Army leaders said plans are underway to deliver eight brigade combat teams of integrated, capability-enhancing networking technologies beginning in October.
The new brigade combat team, or BCT, equipment is part of what the Army calls Capability Set 13, an integrated set of networking technologies, reporters were told at a Pentagon event June 28.
Capability Set 13, or CS 13, is engineered to bring unprecedented new capabilities to the force such as the ability to conduct mission command operations while on the move in vehicles and connect the individual dismounted soldier to a broader communications network, said Brig. Gen. John Morrison, director, G3/5/7 LandWarNet, Mission Command.
Two of the eight sets of networking gear are slated to field with the Army’s 10th Mountain Division as part of the culmination of the services Capability Set management approach to modernization. This approach is a key element of what the Army calls the “Agile Process,” a method of identifying, developing and deploying new systems and technology in a manner that emphasizes evaluation and integration prior to deployment, interoperability and maximum utility to the soldier.
The ongoing series of Network Integration Evaluations, known as NIEs, are an essential element of the Agile Process and the developmental trajectory of CS 13. They involve 3,800-Soldier strong exercises in which emerging systems and solutions are placed in the hands of Soldiers for evaluation in a combat-like environment at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. These NIEs, underway for the last year and a half, help refine and operationally validate requirements, harness soldier feedback to determine what works and what doesn’t, and help pave the way forward regarding how to acquire and integrate new capability.
“Eighteen months ago, we fundamentally changed the way we test, evaluate and field technology and fundamentally changed the way we do business. Capability Set management allows us to buy what we need when we need it and spiral in the latest capability,” said Morrison.
In total, there are at least 15 different systems which make up Capability Set 13, including hand-held radios, mobile satellite communications gear and smartphone-like hand-held devices for individual Soldiers, among other things, Morrison explained. Overall, CS 13 capabilities provide solutions to as many as 10 Operational Needs Statements from theater wherein battlefield commanders expressed the need for a particular technical capability able to perform certain key, identified functions.
“Capability set management is about bringing technologies together as a single capability. As we field CS 13, units will know that what they are getting has been brought together into one synchronized unit,” said Col. Dan Hughes, director of the System of Systems Integration Directorate under the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology. “Synchronized fielding is a sea change from what we have done in the past. We find out what works at the NIEs and it saves us integration time somewhere else.”
Also, as part of this synchronized fielding effort, the Army has recently stood up a new Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, or C4ISR, laboratory at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., designed to evaluate networking technologies and ensure maximum integration and interoperability, said Hughes.
Also, integrating new solutions through the NIE process winds up informing and, in some cases, creating important Tactics Techniques and Procedures, said Brig. Gen. Randal Dragon, commanding general, Brigade Modernization Command, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.
Creating what the Army calls an Objective Network Baseline is fundamental to this approach; existing and emerging technologies are developed according to a common set of established technical standards designed to ensure that future capabilities properly integrate with one another and with existing systems, Hughes said. “If I find an issue with the network, I can run through it in real time in the laboratory,” he added.
Leveraging industry innovation and effectively communicating with industry participants in the NIEs are essential elements of the Agile Process, Hughes explained.
For example, blending the latest commercial-off-the-shelf technologies, or COTs, with existing programs of record proved extremely worthwhile with the Nett Warrior program, a key component of CS 13, Hughes and Morrison said.
Nett Warrior is a soldier-worn dismounted mission command system that provides unprecedented command and control and situation awareness capability that supports the mission of the dismounted combat Leader. Nett Warrior includes a smartphone-like electronic display device that graphically shows soldiers’ locations on a digital map that can be shared on the Army network. Nett Warrior also uses a Joint Tactical Radio System, or JTRS, hand-held, single-channel Rifleman Radio. Each BCT with CS 13 will consist of about 450 Nett Warrior devices.
Nett Warrior not only connects dismounted units on patrol with one another and higher headquarters through the use of digital map displays and mobile, hand-held technology, but it also gives dismounted units the ability to connect to a database called Tactical Intelligence Ground Reporting, or the TIGR system, Hughes and Morrison explained.
The NIE process is not only designed to improves and streamline acquisition, but to do so in a manner that saves money for the Army and the taxpayer, Hughes said.
Blending the latest COTs hand-held, smartphone like technology with the Nett Warrior program resulted in substantial weight reduction and as much as $800 million in cost savings, Morrison explained.
Each BCT with CS 13 will also be outfitted with Warfighter Information Network- Tactical Increment 2, known as WIN-T Inc. 2, a mobile radio and Satcom network that allows commanders to access a full suite of Mission Command capabilities while on patrol in vehicles. About 50 vehicles in each BCT with CS 13 will be configured with WIN-T Inc. 2, Army officials said.
With WIN-T Inc. 2, commanders will not have to remain in a static location such as a Tactical Operations Center in order to perform key mission command activities. Also, WIN-T Inc. 2 provides a self-healing network, meaning communications can quickly switch from high bandwidth radio, line-of-sight radio connections to mobile satellite links, as needed. WIN-T Inc. 2, or initial on-the-move capability, recently completed its Initial Operational Test and Evaluation at the NIE 12.2.
Overall, the Capability Set management approach, and the NIE process is slated to continue into the future, both expanding and spiraling in new capabilities as they become available. The Army is already working on refining the materiel build necessary to deliver the next iteration of networking capability, CS 14.