A military exercise designed to refine and improve the way coalition partners share vital information will, for the first time, include the network that is supporting troops in Afghanistan. Scheduled to take place in Poland next month, the event will feature military command and control communications experts from NATO, partner organizations and nations who share the goal of rigorously testing communications interoperability among coalition members.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Aberdeen Proving Ground becomes the home of high-techology development, validation and deployment.
The defining images of the opening stages of the 2001 Afghanistan invasion were of bearded U.S. Special Operations forces on horseback talking with invisible air assets high overhead. Ancient transportation technology melded with cutting-edge communication protocols created an odd but appropriate scenario in the midst of a wholly unanticipated conflict. The synergy of high- and low-capability technologies likely will define 21st century conflicts, especially with foes we cannot currently imagine.
The newly reconstituted Joint Staff office is not just picking up where the previous version left off.
Sometime soon, swarms of autonomous robots may help battlefield communications networks stay up and running even in the most challenging battlefield environments. Each individual machine is a mobile communications node. When grouped together, these smart relays will automatically form a network and realign themselves to maintain links in the face of jamming, radio interference or complex, radio-unfriendly terrain such as buildings.
The U.S. Army is pushing the network to the tactical edge in a viable way with the development of a new radio. The communications tool will enable individual soldiers to connect more efficiently among each other and with higher levels of leadership, employing a technology that allows troops to pass messages even without line of sight. Mass production of the core parts makes the radios affordable, and use of controlled but unclassified communications makes them applicable for uncleared personnel in infantry units.
Existing X-band commercial communications satellites with fundamental high power and bandwidth advantages enable communications-on-the-move dexterity. Spacecraft advances and state-of-the-art tracking technology with small but stable antennas facilitate a wide variety of high-data-rate communications for mobile military missions encompassing land, sea and air.
Sure and steady progress in communications in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has dramatically sped up the pace of coalition combat, security, governance and development operations throughout the country. Since 2001, telecommunications capabilities have leapt from the Stone Age into the 21st century, and military networks have been taught to talk to each other. From the tactical perspective, this progress is increasing shared situational awareness and boosting collaboration among nations.
New tactical communications technologies are giving U.S. forces in Iraq tremendous capabilities that are essential to the new warfighting doctrine that has been implemented. But in turn, these capabilities are generating a wish list for communicators as they try to extend their reach to those who need them the most.
Armed forces around the world soon may deploy an integrated family of communications intelligence and electronic warfare systems. Designed for export, the hardware and software supports land and sea forces, as well as national intelligence services, by sharing data across all echelons from the tactical level up to national-level organizations. Parts of the system already are in service with the French army.
The U.S. Army has networked the battlefield, providing troops with the first digital systems they actually wear. Capabilities formerly reserved exclusively for use on vehicles are now available at the individual level, altering how warfighters manage combat operations. This cutting-edge technology improves situational awareness and interoperability as well as command and control.
The first phase of the U.S. Army’s ambitious modernization program is preparing to enter service. The multi-billion dollar effort seeks to transform the Army into a network-centric force with advanced vehicles and precision weapons. Initial low-rate production and operational testing of selected equipment and software are underway after years of development and cost issues.
The U.S. Air Force is preparing to release a new version of a system designed to improve the service’s interoperability with joint, allied and coalition command and control systems. For the Air Force to accomplish its mission and support joint and coalition operations, it needs to include the capabilities of the new version in a network-centric, information-sharing environment. The system will provide a consolidated environment for planners at all command levels to access and influence force projection data.
The U.S. Central Command is juggling new technologies with new missions amid joint and coalition environments as it fights adversaries that change tactics quicker than the command can upgrade equipment. Many of the command’s communication and information system requirements mirror those of other U.S. commands. However, the acid test of combat is highlighting capabilities and drawbacks of many new tactical systems in ways that could change long-range planning for defensewide communications.
The U.S. military is revolutionizing the way it fights in urban environments. A tactical transformational concept that shifts the emphasis from the adversary to the local population has been fast-tracked to commanders operating in Afghanistan, and it is being supported by technology that originally was designed to help market toothpaste to China. The technology, along with some very innovative thinking, reveals both intended and unintended consequences of actions so decision-makers can anticipate the impact each will have in a particular situation.
U.S. troops in Iraq are performing investigative fieldings of instant speech-to-speech translators as a result of efforts by several government organizations and private companies. The language barriers faced by U.S. forces and Iraqis inhibit training and routine operations. As operation Iraqi Freedom continues, the need for better communication between U.S. troops and Iraqi soldiers and civilians is becoming increasingly important.