The Army’s Tactical Mission Command Computing Shapes Up
Server infrastructure and software advancements are supporting the Army’s tactical mobility, a key modernization target.
Taking the network into battle can be challenging for Army soldiers operating on the tactical edge. The Army’s Command Post Computing Environment, known as CP CE, is an integrated mission command system that supports warfighters across intelligence, fires, logistics, maneuvers and airspace management capabilities. The need for this system to include open system architecture and be interoperable, cost effective and cyber secure are key goals of the Product Manager Mission Command (PM MC) of the Program Executive Office Command, Control, Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T).
However, the system’s size, weight and power (SWAP) characteristics are another important consideration. The CP CE needs to be easily transported, set up and taken down on the tactical edge as warfighters “jump” or move to new locations, explained Maj. Tim Forry, USA, assistant product manager, CP CE, to SIGNAL Magazine during a recent visit to PEO C3T at Aberdeen Proving Ground.
PM MC is working to implement lines of effort (LOE) squarely tied to the Army’s network modernization, outlined by Acting Secretary Ryan McCarthy and Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley last October as one of six modernization priorities. Among its work on other LOEs, PM MC is tackling LOE 4, improving the command post’s mobility and survivability.
Here, advancements to the tactical server infrastructure are helping the Army leverage SWAP gains, Forry said. They are looking at improving the size of the current stack of servers, which weighs about 1,300 pounds, includes nine transit cases and takes several hours to deploy the first time. “Then, if you have to jump to a tactical environment you are looking at least at another 30 minutes of start up and shut down on each side,” Forry added.
They have selected two different forms factors (large and small) for their Tactical Server Infrastructure-version 2 (TSI-v2), Forry shared. In the larger form, the TSI-v2 requires only three transit cases and weighs about 357 pounds. Automation of the server software, combined with other improvements, has cut deployment time. “It now takes about two to two and a half hours for initial deployment, Forry stated. “And the start up and shut down time for jumps is about 10 minutes on either side.” That version also has more computing power than the original stack, Forry stressed.
The second, small TSI-v2 “looks like a laptop server,” said Forry. While it does not have the same computing power as the larger form, it provides a continuity of operations, or COOP, solution.
“The smaller version has a more expeditionary capability with the essentials that you would need,” the major noted. The idea with that is at the division level and higher, they would have primary and backup large TSI-v2 units in the main and tactical command posts, and in the brigade, they would have a combination of a large and a small TSI-v2. The small would provide their COOP in the event that they have to jump, giving them all the capabilities that they need on the move, until they set and bring WIN-T [Warfighter Information Network-Tactical] back up at that location.” At the Battalion level, warfighters would have two of the small laptop servers, he added.
The improved TSI-v2 technology gives warfighters increased computing power. And by reducing the weight and the number of network cases that they have to transport, the Army is making tactical communications more mobile.
“In a vehicle, cube space is at a premium, in any unit, especially a headquarters unit, so you are always having to make decisions on what to take and who is going to go,” Forry shared. “We are trying to make those decisions easier to ease the burden for soldiers.”
PM MC also is making other improvements to the software for the TSI-v2. “What we are doing at least software wise, is leveraging common look, common feel, common data structure, core utilities, from the command post product, that is shared into the coalition environment or the mounted environment,” Forry said. This addresses LOE 2, or Program of Record (PoR) convergence, which will reduce complexity, stove-piped systems, hardware sustainment and training needs.
“While today, I could not take every system and pile them all onto the tactical server infrastructure, CP CE lays the groundwork in providing the data, intelligence, precision, message center, chat functionality, readiness and resource reporting,” Forry noted. “Because we provide all those things, we call tell the other PoRs, ‘I already have this for you, I just need you to bring in what the delta is that makes your product special on top.’”
The software advancements—as well as leveraging the increased computing power in a smaller form factor—inches PM MC closer to getting almost all of their key systems onto one system, Forry stated. “Ending up with one system, one solution, one command post and one set of server infrastructure to operate it all, that would be nirvana.” PM MC will work over the next several fiscal years to collapse all those systems.