• Army network stays connected even when ‘jumping the TOC’

    During the Army's Network Integration Evaluation 14.1, which wrapped up in mid-November at Fort Bliss, Texas, a system under evaluation, the Modular Integrated Command Post, provided advanced communication to the brigade Tactical Command Post through a modern suite of information systems, networking devices and tactical radios. The Modular Integrated Command Post also has the unique ability to generate electrical power from its own transmission through its On Board Vehicle Power system. (Photos by Amy Walker, PEO C3T)

    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.

    During the Army's Network Integration Evaluation 14.1 at Fort Bliss, Texas, which wrapped up in mid November 2013, the brigade Tactical Command Post 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 Tactical Command Post tent.

    “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.”

    The Warfighter Information Network-Tactical Increment 2 Tactical Communications Node provides the Tactical Operations Center and Tactical Command Post with communication and networking equipment (line-of-sight and satellite communications) both on the move and at the halt to battalion and above echelons. While at the halt, the Tactical Communications Node is equipped with a 10-meter extendable mast to improve line-of-sight connectivity.

    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.”


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  • Extending the Global Information Grid network to the company and below

    The advanced capabilities of Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) Increment 2 provide network mobility and reach down to the company level for the first time. The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division utilized this WIN-T Increment 2 Soldier Network Extension vehicle (front) during training exercises at Fort Drum, N.Y. on April 19, 2013. (U.S. Army photos by Amy Walker)

    By Amy Walker, PEO C3T

     

    ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND (July 29, 2013) — As the U.S. mission in Afghanistan changes and forces conduct more dispersed operations, new tactical communications equipment for vehicles at the company level will help extend the network over vast distances to keep Soldiers connected and commanders informed.

    Currently installed on Mine Resistant Ambush Protected All Terrain Vehicles as part of the Army’s mobile Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) Increment 2 network, the Soldier Network Extension (SNE) will extend the network down to the company level for the first time. With this “extension,” company formations can now be geographically dispersed across large distances, away from their battalion headquarters, and still retain the network connectivity and situational awareness needed to command from disparate locations.

    “Having the SNE down at the company level facilitates the dissemination of real-time situational awareness throughout the entire maneuver brigade combat team formation by restoring lower tactical internet (TI) radio networks, sometimes limited by distance or terrain features,” said Lt. Col. Lamont Hall, product manager for WIN-T Increment 2. “It’s critical to keep those lower TI radio networks connected into the network and ensure commanders can see and understand what is happening on the battlefield.”

    The WIN-T Increment 2 SNE is installed on select vehicles at the company level. It extends the network over vast distances and helps to keep lower tactical internet radio networks connected even when they are blocked by terrain features. The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division utilized this SNE during training exercises at Fort Drum, N.Y. on April 19, 2013.

    The SNE’s extension capability will benefit the Army as the U.S. mission in Afghanistan changes to a support role in helping the Afghans secure their country. As coalition forces reduce their presence, forward operating bases and fixed sites once used to access the network are being dismantled. As part of the mobile WIN-T Increment 2 network, the SNE for the first time provides lower echelons with the mission critical network reach-back to the Army’s Global Information Grid, the worldwide set of interconnected equipment and services that enable Soldiers to access the information they need, when they need it.

    The SNE’s Combat Net Radio extension takes advantage of the vehicle’s on-the-move satellite communication (SATCOM) systems to help keep lower TI radio networks connected, even when they are blocked by terrain features such as mountains. It also extends these lower TI radio networks, which include the Soldier Radio Waveform, Enhanced Position Location Reporting System, and Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System. The virtually unlimited distance of the SNE’s on-the-move SATCOM capabilities enables select elements to extend their data links as far as the mission requires.

    Positioned at the company level, the SNE can help pass critical information from lower echelons up to higher headquarters, and vice versa. This two-way flow of information provides commanders at all levels with real-time situational awareness, decreasing the time it takes to make decisions and improving the foundations on which those decisions are made.

    The WIN-T Increment 2 SNE is installed on select vehicles down to the company level. The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division utilized this SNE during training exercises at the Joint Readiness Training Center, Fort Polk, La. in June 2013.

    The WIN-T Increment 2 SNE also provides company level Soldiers with advanced collaboration and on-the-move situational awareness tools once only available at higher echelons, providing agility to their operations. Company commanders on-the-move can now collaborate with voice phone calls, hold battle update briefs, access email over the Army’s secret network and exchange planning files and documents. They can also use a chat room, one of the Army’s primary forms of battlefield communications.

    “By giving me [the SNE] you are enabling me to do a lot more work on my own from wherever I am,” said Capt. William Branch, a company commander for 2/1 AD. “Before I had to go to the company or to the battalion [Command Post] to access those services, now I can access them right from my vehicle. Giving me those services is enabling me and my platoon leaders to do a much better job and operate within my commander’s intent.”

    WIN-T Increment 2 is being fielded as part of the Army’s capability sets (CS). CS 13 is the first of these fully-integrated fielding efforts, which are scalable and tailorable in design to support the changing requirements of current and future missions. CS 13 includes radios, satellite systems, software applications, smartphone-like devices and other network components that provide connectivity from the stationary command post to the commander on-the-move to the dismounted Soldier. WIN-T Increment 2 is the tactical communications network backbone that binds the capability sets together. The situational awareness and network extension capabilities of the WIN-T Increment 2 SNE provide a vital link to the CS 13 architecture.

    The mobile WIN-T Increment 2 network is being fielded as part of the Army's new capability sets. A WIN-T Increment 2 Point of Presence vehicle was part of a convoy during 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division training exercises at Fort Drum, N.Y. on April 19, 2013.

    WIN-T Increment 2 improves upon the network’s first increment, which began fielding in 2004, by providing Soldiers with high-speed, high-capacity voice, data and video communications, accessible on-the-move. It utilizes both satellite and line-of-sight capability for optimum network connectivity and bandwidth efficiency, and its self-healing capability automatically reroutes blocked links so information gets through. Other WIN-T Increment 2 configuration items include the Point of Presence (PoP), which is installed on select vehicles at battalion and above, and enables mobile mission command.

    A few years ago it may have taken several hours or even days for the brigade commander to see and understand the details that his patrols had seen on the battlefield. But now the commander can talk to his leaders on a conference call while on-the-move inside a networked PoP or SNE vehicle. They can share information and share what they are seeing on the battlefield in real time, said Col. Sam Whitehurst, commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team (BCT), 10th Mountain Division (3/10), during recent training exercises in preparation for his unit’s possible deployment to Afghanistan.

    “The quicker and more responsive we are in sharing information, [the more] it allows me to gain situational understanding,” Whitehurst said. “That speed and that ability to quickly share information is critical.”


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