U.S. Soldiers execute realistic scenario, face hybrid threat as NIE begins

WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, N.M. — The Army’s largest ever net­work field exer­cise rolled into action today, as more than 4,000 Sol­diers began to exe­cute a rig­or­ous sce­nario designed to mea­sure the per­for­mance and oper­a­tional val­ue of advanced tac­ti­cal com­mu­ni­ca­tions equip­ment under real-world con­di­tions.

Spread across a bat­tle­space the size of Delaware, the Net­work Inte­gra­tion Eval­u­a­tion (NIE) 12.2 will chal­lenge the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Divi­sion (2/1 AD) to main­tain net­work con­nec­tiv­i­ty as units maneu­ver vast dis­tances against a hybrid threat.
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Spread across a bat­tle­space the size of Delaware, the Net­work Inte­gra­tion Eval­u­a­tion, or NIE 12.2, will chal­lenge the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Divi­sion, to main­tain net­work con­nec­tiv­i­ty as units maneu­ver vast dis­tances against a hybrid threat. In the notion­al coun­try of Atti­ca, they will encounter a com­plex mix of an oppos­ing nation’s army, insur­gents, civil­ians, a host-nation army, crim­i­nals and oth­ers, all against the back­drop of moun­tain­ous desert ter­rain marked by scorch­ing tem­per­a­tures and swirling dust.

“The con­di­tions are pret­ty tough down here, and the dis­tances we’re cov­er­ing are tru­ly astound­ing, so this will be a tru­ly effec­tive and real­is­tic work­out for the sys­tems,” said Col. Dan Pin­nell, who com­mands the 3,800 Sol­diers of the 2/1 AD. “Frankly, for me it’s a bet­ter eval­u­a­tion when you’re doing real­is­tic stuff, when you are up and mov­ing aggres­sive­ly at a very fast tem­po.”

NIE 12.2 is the third in a series of semi-annu­al eval­u­a­tions designed to rapid­ly mature and fur­ther inte­grate the Army’s tac­ti­cal com­mu­ni­ca­tions net­work. It dif­fers from pre­vi­ous exer­cis­es in size, scope and as the final “check­out” for Capa­bil­i­ty Set 13, the first inte­grat­ed group of net­work tech­nolo­gies that will be field­ed to brigade com­bat teams begin­ning this fall.

Capa­bil­i­ty Set 13 is anchored by the Warfight­er Infor­ma­tion Net­work-Tac­ti­cal, or WIN‑T Incre­ment 2, a major upgrade to the tac­ti­cal com­mu­ni­ca­tions back­bone that will enable mis­sion com­mand on-the-move and extend satel­lite com­mu­ni­ca­tions to the com­pa­ny lev­el. Much of the sce­nario for NIE 12.2 was dri­ven by require­ments for the Ini­tial Oper­a­tional Test and Eval­u­a­tion for WIN‑T Incre­ment 2, said Lt. Col. John Kline, chief of oper­a­tions for the Brigade Mod­ern­iza­tion Com­mand. The BMC, along with the Sys­tem of Sys­tems Inte­gra­tion Direc­torate and Army Test and Eval­u­a­tion Com­mand, form a Tri­ad of orga­ni­za­tions that exe­cutes the NIEs.

For exam­ple, to ensure the net­work can func­tion when nodes are spaced out at great dis­tances, the sce­nario requires dif­fer­ent ele­ments of the brigade to occu­py var­i­ous stretch­es of White Sands Mis­sile Range by the end of the exer­cise. It also calls for brigade and bat­tal­ion tac­ti­cal oper­a­tions cen­ters to “jump” or relo­cate sev­er­al times dur­ing the test, so com­man­ders can eval­u­ate the capa­bil­i­ties of mis­sion com­mand on-the-move.

But while there are cer­tain “anchors” built into the sce­nario to ensure the Army obtains the nec­es­sary test data, Pin­nell and his troops will have a great amount of flex­i­bil­i­ty for “free play” oper­a­tions based on mis­sion con­di­tions and their own deci­sions, Kline said.

“We have real­ly moved to a dynam­ic free play exer­cise that has con­trol mech­a­nisms in it to ensure we make our require­ments for test and eval­u­a­tion, but pro­vides a much more oper­a­tional feel to the envi­ron­ment,” said Col. Robert Men­ti, BMC’s train­ing eval­u­a­tion divi­sion chief. “We are also imple­ment­ing for the first time the sim­u­la­tion wrap­around, so that the unit is oper­at­ing in con­text with larg­er orga­ni­za­tion­al for­ma­tions.”

That is the role of the 101st Air­borne Divi­sion, which will serve as the head­quar­ters ele­ment to 2/1 AD by issu­ing orders and mon­i­tor­ing oper­a­tions over the WIN‑T net­work from Fort Camp­bell, Ky. For fur­ther real­ism, oth­er “brigades” with­in the divi­sion are rep­re­sent­ed through sim­u­lat­ed data traf­fic on the net­work. Intel­li­gence and mis­sion com­mand sys­tems have also been pop­u­lat­ed with infor­ma­tion about Atti­ca and its inhab­i­tants, a base­line that 2/1 AD Sol­diers will add to as they col­lect intel­li­gence at the tac­ti­cal edge and trans­mit it over the net­work.

Their tar­gets will be a hybrid threat com­prised of approx­i­mate­ly 600 Sol­diers from the 2nd Engi­neer Bat­tal­ion play­ing dif­fer­ent roles in the oppos­ing force, or OPFOR. Occu­py­ing 11 dif­fer­ent vil­lages, the OPFOR will also have the free­dom to behave in unpre­dictable ways, said Lt. Col. Andre Baly­oz, 2nd Engi­neer Bat­tal­ion com­man­der.

“If, for exam­ple, a (2/1 AD) unit moves into a vil­lage and they’re inter­fer­ing with civil­ians in a way that is not appre­ci­at­ed, then the civil­ians could demon­strate, or riot, or the insur­gents might take advan­tage of it,” he said. “We’re here to sup­port the test, (and) the pur­pose of this whole exer­cise is to test equip­ment. So my intent is to fight against the 2/1 AD and try to defeat them.”

In addi­tion to the IOT&E for WIN‑T Incre­ment 2, NIE 12.2 will also serve as the for­mal oper­a­tional test for the Man­pack com­po­nent of the Joint Tac­ti­cal Radio Sys­tems or JTRS Hand­held, Man­pack, Small Form Fit, or HMS sys­tem. The exer­cise also includes infor­mal eval­u­a­tion of 37 oth­er net­work and non-net­work sys­tems, in addi­tion to the Capa­bil­i­ty Set 13 base­line. It con­cludes on June 8.

“A num­ber of fac­tors come into play, but I think you’ll find a much more flu­id envi­ron­ment that is more chal­leng­ing for the chain of com­mand,” said Brig. Gen. Ran­dal Drag­on, BMC com­man­der. “You’ll see a very mobile exer­cise.”

U.S. Army