Legacy communications are underpinning new capabilities as the U.S. Army Pacific works to upgrade its systems before obsolescence defeats innovation. The new technologies and systems that will define U.S. military networking are beginning to reach across the Defense Department’s largest theater of operations. Yet, budgetary constraints are hindering implementation of new capabilities, and the existing systems that form the foundation of theater networking badly need upgrades before they begin to give out.
Warfighters will soon have an easier time accessing and operating battlefield command and control applications from their vehicles, thanks to a new family of tactical computers being issued to Army and Marine Corps forces. The computers will replace multiple pieces of equipment, saving space and power and providing users with better situational awareness by allowing access to a variety of battlefield software applications previously only available to commanders in fixed command centers.
The U.S. Army’s goal to push the network down to the dismounted soldier is now reality as Rangers units and the 10th Mountain Division begin employing Nett Warrior. But developers are not resting on their laurels. They already are adding advancements to increase capability and improve functionality.
U.S. Army officials are standardizing the information technology architecture on many current and future ground combat vehicles. The effort is designed to reduce the size, weight and power of electronics; reduce life-cycle costs; and improve interoperability while providing warfighters all of the data and communications capability required on the modern battlefield.
The signal brigade in charge of U.S. Army communications in the Republic of Korea is incorporating new technologies and capabilities with one eye on ensuring success and the other eye on the hostile neighbor to the north. System improvements such as the advanced Warfighter Information Network-Tactical, voice over Internet protocol and a Korean theater version of the Joint Information Environment are designed to give allied forces a significant edge should war break out.
U.S. Army researchers are developing a software program that will provide signal corps officers will an improved common operating picture of the network, enhance the ability to manage the plethora of electronic systems popping up on the modern battlefield, advance information sharing capabilities and allow warfighters to make more informed and more timely decisions. In short, the system will assist in planning, building, monitoring and defending the network.
The U.S. Army is replacing the swivel-chair approach to viewing situational awareness information in combat and tactical vehicles with a standardized family of build-your-own tactical computers. In addition to enabling tactical computers to interoperate, the family of systems reduces the basic configuration computer cost by as much as 36 percent while increasing performance by more than 350 percent.
As often happens when discussions focus on military technology, talk during the first day of TechNet Augusta 2013 zeroed in on people, not capabilities. Leaders today shared their ideas on human resources and how they would make all the difference modernizing the Army network during a time of lean budgets.
Two ongoing military programs, the ready-to-deploy Solider Network Extension (SNE) and the Content-Based Mobile Edge Networking (CBMEN) program now in prototype, aim to connect troops at the very tactical edge back to larger military data and communications networks. These programs—one service-oriented, the other an agency effort—are part of the Defense Department’s thrust to make warfighters, especially individual soldiers in small units, more connected.
The U.S. Army Signal Corps is expanding the work its personnel conduct while dealing with technology and operational challenges that both help and hinder its efforts. On the surface, Army signal is facing the common dilemma afflicting many other military specialties—it must do more with fewer resources.
The U.S. Army’s Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) is a good idea that is not achieving its potential, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
The U.S. Army is conducting a full and open competition to acquire more quantities of the Rifleman Radio and also will soon open competition for purchasing additional Manpack radios. The draft request for proposals (RFP) seeking solutions from all industry partners for the Rifleman is now available, and an informational industry day will be followed by the release of the formal RFP.
My reflections on C4ISR are flavored by my recent reading of the book “From Pigeons to Tweets” (SIGNAL Magazine, April 2013, page 66) by Lt. Gen. Clarence “Mac” McKnight, USA (Ret.). In his book, Mac recounts the changes in every aspect of the U.S. Army Signal Corps and the defense environment over the course of his long and distinguished career. Most prominent among these changes were the evolution of technology and capability, and what this meant to command and control and intelligence over time. If you haven’t read Mac’s book, I recommend it.
Researchers are developing new ways of enabling troops inside personnel carriers to see their outside environment without increasing their vulnerability to hostile fire. The goal is to provide enhanced 360-degree situational awareness from sensors installed on a vehicle as well as from other off-board cameras in the area.
The U.S. Army is creating a software tool that will enable soldiers to coordinate and synchronize electronic warfare operations across the electromagnetic battlefield. The Electronic Warfare Planning and Management Tool (EWPMT) will feature 22 distinct functions, including deconflicting offensive, defensive and friendly signals as well as integrating intelligence and terrain data. As part of the Army’s long-term plan for the Integrated Electronic Warfare System (IEWS), electronic warfare officers could use the software for pre-mission planning and to identify threats.
The U.S. Army is currently delivering a new and improved Coalition Joint Spectrum Management and Planning Tool (CJSMPT) to divisions scheduled for deployment in Afghanistan. The software automates the spectrum management process, dramatically reducing the amount of time and paperwork associated with spectrum allocation and mission planning in a tactical environment.
For operational security reasons, Army officials cannot reveal exactly which divisions will be receiving the systems or when, but for the next few months, they will be working to get the system out to Afghanistan.
Rear Adm. Robert Day Jr., USCG, assistant U.S. Coast Guard commandant for command, control, communications and information technology, sees the Joint Information Environment as an opportunity to resolve some of the most pressing information technology problems in the years to come as he faces a future with more challenges and fewer resources. He says a military-wide common operating environment will establish “enterprisewide mandates that programs cannot ignore.”
The Army adjusts its training and career path for cyber domain troops and leaders.