TOBYHANNA ARMY DEPOT, Pa. — A mission here to provide situational awareness for warfighters during combat operations reached a major milestone recently with the completion of the 100,000th Nett Warrior cable. The achievement is the culmination of nearly five years of rapid response, innovation and continuous process improvement.
In November 2012, Program Manager Soldier Warrior (PM SWAR) contacted depot personnel with an urgent requirement. At that time, PM SWAR was commissioning all Nett Warrior kitting, engineering and configuration management requirements to a contractor in Monmouth, New Jersey. The contractor’s facilities sustained significant damage from Hurricane Sandy, leaving them unable to meet the fielding requirements for the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum scheduled to begin that month.
Tobyhanna accepted the challenge of establishing capability within two weeks in order to support the Nett Warrior program and immediately established a kitting area to facilitate inventory receipt and storage, radio loading and testing, kitting and shipping. As a result of Tobyhanna’s rapid response, all personnel and equipment arrived on time at Fort Drum to support the 10th Mountain Division fielding.
“What started as quick response to a supply chain disruption in 2012 has evolved into spearheading project management responsibility for a wide-array of program support for PM SWAR,” said Tia Martini, supply systems analyst in the Production Management Directorate’s Materiel Management Division.
Current support includes cable design, configuration management, prototyping, testing and manufacturing; software configuration; checkout of end user device; failure reporting, analysis, and correct action system; inventory, supply support, kitting of Nett Warrior components; demil and disposal, and ad hoc forward support. The initial request to manufacture two types of cables has now increased to a variation of 41 different Nett Warrior cables.
Since the program’s start date, the team has managed an increase in annual funding of over 500 percent and an increase of 87 percent in annual cable production. This past year, thanks to the steady rise in production, Tobyhanna designed and implemented a dedicated Nett Warrior engineering lab, warehouse and production facility. In creating a dedicated project team to meet Nett Warrior requirements, the depot was able to pass on fiscal 2016 savings in excess of $500,000.
Stan Czock, electronics engineer and lead engineer for Nett Warrior, said the advancement of other technology has also aided the growth of the Nett Warrior mission.
“As multiple programs are starting to look at the use of smart phone technologies, the Nett Warrior Program has become the pivot point for the program offices, and Tobyhanna Army Depot is the focal point for cable fabrication and integration,” he said. “This says a lot for the confidence that the PM’s have in our delivery capability and quality of the product.”
Throughout the mission, innovation has played a major role in driving process improvement. Several issues with the systems were uncovered during extensive network integration evaluation testing in 2013. One issue was discovered with the Soldier Wearable Integrated Power Equipment System (SWIPES) kit, which is used to charge batteries for Nett Warrior and Rifleman Radio systems in the field. Under different thermal conditions, the SWIPES kit failed to function properly and would not supply adequate charge to the systems, reducing mission capability.
Another issue was identified by users who experienced overheating and could feel significant spikes in temperature coming from the system. Czock said the most effective solution, both in terms of mission- and cost-effectiveness, would be to develop an alternative power source.
“The conformal batteries weren’t being used because they couldn’t supply power through the SWIPES kit, so Soldiers were burning through Rifleman Radio batteries every three or four hours while trying to support a 24-hour mission,” he said. “We knew we needed to design a new power source that could satisfy mission capability requirements while reducing the Soldiers’ carrying payload wherever possible.”
The solution was an RPA (radio power adapter) that eliminated the malfunctioning charging mechanism and provided an 18- to 20-hour battery life in addition to a 4-hour battery backup, ensuring Soldiers never lose connection. By getting rid of both the charger and the need for additional Rifleman Radio batteries, a significant cost avoidance will be realized once all units are fielded.
The RPAs also cut down the size of the unit and allows it to run about 10 degrees cooler than the old ones, improving comfort for warfighters during combat operations.
Tobyhanna has also directly contributed to the identification and modification of original equipment manufacturer (OEM) design flaws in the Nett Warrior system. In fiscal 2016, while performing a test for an unrelated issue, the depot’s Nett Warrior engineering team discovered a design flaw in the Integrated Soldier Power and Data Distribution System (ISPDS) hub. In collaboration with the OEM, Tobyhanna personnel created a new ISPDS hub design, which helped PM SWAR avoid the acquisition of $31.5 million in obsolete material. Another issue affecting warfighter readiness was a design flaw in the Squad Power Manager 622 identified by the depot’s Nett Warrior engineering team.
In conjunction with the OEM, Tobyhanna was able to assist in a software upgrade to avoid any disruption to mission readiness. Both of these efforts, as well as those previously noted, were all significant mission accomplishments for the Nett Warrior Program, resulting in huge savings while ensuring system readiness.
“Since taking command of the Ground Soldier Systems team, I have quickly come to understand how vital Tobyhanna Army Depot, and our dedicated team at the depot, is to our continued mission success,” said Lt. Col. Derek Bird, product manager Ground Soldier Systems. “From the beginning of our work together during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and continuing through today, the team at Tobyhanna has always embodied professionalism, flexibility and the utmost commitment to our nation’s warfighters. Not only are the products we have built by the depot superior to what we could find anywhere else, the support we receive in testing, assembling and delivering thousands of kits for unit fieldings is beyond compare.”
Col. Robert Barker, PM SWAR program manager, echoed Bird’s comments and is confident in Tobyhanna’s ability to carry the Nett Warrior mission far into the future.
“PM SWAR is proud to have Tobyhanna as part of the Nett Warrior team and the 100,000th cable produced is a significant milestone,” he said. “Together we have fielded over 10,000 complete Nett Warrior Systems, which ensures our Soldiers have continued dominance on the battlefield.”
Tobyhanna Army Depot is a recognized leader in providing world-class logistics support for command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems across the Department of Defense. Tobyhanna’s Corporate Philosophy, dedicated work force and electronics expertise ensure the depot is the Joint C4ISR provider of choice for all branches of the Armed Forces and industry partners.
Tobyhanna’s unparalleled capabilities include full-spectrum logistics support for sustainment, overhaul and repair, fabrication and manufacturing, engineering design and development, systems integration, post production software support, technology insertion, modification, foreign military sales and global field support to our Joint Warfighters.
About 3,200 personnel are employed at Tobyhanna, which is located in the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania. Tobyhanna Army Depot is part of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command. Headquartered at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, the command’s mission is to research, develop, acquire, field and sustain communications, command, control computer, intelligence, electronic warfare and sensors capabilities for the Armed Forces.
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