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August 2013

U.S. Air Force Races to Modernize Critical Battle Control System

August 1, 2013
By George I. Seffers

U.S. Air Force officials are upgrading the battle command system used for managing all airborne platforms, including fighters, bombers, tankers, unmanned aerial vehicles, helicopters and cruise missiles. The modernized system will provide warfighters with faster access to real-time operations and intelligence information, better planning and collaboration tools and enhanced situational awareness while dramatically reducing sustainment costs.

The Theater Battle Management Core Systems (TBMCS), which resides within an air operations center, first was fielded about 13 years ago after a five-year development effort. Technologically speaking, a lot has changed since then. The system now is being made over with modern components, improved network centricity and better graphic user interface features that will make the upgraded version faster, easier and less expensive to operate than the original. The upgrade should be completed by March 2015.

At the heart of the overhaul lies the Air Tasking Order Management System (ATOMS), which will allow commanders to plan, organize and direct joint U.S. air operations. ATOMS includes an updated command and control air operations suite that will allow warfighters to perform mission planning and re-planning quickly and efficiently and will completely replace three existing applications within TBMCS: the Theater Air Planner, the Execution Management Re-Planner and the Master Attack Planning Toolkit. “When push comes to shove, TBMCS is the most important software in the air operations center right now. It runs the air operations center. We’re updating all of the TBMCS source code, and ATOMS is the core piece of that,” explains Capt. Scott Gross, USAF, ATOMS program manager, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts.

Contract Protest Does Not Change NGEN Vision

August 1, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

 

The U.S. Navy’s Next-Generation Enterprise Network will introduce a host of new capabilities for users when it is implemented. These improvements will become apparent over time as the system’s flexibility allows for technology upgrades and operational innovation on the part of its users.

The network’s overall goals remain the same despite a protest over the contract award. However the protest is resolved, the program is designed to provide networking at less cost and with more flexibility to adjust for changes that emerge as a result of operational demand or technology improvements. These new capabilities could range from greater use of mobile technologies to virtual desktops dominating user environments.

Terry Halvorsen, Department of the Navy chief information officer, emphasizes that the user community at first will see little change when the Next-Generation Enterprise Network (NGEN) begins operation. The Navy’s goal is for a seamless changeover from the existing Navy/Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI) to NGEN. “The user community initially won’t see any differences as we move forward in NGEN,” he says. “Everything we’re doing initially should be transparent to the user, and we have good plans in place to make that happen.”

NGEN aims to serve 800,000 users, 400,000 workstations and 2,500 locations in the United States and Japan. The Navy’s Fleet Cyber Command/10th Fleet will be operating the network with full command and control. Contractor personnel will perform some hands-on activities.

4G Will Get You 10X

August 1, 2013
By Master Chief Petty Officer Chris Vertin, USA (Ret.), Lt. Col. Scott Brooks, USA, and Lt. Col. Dave Hernandez, USA

 

A new 4G capability known as JOLTED TACTICS offers tactical units up to 10 times the wireless bandwidth, data rate and delivery speed of 3G networks. The Internet protocol-based system is designed to provide robust communications to dismounted special operations forces teams and general purpose forces at the tactical level. The system leverages innovations in 4G Long Term Evolution cellular technologies, software-based encryption and mobile Ka-band spread spectrum satellite communications to rapidly deliver megabits of data to mobile, dismounted teams equipped with specially configured mobile devices such as smartphones or netbooks.

The Joint Operational Long Term Evolution Deployable (JOLTED) Tactical Cellular System (TACTICS) also features the ability for forces to securely interface directly with existing command, control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems. This will not only give them access to previously unavailable mission data but also allow them to input information, potentially giving tactical commanders a far more accurate common operational picture. Using 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE)-based technology, dismounted forces can now use applications such as streaming media, voice over Internet protocol (VoIP), email and instant messaging for immediate situational awareness.

For example, remotely deployed forces equipped with a specially configured JOLTED TACTICS 4G device can exchange large video or imagery files in seconds rather than minutes. Forces operating in urban environments in Afghanistan or other flashpoints can receive and immediately share critical location and indication and warning data in usable formats, such as map overlays of threat locations or video from an unmanned aerial vehicle operating overhead.

Marines Set the Stage for Next-Generation Network

August 1, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

 

The steady march toward the U.S. Navy’s Next-Generation Enterprise Network underwent a leap ahead as the U.S. Marines undertook a full transition before the contract for the new system even was awarded. The multiyear effort saw the Corps methodically absorb functions of the Navy/Marine Corps Intranet predecessor so the service was positioned for a smooth adoption of the new network.

This shift to a government-owned network required more than just a change in direction. The Corps had to achieve the transition without allowing any break in services to its Marines concurrent with deployments to Southwest Asia. It had to move network operations seamlessly across a philosophical gulf as well as a logistical one without creating a new infrastructure. And, it had to finish the transition perfectly positioned for the incorporation of the Next-Generation Enterprise Network, or NGEN.

By design, the transition planners had to aim at a hidden target. The entire transition took place before the contract for NGEN was awarded (see page 53), so they had no idea what the network would resemble. They needed to estimate what the winning bidder—whichever team it would be—would configure as a cost-effective, government-owned and -operated enterprise network. Then, the planners had to design a transition that would lead the Corps to that envisioned destination without losing any functionality along the way.

On June 1, the multiyear effort largely was completed. Brig. Gen. Kevin J. Nally, USMC, director of Command, Control, Communications and Computers (C4) and chief information officer (CIO) for the Marine Corps, lauds the results. “The transition effort went very, very well,” he states, crediting the skill of the personnel involved for its successful outcome. Their knowledge, as well as their ability to adapt and overcome hurdles, were key to the transition program.

All Aboard for Joint Information Environment

August 1, 2013
By George I. Seffers

 

Despite small pockets of resistance, officials across the U.S. Defense Department and military services support the convergence of multiple networks into one common, shared, global network. Lessons learned from the theater of operations indicate the need for the joint environment, which will provide enterprise services such as email, Internet access, common software applications and cloud computing.

That was the consensus from a wide range of speakers and panelists at the June 25-27 AFCEA International Cyber Symposium in Baltimore. The Joint Information Environment (JIE) was a major topic of discussion. Lt. Gen. Mark Bowman, USA, director of command, control, communications and computers, J-6, the joint staff, indicated that the joint environment is his highest priority and described it as the way to the future. “We have no choice. We have to be interoperable day one, phase one, to plug into any operation anywhere in the world, whether it be for homeland defense, disaster relief here in the United States or some combat operation somewhere around the world with coalition partners,” Gen. Bowman declared.

Lt. Gen. Susan Lawrence, USA, Army chief information officer (G-6), called the JIE “absolutely essential,” and indicated that it will better allow warfighters to deploy “on little notice into any austere environment.”

Teresa Salazar, deputy chief, Office of Information Dominance, and deputy chief information officer, U.S. Air Force, said she saw the need for the JIE while in the desert, where every service and every “three-letter agency” came in with its own network, which led to vulnerabilities and a host of complications.

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