Aligning the Tactical Network with Joint All-Domain Warfighting
Army leaders are making sure the integrated tactical network fits into joint plans for multidomain operations.
The U.S. Army has spent the last two years pursuing a modernized integrated tactical network, or ITN, that supports increased mobility, resiliency and capabilities. Now, the service has a focus toward making sure that the modernization of that network can enable joint all-domain command and control, or the concept of JADC2. The service is preparing to fight seamlessly across the sea, land, air, space and cyberspace, or multidomain operations, by 2028.
“Our network modernization efforts will enable JADC2 capability,” states Brig. Gen. Robert Collins (USA), program executive officer for Command, Control, Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T). “Working with the Network Cross-Functional Team (CFT), we are aligning Capability Set (CS) development to JADC2 objectives and are seeking to optimize experimentation and existing program efforts to enhance JADC2 capabilities.”
As part of the Army’s contribution to JADC2, in particular, the PEO C3T and the Network CFT—the modernization team—are supporting ground domain data and network transport capability, Gen. Collins says. “For example, mobile and expeditionary network transport systems, such as small aperture terminals, gateways, cross-domain guards and secure waveforms, are needed to support MDO [multidomain operations] and provide transport of sensor to shooter data in the JADC2 construct,” he states. “We must also be able to carefully manage data flow over network transport to ensure that the volume of data that will be produced does not ‘clog’ tactical network transportation pipes.”
Capabilities in medium earth orbit and low earth orbit offer another communication pathway for multidomain operations. The modernization team has started development and experimentation efforts with commercial satellite constellations and ground terminals to leverage those capabilities as they mature, the general notes.
The PEO C3T and the Network CFT also will explore data management techniques, harnessing artificial intelligence, machine learning, tactical cloud, and edge computing to help mitigate network transport issues, Gen. Collins offers.
Moreover, to enhance the common operational picture for MDO, the team will conduct experimentation efforts in the near future to look at how the Army can integrate MDO overlays into its Command Post Computing Environment.
As such, the service is coordinating closely with the other military departments, Gen. Collins says. “Working with joint service partners, we are understanding the necessary tactical network requirements to support JADC2.”
“We have to make sure that everything we do as an Army allows us to remain interoperable with our joint partners and our coalition teammates,” adds Maj. Gen. Peter Gallagher, USA, director of the Network Cross-Functional Team (Network CFT).
Over the last year, the Army began experimenting with JADC2 during Project Convergence, the 2019 Joint Warfighting Assessment (JWA), other tabletop exercises and events with the combatant commands. Because the development of Army-related JADC2 capabilities involves the initial partial linkage of sensors and the Army’s tactical network with the other services, the Network CFT and PEO C3T attended several experiments connecting to the Air Force’s Advanced Battle Management System, Gen. Gallagher says. The Army has worked to connect with the Air Force’s JADC2 experimentation nucleus, their Shadow Operations Center at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, and at trials at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.
“That is very critical,” the Network CFT director states. “We’ve been working closely over the last several months to stay in sync with The Joint Staff, and they have had several ABMS demonstrations at Eglin and Nellis, and we’ve participated in JADC2 experimentation exercises. And we are actively involved in the mission engineering threads as they design the network architecture of the future to ensure that we have joint fires, joint situational awareness and a joint tactical grid for the joint force, so that our Army modernization efforts are aligned with those. And we will work that very closely going forward.”
And although the military has had to cancel many JADC2 and other exercises and events since mid-March—including JWA Defender 2020 and combat center rotations—due to the pandemic, the Army has had the opportunity since then to obtain feedback from the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, which was deployed to the Middle East as part of the global response force mission, Gen. Gallagher says.
Going forward, the Army will test its JADC2 efforts during the next JWA, planned for the last week of June and early July in 2021. That JWA JADC2 effort will be tied to the Pacific Sentry event held by the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command and will build on the success of the 2019 JWA exercise, during which the United States worked with the Five Eyes nations and other partners, such as Singapore and France.
“One of the most important aspects of the Army is that we are always going to fight as part of a joint force,” Gen. Gallagher continues. “And we usually fight with coalition teammates. So, [we are] making sure that we are aligned with the JADC2 CFT out of The Joint Staff and partnering with the Air Force, the Marine Corps, Navy and others to make sure that our alignment, as we reach our objectives in the future to deliver the network that allows us to be MDO dominant by 2028, is aligned with our teammates across the military departments and across the Defense Department.”
The Network CFT director clarifies that the team is postured to deliver the first tranche of technologies as part of its Capability Set 2021 (CS 21), following a successful critical design review this spring—which fits right in with the plan to help enable JADC2. “We are moving faster to keep pace with emerging technology and threats in cyber, spectrum and electronic warfare,” Gen. Gallagher notes. In addition to providing a modernized ITN, the team also is providing advancement capabilities to the Expeditionary Signal Battalions. As part of Phase 1 of the CS 21 rollout, the equipment they are purchasing includes: single-channel data radios; dual-channel headsets for leaders to monitor two radio networks; variable height antennas, which are essentially tethered drones for range extension of tactical radios; line-of-sight backhaul, a critical capability add to gateways to bridge multiple networks together seamlessly for operators; and mobile broadband kits that allow soldiers to tie into either available Army or non-Army networks, explains Joe Welch, deputy, Program Executive Office Command Control Communications-Tactical.
“We are focused on best value, as we will be fielding this equipment for quite a while,” Welch says. “We are buying capabilities for the first four brigades for Phase 1 in fiscal year 20 and then into FY 2021. And we are putting RFIs [request for information] out to allow market research and further experimentation.”
In addition, Welch says that fielding base bands and very small aperture terminals, or VSATs, will allow for additional mobility and expeditionary use.
Moreover, the PEO C3T and the Network CFT will be conducting additional prototyping efforts over the next fiscal year, given the alignment of Army resources focused just on the development of tactical communications and networking solutions.
“We have put on contract 17 prototyping efforts to get after CS 23 and CS 25,” Gen. Gallagher clarifies. This includes three rapid prototyping initiatives from the Office of the Secretary of Defense; eight efforts from the Combat Capabilities Development Command’s C5ISR Center; and six efforts resulting from the team’s technical exchange with industry in Austin, Texas, last year. The emerging technologies that they select from the various prototyping efforts will transition to a program, if feasible, or, if not ready, will continue to prototyping in CS 25.
Welch and Gen. Gallagher spoke to the industry as part of Aberdeen Proving Ground’s virtual Advance Planning Briefing to Industry in June and reminded companies of the next technical exchange meeting scheduled for September in Nashville, and also virtually.
In addition, the team plans on spending the next year fielding the new equipment and conducting related training for CS 21, and delivering technologies to brigades and multiple expeditionary signal battalions. Then, following the prototyping for CS 23, the parties will start the planning stage for CS 25, identifying technological need areas.
Part of PEO C3T’s efforts include a functional realignment of the office to ensure program officers are aligned with the modernization lines of effort, Welch says. “We are standing down the Network Enablers Program Office and standing up a new program office, the I2S Program Office, or Integration, Interoperability and Services, which will enable much more focused activities closely related to the Network CFT,” he notes. PEO C3T also is standing up a CS development office. “So, you will see some change to our org chart,” he adds.
That realignment is necessary, given the threat “of very lethal peer adversaries,” Gen. Gallagher emphasizes. “We have to be able to move, and move with speed, so we are looking at formation-appropriate platforms, reduced signatures, increased speed and an increased ability to separate the forces, and really making sure we can reduce our electronic signature,” he says. “There is a lot of work being done in that space.”
Gen. Collins also recommends that more attention be paid to the nonkinetic capabilities for MDO, both cyber and electronic warfare, which are needed to confront the enemy anti-access/area denial, or A2AD, environment. “And across all those capabilities, we’ve got to make sure that they are not only survivable but expeditionary and can rapidly transition from competition to conflict,” he advises. “Moreover, open systems and modular architecture approaches will continue to enable adaptive and innovative technology that are key to supporting all domain operations.”
In addition to the material side, the service also needs to address how its training and equipping is synchronized with its organizational force structures for MDO formations, the PEO C3T offers.
“We’ve got to make sure that the force structure and equipping are closely aligned, because of the complexities of the multidomain operations environment,” Gen. Collins states. “Partnering with the CFTs has really strengthened our ability to refine concept of operations and requirements.”
As the prior lead of PEO Intelligence Electronic Warfare and Sensors (IEW&S)—which is now being led by acting PEO IEW&S Mark Kitz—Gen. Collins worked closely with CFTs and counterparts, including the Assured Position, Navigation, and Timing CFT, the Network CFT and the intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) task force, in pursuing MDO. He suggests that sensing capabilities will continue to be crucial in achieving comprehensive warfare.
“Deep sensing needs to be a big focus for MDO, leveraging both national and commercial capabilities, specifically in space, and manned and unmanned aerial ISR, and collectively taking that synthesizing [of information] to inform mission command,” he notes.
And although he is just two months into the role as PEO C3T, Gen. Collins will continue to focus on JADC2.
“We certainly are looking toward focusing on MDO and large-scale combat operations,” Gen. Collins says. “Whether it’s demonstrations, experimentation or prototyping of concepts, or even as we shape touch points, we absolutely are making sure that we’ve got a solid road map that gets us to MDO, and enabling an MDO-capable force.”