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Army Paratroopers Get In-Flight Internet

by Matt Cox on May 9, 2014

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U.S. Army forced-entry units will soon have a new in-flight internet system to help them prepare for mission changes before parachuting into enemy territory.

The Army’s new Enroute Mission Command Capability, or EMC2, features internet service, mission command applications, full-motion video, intelligence products and collaborative planning tools along with computers and voice phones that can be used on aboard a C-17 aircraft.

As the situation develops in the destination target area, Global Response Force commanders will be able to get updates, understand changes on the ground and be able to adjust their plan.

“The ability to understand a situation gives you the ability to take appropriate action, and if the GRF can understand a situation before they get to their drop location, then they can be more effective from the moment boots hit the ground,” said Lt. Col. Joel Babbitt, product manager for Warfighter Information Network-Tactical, or WIN-T, Increment 1, which manages the new in-flight capability for the Army. “Instead of landing on the ground, analyzing the situation and developing execution plans, they can hit the ground executing.”

EMC2 is will soon be installed on C17 aircraft, so that Air Force pilots and units of the 82nd Airborne Division – which help make up the Global Response Force – will test the system at multiple locations, according to an Army press release. If all goes well, the system will be issued to XVIII Airborne Corps by the end of the calendar year.

One of the main components of EMC2 is the Fixed Install Satellite Antenna, or FISA, which provides the internet connection for the C17. A similar capability is being used by commercial airlines.

“The FISA provides a fourfold increase in bandwidth so that a new host of services can be employed on board, increasing capability for GRF units to plan and maintain critical situational awareness in the air,” said Capt. Mindy Brown, EMC2 lead for PdM WIN-T Increment 1.

U.S. Special Operations Command already has aircraft outfitted with their own version of this in-flight capability. The Army’s EMC2 system aboard additional C17s would expand that initial SOCOM capability, Army officials maintain.

“It will be a transformation in the situational awareness and effectiveness of the GRF in the first several hours of ground operations,” Babbitt said.

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