Defense

May 7, 2012

Tactical communications network backbone heads into operational test

by Kyle Bond
Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.

Warfighter Information Network-Tactical, known as WIN-T, Increment 2 is nearing the finish line as it heads into its largest operational test this month.

WIN-T Increment 2 is a major upgrade to the Army’s tactical communications backbone and provides an on-the-move network that reaches down to the company level for the first time.

“This mobile network is a transformational step forward in Army modernization,” said Lt. Col. Robert Collins, product manager for WIN-T Increments 2 and 3. “It will dramatically increase the pace at which the Army can prosecute combat operations and speed the overall military decision making cycle.”

Utilizing a division slice worth of WIN-T Increment 2 configuration items, the WIN-T Increment 2 Initial Operational Test and Evaluation, or IOT&E, is scheduled for May, with the main effort to be held at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., as part of the Network Integration Evaluation, known as NIE, 12.2. To truly stress and test the system, WIN-T Increment 2 nodes will also be spread across 2,000 miles of the United States and involve more than 4,000 soldiers and civilians for the test.

The three-week IOT&E is the Army’s record test to fully assess the suitability, survivability and effectiveness of the WIN-T Increment 2 equipment with an operational unit. It will provide the Army with valuable feedback to make any needed doctrine, organization, material or training improvements.

The analysis and test results from the IOT&E will be used to support the Full Rate Production Decision scheduled for the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2012. A successful decision would allow for the fielding of WIN-T Increment 2 to maneuver units across the Army.

“WIN-T Increment 2 is the foundation for the Army’s tactical network and a critical component for Capability Set 13 and beyond, providing network mobility and additional communications capacity to what is fielded today,” said Col. Edward Swanson, project manager for WIN-T, which is assigned to the Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications-Tactical, known as PEO C3T. “Increment 2, along with Increment 1b [an upgraded version of Increment 1], will be fielded to tactical formations across the force to enable full spectrum operations, supporting both maneuver and support units.”

Similar to a home Internet connection, WIN-T Increment 1 provides Soldiers with high-speed, high-capacity voice, data and video communications to battalion level units at-the-halt. WIN-T Increment 2 introduces numerous additional capabilities and is a vital piece of Capability Set 13 – the first integrated group of network technologies out of the NIE Agile Process that will be fielded to Army brigade combat teams starting in fiscal year 2013.

Since the WIN-T Increment 2 network is self-forming and self-healing, it provides a new level of flexibility to support changing mission requirements. It allows combat net radio and data networks to be extended beyond-line-of-sight. An initial network operations capability will also be fielded to facilitate the planning, initialization, monitoring, management and response of the network. Additionally, WIN-T Increment 2′s “colorless core” will provide an enhanced level of communications security.

The construct for the WIN-T Increment 2 IOT&E will create a robust, full-scale division and brigade network for testing. The 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, at White Sands Missile Range, will serve as the maneuver element, while the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Ky., serves as the division headquarters element. Another component of the IOT&E, the 1st Sustainment Brigade in Fort Riley, Kansas, will utilize Increment 1b and connect into the Increment 2 network to demonstrate and test the interoperability between the current and next-generation network.

All three units will reach back to the Network Services Center – Training at Fort Gordon, Ga., which will simulate the Regional Hub Node function in the network. There are five Regional Hub Nodes strategically located around the world that use baseband and satellite communications capabilities to enable reach-back from Army units to the Department of Defense Global Information Grid.

“The WIN-T program’s readiness to proceed into the IOT&E is reflective of incredible efforts, by many team members, on vehicle integration, testing, logistical planning and soldier training,” Collins said. “I am proud to be part of such a fine organization.”

 




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