By Amy Walker and Claire Heininger, PEO C3T
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (March 10, 2014) — With drastically reduced startup and shutdown times, a new, easy to use graphical interface and improved troubleshooting tools, the Army’s mobile tactical network backbone system recently completed a key test.
In line with the Army’s overall effort to simplify the network so it more resembles technology that Soldiers operate in their daily lives, the changes to Warfighter Information Network-Tactical, or WIN-T, Increment 2 reflect a network that is easier to operate and maintain.
“We want an ‘on’ switch for the network — we want it to be absolutely transparent to Soldiers,” said Brig. Gen. Daniel P. Hughes, program executive officer for Command, Control, Communications-Tactical, which manages the WIN-T program. “When you pick up a cell phone, how much training do you need to make it work? It’s intuitive, and that’s how the Army network should be.”
WIN-T Increment 2 enables deployed Soldiers operating in remote and challenging terrain to maintain voice, video and data communications while on the move, with connectivity rivaling that found in a stationary command post. The reduced complexity and increased reliability provided by the system’s latest improvements are also expected to increase its utility on the battlefield and reduce dependence on Signal Soldiers to operate and maintain the equipment. Any Soldier can now take greater advantage of the new WIN-T Increment 2 network status and troubleshooting capabilities that provide them with a more robust and reliable network.
The WIN-T Increment 2 enhancements, based on Soldier feedback from theater and the Network Integration Evaluations, or NIEs, are being assessed during two intensive developmental tests executed at the Aberdeen Test Center, or ATC, at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. The first of these tests was completed in late February, with Soldiers putting a large part of a brigade’s worth of equipment through its paces in a tactical environment. The event was conducted over a 27-day period including five days of dry runs and eight days of record test, approximately 800 training hours and 21 network nodes, including 16 mobile nodes that drove 8,000 miles during the test. The second developmental test is scheduled for June 2014, and a follow-on operational test and evaluation is planned for the NIE 15.1 in October-November 2014.
Efforts to enhance the system began immediately after NIE results confirmed the need to improve WIN-T Increment 2 usability, and officials described the improvements as an ongoing process involving user juries and human machine design experts. While the nature of the system — it combines a number of routers, switches, modems, software, encryption devices, radios and antennas typically found in a command post and installs them as one package in a tactical vehicle — means it will never be as fast and easy as a commercial smartphone, the Army will continue to drive the technology to be more intuitive, easier to use and more effective for the Soldier.
“We took a hard look at the system at the engineering level, every component in great detail, to see where we could reduce complexity,” said Lt. Col. LaMont Hall, product manager for WIN-T Increment 2. “We reduced things like the time it takes and the number of steps required to start up the system, the time it takes to conduct operational tasks, the number of logins and clicks — all in an effort to simplify everything as much as possible to reduce the burden on the Soldier.”
WIN-T Increment 2 provides enhanced capabilities over the previously fielded WIN-T Increment 1 and its upgrades, including network-equipped vehicles that provide the on-the-move communications and situational awareness that commanders need to lead from anywhere on the battlefield. The changes to the system enhance the capabilities of the WIN-T Increment 2 Soldier Network Extension, or SNE, vehicle, which provides network communication and extension capabilities at the company level, and the Point of Presence, or PoP, which provides mobile mission command at the battalion level and above.
As part of these improvements, the Army automated the startup for the PoP and SNE, significantly reducing the complexity and length of the startup process. More than a dozen buttons and switches were reduced to a single startup switch, dropping the total time to get a networked vehicle up and running from over 12 minutes to four and a half minutes.
On the battlefield, commanders and Soldiers use WIN-T Increment 2 to quickly access mobile communication applications such as Tactical Ground Reporting, chat and voice-over-internet protocol (VoIP) calls. The new upgrades cut in half the time it takes to launch these applications, while increasing the performance of Joint Battle Command-Platform, or JBC-P, the friendly-force tracking and messaging application Soldiers rely on for situational awareness.
“We also spent a lot of time looking at the user interface and what we could do to improve it so it is easier for the Soldier to operate,” Hall said. “It’s much more intuitive now, more of the smartphone mentality, easier to understand and use, with larger buttons that are easier to see.”
The SNE’s Combat Net Radio, or CNR, Gateway takes advantage of the vehicle’s on-the-move satellite communication systems to help extend lower tactical internet radio networks and keep them connected. To improve capability, CNR Gateway operations were simplified and automated; operational steps to start it up were reduced from nearly a dozen manual steps to a single log-in and a click. Now Soldiers merely select and connect, with mere seconds to execute.
Among the most important improvements to WIN-T Increment 2 are simplified and streamlined troubleshooting capabilities for the PoP and SNE, moving from an in-depth interface designed for the Signal Soldier to one more suitable for a general purpose operator. During the first developmental test, Soldiers were so eager to troubleshoot faults using their new tools that they fixed an antenna problem before data collectors could diagnose it.
Prior to these improvements, when a general purpose user or company commander had an issue, they could only troubleshoot approximately 20 percent of system issues themselves, and 80 percent of the time they have to call a field service representative, or FSR, or S6 [communications officer] to resolve it, officials said.
“We want to completely reverse those percentages,” Hall said. “Our intent now is let the general purpose user troubleshoot and resolve 80 percent of those issues.”
The Army is also working to ensure that it is providing the right network capabilities to the right echelons, so Soldiers are not asked to do things beyond their trained abilities, and to develop the right tactics, techniques and procedures, or TTPs, for communications equipment. This is especially true in lower echelons such as companies, which don’t have dedicated Signal Soldiers assigned. With the network serving as a key enabler for a smaller but still highly capable future force, the Army will continue to make changes to simplify the network, so commanders and Soldiers can focus on the fight.
“We have aggressively examined and tested every component of the WIN-T Increment 2 system,” said Col. Ed Swanson, project manager for WIN-T. “We will continue to improve both ease of use and reliability in advance of the next operational test and then beyond that; we’ll never stop improving this system for our Soldiers.”
Assessing the health of the Army’s industrial base is a complex task
By Mr. Juan L. Millan
The Army industrial base of today is more global, commercial and financially complex than that of 10 or 15 years ago. Prime suppliers have increased their role as integrators and delegated key innovation and development roles to a vast and complex network of sub-tier suppliers. Sub-tier suppliers have responded with their own complex network of suppliers, some of which are small, highly skilled and defense-dependent firms. These small, specialized firms serve as the warning indicator for the health of the overall industrial base.
The Army understands that the industry supporting defense is reshaping itself to respond to significant changes in military missions that translate to a sizable reduction in the demand for supplies and equipment. Major defense firms are responding by reducing excess capacity, streamlining processes and revamping supplier relationships. In addition, the financial uncertainty of sequestration will affect the future demand for new systems.
All of these factors create a high-risk environment for manufacturers and suppliers. The key question is: “How is the Army addressing the challenges to maintain the industrial base that supports the warfighter?”
First, the Army must determine which industrial capabilities are unique and vital to our national defense, and whether the military and its capabilities will be in jeopardy when a company decides to terminate a vital activity or move production offshore. Second, the Army must determine how major players can support the smaller force so that it remains credible and capable. Doing this requires involvement from multiple organizations at the strategic, tactical and operational levels, developing strong, ongoing and mutually beneficial joint relationships with their counterparts in the private sector to help minimize the impact of a potential loss in capabilities.
The Army is taking a proactive approach to ensure the preservation of those critical and essential capabilities needed for future short- and long-term operations. In order to identify the risks and issues impacting the industrial base, the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology (OASA(ALT)) has established collaborative efforts with major players such as the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manufacturing and Industrial Base Policy, the U.S. Army Materiel Command, the Defense Logistics Agency, the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Defense Contract Management Agency.
ASSESSING THE RISKS
As the Army draws down from contingency operations, some of the industrial base issues being addressed include excess capacity, limited incentives for private investment, commercial sources exiting the defense business, a growing dependence on foreign suppliers, shrinking and aging stockpiles, and declining commercial research and development capabilities.
For assessment purposes, the Army has organized its industrial base into five sectors, following the way program executive offices (PEOs), life cycle management commands (LCMCs), and research, development and engineering centers (RDECs) are structured by commodity. (See Figure 1.)
The Army is also fully engaged in joint assessment efforts focused on the identification of risks and issues impacting the industrial base’s ability to sustain readiness. They are:
1. The Sector-by-Sector, Tier-by-Tier (S2T2) Assessment—S2T2 seeks to establish early-warning indicators of risk, particularly at lower tiers, to promote policies to mitigate potential points of failure, reduce overreliance on foreign sourcing and identify areas of limited competition. The S2T2 assessment, which started in 2011, entails surveying, collecting and analyzing data from the commercial sector, reviewing outside expert reports and assessing challenges to the manufacturing community. A critical part of the S2T2 effort is the series of fragility and criticality (FaC) assessments. The FaC assessments map fragile and critical niches in the defense industrial base, to facilitate risk-mitigation investment decisions. The information generated will allow program offices to accurately gauge how potential reductions in funding could affect suppliers who provide the capabilities, products, skills and services needed to support requirements. Below are some recent products of the S2T2 FaC process:
Qualitative superiority in weaponry and other key military technology has become an essential element of American military power in the modern era, not only for winning wars but also for deterring them.
- The M1 Abrams tank assessment enabled the team to narrow down a list of thousands of suppliers to a manageable number. As a result, a supplier of critical components (tank periscopes) was identified and a project funded to keep this fragile capability available for future ground vehicle programs.
- The Warfighter Information Network – Tactical (WIN-T) assessment revealed specialized skill sets and a critical supplier at high risk of being lost due to decreased funding.
- The rotary-wing and missile sector’s Gray Eagle Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) assessment provided a list of critical skills or production capabilities at high risk of being lost due to decreased funding. The assessment will facilitate the development of strategies to mitigate these risks.
2. The Industrial Base Baseline Assessment (IBBA)—The IBBA is another effort to evaluate the ability of the Army’s production base to sustain acquisition and readiness, and to provide recommendations for risk mitigation.
Through the integration of program inputs from each LCMC, RDEC, PEO and senior Army leadership, the IBBA focuses each organization’s assessment on critical industrial base capabilities, technologies and capacities.
It takes a joint approach by major players to assess the many challenges faced by the defense industrial base and find solutions that will preserve its health, integrity and technical superiority in support of the warfighter.
There is no doubt that the current wave of defense cuts, combining predictable effects of the drawdowns from Iraq and Afghanistan with the unpredictable consequences of sequestration, is very different from past defense budget reductions, and its impact on the industrial base is going to be significant. This impact calls on the Army to balance cuts across all parts of acquisition and force structure and to limit million-dollar problems to million-dollar solutions.
The challenges are forcing the Army to take a deep, hard look at the firms that supply the technologies our armed forces use, as they are important to national security.
Qualitative superiority in weaponry and other key military technology has become an essential element of American military power in the modern era, not only for winning wars but also for deterring them.
To be successful, the future industrial base must be capability- and capacity-based, using innovative practices to achieve integrated capabilities that are both flexible and responsive.
In the short term, the Army should focus on identifying only those truly critical and essential capabilities that it will need to preserve for regeneration purposes. In the long term, the Army should focus on identifying potential capability gaps and target its investments based on key fragile industrial capabilities needed now and in the future.
MR. JUAN L. MILLAN serves as a senior industrial base policy specialist in the Acquisition and Industrial Base Policy Directorate of OASA(ALT). He holds a B.S. in industrial engineering from the Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico, a B.B.A. from Puerto Rico’s State University and an M.S. in management from the Florida Institute of Technology. Millan is Level III certified in program management and in production, quality and manufacturing. He also holds a Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt, and is a member of the U.S. Army Acquisition Corps.
- Previoulsy published in Army AL&T magazine (Jan-Feb 2014 edition).
AMC works to preserve OIB capabilities through cooperative arrangements with industry and others
By Mr. Mark L. Morrison
Among the challenges faced by the Army’s organic industrial base (OIB), as it transitions from combat to sustainment, is allocating diminishing workload within the depots and arsenals of the U.S. Army Materiel Command (AMC). Capitalizing on private-sector capabilities through public-private partnerships (P3), such as work share, teaming, direct sales, facility use and leasing, is one key way to preserve the OIB’s unique capabilities while ensuring its viability as an enterprise in the near term and its long-term ability to meet surge requirements.
To support the warfighter during the past 12 years, AMC has invested in tooling, specialty equipment, training and the professional development of a deployable, skilled and award-winning OIB workforce. Among the honors AMC has received are 27 of 47 Shingo awards; Lean Six Sigma and value engineering awards; selection as a Reuters Top 100 Global Innovator; Secretary of Defense Environmental awards; and presidential rank and civilian service awards.
P3s enable our partners to take advantage of these investments, capabilities and workforce skills. Partnerships provide access to advanced technology; state-of-the-art equipment; secure AMC facilities that are ISO (International Organization for Standardization)-certified and comply with Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations; the potential use of hard-to-obtain hazardous waste permits; and Lean Six Sigma processes. Partnerships also allow industry to leverage long-term use agreements and reduce their capital investment and overhead costs.
For the Army, P3s offer the benefits of improving operational efficiencies, lowering costs of products and services, accelerating innovation, sustaining critical skills and capabilities, and ultimately reducing our expensing rates, thus making our depots and arsenals more cost-competitive. In FY13, AMC had 205 partnerships, representing total revenue of $203 million while sustaining 1,800 jobs. (See “Conserving Capabilities,” Army AL&T magazine, January-March 2013, Page 160.)
DOD has endorsed the continued use of partnerships as a critical part of President Obama’s national security strategy. In a July 2012 report to the secretary of the Army, the Defense Business Board, tasked with providing recommendations on how to exploit the benefits of these partnerships more fully, noted: “Public-Private Collaborations leverage the resources of the private sector and other collaborating agencies and allies. As the department enters a decade of austerity, collaborations are a cost-wise process that usually results in a significant return on a relatively modest investment.”
The same report also noted departmentwide challenges that can undermine partnership efforts. Top among the challenges DOD faces is that there is no overarching P3 doctrine, no standard approach for industry-DOD partnerships. Consequently the private sector does not know how to go about partnering.
AMC’s experience echoes some of those themes, notably the lack of a standard approach to partnering. Currently, AMC organizations are as diverse in their P3 approaches as each installation’s capabilities. As Gen. Dennis L. Via, AMC commanding general (CG), has observed, “Fostering partnerships calls for a more responsive approach on AMC’s part.” The private sector is a fast-moving entity that calls for a receptive and timely government response.
A STANDARD APPROACH
To address these concerns, AMC is working on a new business development strategy that will focus on the benefits and pitfalls of partnering, to establish a standard approach to attracting partnerships and reaching agreements.
The new business development plan will lay out a standard policy, metrics, tools and training that will enable the OIB to speak with one language when it comes to attracting new business. As the plan is finalized, the focus is on standardizing efforts and applying the required levels of AMC attention and resources at all sites.
In devising this new approach, AMC examined where and how partnerships have worked especially well. The most successful arrangements have developed when the collaboration took a “triad” approach. This method includes a business development professional, legal advisor and contracting officer at the initial stages of a relationship, as follows:
- Business development, to reach out with the concept of partnering, determine scope and garner concept approval.
- Legal, to analyze the environment and bring a solid understanding of applicable law, regulation and policy, with the aim of maximizing flexibility to the business development professional and the contracting officer.
- Contracting, to determine the best interests of the government and thus ensure that the partnering effort achieves its stated goals through rock-solid agreements and supporting documents that define applicable terms and conditions such as direct labor structure and costs.
Not only is integrated coordination a must from the beginning of a partnership, but AMC needs to go even further by looking toward a larger definition of partnership. Beyond the traditional arrangements with industry and small business, partnering should involve a larger concept of “public” that includes other services, the Defense Logistics Agency and other countries as well.
In addition, the continued growth in foreign military sales (FMS) offers a promising venue for partnerships. In FY13, FMS support resulted in $190 million in revenue for the OIB.
Our industrial capabilities and capacities should make us an attractive partner. Ultimately the best, most successful partnerships are those that add value to the OIB and bring profit to the private-sector partner. We must team with industry to create win-win opportunities.
As AMC’s new business development plan advances, its rapid execution will support the preservation of unique OIB capabilities, so that the OIB can remain effective, efficient and poised to provide the timely, high-quality support that our warfighters have come to expect and demand.
For more information, contact the AMC G-3/4 Industrial Base Capabilities Division at 256-450-7087 or Ramon Campos at Ramon.Campos.firstname.lastname@example.org.
- MR. MARK L. MORRISON is the director of industrial base and infrastructure planning at AMC headquarters, Redstone Arsenal, AL. Morrison served for 29 years as an Army Ordnance Corps officer before retiring in 2009. Subsequently, he was selected as a highly qualified expert, and is responsible for leading AMC’s current industrial base optimization assessment. Morrison holds a B.A. in political science from Southwestern Oklahoma State University and an M.S. in national security and strategic studies from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.
By Joyce M. Conant, ARL Public Affairs
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (Jan. 28, 2014) — Researchers at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory go about their business every day working on projects to help better serve the military and its members who protect our country. Sometimes the research inspires commercial companies to do additional research and expand on certain aspects to develop products of their own.
That is what happened with ARL’s research called “Inertial Reticle Technology” where researchers who were then in the Weapons and Materials Research Directorate developed a concept to apply advanced fire control technology to sniper weapons.
As a result of this concept, a modern fire control system for rifles was developed by a Texas-based company, which later partnered with another prominent gun manufacturer. Their partnership allowed for the development of a new shooting system, which they claim may just revolutionize how targets are acquired. It is called the precision guided firearm.
According to an article in American Rifleman, dated Dec. 17, 2013, a new integrated rifle and sighting system was introduced in January 2013, in which a video screen scope with an internal laser rangefinder to measure the distance to the target and, using the latest in digital technology, factors in temperature, barometric pressure, incline/decline, cant, air density, spin drift, target movement and effect drift.
Raymond Von Wahlde, aerospace engineer, Vehicle Technology Directorate, learned about this discovery through his former colleagues Lucian Sadowski and Dr. Stephen Small both from Joint Service Small Arms Program who managed a project in the 1990′s known as, “Project White Feather.”
Dr. Small named the project as a tribute to famed sniper Gunnery Sgt. Carlos N. Hathcock II, also known as “White Feather.” Von Wahlde found that the new rifle was very similar to the technology he had coauthored a white paper on with Dennis Metz from EAI Corporation in August 1999, titled “Sniper Weapon Fire Control Error Budget Analysis,” data from which was included on the company’s website.
Von Wahlde contacted the company to see if those who developed their precision-guided firearms were aware of the SOCOM-sponsored project known as “Project White Feather.”
Von Wahlde said in his message, “…we called it the ‘Inertial Reticle.’ It was the brain child of Dr. Mark Kregel. Might the precision guided firearm trace its ancestry back at least in part to ‘Project White Feather?’”
Von Wahlde went on to say, “Your videos look remarkably like ours did back in the day. I am impressed with your implementation. We utilized actual inertial sensors on the weapon to stabilize the desired aim point. I like your image processing method for doing so. Your solution to trigger pull is elegant. We replaced the trigger with a switch that armed the system. A solenoid actually pulled the trigger. That was one of the least liked features of our prototype by the users. Adjusting the trigger force is brilliant.”
Within a couple of days, Von Wahlde received a message back from the company.
“Thank you very much for your email. I appreciate your work — Project White Feather continues to be the best compilation and serious study of sniper performance data that I am aware of. We make everyone on the team read it. Thanks for your interest, would love to show you the system sometime,” said Bret Boyd, vice president of sales and marketing, TrackingPoint.
Von Wahlde who was project engineer for much of the testing said he gives a lot of credit to his former colleagues.
“The technology was the brain child of Dr. Mark Kregel (now retired) and along with Tom Haug (also retired) and Tim Brosseau from WMRD, they constructed the prototype systems for the IRT (Inertial Reticle Technology),” said Von Wahlde. “I am honored to be part of a team that served as an inspiration for these systems.”
- ARL is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to develop technology and engineering solutions for America’s Soldiers.
RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. AMC is the Army’s premier provider of materiel readiness–technology, acquisition support, materiel development, logistics power projection and sustainment–to the total force, across the spectrum of joint military operations. If a Soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, eats it or communicates with it, AMC provides it.
- ARL is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to develop technology and engineering solutions for America’s Soldiers.
By Amy Walker, PEO C3T
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (Jan. 6, 2013) — The Army’s rapid fielding of network systems to support operations in Iraq and Afghanistan led to vastly improved communications capabilities on the battlefield — but also increased network complexity.
The service is now moving to simplify and reduce the number of network management tools its communication officers, known as S6s, use to manage the tactical communications network, moving from deliveries of stove-piped tool sets across various systems and echelons to an integrated system.
“The S6 has a wide range of network transport devices, applications and hardware that he has to manage and he has a lot of different program offices providing him with their own Network Operations (NetOps) tools that don’t necessarily work together,” said Lt. Col. Ward Roberts, product manager for Warfighter Information Network-Tactical, or PM WIN-T, Increment 3, who is leading the Army’s Integrated Tactical NetOps team. “But the goal of NetOps convergence is to provide one tool, or an easy to use integration of tools, into one seamless delivery so that the S6 has one tool set to manage his whole network.”
Led by the Program Executive Office for Command, Control, and Communications-Tactical, or PEO C3T, to which PM WIN-T is assigned, the Army is working to integrate and converge NetOps capabilities. The goal is to achieve network visibility from the enterprise level to the tactical level, while reducing the number of tools required. Integrating NetOps from the enterprise to the tactical edge will achieve efficiencies and improve operational flexibility. The NetOps efforts are just one component of the Army’s overall drive to simplify the network so it more resembles technology that Soldiers operate in their daily lives, making it easier and more efficient to use, train and sustain.
“Our young Soldiers are from a generation that has had iPhones, that has had Xboxes, that has grown up in an environment as digital natives,” said Brig. Gen. Daniel P. Hughes, program executive officer for PEO C3T. “They expect things to work a certain way. So we’ve got to get NetOps down to a minimal number of tools that are easy to use, so the Soldier can make the network operational on a very complex battlefield.”
The Army’s WIN-T network backbone provides Soldiers across the force with high-speed, high-capacity voice, data and video communications, and now with Increment 2 supports on-the-move network communications down to the company level. Today, WIN-T NetOps tool suites are supporting S6s in theater as they facilitate the planning, initialization, monitoring, management and response of the network.
WIN-T Increment 2- equipped brigades now have four times as many network nodes that units had in the past, as many radio and satellite assets once possessed by a division, making it a challenge to manage that network. But today’s improved WIN-T NetOps tools make it much easier to manage that complexity, said Chief Warrant Officer Eric Bache, brigade NetOps manager for 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division at the Army’s Network Integration Evaluation, or NIE, 14.1.
“With my NetOps tools I can take a look at the various nodes and say, ‘I don’t want that link, it’s not passing enough data,’” Bache said. “I can shut one off and reroute it through another radio or antenna.”
An improved WIN-T NetOps tool suite developed under the WIN-T Increment 3 program will serve as the baseline for tactical NetOps as the Integrated Tactical NetOps team works to converge other products, such as those used to manage the lower tactical internet, known as the TI.
“As the Army modernizes its network, it is pushing network systems lower and lower in the echelons, so computers are in places that they never were before, including physically on the Soldier,” said Rich Greel, technical management division chief for PM WIN-T. “With the increased size of the network, additional number of nodes, and the Army pushing it down lower in the echelons, we have to ensure that NetOps tools make it easy for the S6 to manage that network.”
Today, the lower TI — the radio-based network used at lower echelons on the battlefield — is compartmentalized and can be difficult for the Soldier to track and manage. One of the objectives of NetOps convergence is to integrate existing lower TI tools together and make them work seamlessly with WIN-T’s upper TI tools.
An early success for lower TI NetOps convergence was realized with the 2013 fielding of the Joint Tactical Networking Environment NetOps Toolkit, which collapsed several lower tactical network tools, mostly radio management tools, onto one laptop.
This spring the next version of the advanced WIN-T NetOps capabilities are scheduled to be evaluated at NIE 14.2, before they are eventually fielded to units equipped with WIN-T Increment 2. The Army’s semi-annual NIEs leverage Soldier feedback to improve capability and rapidly mature and integrate its tactical communications network. They have also been a venue to converge NetOps tools.
The first NIE event in 2011 included more than 70 separate systems to run and operate the network. That total is now closer to 20. Part of the NIE 14.2 WIN-T NetOps demonstration will include the use of Condition Based Maintenance Plus. This new preventative maintenance concept for the tactical communications network is similar to OnStar and other diagnostic software found in today’s cars, and aims to increase reliability and sustainability while reducing sustainment costs.
“We are using the NIEs to validate our steps along the way and not waiting until we have an end product that we want to ship out,” Roberts said. “We are making incremental improvements and getting those out to NIE to garner feedback from the Soldiers, the larger network community and from our industry partners to see if our tools are helping Soldiers out and what kind of improvements we may need to make.”
The biggest benefit in achieving a common NetOps solution would be incurred by the Soldier, specifically the S6. The goal is to give him one method to do his job, train him one time and with one set of tools, making his job a lot easier. The second benefit would be realized by the greater Army. Buying fewer tools or buying the same tools more strategically and cost effectively will save taxpayer dollars.
“We are figuring out ways to save money by buying things only once, only buying what we truly need, and buying in the best, most strategic approach possible to get better deals and save money,” Roberts said.
The Army does not plan to buy a “one-vendor, end-all NetOps solution,” but rather a combination of products from multiple commercial vendors, either seamlessly working together upfront or integrated through an Army effort, Roberts said.
“The more vendors that look to team with other vendors in the commercial-off-the-shelf industry to provide tools that work together, the better off we are, and the easier it will be to pick those products up and roll them into our baseline,” Roberts said.
By Nancy Jones-Bonbrest, PEO C3T
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (Dec. 18, 2013) — With the Army’s newest set of tactical network systems now in the hands of Soldiers who could be among the last to deploy to Afghanistan, the service is ensuring users master the power behind their communications gear.
To do this, the Army established a new System of Systems, or SoS, training concept drawing on lessons learned from previous units fielded with the integrated communications package known as Capability Set 13, or CS 13, including two brigade combat teams, known as BCTs, of the 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) that are now deployed to Afghanistan. The new approach embraces instruction on integrated systems capabilities, leverages Soldier knowledge and creates an underlying familiarity with how the equipment supports operations.
Using a train-the-trainer concept, the Army is instructing a “slice” of about 125 Soldiers from the 3rd BCT, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), in order to establish proficiency with the network communications systems known collectively as CS 13, before introducing the gear to the full brigade for collective training events.
“We’re the fourth brigade to have CS 13, but the first to go through the SoS training,” said Capt. Justin Zevenbergen, communications officer with 3/101. “As signal Soldiers, we’re being trained first on CS 13 before the whole brigade is out there, so when we do begin our event training we can then say, ‘We’re going to rock-n-roll this because we know it, we’ve done it.’”
Led by the Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications – Tactical, or PEO C3T, the SoS training is based directly on user feedback and marks a key step in increasing unit proficiency and network performance. CS 13 marked the first time the Army has delivered network systems not on an individual basis, but as an integrated communications package that spans the entire BCT formation, connecting the static tactical operations center to the commander on the move to the dismounted Soldier.
“At first it’s overwhelming because there are so many moving pieces, but as time goes on and we keep working with the equipment, I think it will get easier and easier,” said Sgt. Brandon Pieper with the 3/101, who is also taking the training. “The systems are pretty easy to use and we’re moving forward from the lessons learned.”
As the Army continues to incrementally modernize the network and fields the follow-on CS 14 to additional units, including BCTs from the 82nd Airborne Division, this training concept will give Soldiers more time to learn the new systems and capabilities and maximize their effect. The right mix of technology and training will continue to evolve as the Army works to simplify the network, making it easier to use, train, maintain and sustain.
“We continue to incorporate lessons learned from Capability Set fieldings and drive those into our processes so we get better every time,” said Brig. Gen. Daniel P. Hughes, program executive officer for C3T. “Now we are focusing on simplifying our communications systems for the end user while delivering a pervasive network that meets their needs.”
Also included in the SoS training is an overview course so commanders understand the network as an integrated combat multiplier and not just a collection of separate signal capabilities. A weekly technical “trail boss” meeting was added to keep training on schedule and troubleshoot any issues that arise.
“The idea is to get the brigade involved as much as possible, because that leads to good outcomes with CS 13,” said Tom Eberle, PEO C3T’s technical “trail boss” assigned to the 101st Airborne Division. “What the training allows them to do is to identify how the system is supposed to work. We wanted to help them help themselves. So we’re training the units to do that.”
The SoS training also focuses on “crew drills” that cross-train a collective crew on CS 13 systems — both mounted and dismounted — to ensure an overall understanding of how the systems function as a group in various mission scenarios.
CS 13 systems provide mobile satellite and robust radio capability connecting all echelons of a brigade combat team down to the dismounted Soldier, while improving battlefield awareness and reducing units’ reliance on fixed infrastructure. This becomes increasingly important as U.S. forces continue to draw down and carry out advise-and-assist missions with the Afghan National Security Forces, turning over many of their Forward Operating Bases and other infrastructure and gradually losing fixed network locations.
Using CS 13, the 4th and 3rd BCTs, 10th Mountain Division (4/10 and 3/10) are exchanging information while on the move in treacherous terrain and digitally tracking and communicating with small groups of dismounted Soldiers who have spread out to remote locations as they advise their Afghan partners.
As the Army’s first two units to receive CS 13 over the past year, both 4/10 and 3/10 faced an accelerated timeline for training with the equipment prior to deployment. As they completed their training exercises, the units recorded their experiences to pass along to their counterparts in 3/101 and 2/101. This input directly influenced the new SoS training concept, and highlighted the need for the Army to simplify network systems for the end user.
“Our big focus with this equipment is effective management of communications,” said Chief Warrant Officer II Johnathan Bradley, a network technician with the 3/101. “It’s making it possible for anybody to operate the equipment that needs to operate it. The end state is to get these guys familiar enough with the equipment that they know when something is wrong and can mold it where it needs to go.”
The 3rd BCT, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), will continue training on CS 13 for the next several months prior to possible deployment in 2014.
The SoS training will evolve as the Army incorporates additional lessons learned from Afghanistan and from the Network Integration Evaluations, semi-annual events that leverage the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, conducting rigorous mission scenarios in a realistic operational environment at Fort Bliss, Texas, and White Sands Missile Range, N.M. Those lessons are continuously folded into the Army’s tactics, techniques and procedures, so each unit can make optimal use of the equipment they receive and innovate new methods of use.
As it continues for future units, the SoS training will empower Soldiers and leaders with the technical knowledge to ensure the right information is delivered at the right time to make crucial mission command decisions. By fielding the network in Capability Sets, the Army is providing scalable and tailorable equipment that is responsive to what the commander needs to execute current and future missions.
By Amy Walker, PEO C3T
FORT BLISS, Texas (Dec. 9, 2013) — Brigade and battalion command posts, the heart of battlefield operations, are more mobile and agile than ever before, and through ongoing improvements in network capability, the Army is increasing their ability to move forward in the fight while retaining commanders’ critical situational awareness.
Current technologies such as Warfighter Information Network Tactical, known as WIN-T, Increment 2, the Army’s mobile tactical communications network backbone, and emerging solutions like the Modular Integrated Command Post, or MiCP — a vehicle that efficiently provides networking equipment and power to support a command post — are enhancing a commander’s ability to lead from anywhere on the battlefield.
“We are a maneuver unit that has to be mobile, lethal and expeditionary; if we are not able to move with our systems then we are really disadvantaged,” said Col. Thomas Dorame, commander for 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, the operational unit for the Army’s Network Integration Evaluation, or NIE, exercises. “Right now utilizing WIN-T Increment 2 and mission command on the move, I am able to extend the operational reach for the brigade, but more importantly, as units continue to move, to make contact with the enemy, we are able to provide them updated information from any location.”
As part of the Army’s modular expeditionary force, brigade Tactical Command Posts, referred to simply as TACs, replicate the critical mission command and communication systems found in units’ much larger Tactical Operations Centers, known as TOCs. Both TACs and TOCs are stationary and don’t possess full operational capability when in transit to new locations, but the TAC’s robust at-the-halt network capability can be torn down, moved and set up in a fraction of the time that it takes to reconstruct the full blown TOC.
The smaller TAC’s mission command and communications capabilities are tailorable and scalable and can be rearranged depending upon mission requirements. When the commander needs to move his main TOC forward on the battlefield, he will send the TAC ahead first to retain the unit’s operational network capability. Once the TAC is set up in its new location, the larger TOC can then move forward with minimal disruption to battlefield operations.
“WIN-T Increment 2 improves commanders’ flexibility since they can ‘jump’ their TACs and the TOCs much faster now, without loss of situational awareness,” said Lt. Col. LaMont Hall, product manager for WIN-T Increment 2. “They can simultaneously command and control from either location, or from their WIN-T Increment 2 -equipped vehicles.”
Fielded since 2004, WIN-T Increment 1 provides Soldiers with high-speed, high-capacity voice, data and video communications down to the battalion level. WIN-T Increment 2, which began fielding last year, enhances these capabilities by providing an on the move network that extends down to the company level. Both increments are deployed in Afghanistan today as part of the Army’s interoperable tactical communications network architecture.
WIN-T Increment 2- equipped TACs and TOCs leverage Tactical Communications Nodes and advanced Satellite Transportable Terminals for satellite communications, which enable them to cover greater distances. In the past commanders could only jump their TACs as far as they could get their line-of-sight radio relay set up, approximately 10 to 15 kilometers. Now with WIN-T Increment 2′s beyond line-of-sight satellite communications, a commander can move his TAC an unlimited distance, Hall said.
“The commander is able to keep full situational awareness at all times,” said Lt. Col. Ernest Tornabell, brigade communications officer for 2/1 AD. “He can go from the stationary TOC or TAC into his WIN-T Increment 2 Point-of-Presence-equipped vehicle, which has virtually everything [communication and mission command capabilities] that he had at the stationary locations; it gives him the ability to be driving on the road at 25 mph and continue to command the fight.”
To help incrementally advance network technologies such as WIN-T, the Army leverages its NIEs, semi-annual Soldier-led evaluations in the realistic operational testing environments of Fort Bliss, Texas, and White Sands Missile Range, N.M. The Army also uses the events to introduce emerging industry solutions that could potentially satisfy network capability gaps.
During NIE 14.1, which wrapped up in mid November, the brigade TAC was integrated into a new mobile command post based on a Light Medium Tactical Vehicle with expandable sides that could be set up or torn down in under an hour, making it even more maneuverable, scalable and agile than the traditional TAC tent. When the brigade TAC was set up in its stationary location, its communication and mission command laptops and screens were connected to the MiCP, an NIE system under evaluation, which provided the servers, network connectivity and power to the TAC. Since the TAC servers were located on the MiCP vehicle, they were always ready to be quickly reconnected with the network equipment in the TAC directly after a jump, instead of having to be torn down and set up again.
Integrated onto a survivable MaxxPro mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle, the MiCP solution significantly reduces size, weight, and power — thermal and cost requirements. The capabilities of two legacy Command Post Platforms, currently used to provide the necessary communications equipment to operate and support a TOC or TAC, were combined into just one mobile platform. MiCP provides advanced communication through a modern suite of information systems, networking devices and tactical radios, as well as the unique ability to generate electrical power from its own transmission through its On Board Vehicle Power system. MiCP will also be evaluated at NIE 14.2 this spring.
“MiCP helps the commander be more flexible in where he can go and how quickly he can set up and establish [operations] at the halt by having to just connect a few cables instead of two sets of vehicles coming to the halt and setting up both of those,” Tornabell said.
As the Army continues to modernize its network and make it easier for Soldiers to learn and operate, the force will increase its agility and ability to conduct current, evolving and future missions. The depth and breadth of information available at Soldiers’ fingertips, both in and out of the TOC, is also increasing, facilitating collaboration down to the lowest echelons and across the entire brigade combat team.
“Operationally, we want to fight to the fullest extent with our great network and communication capabilities, and now we are able to extend out a lot further,” Dorame said. “We are able to receive back reports with a better clarity and fidelity to allow commanders at battalion and brigade level to make faster decisions with better resolution and less risk to the overall force.”
By Spc. Joshua Edwards
FORWARD OPERATING BASE PASAB, Afghanistan — On a narrow stretch of road fashioned into a runway at Forward Operating Base Pasab, Afghanistan, Soldiers with Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, Combined Task Force Dragoon, launch unmanned aircrafts to safely maintain a view of the battlefield from the sky.
The Soldiers run 24-hour-a-day operations out of the airfield in order to keep situational awareness at all times in support of friendly forces who could be conducting missions anywhere in the area of operations.
The RQ7B Shadow Technical Unmanned Aircraft System allows the troops to maintain communications during operations and follows movements through video feed and infrared technology. The team provides intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance for the task force’s 1st, 3rd, and 4th Squadrons.
The shadow system’s maintenance, technical inspections and maintenance quality control are the responsibilities of one person. This person is in charge of handling tasks including pushing the aircraft to the launcher and loading it, conducting pre-flight checks to ensure flight services are in order and aircraft components work correctly, pressurizing the launcher, launching and landing of the aircraft, conducting post-flight inspections to ensure the aircraft has sustained no damage while in flight, making sure the engine is in good working order and changing the fluids.
The shadow aircraft is flown every hour and all maintenance performed is logged into a data system that can be tracked in the future.
Sergeant First Class Brock Niehaus from Smithville, Mo., and platoon sergeant for the team, is responsible for handling administrative data for the platoon, flight schedules, ensuring shifts run properly and acts as a liaison between the platoon and civilians working with them. He assists in the maintenance and launching of the aircraft and implements safety standards.
Through the use of the aircraft, the team provides support to Soldiers on the ground with a number of resources that continuously give U.S. and coalition forces the edge on today’s modern battlefield.
“We provide (intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance) coverage for convoys, route surveillance, (points of interest) reconnaissance; provide over-watch for the engineers during route clearance and general surveillance of the area,” said Niehaus. “(The platoon) is consistently performing at a very high standard.”
Visit Program Executive Office Aviation for more information on unmanned aerial vehicles.
By Carla Faison
FORT BELVOIR, Va. – For the last year and a half, the AcqBusiness program office has been hard at work prototyping, developing and piloting an executive dashboard to support the Army acquisition community. The Army Acquisition Dashboard (AAD) provides Army acquisition leaders with critical data from the program executive office level down to the program level including associated assessments, contracts, funding, risks, and schedules.
The goal is to leverage outputs from existing authoritative data sources to allow for consistent views across programs to Acquisition community senior leadership.
“The Army Acquisition Dashboard introduces a fundamental change to how Army Acquisition Leaders manage and convey information,” said Mr. Douglas Wiltsie, program executive officer, Enterprise Information Systems (PEO EIS), “Not only will this dashboard dramatically reduce the administrative overhead associated with preparing monthly or quarterly PowerPoint briefings, it will also provide senior leadership with ubiquitous access to critical acquisition information when they need it.”
The AAD was developed in response to a request from the Honorable Heidi Shyu, the Army acquisition executive and assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology (ASA(ALT)). Dashboards permits users to access raw data through a user-friendly computer interface, combining authoritative data from many functional areas with custom data visualization. This visualization allows leaders to advance directly to decision making.
The AAD’s capability needs statement was developed in August of 2011, initiating a series of prototype demonstrations with Army acquisition leaders. The feedback gathered during these demonstrations incorporated the needs of acquisition leaders and helped to fine tune the dashboard.
“Not only will this dashboard dramatically reduce the administrative overhead associated with preparing monthly or quarterly PowerPoint briefings, it will also provide senior leadership with ubiquitous access to critical acquisition information when they need it.”
In October of 2012, PEO EIS and AcqBusiness provided a status briefing and a live demonstration on the progress of the AAD’s development to acquisition leadership. The briefing highlighted AcqBusiness’ recent accomplishments to include the consolidation of portals and the reduction in servers, and key time and cost drivers for the AAD effort. Following the approval to move forward, the AAD was released on a limited basis in late October and then made available to a wider community of acquisition professionals in December 2012.
The initial release of AAD made available to end users all acquisition category (ACAT) I data for executive summary reporting on Army programs. ASA(ALT) is currently developing a policy and timeline to extend data reporting to include other Army programs. The ultimate goal is to have data for ACAT I, II and III programs available in the AAD and to conduct Army program reviews from the AAD rather than from manually-generated PowerPoint slides.
AcqBusiness continues to add capabilities and new information from authoritative sources as data becomes available. Training opportunities are available via the calendar tab on the Army Acquisition Business Enterprise Portal (AABEP).
To request access to the AAD, go to AABEP at https://acqdomain.army.mil and click on the “request access” link next to the “Army Acquisition Dashboard” link on the landing page.
Over the past decade the only thing that has been able to slow the Army’s premier combat vehicle hasn’t been enemies on the battlefield, but rather the technological advancements added to the platform. While every vehicle is designed to have Space, Weight, and Power, or SWaP, margin for incremental improvements, recent upgrades made to the Abrams M1A2 System Enhancement Program Version 2 have left little margin for future improvements.
The ECP1 upgrade will posture the tank to accept the Army network components in the near term, while building the necessary margin to accept future capabilities in the decades to come.
“The Abrams main battle tank was developed over three decades ago in response to a major Soviet threat. We were fortunate that engineers had the foresight to design in enough SWaP margin to enable us to host new capabilities needed during our recent missions in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Lt. Col. William Brennan, product manager for Abrams.
To help alleviate SWaP constraints, the Army has launched the Abrams Engineering Change Proposal, or ECP, program designed to reeestablish as much SWaP as possible by redesigning and modernizing many elements of the tank. This ECP is a modification to the system that leaves the essential capability unchanged. The Abrams ECP program will help ensure the Army can seamlessly incorporate other programs of record into the Abrams well into the future, without degrading operational performance.
“Right now the electrical power is in short supply on the tank. The centerpiece of the ECP 1 upgrade will be to restore lost power margin through the integration of a larger generator, improved slip ring, battery management system and a new power generation and distribution system,” said Brennan.
Other major Abrams ECP upgrades will focus on communications, data transmission and processing, and survivability. The communications upgrade will integrate the Joint Tactical Radio Systemand Handheld, Manpack, & Small Form Fit into the Abrams, replacing the current Single-Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System.
The ability to incorporate the Army’s network is also a vital part of the ECP1 effort. To address network requirements the Abrams will integrate a gigabit Ethernet databus to allow greater data processing and transmission. The modified slip ring on the turret will provide the ability to transmit larger amounts of data into the turretand provide more power.
“The ECP1 upgrade will posture the tank to accept the Army network components in the near term, while building the necessary margin to accept future capabilities in the decades to come,” added Brennan.
While the Abrams remains the dominate vehicle on the battlefield, the ECP program will make it more formidable by including a new armor solution as well as an updated version of the counter-remote-control improvised explosive device electronic warfaresystem.
Initial production of tanks with ECP1 upgrades is slated to begin in 2017.
The Abrams ECP program is managed by Product Manager Abrams, which falls under leadership of the Project Manager, Heavy Brigade Combat Team within the Program Executive (PEO) Office for Ground Combat Systems (GCS).
- Bill Good is with Program Executive Office Ground Combat Systems Public Affairs.