• Network After Next

    CAPABILITY IN ACTION
    Staff Sgt. Shelby Johnson, a squad leader with the 4-10 MTN, observes the area around Forward Operating Base Torkham, Afghanistan. Johnson is wearing the new CS 13 communications suite, which was integrated and validated through the Army’s NIE. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jerry Saslav, 4-10 MTN Public Affairs)

    CS 13 TEST BED
    Lt. Col. James DeOre watches the 4-10 MTN command team leave Nangalam Base. The unit was the first to deploy to Afghanistan with CS 13, which introduces mission command on-the-move and extends the network to the Soldier. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class E.L. Craig, 4-10 MTN Public Affairs)

     

    By Brig. Gen. Daniel P. Hughes, Col. Mark Elliott and Col. John Zavarelli

     

    Just weeks after deploying to Afghanistan last summer, the commanders and Soldiers of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (4-10 MTN) christened the Army’s new tactical communications network their “digital guardian angel.” Capability Set (CS) 13 became critical to their daily operations in Afghanistan, enabling them to cover more ground safely and providing a considerable tactical advantage. Their experience shows why the Army pushed so hard over the past two years to deliver CS 13, our first integrated package of communication systems that supports mission command on-the-move and brings the Soldier into the network.

    But we owe it to the 10th MTN—and the units next in line for new network technologies—to go further. How do we continue to enhance and refresh the network with each capability set? How do we make the network more capable but less complex to use, train, maintain and sustain? How do we focus innovation on capabilities that could be transformative for the network of 2020 and beyond?

    The answers rest in our partnership with industry. Examine Moore’s Law—that the number of transistors incorporated in a chip will approximately double every 24 months—or simply look at your own cellphone: When the pace of progress is exponential, the Army cannot keep up by itself. To field the latest tactical communication technologies to Soldiers, we know we need industry’s agility, innovation and investment, especially in a fiscally constrained environment. Our approach to driving industry involvement in the next phase of network modernization is built on two principles: consistency and competition.

    A NEW CONSTRUCT
    Consistency is aimed at making the Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) a more productive venue for businesses of all sizes to demonstrate their capabilities. While the Army is procuring commercial routers, antennas, network operations tools, operational energy solutions and other items as a result of the NIE process, it has taken several NIE cycles to refine the supporting processes for this new way of doing business. During that evolution, we have listened to feedback from our industry partners and are now implementing a new construct for NIE 15.1 and beyond.

    This new construct will give industry additional time to respond to more focused capability gaps. It will also be synchronized with Army program objective memorandum (POM) planning so that successful systems can transition smoothly into our portfolios.

    The other way we plan to engage the network industrial base is through more frequent competition. Government-owned waveforms and a standardized Common Operating Environment (COE) set the conditions for the Army to conduct more competitions for radios, apps and other network components—putting the “buy fewer, more often” acquisition philosophy into action.

    IN SEARCH OF A MID-TIER SOLUTION
    Testers from the U.S. Army Electronic Proving Ground roll down a road near Fort Huachuca, Ariz., on July 25, 2013, as they evaluate the MNVR system in a test involving more than 80 nodes throughout Fort Huachuca and the surrounding area. In September 2013, the Army awarded an initial contract for MNVR using a competitive non-developmental item acquisition approach designed to procure lower-cost, commercially available radios that meet the Army’s requirement for a mid-tier tactical network solution. (U.S. Army photo by Douglas Smith, LRC Communications Security Logistics Activity)

    This approach will give more vendors the opportunity to participate in building the network and give the Army the flexibility to choose from multiple technologies. By structuring contracts to facilitate competition among qualified vendors on a regular basis, we will also reduce system costs and ensure that we encourage the innovation that will lead to progress with each capability set. For example, Company A could win a delivery order competition one year and Company B could win the following year, but both would have an incentive to propose improved, affordable products for the year after that.

    EVOLVING THE NIE
    The Army remains committed to the NIE process, which has proven its value within the Army and industry since its launch in 2011. Driven by Soldier feedback, lessons learned in past NIEs have allowed the Army to mature certain programs, restructure or terminate others and reallocate resources to new priorities. CS 13 was integrated, refined and validated through the NIEs—reducing the integration burden on the 10th MTN and 101st Airborne Divisions while helping develop tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) for using the gear in the field.

    Industry partners who submitted their systems for assessment not only have received invaluable feedback from ­Soldiers and Army laboratories, but also have demonstrated the breadth of available commercial technology, informing the Army’s acquisition strategy for several key programs. The Army has spent $39 million to procure non-program of record, NIE-tested radios to field. Recently, Congress provided funding that gave the Army $9.3 million to procure several systems under evaluation from previous NIEs. The Army also has begun to issue requests for proposals (RFPs) as a formal mechanism for streamlined competitive procurement of non-program of record systems that show promise at the NIE.

    The first RFP process resulted in six contract awards to different vendors for their vehicle tactical routers to be evaluated at NIE 14.1 in fall 2013.
    While there has been great success, we have also hit some speed bumps in ramping up the NIE process. Frustrated vendors told us that the government’s capability gaps were too broadly defined, the funding was too scarce and the schedule too unpredictable. We understand industry’s challenges, and we are adjusting the NIE to better facilitate vendor participation while meeting the needs of the Army within budget constraints.

    IDENTIFYING GAPS
    Beginning with NIE 15.1 in fall 2014, the Army will add periodic network baseline assessments to pinpoint capability gaps that industry can zero in on for near-term network modernization. NIE 15.1 will assess the integrated network baseline to evaluate the performance of existing network capabilities and identify remaining gaps. This effort will be informed by the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command’s Network Capability Review, an ongoing study that aims to identify the proper mix of systems and their requirements to provide integrated tactical network capabilities within various formations.

    ADVANCING COMMUNICATIONS
    PEO C3T is training “super” digital systems engineers on vehicles equipped with components of CS 13, the Army’s first integrated network fielding effort that spans the entire brigade combat team formation, connecting the fixed command post to the commander on-the-move to the dismounted Soldier. (Photo by Edric Thompson, U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center)

    The capability gaps identified at NIE 15.1 will be fixed in place and released to industry so that their proposed solutions can be evaluated over the following two NIEs, 15.2 and 16.1. By identifying consistent gaps for two consecutive NIEs rather than releasing a new set with each exercise, the Army will increase industry’s lead time in developing and submitting mature capability solutions. NIE 16.2 will include another network baseline assessment. Then the updated gaps will be fixed in place and released to industry for two more NIEs, and the pattern will repeat for subsequent cycles.

    While the original NIE process was built to meet theater needs quickly, with the transition out of Afghanistan, the refined process will allow us to be more deliberate in determining and filling our network capability gaps. The new schedule and fewer, better-defined gaps will also allow the Army to better align NIE results with POM planning to inform procurement and fielding decisions for future capability sets.

    With these positive changes, it is still important to reiterate that the value of the NIE goes beyond acquiring systems. As the Army transitions from fighting two wars to preparing for future threats, the NIE will provide the operational laboratory to incrementally enhance the network, respond to the emerging needs of regionally aligned forces and assess dynamic “leap-ahead” capabilities—not just from industry, but also the Army science and technology community.

    NIEs will continue to integrate capability sets before fielding, refine TTPs, evaluate force design options and non-materiel requirements such as training, and give Soldiers a “vote” by collecting their feedback on all of these areas. NIEs remain a vital component of the Army’s modernization efforts.

    COMPETITION FOR RADIOS
    Since the advent of DOD’s Better Buying Power initiative, there has been increased attention to the benefits of competition. The rationale is clear: An environment in which multiple vendors compete to satisfy the same requirement can reduce cost, spur innovation, cultivate the industrial base and eliminate the single points of failure that come with dependence on one vendor. But to make a competition as effective as possible, the strategy must be tailored to the specific product and the current market. Fortunately, we are now hitting that “sweet spot” with a key part of the network—tactical radios.

    The current marketplace is primed for the Army to competitively procure advanced networking radios. The technical maturity achieved in the commercial, software-programmable radio field over the course of the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) developmental effort has enabled industry to develop effective hardware solutions—radio “boxes”—more easily. Meanwhile, the Joint Tactical Networking Center (JTNC) maintains a data repository of secure networking waveforms and applications that adhere to open standards set by the government. The repository, along with the JTNC laboratory and accreditation resources, are accessible to vendors, allowing the waveforms to run on multiple hardware models that industry produces. Through our engagement with industry, including at the NIEs, we know that the technology now exists for a competitive marketplace of interoperable, affordable radios.

    Thus, the foundation is in place to execute the Army’s tactical radio strategy. In September 2013, we awarded an initial contract for Mid-Tier Networking Vehicular Radios (MNVR), using a competitive non-developmental item acquisition approach designed to procure lower-cost, commercially available radios that meet the Army’s requirement for a mid-tier tactical network solution.

    Now the Army is focused on executing full and open competitions, in which all industry partners can participate, for the full-rate production phases of the Handheld, Manpack, Small Form Fit Rifleman and Manpack radio programs. The goal is to decrease costs and drive down size, weight and power requirements while increasing system functionality and simplicity.

    While the details are still being finalized, the Army will conduct a full and open competition for each radio, and award contracts to qualified vendors meeting the Rifleman and Manpack radio requirements. Qualified vendors then will compete for delivery orders as needed by the Army, after qualification and operational tests to confirm compliance with technical and operational requirements.

    This constantly competitive environment promises to promote an active, engaged industrial base that has an incentive not only to lower prices but also to innovate for each capability set, ultimately improving the radios we deliver to Soldiers.

    Such multilayered, multiple-vendor- competition has shown success before, such as with the Consolidated Interim Single Channel Handheld Radio (CISCHR) contract, executed under the JTRS program. Initiated in 2007, CISCHR provided a contract vehicle for the joint services to procure government off-the-shelf and non-developmental, software-defined tactical handheld radios. While not a perfect comparison, CISCHR illustrates the potential advantages of a multiple-award contract that allows for delivery order competitions among vendors.

    COMPETITIVE BENEFITS
    Capt. Jonathan Page of the 4-10 MTN uses the Nett Warrior device connected to a Rifleman Radio at Nangalam Base, Afghanistan. The Army is conducting a full and open competition for the full-rate production phases of the Rifleman and Manpack radio programs. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class E.L. Craig, 4-10 MTN Public Affairs)

    Although this type of strategy can require more effort to manage, the money saved through competition far exceeds the administrative costs. CISCHR yielded an average savings of more than 40 percent, compared with the contractual ceiling prices over the life of the contract. It is also noteworthy that the radio technologies and features improved as a result of the vendors’ own investments.

    Radios aren’t the only network component for which the Army stands to benefit from increased competition. With the COE providing a comprehensive, standards-based open architecture, the Army can leverage industry’s state-of-the-art capabilities and best practices for other computing environment technologies.

    For example, many mission command systems previously developed by a single vendor as stovepiped boxes will be delivered instead as software applications, with multiple third parties competing to build and rapidly enhance them, broadening the market. The COE will also facilitate greater interoperability among various manufacturers’ systems, creating possibilities for common interfaces and common training as we work to simplify the network for the end user.

    CONCLUSION
    The network remains a critical Army modernization priority. It is a core element in enabling the Army to produce a future force that is smaller but still highly capable. As we build on lessons learned from the first CS 13 brigades to deliver these essential technologies to more units across the force, the Army will engage industry through consistent NIEs and frequent competitions in order to improve and simplify network capabilities. Working as partners, we will continue to provide our Soldiers with the information they need to change the game.

    For further information, go to http://peoc3t.army.mil.


    Brig.Gen. DANIEL P. HUGHES is the Program Executive Officer Command, Control and Communications – Tactical. He holds a B.A. in political science from the University of Texas at Arlington, an M.B.A. in business management from Oklahoma City University and an M.S. in national resource strategy from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. Hughes is Level III certified in program management. and is a member of the U.S. Army Acquisition Corps (AAC).

    Col. MARK ELLIOTT is the director, G-3/5/7 LandWarNet – Mission Command. He holds a B.A. in physics from the University of Alabama, an M.S. in telecommunication from Southern Methodist University and an M.A. in national security strategy with a concentration in information operations from the National Defense University’s National War College. Elliott is a certified information systems security professional and is certified in the Information Technology Infrastructure Library.

    Col. JOHN ZAVARELLI is the director, system of systems integration (SoSI) in the Office of Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology. He holds a B.S. in management from the University of Colorado and an M.B.A. in business management from the University of Texas at Arlington as part of the Industry-Grad program that included training with industry at Lockheed Martin Corp. Zavarelli is Level III certified in program management and is a member of the AAC.


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  • Army fields 101st Airborne new tactical network with integrated training approach

    Spc. Joshua Provo sends up coordinates to his higher command during a recent dismounted patrol using the integrated communications package Capability Set 13 equipment. The Army's new network System of Systems training concept draws on lessons learned from previous units fielded with CS 13, including the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), which is deployed to Afghanistan in support of advise-and-assist missions with the Afghan National Security Forces. (Photo Credit: Sgt. Eric Provost, Task Force Patriot PAO)

    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.”

    A Soldier with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), receives training on Capability Set 13, an integrated package of tactical communications capabilities. The Army's new System of Systems training concept looks to empower Soldiers with the technical knowledge to ensure the right information is delivered at the right time. (Photo Credit: Nancy JonesBonbrest, PEO C3T)

    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.

    Soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), are training on the Army's first integrated communications package known as Capability Set 13, which provides 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. Part of this new training includes 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. (Photo Credit: Nancy JonesBonbrest, PEO C3T)

    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.


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  • From Smartphones to satellites: Soldiers use new network preparing for advise and assist mission

    A Soldier from 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, uses a Nett Warrior device to communicate during the Mountain Peak training exercise at Fort Drum, N.Y., April 19. Nett Warrior, a handheld situational awareness and messaging tool, is a key component of Capability Set 13, which extends the tactical network down to the dismounted Soldier. (Photos by Claire Heininger)

    By Claire Heininger

     

    FORT DRUM, N.Y. (April 22, 2013) — For Staff Sgt. Stephen Kovac, getting important information and instructions to the rest of his platoon was a struggle.

    He could radio back to higher headquarters and wait for the calls to filter back down, losing precious seconds during an operation. Or, he said, he could “yell and scream back to the rear, use hand and arm signals, anything possible to get it across.”

    That was before Kovac began training with Capability Set (CS) 13, an integrated tactical network that extends digital communications down to the lowest echelons.

    “Using CS 13, you can send reports and you can see reports from individuals on the ground in order to manipulate my team leaders and squad leaders,” the platoon sergeant said. “Even the lowest Joe can send me information, and get it to me within seconds.”

    Kovac and hundreds of other Soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team (BCT), 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) are now training with CS 13 as they prepare for potential deployment to Afghanistan later this year. During the recent Mountain Peak training event here, Soldiers and leaders said the new capabilities would support their mission as a Security Forces Advise and Assist Team (SFAAT), a formation that will be charged with working closely with Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) to improve host nation capabilities and help the ANSF take on increasing responsibility for the security of their country.

    Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division listen to officers' feedback during an after action review at the Mountain Peak training exercise at Fort Drum, N.Y., April 19. The unit is preparing for potential deployment to Afghanistan and the training required Soldiers to work in an advise-and-assist capacity alongside role players acting as Afghan forces.

    While the Afghan forces will be taking a lead in operations, the extended, mobile network capabilities provided by CS 13 will allow the SFAAT units to support with situational awareness and needs such as calls for air support, artillery support, medical evacuation (Medevac) and other reach-back communications.

    “As U.S. forces start to reduce our presence, we’re partnered with the Afghan security forces and continue to focus on their development, but we’re doing it over greater distances,” said Col. Sam Whitehurst, 3rd BCT commander. “Having this capability where I can take some of the capabilities to command and control the brigade on the move — that gives us the ability to extend our reach, even as we reduce our presence.”

    Whitehurst’s BCT is the Army’s second brigade to field and train with CS 13, an advanced, mobile communications network that represents a significant upgrade over capabilities available in theater today. The Army’s first such integrated fielding effort, CS 13 will allow units to utilize advanced satellite-based systems — augmented by data radios, handheld devices and the latest mission command software — to transmit voice/chat communications and situational awareness data throughout the BCT.

    At the command level, CS 13 equips brigade, battalion and company leaders with vehicles linked in to Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) Increment 2, the backbone of the Army’s tactical communications network. Those vehicles allow commanders to leave their command posts and continue to issue orders, receive briefings and monitor the latest intelligence.

    A Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) Increment 2 Tactical Communications Node is pictured outside the tactical operations center for the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division during the Mountain Peak training exercise at Fort Drum, N.Y., April 19. The 4th and 3rd BCTs, 10th Mountain Division were the Army's first equipped with CS 13, an integrated fielding effort of tactical communications equipment that is scalable and tailorable to different unit configurations and missions.

    The integrated network also arms dismounted leaders like Kovac with Smartphone-like handheld devices that pinpoint the locations of fellow Soldiers, and connect to lightweight radios to transmit data such as text messages, Medevac requests and photos.

    “In Afghanistan in 2003, we had to take our digital camera with us, and we had to take all this extra equipment that we had — now you’re bringing it into a phone,” said Staff Sgt. Lee T. Hamberger, who used the handheld Nett Warrior system and Rifleman Radio during drills at Mountain Peak. “If I saw something suspicious, I would take a picture of it — basically anything we saw that could help with information for future patrols; they were able to have a better view of everything that was going on.”

    The week-long, brigade-level training exercise marked a significant step forward in increasing Soldiers’ proficiency using integrated network equipment in an operational environment, Whitehurst said. The next stage for the BCT will be a Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) rotation at Fort Polk, La, which will pose SFAAT scenarios with role players acting as host nation army, police, civilians and enemy insurgents. Recently, the 4th BCT, 10th Mountain Division concluded its own JRTC rotation as the first unit to utilize CS 13 in the SFAAT mission.

    The next two BCTs to receive CS 13 fielding efforts, both from the 101st Airborne Division, are beginning new equipment fielding and training at Fort Campbell, Ky. With each integrated fielding effort, the units can adapt the equipment to their particular mission requirements.

    “This tactical network will provide connectivity and situational awareness for any mission in any region,” said Col. Rob Carpenter, Army director of System of Systems Integration. “The idea is to provide scalable and tailorable equipment that is integrated across all levels, so it can be responsive to what the commander needs to execute mission command. You are seeing that now as the 10th Mountain Division brigades continue to train with the network’s capability during their exercises.”


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  • 10th Mountain Division unit marches forward with network training

    A Soldier from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, boards a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP)- All Terrain Vehicle (M-ATV) equipped with Capability Set 13 network equipment during the brigade's Spartan Peak field exercise in late March 2013 at Fort Drum, N.Y. The purpose of the week-long exercise was to synchronize the brigade's Capability Set 13 assets throughout each of the battalions, as well as certifying platoon-level leadership in combined arms live fires. (Photos by Sgt. Javier S. Amador, 10th Mountain Division)

    By Claire Heininger

     
    FORT DRUM, N.Y. (April 8, 2013) — As the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) prepares for potential deployment with the Army’s new tactical communications network, a recent training exercise marked a key step in increasing unit proficiency and network performance, leaders said.

    Built around battalion operations and platoon-level live fire scenarios, the Spartan Peak event used the Capability Set (CS) 13 network to connect dismounted infantry Soldiers with the rest of the brigade more than 25 kilometers away. On the move inside tactical vehicles, leaders used voice and digital connections to exchange information and collaborate on a common operational picture as they executed their mission sets.

    “We really started to utilize the systems to do what they’re intended to do,” said Maj. Graham Wood, the chief communications officer for the brigade, known as 3/10. “We made some large strides.”

    The unit is the Army’s second brigade to field and train with CS 13, an advanced, mobile communications network that represents a significant upgrade over capabilities available in theater today. The integrated package of satellite-based systems, data radios, handheld devices and the latest mission command software “unties” commanders from fixed locations and greatly enhances communications for small units at lower echelons.

    Vehicles equipped with Capability Set 13 network equipment are deployed during the Spartan Peak field exercise in late March 2013 for the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, N.Y. The purpose of the weeklong exercise was to synchronize the brigade's Capability Set 13 assets throughout each of the battalions, as well as certifying platoon-level leadership in combined arms live fires.

    On one dismounted patrol during Spartan Peak, a platoon carrying lightweight data radios and smartphone-like handheld devices shared situational awareness as they spread out to pursue an objective. Soldiers sent text messages, plotted icons to show enemy locations and drew routes on their screens that were broadcast to their teammates in real time. Trailed by vehicles equipped with other elements of CS 13, the information was relayed back to higher headquarters for quick, informed decisions.

    “The company command post could actually track the movements of the dismounts, as well as the platoon leaders in their trucks tracking the dismounts,” said 1st Lt. Christopher Wilk, communications officer for 3/10′s 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment. “When they have a pre-set objective, everyone can see it and have that common operational picture together — and now they can do that on the move, on foot.”

    The more hands-on experience Soldiers gain applying CS 13 during mission scenarios — after previously using the gear in the classroom and the motor pool — the more expertise and enthusiasm they develop about what the new technologies can do to support them, leaders said.

    “The sheer amount of systems is a big challenge,” Wilk said. “Once they started doing the on-the-job training with the equipment, they’re getting pretty excited about the capabilities they have.”

    Next up for 3/10 is re-organizing into a Security Forces Advise and Assist Team (SFAAT), a formation that if called upon to deploy will be charged with working closely with Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) to improve their capabilities and help the ANSF take on increasing responsibility for the security of their country. While the Afghan forces will be taking a lead in operations, the SFAAT units will have the network capabilities to support with situational awareness and needs such as calls for air support, artillery support and other reach-back communications. The Army has prioritized delivering CS 13 to SFAAT brigades to meet those requirements.

    A Humvee from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, N.Y., is deployed with its communications satellite dish during the brigade's Spartan Peak field exercise in late March 2013. The purpose of the weeklong exercise was to synchronize the brigade's Capability Set 13 assets throughout each of the battalions, as well as certifying platoon-level leadership in combined arms live fires.

    “As you’re looking at having these small teams out there, you’ve got another way to talk back to higher (headquarters) to request assistance — that’s a tremendous capability right there,” Wood said.

    At the same time as the SFAAT reorganization, the unit will continue its intensive training regimen. The Mountain Peak exercise scheduled to take place at Fort Drum, N.Y., later this month will challenge the network to pass additional data during brigade-level operations. Mountain Peak will be followed by a Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) rotation at Fort Polk, La, which will pose SFAAT scenarios with role players acting as host nation army, police, civilians and enemy insurgents. Recently, the 4th BCT, 10th Mountain Division concluded its own JRTC rotation as the first unit to utilize CS 13 in the SFAAT mission.

    Throughout the fielding and training process for CS 13, which began last October, the two brigades have been exchanging ideas, lessons-learned, troubleshooting information, and tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) for the CS 13 technologies. Signal officers in particular have collaborated and worked around the clock to master the different components, and are gratified to see their time and effort pay off as they conduct operations in the field.

    “You don’t really see everything until you get out of college and go into a career,” said Capt. Jesse Ellis, commander of Charlie Company, 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion. “Now they see they own something. They see it coming together.”


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  • Army prepares for next Network Integration Evaluation

    Soldiers from 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division train on Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) Increment 2 in February. The main focus for NIE 13.2 is the Follow-on Test and Evaluation (FOT&E) for WIN-T Increment 2, which is the Army's mobile network backbone. (Photos by Claire Heininger, U.S. Army)

    Claire Heininger, U.S. Army

     

    FORT BLISS, TEXAS — With two units now readying for Afghanistan with the Army’s new tactical communications network, the service will continue to drive technology forward through its next Network Integration Evaluation this spring.

    Soldier training, vehicle integration, system check-outs and other preparations are well underway in advance of NIE 13.2, which begins in May at Fort Bliss and White Sands Missile Range, N.M. It is the fifth in the series of semi-annual field evaluations designed to keep pace with rapid advances in communications technologies and deliver proven and integrated network capabilities to Soldiers.

    The NIEs are not stand-alone events, but build on previous exercises by improving the Army’s integrated network baseline and incorporating Soldier feedback into system functionality and training methods. As the Army continues to field network capability sets with systems and doctrine vetted through the NIE, the events will further evolve to include joint and coalition involvement next year.

    “The NIE offers us the ability to evaluate and improve the network incrementally,” said Maj. Gen. Harold Greene, the Deputy for Acquisition and Systems Management, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, known as ASA(ALT). “It forces the community together in an environment where Soldiers are telling us what we did well and what we didn’t do well — very graphically, very visually, very obviously.”

    From combined arms maneuver across more than 150 miles of desert to subterranean operations in mountain caves, NIE 13.2 includes mission threads designed to measure network performance at all echelons, from the brigade commander down to the dismounted Soldier. It will include an aerial tier to extend the range of communications and operational energy solutions to more efficiently power networked equipment.

    “We’ve got some good questions, and the scenario will allow us to get at a lot of those operational pieces,” said Col. Elizabeth Bierden, chief of the Network Integration Division, Brigade Modernization Command, or BMC. “We’ve seen many of the systems before, but I think we just get the network better every single time.”

    An engineer works on a Bradley Fighting Vehicle equipped with network gear in preparation for the Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) 13.2. From combined arms maneuver across more than 150 miles of desert to subterranean operations in mountain caves, NIE 13.2 includes mission threads designed to measure network performance at all echelons, from the brigade commander down to the dismounted Soldier.

    The main focus for NIE 13.2 is the Follow-on Test and Evaluation (FOT&E) for Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) Increment 2, the Army’s mobile network backbone. WIN-T Increment 2 provides an enhanced capability over the current Increment 1 version used today in Afghanistan, including unprecedented “on-the-move” communications capabilities down to the company level. A successful test will enable the Army to keep fielding WIN-T Increment 2 to operational units beyond Capability Set 13, which is now being delivered to select brigade combat teams (BCTs) preparing for deployment.

    During the FOT&E, the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division (2/1 AD) will conduct the full range of military operations — from movement to contact to peacekeeping — and stretch the WIN-T network over even greater distances than during NIE 12.2, which was the unit’s first formal chance to assess the system. Following that evaluation in May 2012, the Army aggressively pursued and implemented corrective actions to address the areas identified for improvement, and 2/1 AD Soldiers have also become more comfortable and proficient with the equipment.

    “The training is more hands-on, and with the knowledge we already have we’re able to go more in-depth,” said Spc. Erik Liebhaber, who has participated in three NIEs and said training for 13.2 incorporated specific scenarios that Soldiers had previously encountered in the field. “That’s a big part of the continuity.”

    Other systems under formal test include Joint Battle Command-Platform (JBC-P), the Army’s next-generation situational awareness and blue force tracking technology; Nett Warrior, a smartphone-like system for dismounted leaders; the Area Mine Clearance System-Medium Flail, an armored vehicle designed for clearing large areas of anti-tank and anti-personnel landmines; and Tactical Communication and Protection System, designed to prevent hearing injury while allowing Soldiers to remain cognizant of their environment during combat. A dozen additional systems, such as those comprising the aerial tier, will receive less formal evaluations.

    Both JBC-P and Nett Warrior have actively incorporated user feedback from several previous NIE cycles into their hardware and software designs.

    “It’s gotten a lot simpler to use,” Staff Sgt. Lance Bradford said of JBC-P. “That was our largest suggestion to them — you’ve got to get this more user-friendly.”

    Soldier feedback and lessons-learned from the NIEs not only affect the conduct of future NIE iterations, but have also been applied to the process of producing, fielding and training units on Capability Set (CS) 13, which is the Army’s first such communications package to provide integrated connectivity throughout the BCT. The NIEs informed all aspects of CS 13, from how network systems are installed onto a vehicle, to which training approach is most effective, to which Soldiers within a brigade are issued certain pieces of equipment.

    Two BCTs of the 10th Mountain Division, now in the final stages of training before deploying to Afghanistan later this year, are receiving lessons-learned and recommended operational uses for the equipment that were developed during the NIE process. Serving as Security Forces Advise and Assist Teams (SFAATs), the units will rely on the new network as they work closely with the Afghan forces, take down fixed infrastructure and become increasingly mobile and dispersed in their operations.

    While NIE missions to date have confirmed that CS 13 can support such operations, they have not been limited to the Afghan mission. The NIE 13.2 scenario will set the stage for future exercises that will include new offensive and defensive operations replicating what units may face in other regions, including joint and coalition involvement beginning with NIE 14.2 next spring.

    “We are trying to set the stage for a joint and multinational effort in 14.2, and so we’re looking across functions at Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, close air support, air ground-integration, with the major objectives focused on joint entry operations and the joint network,” said Brig. Gen. Randal Dragon, BMC commander. “We’ll be in a position to look at a number of those joint functions and we’ll set the stage through the series of NIEs we have coming up.”
     
     


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  • Humvee training sets support Army network fielding

    Soldiers from the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), train using Capability Set 13, or CS 13, at Fort Polk, La., March 2, 2013. The Soldiers are using a Humvee training set integrated with components of CS 13, mirroring the systems in the mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle, known as an MRAP, variants that the brigade combat team will fall in on when they arrive in Operation Enduring Freedom. The unit will be the first to use CS 13, an on-the-move communications network that stays connected over vast distances, providing information throughout the brigade down to the lowest echelons. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Kulani Lakanaria)

    Claire Heininger, U.S. Army

     

    RED RIVER ARMY DEPOT, Texas — The Army is preparing to deploy the first Security Forces Advise and Assist Team to Afghanistan equipped with the latest suite of integrated network communications gear, but first the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), must train on the new equipment and learn how it will aid in the advise and assist mission.

    To get the brigade’s Soldiers quickly trained and ready for the deployment, the Army has integrated some of the network capability into a familiar vehicle platform.

    The Humvees rolling off the line here — more than 330 over the course of four months — are equipped with data radios, situational awareness software and other network systems that will be used by lower-tier echelons in the brigade. Two brigade combat teams, or BCTs, of the 10th Mountain Division are using the Humvee vehicles for their Mission Rehearsal Exercises and other stateside training before deploying to Afghanistan, where they will receive mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles, or MRAPs, All-Terrain Vehicles, M-ATVs, and MaxxPro vehicles with the same lower-tier network package for use in theater.

    “The Humvee training sets have the same systems and configurations that the units will see in theater, so it’s a good way to familiarize Soldiers with how to employ the network while taking advantage of the vehicles the Army has available in the U.S.,” said Maj. Rick Wilkins, the Army’s assistant product manager for light tactical vehicles, who is overseeing the production effort. Network components on the lower-tier MRAP vehicles will be integrated in theater, allowing for the units to ‘fall in’ on the equipment once they arrive later this year.

    The quick-reaction project to complete the Humvees reflects a strong partnership between the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, known as ASA(ALT), and Army Materiel Command, or AMC, to leverage expertise across both communities and deliver a needed capability to support Operation Enduring Freedom.

    The training vehicles are one part of the service’s comprehensive effort to quickly field Capability Set 13, known as CS 13, to select BCTs, who will deploy to Afghanistan to support the drawdown of U.S. forces. CS 13 is the Army’s first 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. The network will provide on-the-move voice and data communications over vast distances, which will be critical as U.S. troops work closely with the Afghan forces, take down fixed infrastructure and become increasingly mobile and dispersed in their operations.

    A technician at Red River Army Depot, Texas, works to install network equipment onto a Capability Set 13 training set Humvee. The integration work at Red River Army Depot to prepare the Humvees is a complex effort that the Army is executing for the first time. With a team of more than 25 skilled technicians, each day the line churns out an average of six vehicles. (Photo by Claire Heininger)

    The first recipients of the Humvees are the 4th and 3rd BCTs, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), who are now training with those vehicles as well as higher-echelon MRAPs integrated with Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) Increment 2, the mobile network backbone of the capability set, and the latest tactical data radios and Mission Command software. These M-ATV “Key leader” vehicles were first equipped with Underbody Improvement Kits, or UIKs, at the Fort Bliss, Texas, MRAP facility and subsequently shipped and integrated with the communications suite at Space and Naval Warfare, or SPAWAR, Systems Center Atlantic in Charleston, S.C. When the brigades deploy, they will take the higher-tier MRAPs with them and augment them with the lower-tier vehicles they will receive in theater. Meanwhile the Army will then rotate the Humvees to the follow-on units receiving CS 13, who will also be provided their own set of key leader MRAP vehicles.

    “Rotating the networked Humvees among units allows the Army to cost-effectively train thousands of Soldiers on the capability set, and do it in a way that makes sense for the brigades’ training and deployment schedules,” said Col. Rob Carpenter, Army director of System of Systems Integration.

    Similar to the SPAWAR team’s work to network the MRAPs, the integration work at Red River Army Depot to prepare the Humvees is a complex effort that the Army is executing for the first time.

    The Humvees are integrated in multistep process. Seats and armor are stripped from each vehicle and brackets to hold the network capabilities are installed. Holes are drilled in the exterior to let air flow in and prevent overheating. Cables are measured, cut and connected. One of the more complex efforts involved switching out the Humvee alternator for a higher-output version, to help power the radios, antennas, switches, transceivers, computer screens and other network parts which are also precisely installed.

    With a team of more than 25 skilled technicians, each day the line churns out an average of six vehicles. The training sets come in three different configurations of varying complexity, depending on the user’s role in the BCT, said Robert Vallee, the depot’s supervisor for Humvee reset. The Army leveraged the Humvee original equipment manufacturer to come up with an integration design, which was then validated and turned over to RRAD for physical integration.

    “The timeline was very aggressive, and from a platform perspective it was a steep learning curve” to become familiar with and incorporate network equipment from several different sources, Wilkins said.

    But leveraging the experienced technicians at Red River, the operation overcame these challenges and is on track to finish production by the end of March, he said.

    “This was a great team effort across ASA(ALT), including Program Executive Office Command, Control and Communications-Tactical, and Combat Support and Combat Service Support, AMC depots and our industry partners to design build and deliver a cost-effective training solution on a tight calendar schedule,” Carpenter said. “These training sets are an essential asset as we continue to execute the CS 13 fielding mission.”
     
     


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  • First unit readies for Afghanistan with new network

    Soldiers from the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, train using Capability Set 13, at Fort Polk, La., March 3, 2013. A major focus of CS 13 is equipping dismounted leaders and Soldiers with tools that provide the type of situational awareness and communications capabilities that were previously only available in vehicles or command posts. (Photo by SGT David Edge, C230 IN)

    Claire Heininger, U.S. Army

     

    FORT POLK, La. — When they deploy to Afghanistan this summer to assist in the drawdown of U.S. forces, the Soldiers of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, will have a new edge.

    The unit will be the first to use an on-the-move communications network that stays connected over vast distances, providing information throughout the brigade down to the lowest echelons. That capability will be critical as U.S. troops work closely with the Afghan forces, take down fixed infrastructure and become increasingly mobile and dispersed in their operations, leaders said.

    “This is much needed in Afghanistan,” said Brig. Gen. Walter E. Piatt, deputy commanding general for support, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry). Like their counterparts in the 4th Brigade Combat Team, or BCT, the Division’s 3rd BCT will also be deploying as a Security Forces Advise and Assist Team, or SFAAT, with the new network later this year.

    “Imagine you’re a Soldier and you need information on a given area, or you want to see where units are located to your left and right,” Piatt said. “You don’t want to have to come back to headquarters; you don’t want to have to force a transmission over a radio net just to get that. You want to have that information readily available. (This network) allows us to do that on the move, and allows us to do it dismounted as well.”

    Known as Capability Set 13, or CS 13, the package will allow the 10th Mountain units to utilize advanced satellite-based systems — augmented by data radios, handheld devices and the latest mission command software — to transmit voice/chat communications and situational awareness data throughout the SFAAT. On patrol inside mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles configured with components of CS 13, leaders will be able to exchange information and execute mission command using mobile communications technologies, rather than having to remain in a fixed location to access the network.

    A Soldier from the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, trains using Capability Set 13, at Fort Polk, La., Feb. 28, 2013. When they deploy to Afghanistan this summer to assist in the drawdown of U.S. forces, the BCT will be the first to use CS 13, an on-the-move communications network that stays connected over vast distances, providing information throughout the brigade down to the lowest echelons. (Photo by Claire Heininger, U.S. Army)

    The Army targeted the two brigades as the first to receive CS 13 capability because they require advanced communications to carry out their advise-and-assist mission in Operation Enduring Freedom. While the Afghan forces will be taking a lead in operations, the SFAAT units will have the network capabilities to support with situational awareness and needs such as calls for air support, artillery support and other reach-back communications.

    After several months of new equipment training to familiarize Soldiers with CS 13, the 4th BCT is now immersed in intensive final preparations for deployment. The prep includes a several weeks-long Joint Readiness Training Center rotation where they will use the gear in realistic operational scenarios based on the SFAAT mission.

    The 10th Mountain brigades are also receiving lessons-learned and recommended tactics, techniques and procedures, known as TTPs, for using the equipment that were developed during the Army’s Network Integration Evaluation, or NIE, process.

    The semi-annual field exercises involve 3,800 Soldiers of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, who use networked equipment as they execute mission threads in the rough terrain of White Sands Missile Range, N.M. The NIEs were used to integrate the CS 13 network and validate its performance prior to fielding. They also produced voluminous Soldier feedback that was incorporated into vehicle designs, handheld device configurations, software features and other elements of the capability set.

    Capt. Joseph Perry, a company commander with 2/1 AD who has participated in several NIEs, said he looks forward to seeing how the SFAAT teams will ultimately use the network in theater.

    “I’m really curious to see what their feedback is,” he said. “I’d like to see the circle complete.”

    The brigades’ deployment with CS 13 will be the culmination of a total Army effort to quickly field the capabilities, spanning dozens of commands and locations and requiring constant coordination among network and vehicle project managers, production facilities, brigade staffs and fielding and training professionals. Along with the sophistication of the equipment, the fielding effort was unique because it marked the first time the Army delivered a complete package of network technologies that was integrated up front, rather than providing each system independently.

    “This is the way the Army needs to conduct business for this type of fielding,” said Lt. Col. Bill Venable, the Army’s system of systems integration “trail boss” assigned to 4/10. “Synchronizing equipment deliveries, vehicle touches, training and other elements makes sense for communications systems that are integrated across the BCT, and helps reduce the burden on the unit operating in a time-constrained environment.”
     
     


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