As the Army prepares to begin fielding the on-the-move capabilities of its tactical communications network, it is executing upgrades to the current network backbone in order to increase the interoperability and commonality of current and future network increments.
The new Colorless Core upgrade for Warfighter Information Network-Tactical, or WIN-T, Increment 1 not only increases interoperability with WIN-T Increment 2, but it also improves the security and efficiency of the network.
“WIN-T Increment 2 relies on a secure colorless core routing enclave,” said Lt. Col. Greg Coile, product manager, or PdM, for WIN- T Increment 1 and PdM for Satellite Communications, known as SATCOM. “So we are upgrading the capability of WIN-T Increment 1 by adding the same colorless core so that Increments 1 and 2 will be more interoperable as units deploy and execute their missions.”
The colorless core routing enclave increases capability by encrypting all data, both classified and unclassified, as it is transported over satellites and line-of-sight links. It enables Soldiers to send information across the battlefield without fear of the enemy intercepting sensitive information. The initial efforts for the WIN-T Increment 1 Colorless Core upgrade, began in July, will encompass all WIN-T Increment 1 units and is expected to be completed in fiscal year 2016.
Similar to a home Internet connection, WIN-T Increment 1, formerly known as the “Joint Network Node-Network,” began fielding in 2004, and provides Soldiers with high-speed, high-capacity voice, data and video communications down to battalion level units, “at-the-quick-halt.” WIN-T Increment 2 supports operations while “on-the-move,” introduces networking radios, enhances Network Operations, or NetOps, for network planning and monitoring and pushes capability down to the company level. It completed its Initial Operational Test and Evaluation in May and is scheduled to field to Army brigade combat teams starting in October 2012, pending a Full Rate Production decision in September.
“The colorless core capability is a key component in providing secure mobile communications to our forces. It guarantees the security of the information while providing additional operational flexibility to the network,” said Col. Ed Swanson, project manager for WIN-T, which is assigned to the Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications-Tactical, or PEO C3T.
The reason it is called “colorless” is that the Army often places color codes on certain security enclaves, with secret typically being designated as red and unclassified as black. Unlike previous enclaves, in the colorless core all of the data is encrypted, so no one can tell whether the information is secret or unclassified; the “color” cannot be identified. Unclassified information is just as hard to obtain as secret, said John Kantonides, lead systems engineer for WIN-T Increment 3.
“The colorless core is going to offer a more efficient way for the IP [Internet Protocol] layer to be encrypted and traverse the network,” said Lt. Col. Robert Collins, PdM for WIN-T Increment 2. “Protection and optimizing the use of bandwidth will be its two key features.”
The new WIN-T Increment 1 upgrade also takes advantage of the Network Centric Waveform, or NCW, through the use of a NCW modem for satellite communications. NCW is a dynamic and more capable waveform that optimizes bandwidth and satellite utilization, providing efficient SATCOM capabilities for WIN-T Increment 1 at-the-halt and for WIN-T Increment 2 while at-the-halt and on-the-move. One of the key attributes of NCW is that it facilitates communication between Increments 1 and 2, increasing interoperability so the two increments can “talk” seamlessly on the battlefield.
Not only will the upgrade allow WIN-T Increment 1 and Increment 2 to share the same modem, but they will also share the same baseline set of NetOps tools. NetOps give communications officers the tools they need to be able to plan, operate, monitor, respond and defend the network. All of the planning before the network goes to the field and all the configurations and maintenance while it’s in the field runs through NetOps. Having similar tools will also increase the capability and interoperability of the two increments.
As far as the implementation of the upgrade, in the past the PM WIN-T fielding team would travel to individual units to conduct fielding events to upgrade equipment and train units. However, in an effort to increase efficiencies and provide significant cost avoidance to the Army, PM WIN-T is executing a regional upgrade and training site concept, which will ensure that fielding events are completed on schedule.
Units in surrounding areas, including those from the National Guard, will be brought to each regional site. The unit’s equipment will be upgraded, its Soldiers will be trained on the new capability and the new capability will be validated. The PM will conduct vehicle modifications at the unit’s motor pool or provide the upgrades as the platforms come out of reset. Once fielding starts, all the regional locations will be conducting training and performing upgrades simultaneously. The first of three initial sites has been stood up with training scheduled for August, Coile said.
“We’ll be hitting a lot of units, but we’re not picking up and setting up all the time,” said Jim Goon, deputy PdM for WIN-T Increment 1. “We’re going to set up and stay there until we hit all the units in that region, then we will move, strategically, to another region of the country so that units won’t have to travel great distances to receive their training.”
Due to the amount of time it will take to field the Increment 1 Colorless Core Upgrade across the force, over the next several years there will be some hybrid network architectures on the battlefield.
“Potentially the previous version of Increment 1, the Colorless Core Upgrade and Increment 2 could all be fighting in the same battle space,” said Shannon Jones, operations manager for WIN-T Increment 1. “We need to ensure that everything is interoperable and that all networks are healed at the hub node at a minimum.”
With this in mind and to support deploying WIN-T Increment 2 units in fiscal year 2013, the Army has begun efforts to upgrade the five Regional Hub Nodes, or RHNs, strategically positioned around the world with the colorless core and NCW capabilities. RHNs give Soldiers in the field immediate access to secure and non-secure internet and voice communications, allowing them to do their job anywhere on the globe.
Going forward, the Colorless Core upgrade will be fielded to all of the Increment 1 units that will not be receiving WIN-T Increment 2. Roughly one third of the Army’s units will receive the on-the-move capability with Increment 2, while the remaining two thirds will remain with Increment 1, which operates at-the-halt.
“Every increment of the tactical network has its place in the force,” Swanson said. “The key to success is to ensure the current and future WIN-T increments can inter-operate and deliver critical information to support the full range of military operations, whether it’s the location of friendly forces or a call for fire.”