PEO-C3T technologies support 8th Army tactical network and mission command modernization – “A journey to full operational capability”
By Anton Antomattei and Michael W. Parker
The 8th Army has been on a journey to achieve full operational capability, which required the ability to communicate with coalition partners anywhere on the Korean peninsula.
That meant enhancements to the Combined Enterprise Regional Information Exchange System Korea (CENTRIXS-K or CX-K), a network for multinational information sharing. Project Manager Mission Command (PM MC) and the PM for Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) have addressed these requirements by inserting robust mission command and network technologies into the CX-K.
An enhanced CX-K network augments the 8th Army’s resources to carry out its overall field Army mission, to deter aggression against the Republic of Korea (ROK) or, should that deterrence fail, “fight tonight” as part of a combined and joint task force. As U.S. forces continue to retrograde from Afghanistan and rebalance resources to other theaters, including the Asia-Pacific, modernizing the 8th Army’s network and tactical mission command capabilities will support this strategic effort.
A NEW TACTICAL NETWORK
In 2011, PM MC, assigned to Program Executive Office Command, Control, Communications-Tactical (PEO-C3T), formed an assessment team and, with full support from 8th Army commanding general Lt. Gen. John D. Johnson, began working to evaluate the technical requirements to create a tactical network to support mobile command posts. PM WIN-T, also assigned to PEO C3T, was a primary member of the assessment team.
The CX-K mission command and network enhancement initiative supported the overall 8th Army Command Control Communications and Computers (C4) Modernization Campaign Plan, which required support in four areas: transport (network), data services, mission command capabilities, and interoperability with both ROK and reinforcing U.S. formations. The assessment team recommended that the CX-K tactical network be modeled after the Afghan Mission Network (AMN), which enabled each coalition nation to share information on a common network infrastructure. The CX-K tactical network and the AMN are the foundation for NATOs Future Mission Network effort.
Similar to the AMN model, the transport area of the coalition network required fielding of additional routers and switches in each of its WIN-T nodes to support CX-K in addition to the current Non-secure Internet Protocol Router (NIPR) and Secure Internet Protocol Router (SIPR)networks. Also, the mission command server architecture needed to fully support the 8th Army’s fight on the CX-K network (full unit authorization) and also support SIPR requirements on additional servers, again mirroring the AMN model. With that server architecture, the command would provide tactical data services with a point of presence for strategic network and global services and data.
To meet the CX-K interoperability requirements, PM WIN-T fielded a third network enclave in addition to the WIN-T Increment 1 equipment it had already deployed in South Korea. This equipment included the unclassified NIPR and classified SIPR network enclaves. The coalition network enclave is similar in design to the classified and unclassified network enclaves, so it was easily integrated.
PM WIN-T finished fielding the last of its coalition network enclave packages in South Korea in early July. It reused equipment and resources from previous requirements that were no longer needed in other arenas and leveraged those resources for the CX-K effort, yielding a cost avoidance of $5.876 million. With the new enclave equipment in place, the United States can take full advantage of its WIN-T Increment 1 systems in South Korea to quickly and seamlessly share voice, data, video and other information on the coalition network.
To support a proof of principle for the tactical domain, PM MC provided early fieldings of several servers to the 8th Army and its subordinate, 2nd Infantry Division (2ID), in time for Exercise Key Resolve 13. This combined U.S.-Korean military exercise is held annually in March. About 13,000 ROK and U.S. Soldiers participated in the exercise, which featured combined planning, mission command operations, military intelligence, logistics and other key military specialties.
By the end of the exercise, the 8th Army had demonstrated the ability to disconnect from the strategic infrastructure and operate its mission command network across its tactical WIN-T systems throughout the Korean peninsula, demonstrating untethered tactical CX-K capabilities for the first time.
The CX-K enhancement coincided with the recent scheduled upgrade of mission command systems, which included hardware refresh, upgrades to existing systems and new equipment and software fieldings. Throughout these planned fieldings, PMs MC and WIN-T ensured that the 8th Army maintained operational capability. Following the upgrades completion in July, the systems were available for use in the theater’s largest annual joint exercise, Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG) in August. UFG employs computer-generated scenarios for more than 30,000 participants from the ROK, United States and other nations to prepare them for contingency operations in defense of the ROK.
The 8th Army C4I Architecture enhancements have set the conditions for future fieldings of PM MC’s systems, specifically, the Command Post of the Future (CPOF) 7.1 next generation software. CPOF is the commander’s collaborative and situational awareness system that processes and displays combat and sustainment information from other Army systems. CPOF 7.1 will support scalability (full theater in the same collaborative environment) and allow units to disconnect, continue to operate and reconnect to the network seamlessly. These capabilities, planned for the 2015 fiscal year (FY15), fully support the 8th Army in its role as a field Army conducting both its Army forces (ARFOR) and combined joint task force missions.
The Army remains on course in its modernization journey of 8th Army network and mission command capabilities. PM WIN-T continues to improve network capabilities to effectively share information both internally and with joint forces and coalition partners, while PM MC continues to provide enhanced mission command operational capabilities in the coalition environment. The partnership between the 9th Army and PEO C3T organizations has, and continues to be, the driving force to enable the 8th Army to “fight tonight.”
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — The Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya reinforced the need for U.S. Army Africa (USARAF) to have at its fingertips the ability to draw upon the most up-to-date detailed maps and imagery of any given region at a moment’s notice.
Project Manager Mission Command (PM MC) is helping to streamline the delivery of maps and imagery through the use of specialized geospatial products that work with the Army’s primary mission command information system, known as Command Post of the Future (CPOF).
Although CPOF users have an initial set of digital maps at their disposal, there is usually not enough storage space to keep the latest and most detailed maps for every contingency across the globe. For combatant commands such as USARAF, which covers most of the African continent, sometimes the need arises where they must request customized map sets.
Within days of the flare-up in Libya, PM MC coordinated the creation and installation of a specialized map set providing the most recent imagery and detailed maps of that area in support of USARAF.
“When the incident happened we identified the need and got the maps out to them,” said Lt. Col. Tom Bentzel, the Army’s product manager for Tactical Mission Command (PdM TMC), part of PM MC. “We recognize there’s use for both broad map coverage and detailed map imagery of specific areas of interest. When a new area of interest emerged in Libya, we were able to build a CPOF map set to cover it.”
The maps sent were of several countries in northern Africa, including Libya, and offered sub-meter imagery that was orthorectified to allow for terrain displacement.
“The maps are used on the Soldiers’ CPOF systems to plan, fight and coordinate the common operating picture,” said Matthew Tessier, map manager for PdM TMC and who developed the map sets in response to the flare up in Libya. “Without this technology and the accuracy of it, we could be putting our fighting forces in harm’s way. Getting them the most up-to-date maps for their mission was and is essential to saving lives.”
To continue supplying detailed map data sets in shorter turnaround times, PM MC, assigned to the Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications-Tactical, is building an expanded map library. So when conflicts arise, like the recent situation at the Amenas gas plant in Algeria or the clash in Mali, USARAF has detailed imagery if needed.
Tessier works closely with the Army’s Geospatial Center and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency to gather map data, then using specialized software converts it for CPOF users.
CPOF allows units to plot real-time operations like firefights on a three-dimensional map, and instantly see updates.
A recent switch by PdM TMC from proprietary software to a commercial mapping capability for the CPOF system has allowed more options when it comes to the data resources used to pull together maps and imagery. For example, PdM TMC can now take an online, commercially available map of a building or site of interest, such as a university or office complex, and combine it with existing military map sets.
“We switched over to commercial software that allows us to be more flexible with raw data,” said Tessier. “We can now gather different types of data available either through military channels or civilian, and have the flexibility to incorporate that onto our map sets.”
PdM TMC is also working with Army terrain teams within USARAF to equip them with the same ability to build maps based upon their tactical needs, significantly shortening the amount of time needed to convert and ship the map sets.
Leslie Call, a PM MC field service representative with USARAF, said the new technology allows the unit to load five times more data onto each hard drive and equips USARAF geospatial engineers with the ability to quickly convert additional imagery for CPOF as hotspots arise.
“We are effectively cutting out the middle man and giving ownership of the maps where it belongs, with the unit,” said Call. “The unit can accomplish in hours what used to take a week.”
As CPOF continues to evolve, it is embracing the next generation of mission command technology with Command Post Web, a web version of CPOF offering similar capability to users with access to the Army’s tactical network. This will also allow CPOF users to pull feeds from other map-based, mission command systems such as Tactical Ground Reporting (TIGR), Distributed Common Ground System-Army (DCGS-A) and Joint Battle Command — Platform (JBC-P).
“One of our goals is to have the best maps out there,” said Bentzel. “So in addition to deploying our own map servers we’re making it possible to access other map services like DCGS-A and TIGR. Every commander wants great maps because they help visualize the battlefield and make better decisions. The tools we’re building make great maps the norm, not the exception.”