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Army Technologies

Army Communications Facility Centralizes Key Elements

March 1, 2013
BY Robert K. Ackerman

Aberdeen Proving Ground becomes the home of high-techology development, validation and deployment.

Consolidating its communications-electronics assets in a single location has given the U.S. Army vital resources and flexibility that it needs to address its changing information technology demands during a time of transition. This transition is twofold: not only is Army communications absorbing new commercial technologies and capabilities, the Army itself also is facing substantial changes as a force that has been overseas for more than a decade is redeploying back to its U.S. bases.

Some long-established programs have evolved to, or have been transitioned into, wholly new programs. These programs lend themselves to the new centralized approach, which is improving their implementation processes. Having research elements in the same location, as well as access to networked laboratory facilities at distant locations, is generating efficiencies that continue to be discovered as advanced communications and electronics technologies are developed for incorporation into the force.

The Base Closure and Realignment, or BRAC, process consolidated several Army elements, including the Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM), at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. They are grouped under the umbrella Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) Center of Excellence. One of these elements, the Program Executive Office (PEO) Command Control Communications-Tactical (C3T), is tasked with providing soldiers with tactical communications and computer systems.

Air Asset to Send Critical Material to Forces Faster

March 1, 2013
By Rita Boland

The plug-and-play technology will close large capability gaps in the field.

The U.S. Army is developing the first airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform fully enabled to connect analysts with the Distributed Common Ground System-Army. That system will help remedy problems currently hindering soldiers from having all data feed into a single repository. With the new aircraft, the process will be streamlined from the flying support, so information reaches ground commanders faster to facilitate more timely decision making.

Units will begin enjoying these connected benefits of the Enhanced Medium Altitude Reconnaissance and Surveillance System (EMARSS) aircraft in 2014, with the Army accepting deliveries from Boeing beginning later this year. In the past, all airborne intelligence platforms employed their own unique processing, exploitation and dissemination procedures that transmitted to specific ground stations. Personnel then had to find workarounds to share it with the troops who needed it. Through the Distributed Command Ground System-Army (DCGS-A), analysts can query the single system and retrieve the sensor data remotely.

Soldiers have used the DCGS-A extensively throughout their operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan. However, the Defense Acquisition Executive only approved the system for full deployment across the force in mid-December of last year.

The Army’s Guardrail platform is also DCGS-A capable, but it does not have operators of the system on board nor does it have imagery intelligence (IMINT) capability. Guardrail is designed to support only signals intelligence (SIGINT) to the DCGS-A, while EMARSS will bring in the imagery piece at the secret Internet router protocol network level. In addition, EMARSS will be the first platform that can provide data from secret to top secret immediately into the Army's distributed system.

The Now and Next of NIE

February 6, 2013
By Rita Boland

The U.S. Army is finalizing its official report on the Network Integration Evaluation 13.1 even as it prepares for the next iteration of the event and Capability Set 14. Soldiers are tweaking processes to make the exercises more valuable while working closer with industry to speed fielding as much as possible under tight acquisition regulations.

Depot Service Changes With Technology

February 1, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

The march of digitization has changed the mission of a longtime U.S. Army maintenance and repair depot from fixing broken radio systems in a warehouse to supporting troops using the newest software-driven communications devices in the field. This support ranges from testing or even manufacturing new gear in partnership with industry to integrating new information systems in combat zones.

The Tobyhanna Army Depot, Pennsylvania, has had to evolve with the changes in command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) systems in the information age. Changes in technologies and capabilities have been matched by the increasingly rapid pace of technology insertion into the force. The servicing of digital technology has expanded into new fields of operation.

Test facilities evaluate communications security, range threat testing, fire detection radars and satellite communications terminals for the Army as well as for other services. A rapid prototyping machine allows small additive manufacturing on plastics for prototyping. And, an Army language lab that can be deployed overseas helps military personnel in various countries around the world learn English so that they can train on U.S. systems and interoperate with their U.S. counterparts.

While the depot’s mission is defined as providing the overhaul, manufacturing and technology insertion services for C4ISR equipment, its activities extend into other areas that are increasing in importance in the digitized force.

“We keep the equipment going,” declares its commander, Col. Gerhard P.R. Schröter, USA.

U.S. Army Combines Key Acquisition Directorates

January 23, 2013
By George I. Seffers

Over the past month, the U.S. Army has consolidated two directorates in an effort to continue improving agile acquisition. Combining the offices is designed to allow more efficient and effective cooperation, enhance long-term planning capabilities and boost the service’s ability to acquire an overall system of systems.

The two directorates—System of Systems Engineering and System of Systems Integration—within the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology [ASA(ALT)] have been combined into the Systems of Systems Engineering and Integration Directorate. Heidi Shyu, the ASA(ALT), was briefed on the changes earlier this month.

Terry Edwards, who leads the new directorate, explains that under the previous organizational structure, no one was seeing the forest for the trees. “Unfortunately, these two processes weren’t connected optimally. The benefit first, for the Army, is the ability to look at a system of systems across the Army and to bring engineering and integration together,” Edwards says. “Nobody was looking at the system of systems.”

Additionally, he says, the former structure was too focused on the near-term. “The second benefit was to look at not just the near-term focused view of what we do for the Army, but also to look out at how we shape the Army’s architecture to be more capable but also more efficient in how we deliver that capability,” he says.

The ASA(ALT) officials have been developing long-term roadmaps toward the service’s future. “One thing Ms. Shyu has been doing is trying to establish this 30 year roadmap across all of our portfolios. One of the functions of our office will be to look across those portfolios and analyze how they align,” Edwards reveals.

Micrometer Materials Form 3-D Military Tools

January 9, 2013
By Rita Boland

Researchers at the U.S. Army Research Laboratory and Johns Hopkins University have discovered methods to control folding pathways and enable sequential folding on a millimeter scale using a low-intensity laser beam. Lasers at a low intensity worked as a trigger for tagging applications. Developers are fabricating sheets of millimeter-size structures that serve as battery-free wireless actuators that fold when exposed to a laser operating at eye-safe infrared wavelengths. The metallic structures may respond even to high-powered LED lighting. At the millimeter scale, the structures could attach, jump, apply friction and perform as mechanical switches serving a number of defense functions such as the remote initiation of energetic materials, micro thrusters for robotics and the attachment of transponder tags to fabric surfaces. They also could possibly integrate with logic/memory circuits, sensors, transponder tags and optical modules such as light emitting diodes.


Obstacles Loom for Pacific Realignment

January 1, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

The shift of U.S. power to the Asia-Pacific will not be successful without an infusion of new technology and a dedicated effort to defeat a wide range of adversaries. The new strategic emphasis on the Asia-Pacific region poses a new set of challenges, mandating solutions that run the gamut from technological capabilities to cultural outreach and diplomacy.

On the military side, direct challenges range from dealing with cyberspace attacks to providing missile defense in a large-scale conflict. On the geopolitical side, centuries of conflict and confrontation among neighbors must be overcome if a region-wide security environment enabling economic growth is to be implemented.

The technological response will require moving game-changing—or even disruptive—technologies into theater faster and more effectively. Strategically, both government and the military must build more extensive coalitions among a large number of nations, some of which historically have not trusted each other.

These points were among the many discussed at TechNet Asia-Pacific 2012, held in Honolulu, Hawaii, November 13-15. Titled “Rebalancing Toward the Asia-Pacific—Challenges and Opportunities,” the conference featured a multinational roster of speakers and panelists from across government, the military, industry and academia.

One challenge that faces modern military forces anywhere in the world is cyberspace, and the threat in that realm is extending into new areas with potentially greater lethality. A new type of player has emerged among cyber malefactors, and many traditional adversaries are adopting new tactics that combine both hardware and software exploitation. These threats no longer are confined to customary targets, as even systems once thought sacrosanct are vulnerable to potentially devastating onslaughts.

Korea Exercise Changes the Game

January 1, 2013
By Rita Boland

An unprecedented choice allows soldiers to use communications and intelligence assets in more meaningful ways.

Military operational decisions are moving further down the chain of the command, and a group of Stryker soldiers has taken a large step toward improving the training small units receive. Troops with this battalion had a chance to practice with capabilities never before available to them in an environment that simulates combat better than any facility they have at home. The results are new levels of preparation and confidence for whatever challenges they may be called on to handle next.

Home based in Hawaii, the 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division traveled to Korea to conduct the training event Wolfhound Maul. The unit is nicknamed the Wolfhounds. Contained within that effort was a smaller combined arms live fire exercise (CALFEX) that gave the unit’s three subordinate companies a chance to run full-spectrum operations with new assets in stressful surroundings. Maj. Christopher Choi, USA, operations officer for the battalion, says that as his team searched for the best resources to conduct the training it wanted to provide, it realized Korea offered benefits not available in Hawaii. After a careful cost-benefit analysis, decision makers chose to approve the travel to the Korean peninsula. Almost the entire battalion made the trip, with its companies experiencing the CALFEX training one at a time over a period of a month.

Army Technology Acquisition Stumbles Despite Best Efforts

December 13, 2012
By Robert K. Ackerman

In many cases, haste makes waste as the U.S. Army wrestles with the inherent contradictions that emerged as it tries to speed new information technologies to warfighters.

 

Technology Will Be the Leveling Tool for Pacific Rebalancing

November 16, 2012
By Robert K. Ackerman

TechNet Asia-Pacific 2012 Online Show Daily: Day 3

Quote of the Day: “Anyone who wants to go to conflict is not right.”—Lt. Gen. Francis J. Wiercinski, USA, commanding general, U.S. Army Pacific

Technology advances hold the key for the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) to fulfill its new missions as part of the U.S. strategic realignment toward the Asia-Pacific region. Many of the technologies that top the wish lists of PACOM leadership are the usual suspects: enablers of interoperability and data sharing. But, in addition to introducing new capabilities, technology advances also are needed for defending against emerging vulnerabilities.

The third and final day of TechNet Asia-Pacific 2012, held November 13-15 in Honolulu, Hawaii, featured a well-distributed set of PACOM leaders describing their challenges and needs. One panel featured four of the command’s joint directors discussing their requirements in the context of each other’s fields. Ultimately, the head of the Pacific Fleet delivered a straight-up wish list designed to carry the fleet well into the foreseeable future.

One item that seemed to be at the top of everyone’s list is the ability to share information across domains. Rear Adm. Paul B. Becker, USN, commander, PACOM J-2, director for intelligence, cited the ability to engage in multidomain data transfer. That common wish was expanded on by Brig. Gen. J. Marcus Hicks, USAF, director, communications systems, J-6, PACOM. Gen. Hicks also requested interoperability and the ability to move data across the domains.

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