In the coming months, the U.S. Army will begin fielding components of its first integrated mobile network to units headed to Afghanistan. The equipment package known as Capability Set 13 will provide integrated voice and data throughout the brigade combat team. It also will offer on-the-move and beyond-line-of-sight communications, which could transform combat operations.
The multiyear evolutionary program that weaves a web of information around soldiers is entering the on-the-move communications phase. With at-the-quick-halt networking firmly in place, the latest capabilities extend communications to the brigade combat team and division levels. More importantly, they have been created with both legacy and not-yet-known future technologies in mind.
The U.S. Army is enhancing its premier intelligence distribution system in Afghanistan and around the world so that vast amounts of data are more accessible through cloud computing, laptops and handheld devices. It once took analysts days or weeks to sort through millions of files, but with the enhancements, they can do the same work in real time, which increases situational awareness and allows warfighters to make more informed decisions much faster.
Whether it is floods in the Midwest United States, earthquakes and tsunamis in Japan, blizzard conditions in Washington, D.C., or hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico, one does not have to go far these days to see that natural disasters are becoming a bigger part of life. Nowhere does that reality come into focus more than at the nation’s military bases, where troops face the triple challenge of maintaining a state of readiness prior to disasters, working to serve as recovery resources, and being good neighbors where possible to the local communities they call home.
U.S. Army communicators are focusing on providing key enabling technologies to warfighters who already are exploiting new networking capabilities. The urgencies of warfare, coupled with emerging communications requirements, have mandated that engineers concentrate on the user end of connectivity.
The future of U.S. Army networks is evolving at Fort Bliss, Texas, through the development, testing and exercising of technologies that range from apps to cognitive networks. Though the initiatives are separate efforts, combined field events and close physical proximity are creating synergy between developers. As the work moves forward, successful outcomes will change how soldiers communicate at home and in the field.
The U.S. Army is launching a new acquisition review aimed at a complete overhaul of organization, policies, work force and processes. Instead of focusing on individual characteristics of acquisition processes, this review is examining the full range of acquisition activities from rapid deployment to the warfighter to congressional rules and regulations. It will tap expertise from across the spectrum of the government and military acquisition professionals.
By the middle of this decade, a new command and control system will provide U.S. Army air defense forces with an extended view of the airspace over a battlefield. The capability will integrate the service’s sensors and weapons into a single network, allowing each platform to perform to its maximum abilities while minimizing operational weaknesses. Commanders will be able to access data quickly from any sensor on the network and order any weapon to engage a target.
The U.S. Defense Department’s point program for tactical electric power is introducing a new generation of power generators that will reduce the fleet average fuel consumption more than 20 percent. The Advanced Medium Mobile Power Sources generators—the handiwork of the U.S. Army’s Project Manager–Mobile Electric Power—is scheduled to enter production early next year and, once fully fielded, will save the Army more than 50 million gallons of fuel annually.
Developers are testing the many pieces that plug into the U.S. Army’s communications networks during the military branch’s annual system-of-systems event. The four-month exercise gives leaders a look at the network of the future. It also offers developers the opportunity to study many of soldiers’ critical assets in an operational venue, enabling experimentation outside of a laboratory. Understanding the real-world interoperability capabilities through these evaluations will help the Army ensure that predictions on paper become reality in the field.
The Signal Regiment faces daunting challenges in providing and maintaining an always-on network for widely scattered U.S. Army forces. Commercial Internet protocol for voice, data, video and network operations is essential to both combat prowess and the Army’s transformation into an expeditionary force.
The U.S. Army’s ambitious and controversial Future Combat Systems program to develop a family of networked combat vehicles, robots and sensors has been cancelled and is being broken up into three separate programs. These three divergent efforts will focus on new ground vehicles; technological upgrades, or spinouts, for all Army units; and network and software development. The changes are part of an undertaking to bring new capabilities into service over the next 15 years.
The U.S. Army is launching a military career path focused on electronic warfare to support its forces deployed in Southwest Asia. This occupational field meets a demand by commanders to have skilled personnel operating the mobile jamming equipment that has become common throughout the theater. However, the Army is still in the process of establishing the occupation’s management, training courses and related doctrine.
The U.S. Army training community now can take advantage of an online resource that combines official doctrine with traditional and Web 2.0 technologies. Following in the footsteps of other military niches that have created communities on the Internet, training personnel have transformed a tasking to revise a field manual into development of a Web site that offers one-stop shopping for educators’ needs. The online applications are available to anyone with the right credentials, and the more people contribute to the content, the more powerful the tools will become.
Building networks and speeding new information technologies into the field are changing U.S. Army acquisition permanently, according to a general tasked with maintaining connectivity among diverse forces. The need for commercial networking technologies and capabilities, along with the exigencies of warfighters facing unconventional combat, are impelling the Army to accelerate new technologies to the front and to change programs concurrently.
The U.S. Army’s LandWarNet program is reinventing itself as it progresses toward its goal of full connectivity from the command level down to the individual soldier. Technologies deployed in support of warfighters in Iraq and Afghanistan are leading to changes in the overarching program, and capabilities introduced by the private sector are adding a new flavor to the Army’s contribution to the Global Information Grid. Even Web 2.0 capabilities are coming into play as they resolve long-standing problems and offer radically new ways of development.
TThe U.S. Army’s ambitious transformation program is making headway with a series of successful tests and demonstrations. Designed to create an integrated family of vehicles, robots and weapons systems linked through a unified battlefield network, the program has been criticized as being overly complex and expensive. But Army officials hope that the recent tests, coupled with the initial deployment of components of the new system, indicate that the overall effort is on track.
A small yet dedicated cadre of network and intelligence experts is helping keep the U.S. Army’s network safe in Europe—and by extension, worldwide—by ferreting out the bad guys in cyberspace. This unique group of civilian soldiers characterizes the threat by examining how adversaries ping and attempt to infiltrate networks, and then it seeks to find their motives. Rather than simply identifying the techniques enemies employ, the group provides the service with the context surrounding attacks so cyberwarriors are better prepared to defend the Army’s information infrastructure.
The U.S. Army's revolution in communications and information systems is winding down, but the frenetic activity that defined it is being replaced by a steadier progress toward a fully networked force. The result is a focus on capabilities rather than on enabling technologies as the Army continues to extend the benefits of the network down to the warfighter.
After several changes in course, the U.S. Army is back on track for modernization and digitization. World events and priority shifts compelled the service to reassess its trajectory to take better aim at these moving targets whose pace quickens with the introduction of each new technology. Although the sheer size of the force and scale of the job amplifies the challenges, Army leaders say the service is now on a flexible yet stable path that leads to successful network centricity in the long term.