New satellite terminal training, fielding facility ’smart’ move for US Army

LARGO, Fla. — As the Army looks for inno­v­a­tive solu­tions to slim its finan­cial waist­line, a new facil­i­ty for the advanced ver­sion of its pro­tect­ed satel­lite ter­mi­nal has con­sol­i­dat­ed pro­duc­tion, train­ing and field­ing in one loca­tion in an effort to save mil­lions of dol­lars.

Advanced Extreme­ly High Fre­quen­cy Secure, Mobile, Anti-Jam, Reli­able, Tac­ti­cal-Ter­mi­nals, or SMART‑T, are shown here at the new Cen­tral­ized Train­ing and Field­ing Facil­i­ty, in Largo, Fla., Nov. 9, 2011.
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“The train­ing facil­i­ty is co-locat­ed with the pro­duc­tion facil­i­ty to reduce our logis­ti­cal foot­print, over­head and reli­a­bil­i­ty risk,” said Lar­ry Rav­ille, project lead for the Secure, Mobile, Anti-Jam, Reli­able, Tac­ti­cal-Ter­mi­nal, known as SMART‑T. “No longer does a team have to trav­el all over the world to field, ship and train these sys­tems. It’s all done in one location.” 

The first class of stu­dents, con­sist­ing of Sol­diers from the 101st Air­borne Divi­sion (Air Assault), attend­ed the Advanced Extreme­ly High Fre­quen­cy, or AEHF, SMART‑T New Equip­ment Train­ing, or NET, at the new facil­i­ty in Largo, Nov. 7–18. The facility’s grand open­ing rib­bon cut­ting cer­e­mo­ny was held on Nov. 9, with the stu­dents from the 101st, mem­bers of the SMART‑T team, and con­trac­tor lead­er­ship in attendance. 

This is the first time in the Army’s his­to­ry that a weapon sys­tem has had a NET/fielding facil­i­ty embed­ded with a pro­duc­tion plant, Rav­ille said. The AEHF SMART‑T facil­i­ty is expect­ed to yield more than $9 mil­lion in cost avoid­ance and cost sav­ings by reduc­ing the logis­ti­cal foot­print of train­ing, field­ing and upgrad­ing the terminals. 

Prod­uct Man­ag­er Satel­lite Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, or PdM SATCOM, which man­ages SMART‑T, also expects to see an increase in the ter­mi­nals’ reli­a­bil­i­ty rate, since all of the logis­tics are cen­tral­ly locat­ed and issues can be more eas­i­ly addressed, Rav­ille said. 

“Pri­or to the open­ing of this facil­i­ty, if a fail­ure occurred dur­ing train­ing, we could be 900 miles away and it would take three or four days to get an asset out there, entail­ing huge ship­ping costs along with the loss of time,” said Mel Point­er, SMART‑T Inte­grat­ed Logis­tics Sup­port man­ag­er. “Now we just have to walk across the street.” 

SMART‑T makes it pos­si­ble for Sol­diers to extend the range of their net­work in such a man­ner that com­mu­ni­ca­tions can­not be jammed, detect­ed, or inter­cept­ed. Sol­diers can send text, data, voice and video com­mu­ni­ca­tions beyond their area of oper­a­tions with­out wor­ry­ing that the infor­ma­tion will fall into the hands of ene­my forces. 

Used at the brigade ech­e­lon and above, this satel­lite ter­mi­nal mounts on High Mobil­i­ty Mul­ti­pur­pose Wheeled Vehi­cles, or Humvees, and pro­vides robust world­wide communications. 

SMART‑T pro­vides a means of [pro­tect­ed satel­lite] com­mu­ni­ca­tions that isn’t avail­able through oth­er ter­mi­nals,” said Sgt. David Car­pen­ter, with the 101st, who was part of the first class at the new facil­i­ty. “It may not be used quite as often, but when it is need­ed, no oth­er ter­mi­nal can do what it does. No oth­er capa­bil­i­ty can repli­cate it.” 

SMART‑T enables the Sol­dier to extend com­mu­ni­ca­tions in harsh envi­ron­ments with­out the risk of ene­my inter­cep­tion or detec­tion, increas­ing the safe­ty of Sol­diers on the bat­tle­field. It pro­vides tac­ti­cal pro­tect­ed SATCOM for the close fight. When removed from the Humvee it is capa­ble of stand-alone oper­a­tion and can be air­lift­ed via heli­copter so it can get to a par­tic­u­lar point on the bat­tle­field in a hur­ry, estab­lish­ing and main­tain­ing a link quick­ly and reliably. 

“Any time a com­man­der needs pro­tect­ed, secure through­put for world­wide com­mu­ni­ca­tions for cur­rent oper­a­tions, this is his only capa­bil­i­ty,” Rav­ille said. 

The biggest dif­fer­ence between the lega­cy and the new AEHF satel­lite ter­mi­nal upgrade is a four­fold increase in capac­i­ty and improved secu­ri­ty fea­tures. AEHF ter­mi­nals will increase satel­lite through­put with the extend­ed data rate payload. 

“Because SMART‑T is pro­tect­ed, the sys­tems have a low­er band­width capa­bil­i­ty, but the upgrade gives us a high­er band­width through­put by four­fold,” said LTC Gre­go­ry Coile, PdM for SATCOM, which is assigned to Project Man­ag­er Warfight­er Infor­ma­tion Net­work-Tac­ti­cal, or PM WIN‑T. “The advanced sys­tem also pro­vides greater over­all satel­lite access.” 

Approx­i­mate­ly 240 of the lega­cy sys­tems have been field­ed to date, plus an addi­tion­al 60 AEHF SMART-Ts. Cur­rent­ly 39 new AEHF SMART‑T ter­mi­nals are in pro­duc­tion and the remain­ing lega­cy sys­tems will all be upgrad­ed with the AEHF capa­bil­i­ty. By 2018 the total force is expect­ed to have 411 of the AEHF SMART-Ts, with users includ­ing the Navy, Air Force, Nation­al Guard, Home­land Secu­ri­ty, Mis­sile Defense Author­i­ty, inter­na­tion­al part­ners and oth­er spe­cial users. 

While the Air Force is respon­si­ble for devel­op­ing and main­tain­ing mil­i­tary satel­lites, the Army devel­ops, pro­cures and fields the earth ter­mi­nals such as the SMART-Ts. The two work close­ly togeth­er to ensure sys­tem inter­op­er­abil­i­ty. The Air Force is in the process of chang­ing from the military’s lega­cy satel­lite con­stel­la­tion to the new AEHF satel­lite con­stel­la­tion, and it uses the Army’s ver­sion of the AEHF ter­mi­nals for satel­lite test­ing, Coile said. 

“The best ben­e­fits [of the new AEHF SMART‑T] are the data rate, the band­width, being able to push more data and get more users on it, and its reli­a­bil­i­ty,” said Sgt. Jesse Mur­phy of the 101st, who was part of the first train­ing class at the facil­i­ty and has worked with lega­cy SMART-Ts for four years. “It will be invaluable.” 

Along with the NET, the facil­i­ty will also offer delta train­ing which pro­vides expe­ri­enced lega­cy SMART‑T oper­a­tors such as Mur­phy train­ing on the AEHF ver­sion of the ter­mi­nals. One of the biggest val­ues of the facil­i­ty is that rough­ly 75 per­cent of the train­ing is hands-on, with only a min­i­mum of class­room time involved, leav­ing the Sol­dier well-pre­pared upon deploy­ment, Point­er said. 

After Sol­diers com­plete their train­ing, the unit actu­al­ly signs for the same equip­ment that they have trained on, and that equip­ment is then shipped to their new loca­tion. Pri­or to the open­ing of the facil­i­ty, the SMART‑T team would have to fly out to the unit sev­er­al times to get them set up with the equip­ment, help with train­ing and then inven­to­ry and sign over the equip­ment. The new facil­i­ty allows the team to take care of every­thing in one spot. 

The SMART‑T NET/Fielding facil­i­ty will also be a por­tal for data exchange and will be linked to Toby­han­na Army Depot in Penn­syl­va­nia, which will input valu­able reset infor­ma­tion into the facility’s data­base. The intent is to have a data­base that fol­lows each SMART‑T through all phas­es of its life cycle, from pro­duc­tion to field­ing, to upgrades to reset, with all of the data filed at a sin­gle source. This infor­ma­tion is expect­ed to save time, pro­vide cost avoid­ance in main­te­nance and increase sys­tem reli­a­bil­i­ty, Point­er said. 

SMART‑T is part of the WIN‑T archi­tec­ture and is com­pat­i­ble with both WIN‑T Incre­ments 1 and 2 and their cor­re­spond­ing equip­ment. Sim­i­lar to a home Inter­net con­nec­tion, WIN‑T Incre­ment 1, the Army’s cur­rent tac­ti­cal net­work back­bone, pro­vides high-speed, high-capac­i­ty voice, data and video com­mu­ni­ca­tions to units on the bat­tle­field, at-the-halt or at-the-quick-halt. WIN‑T Incre­ment 2 will pro­vide this net­work to mil­i­tary for­ma­tions while on the move. In the spring of 2012 WIN‑T Incre­ment 2 will under­go its Ini­tial Oper­a­tional Test and Eval­u­a­tion, or IOT&E, at White Sands Mis­sile Range, N.M., and SMART‑T will have a sup­port­ing role in that event. 

PM WIN‑T is assigned to Pro­gram Exec­u­tive Office Com­mand, Con­trol, Com­mu­ni­ca­tions-Tac­ti­cal, or PEO C3T

“The AEHF SMART‑T is a new capa­bil­i­ty with­in the WIN‑T con­struct and a chance to mar­ry our capa­bil­i­ty in line with the ARFORGEN [Army Force Gen­er­a­tion] cycle require­ments,” Point­er said. “When a unit rotates out of the box, that whole unit gets reset, and we are mak­ing sure that when they move back onto the ready line, we have con­formed to all of their require­ments. Here we have our own resources to get that done. You just can’t beat the val­ue of that.” 

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