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Army Technologies

Soldiers Shake Up NIE

May 1, 2013
By Rita Boland

Moving forward through sequester, next fiscal year's evaluations include new contracts and contacts.

As the U.S. Army prepares its network of the future, it plans to make some changes to the way it approaches working with government and private partners. The moves will increase interoperability downrange while attempting to shorten the ever-frustrating acquisition cycle that keeps the military behind the curve in implementing cutting-edge technologies.

Soldiers are starting to lay the groundwork for, and intend on inviting, airmen and Marines to participate in Network Integration Evaluations (NIEs) 14.1 and 14.2, scheduled for fall 2013 and spring 2014 respectively. They also are preparing to expand live, virtual and constructive (LVC) features, which will facilitate bringing in the new participants, because they may be able to exercise from remote locations. In a previous iteration, the Army had one of its own brigades carry out its parts through a simulation. Brig. Gen. Randal Dragon, USA, commanding general of the Army’s Brigade Modernization Command, explains that planners are shooting to find the LVC balance in 14.1 that will help them understand what they need to do to accommodate the joint network in 14.2. “We’re still in very, very early preliminary design stages,” he states. Before connecting a major joint, coalition or interagency partner to the network, the Army has to determine how to reduce risks and costs. Officials are attempting to find the right mix to enable the joint requirements while maintaining the momentum of systems of evaluation.

U.S. Army Announces Federal Virtual Challenge Winners

April 25, 2013

U.S. Army Research Laboratory officials have announced the winners of the 2013 Federal Virtual Challenge at the Defense Users’ GameTech Conference in Orlando, Florida. 


The challenge featured two distinct focus areas for entries. The first required training critical thinking and adaptability skills in an immersive environment and measuring learners’ progress. The second focused on improving user interfaces in virtual environments, specifically for individual and group navigation.


The winner of the first focus area and $10,000 was Virtual World Activities—“Compound” from Alice Hayden of H2IT Solutions Incorporated, and Dr. Filomeno Arenas of the U.S. Air Force Squadron Officer College. Compound is a virtual team-building game developed for the college’s Virtual World Activities. Students learn how to lead a team, best delegate and communicate tasks, work together to analyze and adapt to the situation, and make decisions to accomplish a mission. Trainees must be able to communicate effectively with one another and to their navigator—the only person with access to the map showing the location of mines. 


The winner of the navigation focus area and $10,000 was VIPE Holodeck—Navigation Interface by Ryan Frost of the Virtual Immersive Training Team at Northrop Grumman Technical Services. VIPE Holodeck explores the use of the low-cost, commercial off-the-shelf motion capture system, resulting in a method for the user to move easily through a virtual environment that feels natural and is easy to adapt to and learn. This entry provided navigation strategies that support a first-person shooter environment. The user can duck, jump, dodge, run and stop with impressive response time.

Soldiers Prepare for Deployment with WIN-T

April 18, 2013

The U.S. Army’s 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, is training with Warfighter Information Network–Tactical (WIN-T) Increment 2 capabilities for its upcoming deployment to Afghanistan. The nodes will provide the division’s on-the-move network, delivering situational awareness information and enabling mission command. In addition to connecting ground soldiers, the network allows company commanders in vehicles to receive orders in real time from higher headquarters. By incorporating the Army’s handheld, manpack, small form fit AN/PRC-154 Rifleman and two-channel AN/PRC-154 manpack radios, WIN-T creates secure on-the-go networks that connect soldiers at the squad level. The Army ordered 136 additional WIN-T Increment 2 network nodes in December, which brings the total number of network nodes to 532 and extends the reach of the soldier network to the company level.

Overseas Drawdown Shifts Army Electronics Maintenance

April 1, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

Force support will change with both stateside relocation and a new way of functioning.

Support to the U.S. Army warfighter’s communications and electronics assets will be taking a new direction as the Army redeploys back to the United States following more than a decade of combat deployments in Southwest Asia. Years of field maintenance will transition to base support, and the many commercial devices incorporated into battlefield operations will require a new approach to service and sustainment.

At the heart of these efforts is the Logistics and Readiness Center (LRC) based at the Army’s Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM), Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. The LRC is drafting a new structure for communications-electronics support that takes into account the new mission realities of home deployment and reduced resources.

Yet, even with the efficiencies that planners hope to achieve with the new structure, the center will be forced to cut back on much of its support. Some missions will need to be abandoned completely for lack of funding or available personnel.

Consolidation Is 
the Course for Army 
Electronic Warfare

April 1, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

Melding the disciplines of spectrum combat will enable greater flexibility and more capabilities.

The growth in battlefield electronics has spurred a corresponding growth in electronic warfare. In the same manner that innovative technologies have spawned new capabilities, electronic warfare is becoming more complex as planners look to incorporate new systems into the battlespace.

No longer can electronic warfare (EW) function exclusively in its own domain. The growth of cyber operations has led to an overlap into traditional EW areas. EW activities for countering remote-controlled improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Southwest Asia led to an increased emphasis on EW defense and offense. It also exposed the problem of signal fratricide when those EW operations interfered with allied communication.

The U.S. Army sped many systems into theater, and now it is working to coordinate those technologies into a more organized capability. The effort focuses on an integrated EW approach that will reconcile many of the existing conflicts and clear the way for more widespread use of EW in future conflicts.

“The Army definitely has wrapped its arms around the importance of EW,” declares Col. Joe DuPont, USA, project manager for electronic warfare at the Program Executive Office (PEO) Intelligence Electronic Warfare and Sensors (IEWS), Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.

The majority of the Army’s EW assets currently come from quick reaction capabilities (QRCs) that have been fielded over the past decade; these capabilities are attack, support and protection. The requirements largely came from theater, and the next systems due for fielding reflect those requests.

The U.S. Army Peers 
Into the Future

April 1, 2013
By Max Cacas

Technology plays a key role in helping the service adapt to a coming decade filled with uncertainty.

U.S. Army futurists believe that events such as last year’s Arab Spring predict a future that includes fighting not only on land but in cyberspace as well. The Army must do it with a renewed emphasis on using technology to empower commanders and their troops during a looming period of significant fiscal restraints.

The U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) at Fort Eustis, Virginia, released the U.S. Army Capstone Concept last December, a 34-page document that is an attempt by the service to define its role in the post-Afghan War era and provide a framework for how to fulfill that role. In the foreword, Gen. Robert W. Cone, USA, commanding general of TRADOC, writes that the capstone concept outlines the future operational environment, the role of the Army in the joint American military force and, finally, what capabilities and resources they will need to complete their mission. “Greater speed, quantity and reach of human interaction and increased access to military capabilities make the operational environment more unpredictable and complex, driving the likelihood and consequence of disorder,” Gen. Cone states. As a long-range plan that defines where the Army wants to be in the year 2020, the Army Capstone Concept (ACC) is heavy on context and analysis and leaves details and implementation to constituent commands.

One Small Step
 Toward Greater
 Interoperability

April 1, 2013
By George I. Seffers

An upcoming demonstration could lead to a giant leap in common electromagnetic components.

U.S. Army researchers intend to demonstrate in the coming weeks that some components, such as antennas and amplifiers, can perform two functions—communications and electronic warfare. The ultimate goal is to use the same components for multiple purposes while dramatically reducing size, weight, power consumption and costs. The effort could lead to a set of common components for electromagnetic systems across the Army, the other military services and even international partners, which would be a boon for battlefield interoperability.

Researchers at the Army’s Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC), Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, are discussing the concept with personnel from a wide range of organizations, including the Army Research Laboratory, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Navy and Air Force research laboratories, universities and other countries. The idea is for common components for command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) to serve multiple functions, such as communications and electronic warfare, possibly switching from one function to the other or even conducting multiple missions simultaneously.

“We work with a number of international partners—NATO of course,” points out Paul Zablocky, senior research scientist for electronic warfare within CERDEC’s Intelligence and Information Warfare Directorate. “The other one is The Technical Cooperation Program, which is called TTCP. That particular organization covers the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States.”

DISA Lays Groundwork for Commercial Cloud Computing Contract

March 26, 2013
By Max Cacas

One of the U.S. Defense Department’s top information technology officials says work is beginning on a multiaward contract for commercial cloud computing services, but the official says he has no timeline or total value for the business.

NASA Tests Biofuels for Environmental Effects, Performance

March 15, 2013
By Max Cacas

NASA is in the midst of its first phase of flight tests to determine the effects of alternative biofuels on the emissions and performance of jet engines flying at altitude.

The program is called the Alternative Fuel Effects on Contrails and Cruise Emissions, or ACCESS, according to Dr. Ruben Del Rosario, project manager of NASA’s Subsonic Fixed Wing project. The goal is to investigate how biofuels perform compared with traditional jet fuel and also to measure the environmental impact of biofuels. The results of the tests are significant because of the growing popularity of biofuels for both the U.S. Air Force and Navy as well as private sector aviation.

During the ACCESS tests, the space agency’s highly modified Douglas DC-8, which normally is used as a flying laboratory, will conduct a series of flights at altitudes as high as 40,000 feet, while a NASA Falcon HU-25 aircraft follows behind at distances of between 300 feet and more than 10 miles, according to Del Rosario. The flights will take place primarily over restricted airspace over Edwards Air Force Base in California.

ACCESS is the outgrowth of earlier preliminary research on biofuels and jets. “It was born out of two previous experiments that we conducted in 2009 and 2011 at NASA’s Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility,” Del Rosario explains. During those tests, ground-based instruments measured the exhaust emissions of the DC-8 while the plane was parked on a ramp at the Palmdale, California, facility.

“During the ground tests, we took very detailed emission measurements, measuring CO2 [carbon dioxide], different oxides, different particulates, measuring sulfur, all the different kind of emissions we could possibly measure with many other companies and institutions joining us, as well,” Del Rosario says.

Lawrence Maps Modernization Path to the Expeditionary Army

March 13, 2013
By Max Cacas

On the road to the future “expeditionary Army of 2020,” Lt. Gen. Susan Lawrence, USA, chief information officer/G-6, says the path through a changed environment will include buying only what is needed to deal with network and information technology refresh programs in the short term. In discussing how the Army will spend its money in the year to come, Gen. Lawrence said that her staff has done the basic engineering work and initial purchasing decisions for the network modernization of 10 installations. She discussed the topic during the keynote address at the 2013 Army IT Day, sponsored by AFCEA NOVA. The general says that those projects will be based on a model envisioning how Fort Hood will look and operate under a new infrastructure, with updated security and state-of-the art enterprise services (“The Army Maneuvers Back to the United States,” SIGNAL Magazine, July 2012).

Gen. Lawrence said the Army has realized that with constrained budgets and the rapid progress in the development of new technology, it is pointless to engage in the large scale acquisitions of the past only to see the cost of that technology drop as it is adopted or, worse, becomes obsolete by the time it is deployed. She says that reviews on the effectiveness of new technology will take place more rapidly and give Army leadership more reliable information on what to base future modernization projects.

Gen. Lawrence also reported that as of last night, the Army-led effort to migrate the military services to enterprise email topped the 1 million user mark. She briefly discussed the effort to develop a Commander's Risk Reduction Dashboard, designed to help create a “virtual dossier” on every soldier and provide the means to eliminate the stovepipes to information to help manage the lives of soldiers worldwide. The hope, she said, is to use the information to combat the suicide rate among members of the Army.

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