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Tactical Operations

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.

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.

Inexpensive Solutions Emerge for the Modern Battlefield

March 1, 2013
By Lt. Ben Kohlmann, USN

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.

As our official defense posture pivots to the Pacific, this strategic imperative calls for specific procurement decisions and military kit. Yet, what if we are wrong? Does the greatest threat to our national security truly come from Asia? What if in preparing for a low-probability, high-cost conflict, we end up facing an enemy who intentionally and subtly maneuvers around our complex systems?

It seems more than coincidental that our perceived threats also mesh with status quo, high-cost technological solutions. Intentionally or not, we are preparing to fight only the types of wars we currently are best suited to fight. Our military is built on emphasizing the physical aspect of warfare, especially when it comes to fielding advanced technology.

However, pouring precious time and scarce resources into incredibly complex, expensive technology, inhibits our ability to buy capabilities more suited to higher-probability, low-intensity, prolonged conflicts. These more difficult challenges, like rebuilding Iraq and Afghanistan, are not going away, even if we hope they will.

The argument for high-cost, high-complexity weapons systems in all circumstances claims that by countering the most capable threat, these systems necessarily will be suitable for every contingency. They can be “degraded” with equal effectiveness for a lower-intensity conflict. This, however, is simply not always the case.

Not Your 
Father's J-6

October 1, 2012
By Robert K. Ackerman

The newly reconstituted Joint Staff office is not just picking up where the previous version left off.

A U.S. Navy information systems technician troubleshoots network equipment onboard the USS Carl Vinson. Future U.S. military platforms may be designed with space designated for communications equipment, which would be incorporated after the platform rolls off the assembly line.

After a two-year organizational hiatus, the Joint Staff J-6 billet is back with a new focus on interoperability and enterprisewide networking capabilities. These new authorities come as the military seeks to exploit commercial mobile communications technologies to an increasing degree with results that could change the nature of defense networking as well as its procurement.

All of the issues that have defined defense information technology utilization—interoperability, security, rapid technology insertion—are part of the thrusts being launched by the new J-6. Even the very nature of requirements may change as industry adopts the new approaches being endorsed by the Joint Staff’s new information office.

“This is not the same J-6 that existed before,” declares Maj. Gen. Mark S. Bowman, USA, director of command, control, communications and computers (C4), J-6, and chief information officer (CIO), the Joint Staff. “It is very different.”

Small Machines Weave Communications Web

November 2008
By Henry S. Kenyon

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.

Rifleman Moves Information Sharing to The Front of Operations

November 2008
By Rita Boland

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.

Manmade Stars Boost Warriors' Agility

November 2008
By Clarence A. Robinson Jr.

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.

Troops in Afghanistan Bridge Communications Gap

November 2008
By Maryann Lawlor

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.

Tactical Communications Advances Seize The Day in Iraq

November 2008
By Robert K. Ackerman

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.

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