Fourth in a series of articles on how the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command is supporting the Army’s six modernization priorities.
by Maj. Gen. Cedric T. Wins
A small formation of Soldiers is dropped in the middle of a megacity as drones swarm overheard, sending a video feed of the area to a global telecommunications system where commanders analyze the information. The Soldiers move quickly, sending images through the scopes on their weapons back to teammates that are several kilometers away. The teammates view the information on their heads-up display and get orders to send out a call for fire, and the delivered rounds accurately hit the target without harming nearby civilians. The enemy can’t “see” the Soldiers because their electromagnetic signature is low, and its attempts to jam the Soldiers’ radios are unsuccessful.
While this scenario is futuristic, it portrays how future battles may be fought. It also shows the importance of the network as the connective tissue that provides Soldiers with the ability to see and hear as they execute the basics of move, shoot and communicate.
To prepare for future battles, the Army is ensuring Soldiers are ready and armed with the latest technology. The driving force behind this modernization effort is the U.S. Army Futures Command (AFC), which was created to streamline modernization efforts and field new equipment and capabilities more quickly to Soldiers. As the Army’s primary science and technology (S&T) arm, the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command (CCDC), which is part of the AFC, is uniquely positioned to help shape future concepts and synchronize and integrate S&T across the Future Force Modernization Enterprise.
CCDC consists of seven centers, the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL) and a team of scientists and engineers who discover, develop and deliver near-, mid- and far-term technology; conduct research and experimentation in state-of-the-art infrastructures, using advanced labs and equipment; and have a long history of working with hundreds of domestic and international academic and industry partners to solve some of the Army’s toughest problems.
One of the key efforts that we are focusing on is the network. We need to ensure that it is reliable, expeditionary, mobile, cyber-hardened and simple to use.
The Army conducted an assessment to determine the capabilities needed to fight and win against a near-peer adversary and developed a modernization strategy that will leverage an acquisition methodology based on the rapid insertion of new technologies. While some of these technologies will be materiel solutions developed by Army researchers and scientists, many may come from entrepreneurs and small businesses that are nontraditional Army partners.
We support the Army’s modernization effort by collaborating with academic and industry partners to fill capability gaps and develop mature technology that enables Soldiers to do their jobs and meet their missions. By working with industry, we capture emerging technology and figure out how we can adapt it for military use. Some of the technology will be commercial off-the-shelf products that will be ruggedized, operationalized and integrated onto military platforms. One of the benefits of using commercial products is that the vendor can provide a solution more quickly. Another benefit is the vendor conducts tests on the product that the Army can leverage before making a selection.
We are also beginning to make greater use of experimental prototypes, which are more targeted to an application and aligned to the Army’s network capability-set plans. We view them as an opportunity to experiment early to identify needed changes and provide opportunities to identify failures early in the development process. Early recognition that a technology or approach isn’t going to meet the Army’s needs saves money and allows the Army to pivot to other promising technologies sooner.
We are also closely aligned with the Army’s modernization lead for the network, the Network Cross-Functional Team. Along with the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), our researchers and engineers advise the Network Cross-Functional Team, as well as the other cross-functional teams that align with each of the Army’s modernization priorities.
We are focusing on four network modernization lines of effort to improve the network: creating a unified network; building a simplified mission-command suite of applications; improving interoperability among Army elements along with joint force and coalition partners; and ensuring that command posts are expeditionary and survivable.
CREATING A UNIFIED NETWORK
While the CCDC Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center, more commonly known as the C5ISR Center, leads the network modernization effort within our command, the Army network supports and enables capabilities across all of CCDC’s competencies—from aviation and missile defense to armaments, tank and automotive systems, and Soldier systems. Our seven research, development and engineering centers and ARL work together to develop technologies to fill capability gaps that will modernize the network.
We recognize the need to quickly adapt to alternative networking solutions as the mission dictates. Similar to commercial cellphones that switch seamlessly between cellular, Wi-Fi and other communication solutions, the Army needs a “kit bag” of communications solutions. The difference, however, is the type of solutions and the mobile architecture required to support the Army. We are making significant S&T investments in this space to address the Army’s needs. Our network S&T strategy centers on automation and intelligence, resiliency and situational understanding.
One of our focus areas is automating capabilities to reduce the burden on Soldiers. For example, we are working with the Network Cross-Functional Team to automate the primary, alternate, contingency and emergency plan for the Army, which identifies what will happen to the network if individual links become inoperable or are jammed. The current plan is an often-difficult and time-consuming manual process, and critical information is often delayed. The modular radio frequency communications effort will automate the primary, alternate, contingency and emergency plan, and transition the cognitive burden of managing multiple radios and radio networks off the Soldier. The system will enable connectivity in contested and congested environments using automation and intelligence to optimally move data between radio-frequency and networking technologies. This will be accomplished by considering data type and destination, priority and quality of service before automatically selecting the optimal transport link to send end-user data.
We are also focusing on resilience. The Army needs to build network technology that can remain operational in a contested near-peer conflict. This includes use of low-observable (stealth) communication techniques to make the Army network difficult for the enemy to detect, and anti-jam techniques where the network technology will identify and adapt to remain operational during an electronic warfare or cyber attack. We are also actively working to determine whether the anticipated low- and medium-Earth-orbit commercial satellite constellations can be successfully employed by the Army to improve the resilience of our networks. These capabilities may not be available for many years but have the potential to significantly improve Army networks.
A SIMPLIFIED MISSION COMMAND SUITE
To reduce the complexity in existing mission command suites, the Army is developing the Common Operating Environment, which comprises six interoperable computing environments. Within mission command, the three primary computing environments are the Command Post Computing Environment, the Mounted Computing Environment and the Mobile/Handheld Computing Environment. CCDC is working with the Network Cross-Functional Team to ensure that the commander and staff have a seamless, intuitive common operating picture across these computing environments. The Army plans to field an initial version of the Common Operating Environment in FY19, leveraging commercial software solutions adapted for military use.
IMPROVING JOINT-FORCE INTEROPERABILITY
Since the Army does not fight alone, interoperability with coalition partners is one of its top priorities. Having a common operating picture across allied forces and sharing and exchanging data are critical to supporting future conflicts.
We are working to enhance the Mission Partner Environment, which includes information-sharing policies, potential partner capabilities and compatibility with Army communications and information technology (IT) systems. The environment will ensure that Army forces can more effectively interact, technically and operationally—a priority for combatant commanders who rely on joint and multinational interoperability. Some of the critical information that commanders will be able to leverage and share include logistics, terrain, fires and friendly and enemy position data.
ENSURING COMMAND POST SURVIVABILITY
As the main hub where commanders control operations, command posts include equipment, information systems and networks that, today, may take many hours to set up or tear down and many hours to ensure connectivity. Additionally, because they tend to have large electromagnetic, visual and noise signatures, they are often easily detected by adversaries.
Today’s military formations need to be agile and survivable on the modern battlefield, so we are working on solutions that enable seamless, connected command collaboration across mobile command post vehicles. Additionally, we are developing new ways to reduce adversaries’ ability to detect our command posts. The CCDC C5ISR Center has worked with many units over the past few years to experiment with a variety of command post prototypes in the field around the world and has fed the results and lessons learned from those events back into the acquisition process, leading to better solutions for commanders and Soldiers in the future.
READY, SET, FIELD
As part of the Army’s decision to alter the way it develops requirements and evaluates and procures technology, it pivoted to a two-year incremental capability-set fielding approach, starting in FY21. Capability sets will build off each other and close critical capability gaps by fielding network systems that are infused with commercial solutions and informed by Soldier-led experimentation. These experiments will focus beyond today’s current network baseline and look toward enhanced capabilities that align with the four network modernization lines of effort. This will speed up requirements development and approval, and provide an open architecture and standards for industry innovation.
Inserting technology in two-year capability sets provides flexibility to augment and integrate information technology capability as it emerges from industry. We are adapting our S&T efforts to support this approach.
TELL US HOW IT WORKS
To achieve creative solutions, we must foster an environment that allows everyone to understand the problem space and experiment with new ideas and concepts to advance each successive capability set.
Experimentation using prototypes enables us to learn early lessons about how the equipment performs in a realistic environment, how Soldiers will use the equipment, and what capabilities should be included in the final product. Lessons learned from experimentation and demonstrations inform the Futures and Concepts team and the Network Cross-Functional Team as they write requirements and develop the operational concepts for next-generation capabilities.
The Army Network Modernization Experiment 2019 (NetMod X), which was conducted from May through June, was a field-based research-and-development experiment that assessed communications systems for simple and complex interference techniques for calls to fire. Held at the C5ISR Center’s Ground Activity at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, the two-part experiment provided an opportunity for S&T experts to use their technologies in a contested environment. Feedback from NetMod X 2019 will be used to identify technical gaps to refine technical metrics and areas for improvement.
NetMod X 2019 also included a “radio rodeo” that will help the Army understand the capabilities and performance limitations of current radio systems in contested environments. This will help guide the Army as it develops S&T prototyping solutions for a robotic combat vehicle wireless tether. These solutions may also have applicability in supporting other Army efforts in working to overcome radio-contested battlespaces.
The C5ISR Center and the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) Cyber Center of Excellence jointly conducted another experiment, Cyber Blitz, to inform the Army on employing evolving cyber electromagnetic activities. Cyber Blitz 2018 built on two previous experiments and examined how integrated cyberspace, electronic warfare, intelligence, space and information operations could help a brigade combat team gain and maintain the advantage against a regional peer in multidomain operations. The close collaboration between the NetMod X 2019 partners during the S&T demonstrations led to new tactics, techniques and procedures for cyber electromagnetic activities that the TRADOC Cyber Center of Excellence will develop.
Cyber Blitz 2019, which is scheduled for September, will be executed in concert with the Army’s Orient Shield exercise as part of its plan to expedite the maturation of cyber technologies and doctrine. This will be one of the first concrete examples of cyber materiel development and experimentation linking up with an actual Army-level exercise.
TEAMING WITH THE NETWORK CFT
The C5ISR and ARL teams work closely with the Network Cross-Functional Team, the Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications – Tactical and other S&T representatives to align the portfolio to balance risk and innovation and to resolve technically challenging problems. To support near- and mid-term S&T technology, CCDC replanned and modified 38 projects during the Program Objective Memorandum 20-24 with the Network Cross-Functional Team. Aligning programming to support objectives will enable us to effectively transition S&T to programs of record.
While CCDC is responsible for most of the S&T funding in the network portfolio, partnerships with the Engineer Research and Development Center, the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command and the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, as well as DARPA, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the National Security Agency and other services, have been key in identifying joint opportunities for network modernization and interoperability improvements.
Because the network touches all of the modernization priorities, the Network Cross-Functional Team is horizontally integrated with all of the cross-functional teams. This enables us to capture the interdependencies of all of the cross-functional teams to help inform the network design, and enables the teams to leverage technical successes to develop the “best of the best” technology.
CCDC supports the Network Cross-Functional Team by providing research, development and engineering for S&T, looking at both near- and far-term technology. In addition to delivering technology for several capability sets, we support efforts for the National Defense Strategy, which targets 2028, and we are looking beyond the network after next for long-term technology that will be applied in the future. We have to work the whole range of research, development and engineering now if we want new technologies to build new capabilities for the future fight.
LINKING WITH INDUSTRY AND ACADEMIA
We work alongside domestic and international industry and academic partners to develop innovative technologies that will become key capabilities for the Army. Sharing information and collaborating reduces duplicative efforts and supports the effort to field technologies more quickly, which is critical to the Army’s modernization effort.
One way that we partner with industry and academia is through cooperative research and development agreements, which allow Army researchers to exchange technical expertise and share information, facilities and equipment with industry. This enables the vendors to understand the Army’s needs while the Army evaluates the vendors’ technology in an integrated lab and network environment. Our C5ISR Center has nearly 40 such agreements with industry and academia in support of the network.
One example is the C5ISR Center’s partnership with five commercial radio vendors to establish agreements to address a gap in the Next Generation Combat Vehicle’s wireless control tether. Through the agreements, the C5ISR Center briefed the vendors on current threats and capabilities as well as vulnerabilities that have been identified in each of their systems through lab-based analysis. At least two of these vendors mitigated the vulnerabilities in their systems during NetMod X. The C5ISR Center is in the process of establishing collaborative research and development agreements with seven additional commercial radio vendors.
The C5ISR Center is also establishing a Blue Force Tracking Consortium that leverages collaborative research and development agreements for industry participation. It will tie into the development of an open-standard architecture that enables rapid technology insertion. This will address the need for flexibility and agile communications through open standard interfaces, providing industry partners with defined boundaries and system context for the functionality needed throughout the network. The goal is for industry to insert and integrate new technology into systems that are interoperable throughout the Army.
We also share information through requests for information and by hosting industry days and technical exchange meetings with the Network Cross-Functional Team. We expect industry to outpace some of the developmental technology that we are working on, so these meetings give us an opportunity to identify potential technology solutions the Army can adopt or adapt.
We have made tremendous strides in our effort to provide a robust network that will give Soldiers a tactical edge in communications on the battlefield. We continue to look for ways to partner with academia and industry on projects that support our effort to provide Soldiers with next-generation technology so they are prepared to fight and win against any adversary in multidomain operations.
As Gen. John M. Murray, AFC commander, said, “This is an iterative build to the end state. We never truly reach the end state; the end state is constant innovation.”
For more information, go to the CCDC website at https://www.army.mil/ccdc.
MAJ. GEN. CEDRIC T. WINS is the commanding general of CCDC. He graduated from the Virginia Military Institute and was commissioned in the field artillery in July 1985. His military education includes Field Artillery Officer Basic and Advanced Courses, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and the National War College, where he earned an M.S. in national security and strategic studies. Wins also holds an M.S. in management from the Florida Institute of Technology.
This article is published in the Summer 2019 issue of Army AL&T magazine.
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