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Battlespace Information Systems

Visual Information
 on Your Sleeve

July 1, 2013
By Max Cacas

Recent developments in advanced materials bring the Army closer to next-generation displays for a new breed of warfighter mobile devices.

A coalition of military, academic and industry scientists is approximately one year away from the first working prototypes of mobile devices using newly developed flexible display technologies. The goal is to demonstrate that manufacturing the displays can be done economically, and in quantity, so that they can be widely adopted by mobile device makers, benefitting both the military and consumers. Project managers ultimately hope to introduce mobile devices that are lighter, more reliable and less expensive.

These displays could make possible small screens bearing important tactical information that would be worn on the sleeve of a soldier’s uniform. Another use might be as a pen that fits in a pocket but contains a roll-out display with maps and mission information. The technology even might enable rugged displays worn on the thigh of a field medic with the latest medical record information on the patient in front of him or her.

“The goal of the program is to speed development of flexible displays for the soldier,” says David Morton, program manager for flexible displays with the Army Research Laboratory (ARL) in Adelphi, Maryland. “They had a recognized need for lightweight, rugged, flexible displays. And, although industry was working on it, the goal of the program was to speed the development so that the Army could get them sooner.”

The ARL is conducting the flexible display research and development in conjunction with Arizona State University and a growing list of industry and academic partners (see box, page 47). The focus of the nearly decade-long collaborative effort is the Flexible Display Center (FDC), located in Tempe, Arizona.

Air Force Strikes at New
 Information Challenges

June 1, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

Costs, security and operations requirements share top billing on priority list.

The U.S. Air Force is looking to overhaul its networking capabilities to meet new taskings in the post-Southwest-Asia era. Limited resources are changing the way the Air Force moves information throughout the battlespace, so the service must confront its challenges through innovative approaches and cooperative efforts.

The Air Force has to determine which networking issues have organic solutions and which problems must be solved by others—government, other military organizations or even the private sector. It must make those determinations without knowing if it will have the funding to tap outside resources that could meet its needs. And, these issues have to be addressed as cyber and coalition interoperability assume greater emphasis in both planning and operations.

Lt. Gen. Michael J. Basla, USAF, chief of information dominance and chief information officer (CIO)/A-6, U.S. Air Force, is in charge of ensuring Air Force networks effectively support the service as well as the joint and coalition communities. His top concerns are built around space superiority; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR); rapid global mobility; global strike; and command and control.

Gen. Basla relates that, in a discussion with Defense Department officials, he suggested that investments in cyber and information technologies can offset costs in other areas. A nonkinetic effect might be less expensive than a kinetic effect and still achieve an operational objective. But even that option for efficiency faces hurdles, budgetary concerns among them.

Making Tactical Communications History

May 1, 2013
By George I. Seffers

Two brigades from the Army's 10th Mountain Division are preparing to deploy to Afghanistan with a host of technologies that will allow the units to provide their own network down to the tactical edge. The new equipment provides battalion and company commanders with a communications on the move capability and pushes critical data down to the individual squad level.

Army Network Testing 
Increases Commonality

May 1, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

The same approach used to test and implement the Army’s single largest networking system is laying the groundwork for extending the network down to the individual soldier. As laboratory tests and field exercises validate the interoperability of separate elements in a network, system conflicts are giving way to greater commonality among different elements.

This effort has borne fruit in the evolution of the Warfighter Information Network–Tactical (WIN–T). The last fielding of WIN–T Increment 1 took place in August 2012, and WIN–T Increment 2 is taking the final steps toward deployment. Meanwhile, WIN–T Increment 3 is beginning to take shape.

As these increments progress toward full implementation, their test efforts are helping leaven out other capabilities. Greater interoperability testing of individual elements in a fully networked environment is allowing engineers to extend interoperable functions farther down the chain of command and into the hands of individual warfighters.

Col. Edward J. Swanson, USA, project manager WIN–T (PM WIN–T), explains that WIN–T Increment 1 provides a static networking capability for forces in the field. While it does not work on the move, soldiers can establish WIN–T linkage at the quick halt—they simply pull their vehicle off the road to a dead stop and immediately begin communications without a complicated setup. Newer WIN–T Increment 1 systems incorporate Joint Network Node Ka-band satellite connectivity, and its capabilities are deployed down to the battalion level. Col. Swanson describes WIN–T Increment 1 as “the backbone of the tactical network today.”

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.

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.

Advanced Capabilities Required for Future Navy Warfighting

April 4, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

Future conflicts likely will be fought in degraded information technology environments, which will require the U.S. Navy to develop and exploit new capabilities to continue to operate in contested cyberspace. Technologies such as a flexible information grid, assured timing services and directed energy weapons must be part of the naval information system arsenal if the sea service is to maintain information dominance through the year 2028.

These were just a few of the findings presented in the Navy’s Information Dominance Roadmap 2013-2028, which was released in late March. Presented by Rear Adm. William E. Leigher, USN, the Navy’s director of warfighter integration, the report outlines the growing challenges facing the fleet and how the Navy must meet them.

The report divides information dominance challenges into three areas: assured command and control (C2), battlespace awareness and integrated fires. While the United States will continue to maintain supremacy in those areas, that supremacy is shrinking as more nations are closing the gap between U.S. capabilities and the ability to disrupt them.

Among the advanced capabilities the Navy will require toward the end of the next decade is assured electromagnetic spectrum access. Achieving this will entail fielding greater numbers of advanced line-of-sight communication systems; being able to monitor combat system operational status and adjust it using automated services; having a real-time spectrum operations capability that enables dynamic monitoring and control of spectrum emissions; and generating a common operational picture of the spectrum that is linked to electronic navigation charts and displays operational restrictions.

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.

Marine Corps Ponders Training Changes

April 1, 2013
By Max Cacas

After a special operations deployment, handling state-of-the-art communications technology tops the list.

Back from a nearly year-long deployment to Afghanistan, the 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion already is working to apply lessons learned to training for the next deployment. As the battalion prepares for its next mission, it is reflecting on what its Marines learned about how they train, how their equipment worked and how they will prepare themselves for the future.

While they are able to use some of the best electronic communications gear developed for the military, the Marines nonetheless are trying to learn how they can improve both their initial and follow-up training to get the most out of that equipment. They also are asking important questions about whether they have enough, and the right kinds, of equipment.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 (CWO2) Jason Reed, USMC, is a spectrum operations officer, G-6, and one of the members of the Marine battalion responsible for supporting the communications needs of Marines during the deployment. CWO2 Reed says one of the first things his bosses at the Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC) headquarters wanted to know is what worked, what went well and, more importantly, what needed improvement based on the deployment. For CWO2 Reed, that meant one thing: training for combat service support personnel.

He explains that MARSOC recruits Marines who have already received training for more conventional duties. “They’re radio operators, they’re maintenance folks, they’re cryptologists, they’re data network operators,” CWO2 Reed outlines. Upon arrival at MARSOC, however, the Marines receive a new level of training to support Special Operations, getting what he calls “a new baseline” in training.

Communications Labs JOIN Forces Remotely

March 1, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

The whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts in a networked software engineering realm.

A network built after its major move to a new base is allowing the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command to link diverse communications systems into an overarching network. This enables capabilities ranging from debugging software updates before they are sent to the front to a multinational exercise for validating operational activities.

When the Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM) relocated from Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, under the Base Closure and Realignment program (BRAC), it used the opportunity to consolidate capabilities and build new facilities from the ground up that would allow the command to take advantage of the latest technologies. Among these facilities is the Joint On-demand Interoperability Network, or JOIN. This network connects with other laboratories and communications facilities, including some in theater, to share resources and solve problems by using all of their capabilities.

The network has existed in some form for more than two decades. Today’s JOIN community includes research, development, testing and evaluation as well as life-cycle support. JOIN serves as the nexus for these diverse elements. It provides two capabilities: services and interconnectivity as a technical hub.

John Kahler, chief of JOIN, allows that the network was established to integrate the entire command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) community and to provide a technical hub so that organizations could exploit each other’s resources as well as work in “a collaborative, common operating environment.” Participants can conduct research, development, testing and engineering along with life-cycle support.

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