Global network super highway postures Army for multi-domain operations

The flexible network design known as Global Agile Integrated Transport, or GAIT, is a cornerstone in the Army’s two-year incremental network modernization capability set design, acquisition and fielding efforts, posturing the service to meet its Multi-Domain Operation goals for 2028.

The GAIT architecture enables commands with dispersed units around the globe to maintain integrated mission command and network operations capabilities from their home station or forward- deployed headquarters. Units and their commanders can also configure networks and mission command systems prior to deployment so they can hit the ground running, and once in theater, exchange voice, video and data more fluidly and effectively.

Commanders continue to leverage the Global Agile Integrated Transport (GAIT) network routing design in both real-world missions and ongoing multi-national training exercises, with GAIT serving as the primary transport design for the Mission Partner Environment, including Warfighter Exercise 21-4 seen here in April, at Fort Hood, Texas. (Army photograph by Am Walker)

GAIT also provides the multi-path high-speed high-capacity data transport that is fueling Army network modernization.

“The flexible GAIT design is the central glue that enables the integration of evolving Soldier-centric technologies, capabilities and Multi-Domain Operation network designs,” said Col. Shane Taylor, project manager for Tactical Network (PM TN), which designed and manages GAIT for the Army. “It is integrally tied to the success of every capability set, all the way through Capability Set (CS) 27 and beyond.”

Commanders continue to leverage GAIT in both real-world missions and ongoing multi-national training exercises, with GAIT serving as the primary transport option for the Mission Partner Environment. The ease and speed of GAIT mission planning and execution has been a key enabler in solving difficult tactical transport challenges during on-going warfighting exercises, including the Joint Warfighting Assessment 21 in June, from which the Army will leverage Soldier feedback to inform Network Modernization Capability Set requirements, design, and fielding decisions.

“Ultimately, GAIT enables that colorless [secure] connection between U.S. units, as well as our coalition forces, facilitating a common operating picture and enabling us to harmonize and synchronize activities and actions across the battlefield,” said Maj. Samuel Fadare, III Corps G6, (communications officer), during the multi-national Warfighter Exercise 21-4, in April, at Fort Hood, Texas. “GAIT is essential to the way the Army is going to operate in the future.”

Reducing complexity for the user

As part of the Army’s Unified Tactical Network, GAIT interconnects the service’s largest tactical network transport hubs known as Regional Hub Nodes (RHNs), and if needed DoD Teleport Sites ñ and over 150 GAIT Points of Presence (PoPs), to create a common global network transport mesh that enables high-capacity data exchange between geographically dispersed units anywhere on the planet. Additionally, units have the flexibility to leverage GAIT to transport data directly between GAIT PoPs located at military formations including divisions, corps, theater tactical signal brigades and special users. This simplifies and speeds network transport even further, and increases path diversity for improved network resiliency.

Global Agile Integrated Transport (GAIT) is a central element to the successful integration of the Army’s two ñyear iterative network modernization capability sets, with advancements including multi-orbit satellite communications. As part of market research to inform network modernization Capability Set (CS) 23 decisions on Managed Multi-Orbit Satellite Communications (SATCOM) Services, Product Lead Unified Network Capabilities and Integration (assistant product managers seen here), at Project Manager Tactical Network, in coordination with the Network Cross Functional Team (N-CFT), obtains Soldier feedback on March 23, 2021 on an industry-provided prototype, at the Joint SATCOM Engineering Center, at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. (Army photograph by Am Walker)

Prior to GAIT, to transport data in and out of theater, deployed units used their tactical satellite network equipment to transmit data to their respective RHN in theater, and then the data was transported from the tactical network to the Army Enterprise Network, which carried the data to its final destination. This complex network design required multiple and separate Authorities To Operate (ATOs), security boundaries, processes, decision makers, as well as long approval times and significant Soldier burden. With GAIT, data exchange remains on the tactical network from beginning to end, significantly reducing network connection hurdles while increasing network speed, capacity, resiliency and enabling the integration of evolving technologies.

“Without our unit’s GAIT PoP extension, there is so much that we would have to do just to get connected,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 James Webb, III Corps G6 server technician, during Warfighter Exercise 21-4. “It really makes things a lot easier on us.”

As part of this innovative network design, global data transport is centrally managed at GAIT Network Service Centers (NSCs), keeping the network management burden off of Soldiers and enabling the Army to make forward network systems significantly more user-friendly. NSC engineers leverage common global ATOs, security boundaries and processing, so mission network planning that once took units up to a week to complete can now be done in hours, and network issues are much easier to troubleshoot.

“As the Army integrates new technologies into the network, our focus will remain on moving the network complexity from the tactical edge to the NSCs, freeing Soldiers to concentrate on their missions, to fight and win our nation’s wars,” said John Gillette, product manager for Mission Network, at PM TN. “The harder we work at GAIT management behind the scenes, the easier it will be for Signal Soldiers to manage the tactical network at the tip of the spear.”

The cornerstone of network modernization

Along with being a central enabler of the Army’s evolving capability set technologies, GAIT is also aiding in the actual development and integration of those technologies. As part of its rapid network modernization capability set development, the Army is leveraging a Development Security Operations (DevSecOps) process, which is typically used in software development, to enable Soldiers and developers to work side-by-side to securely address and implement real-time operational feedback through lab and field-based experiments and Soldier Touch Point assessments.

To enable early and often DevSecOps testing, the Army recently expanded GAIT connections at its Communications Systems Design Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, to reach other labs on the campus, including the C5ISR Systems Integration Laboratory (CSIL) and C5ISR Center’s new Joint Systems Integration Lab. These GAIT connections are supporting capability set development efforts such as the Project Convergence series — the Army’s campaign of learning that builds on Soldier feedback and lessons learned to support rapid Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) ñ as well as multi-national exercise lab-based risk reduction events.

The Global Agile Integrated Transport (GAIT) network design will play a key role in the upcoming Capability Set 23 Armored Brigade Combat Team (ABCT) On The Move (OTM) pilot being conducted later this year. In the photo, 3rd Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, loaded and prepped these vehicle platforms as part of the initial shipment to the vendor for the design and installation of OTM prototype capabilities into the vehicles. (Army photograph by Am Walker)

“With GAIT, we have ability to flex the network and make changes to support capability sets on an as needed basis,” said John Anglin, PM TN Technical Management Division chief. “When we want to add new technologies like multi-orbit satellite transport or bandwidth virtualization for Project Convergence, we have the ability to modify our configurations to be able to support those efforts and pull the added complexity back to the NSCs so there is less complexity at the tactical edge.”

GAIT was a central element to the successful integration and new fieldings of CS21 technologies and capabilities, including the Integrated Tactical Network, which provides Soldiers with resilient communication options in contested and congested environments, and the ability to better communicate with coalition partners. GAIT will also play a central role in the upcoming CS23 Armored Brigade Combat Team pilot being conducted later this year and on-going Low Earth Orbit and Medium Earth Orbit satellite communications advancements, providing fluid transport between end points.

In line CS23 goals to enhance capacity, resiliency and convergence, GAIT provides more routing options, more paths and solutions for data to flow through, enhancing network resiliency, units’ Primary, Alternate, Contingency and Emergency (PACE) plans and strategic defense against electronic warfare. GAIT NSC engineers can also balance network load between the RHNs and reduce bottleneck issues by rerouting signals through alternative paths and provide units with extra bandwidth when needed.

The network transport design is also making it possible for the Army to support CS23 efforts to modernize the logistics network and converge legacy stove-piped logistics transport onto the Army’s Unified Tactical Network, said Lt. Col. Natashia Coleman, product manager for Unified Network Capabilities and Integration, assigned to PM TN, during a recent logistics modernization Soldier assessment.

“To support logistics network modernization, known as Sustainment Tactical Network, we are looking at new technologies that are fully interoperable with the RHNs and can leverage GAIT,” Coleman said. “Logistics plays a critical role in Multi-Domain Operations, and we need a unified resilient high-capacity network to transport that data to ensure Soldiers get the logistics support they need when and where they need it.”

Sometimes referred to by units as the GAIT Transport Cloud; GAIT enables commanders to execute mission command and make faster decisions by enabling a unified network transport for mission command systems and the integration of those systems and their server stacks between home station and forward deployed locations. This unified integration enables near real-time common operating picture that commanders can trust. It will also support future CS25 cloud computing initiatives.

“We live in a cloud-based world,” Webb said. “With a GAIT connection you wouldn’t have to rip out every server stack that you have when you deploy, you could actually leave some of them in sanctuary and just move some forward and connect back over GAIT.”

Enhancing unit readiness

Future Multi-Domain Operations will require an expeditionary force that is ready to fight the battle as soon as boots hit the ground. Before deploying to contingency, support or training missions, Army and Marine Corps units can now leverage GAIT from their home station to complete the long list of networking configuration and policy tasks needed to connect to overseas coalition networks and conduct integrated mission command. Commanders and their units can also practice on mission command and signal integration in the forward theater before they deploy, and participate in coalition meetings and battle update briefs, increasing unit proficiency ahead of the fight.

GAIT also supports home station Reception, Staging, Onward Movement, and Integration (RSOI) operations and Army Reserve Mobilization Force Generation Installations (MFGI) operations that prepare units for rapid deployments, significantly reducing the time it takes to stand up the network in theater. Once units reach their theater of operations, they no longer have to co-locate to synchronize and validate all of their network equipment; they are up and operating on the network in hours versus weeks. By reducing complexity of the network and working these tasks at home station prior to deployment, commanders and units can move forward straight to where they were needed most.

“When we are called on rapid deployment, instead of the typical long build up period that comes with the deployment of network kit across theater, if we have already been established on the GAIT connection on whichever the network of choice is, then we can disconnect from home station, take it out there, and we are ready to rock,” Fadare said. “We are all able to see what is happening on the battlefield, so that as a staff, we can support the commander’s objectives and get after the fight.”

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