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May 2013

Changing the Course of Coalition Connectivity

May 1, 2013
By Rita Boland

NATO has established a new organization in Afghanistan to manage the communications and information systems there in an attempt to revolutionize its approach to those services. The group subsumes operations that used to fall under multiple regional commands, streamlining activities while conserving resources.

The NATO Sector International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) reached initial operational capability at the beginning of January and expects to reach full operational capability in June, putting the organization three-and-a-half months ahead of schedule. With the sector’s establishment, one group now oversees NATO’s entire footprint in Afghanistan to meet requirements in the most expeditious, effective and cost-efficient manner. This includes managing an estimated 70 to 75 points of presence. “It also gives us much more flexibility,” says Col. David E. Jenkins, USA, commander, Sector ISAF.

At full operation, the sector will have responsibility for all coalition, command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C5ISR) that NATO manages. In the event of any failure, sector personnel will have to find a solution to bring equipment back online through various service-level agreements.

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.”

Nations Strive for 
Interoperability

May 1, 2013
By Max Cacas

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. But one of the largest of those partners, the United States, is not taking a leading role in one of the newest, and most challenging areas, cybersecurity.

The Coalition Warrior Interoperability Exploration, Experimentation and Examination Exercise (CWIX) is held annually by NATO’s Military Committee and overseen by NATO’s office of Allied Command Transformation (ACT) based in Norfolk, Virginia. This year’s exercise will take place June 3 to 20, with its primary execution site at the Joint Forces Training Center in Bydgosczc, Poland.

Meet 
Laser-Triggered, Origami-Like Pixie Dust

May 1, 2013
By George I. Seffers

U.S. Army researchers have developed micro materials that fold when hit with a low-intensity laser. The advance may eliminate the need for relatively bulky power systems—such as battery packs—on tiny robotic systems. It also could enable robotic microthrusters, unattended ground sensors, or even—theoretically—programmable, easily changeable camouflage patterns.

The microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) are shaped like stars with four, six or eight legs. The legs fold—like origami—when heated slightly with light from a low-level laser. That folding action is accomplished without the materials being tethered to batteries, wires or other any other power supply.

One of the most likely applications would be a new kind of switch that prevents electricity leakage when a device is turned off. “You could turn on a structure or turn off a structure from a distance by shining a light on it,” explains Chris Morris, an Army Research Laboratory (ARL) electronics engineer who leads the On-chip Energetics and MEMS team. “And when the structure is in an off state, it would be truly off, unlike a solid-state electrical switch where there’s always some leaking through even when it’s off.”

Microrobotic applications are more futuristic. “I could see this as potentially being a way to enable very, very small robotic-like platforms where you have little legs that would move in response to light—and potentially even different colors of light, so they could be directed to walk in one direction or another depending on what color of light you’re flashing at them,” Morris explains. “That’s one interesting aspect that circumvents the current power supply challenge with small-scale robotic systems for surveillance and reconnaissance. The power supplies are so bulky and heavy that in order to get something big enough to carry the power supply, you no longer have a small, cheap, disposable package. You have something the size of a kid’s remote-control car.”

Navy Launches 
New Experiments

May 1, 2013
By Rita Boland

Opportunities abound for industry to add technical expertise to diverse scientific exploration efforts.

Scientists at the Office of Naval Research are creating the world that will exist half a decade from now through projects that will change the face of the battlefield. With specific programs already decided, officials are turning their attention to garnering the support they need to make their burgeoning technologies a reality.

The Future Naval Capabilities (FNC) Portfolio for fiscal year 2014 includes 16 major studies—called enabling capabilities—most with command, control, communications, computer, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) facets. “Almost all of them have some relationship to the C4ISR community,” says Dr. Thomas Killion, director of transition at the Office of Naval Research (ONR). “Some are more directly involved with it.” One of the most technical projects is geared toward units at the company level and below that must operate in austere environments. The Exchange of Actionable Information at the Tactical Edge (EAITE) aims to provide these troops with more efficient and timely automated production and dissemination of information products. Focused mainly on the Marine Corps, EAITE will examine bandwidth requirements regarding how to load the system with the relevant data that is available when necessary within the constraints of the operating network.

The Spectral Reconnaissance Imagery for Tactical Exploitation (SPRITE) is designed to benefit the Marine Corps and the Navy, offering a hyperspectral and wide-area intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capability for Marine Corps tactical unmanned aerial systems (UASs) and small tactical UASs. SPRITE will complement existing electro-optical wide-area airborne surveillance and autonomously detect threats such as improvised explosive device precursors or hidden targets.

Second Skin for 
a Lighter Warfighter

May 1, 2013
By Max Cacas

Academic, research and industry teams join forces to improve uniform materials.

New fabrics now under development will one day relieve troops from the burden of wearing additional garments to protect from chemical and biological attack. The effort, dubbed Second Skin, is being led by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s Chemical and Biological Technologies Department. The goal is to weave a new generation of multifunctional materials that can be manufactured into everyday military uniforms but use molecular-level technologies to protect against such attacks as soon as the wearer enters a contaminated area. The program is budgeted for $30 million over the next five years.

Hooded, heavy and cumbersome suits in hot desert climates worn in anticipation of possible chemical attacks and the accompanying discomfort would become a thing of the past if the Second Skin program is successful, according to Tracee Harris, science and technology manager for Novel Materials, Chemical and Biological (CB) Technologies Department, at the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. “The vision of dynamic multifunctional materials for Second Skin technology is to enable the manufacture of autonomous protective garments—in other words, garments that can respond to a CB threat by optimizing the balance between the CB protection that the garment can offer and thermal comfort for the wearer,” she explains.

Harris cites studies performed by the U.S. Army Research Institute for Environmental Medicine that show a physiological effect that current suits have on soldiers’ abilities to perform their mission. “They’re performing moderate work, marching under those conditions, under high relative humidity, and high temperatures,” she says, adding that in normal use, soldiers usually must rest after wearing the suit for one hour. Generally, suits are issued to troops for use only in situations where they may be marching into a known threat.

Coast Guard Adopts a 
High-Frequency Solution

May 1, 2013
By Arthur Allen and Zdenka Willis

The synergy between operational planning and radar sensing provides enhanced search and rescue capabilities.

The U.S. Coast Guard is combining high-frequency coastal radar data with traditional oceanographic and geographic information to improve its chances of rescuing people in distress on the high seas. By merging these different sources of data, the Coast Guard enhances its search abilities while also providing better weather prediction for both its search and rescue teams and an endangered public in coastal areas.

This combining of different data types requires more than just technological interoperability. It also mandates cooperation between two different government organizations: the Coast Guard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Both groups have been expanding their cooperation, and the results have been synergistic.

The utility of this approach was demonstrated when Superstorm Sandy struck the Eastern Seaboard in October 2012. The Coast Guard prosecuted 159 search and rescue (SAR) cases before, during and after Sandy made landfall. One of those cases was the sailing vessel HMS Bounty, which foundered and sank at the height of the storm off the coast of North Carolina. Aircrews from Air Station Elizabeth City plucked 14 crewmembers from the raging seas that night.

Two Bounty crewmembers did not survive—Claudene Christian, whose body was recovered, and the captain, Robin Walbridge, who was lost to the sea. In addition to two helicopters, a C-130 Hercules aircraft, an HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft, the high-endurance cutter Gallatin (WHEC-721) and the seagoing buoy tender Elm (WLB-204) supported the four-day search covering some 12,000 square miles of ocean, battling 30-foot seas and 60-knot winds, trying, ultimately in vain, to locate Captain Walbridge.

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.

Does the Joint Information Environment 
Help or Hinder Coalition Interoperability?

May 1, 2013
By Kent R. Schneider

Coalition interoperability has received a good deal of focus during the past few years. The Afghan Mission Network (AMN) has given many hope that a repeatable solution for coalition operations could be developed that would allow rapid deployment of a coalition-compatible network for future conflicts. The Future Mission Network (FMN) is envisioned to allow coalition partners to plug into a standards-compliant network with the functionality and security needed to support complex operations.

Recently, in discussions on the U.S. Defense Department initiative to develop a common operating environment referred to as the Joint Information Environment, or JIE, I began to consider whether the creation of such a common environment for the department would help move toward agile and effective coalition information sharing, or would put more distance between the U.S. military and its partners.

The conclusion I have reached is that the JIE could help or hinder coalition efforts, depending on how the JIE architecture is coordinated and whether it is kept on a path parallel to the FMN. It is important to remember that coalition information sharing today is more than just how the United States works with its foreign allies. Anywhere on the mission spectrum, the Defense Department must work with a wide range of U.S. federal agencies, industry partners and, sometimes, state, local and tribal agencies, as well as with international partners.

This means the legacy architectures, direction and needs of this extremely diverse set of players must be considered at every step of the development of the JIE. And, it is imperative to keep the development of the JIE and the development of the FMN coordinated every step of the way. Failure to do this will make it more difficult, not easier, to work with interagency partners and coalition partners.

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