everyone within the Army Brigade Combat Team Modernization Effort receives information, controls equipment and communicates with one another in battle.
According to Richard Fuller, Boeing’s WMI Program Manager for Element Services, “This is probably where a soldier is going to spend 99% of his time — interfacing with what we’ve built.”
The WMI is also the most visible part of the Army Brigade Combat Team Modernization Effort, according to Fuller. “It’s the first thing soldiers see — the first thing they use — and the first thing they need to understand. Soldiers need to know ‘How do I make this work? How do I talk to my commander? How do I issue orders? How do I work my sensors?’”
It all needs to be clear, and also highly reliable. “You can imagine, you’re on a mission operation and an Error 404 message comes up," he said. "That’s the last thing you want to see.”
To make sure the WMI is both highly reliable and clearly understood, Boeing partnered with ICS for expertise in Qt®, the WMI technical foundation. Qt is used to build platform-independent, advanced graphical user interfaces. Key to that technology are “widgets,” such as the buttons, dials and tables used to control systems and view information. Boeing asked ICS to create widgets that went significantly beyond those available out of the box from Qt.
The widgets are the primary interface for the soldier — with unmanned air vehicles, unmanned ground vehicles and other weapon systems. They are the primary interface with the weapons systems themselves, as well as with all the other roles that have been identified within the program’s Brigade Combat Team. "We realized that some of these widgets — or primitives as we call them — were going to be heavy duty. And so we asked ICS for help," Fuller said. "They’ve been on our team since 2005."