Upgrade approved for UK's Bowman system
The UK Ministry of Defence has moved forward with the next software iteration of its Bowman digital communications system with the award of a £110 million contract to General Dynamics UK (GD UK).
The Bowman ComBAT Information and Platform BISA (BCIP) Sustainment contract will continue the fielding of the current BCIP5.4 baseline as well as introduce the next upgrade of the system within two years.
Speaking at GD UK's Newbridge facility on 25 July, company representatives said the new contract incorporated lessons learned during the previous sustainment and upgrade projects and paved the way for BCIP5.5 fielding in 2013.
This iteration will include an upgraded tactical network gateway, increased interoperability with other forces and newer versions of the Microsoft Office applications.
The current BCIP5.4 upgrade programme is 85% fielded to date and is expected to be fully deployed across the UK armed forces by the end of the year.
Graham Pink, head of Bowman sustainment for GD UK, said BCIP5.4, which is now fielded in Afghanistan, delivered a number of benefits over the initial BCIP4F, which primarily provided secure voice and a limited tactical internet.
‘Clearly there has been a lot added to the system over the intervening period. We now do have a robust tactical internet that is capable of carrying data from a number of sources, not just the Bowman applications, and a tactical network gateway that enables us to connect into other systems and increasing that interoperability,' Pink said.
The capability essentially provides a new version of ComBAT, giving troops new communications information planning tools, a more robust tactical internet, and improved situational awareness applications.
The upgrade comes with a MSN Messenger-type ‘chat' service that users have since dubbed ‘Bowman Twitter' and allows troops in the field to send data rather than voice transmission for such communications as position reporting.
BCIP5.4 also allows Bowman voice and data information to be streamed into the British Army's Overtask network, the UK's primary link to the wider Afghan Mission Network.
The capabilities of the Bowman system were further enhanced following the award of three urgent operational requirements (UORs) worth a total of some £33 million in January.
The first of these, the Modular Dismounted Operations Room (M-DOR) capability, gives troops the ability to establish a patrol base with similar levels of VHF, HF and High Capacity Data Radios as a forward operating base. The system is designed to be lightweight and transportable for simple deployment.
A further UOR introduces the Tactical Ground Reporting Infrastructure (TiGR) application, which was originally developed by the US Defense Advanced Procurement Agency and provides improved tactical SA.
The third capability allows such shared SA to be moved between Bowman and Overtask, allowing commanders to work off a common operational picture on a single terminal that now can display all relevant information.
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