USA — Army plans network integration exercise

The U.S. Army is plan­ning a brigade com­bat team inte­gra­tion exer­cise at White Sands Mis­sile Range, N.M., July 12–16, 2010, which will con­nect Sol­diers, sen­sors, unmanned aer­i­al vehi­cles, net­worked vehi­cles on-the-move, com­mand posts and oth­er nodes over long dis­tances through satel­lite and soft­ware-pro­gram­ma­ble radio as part of an effort to eval­u­ate the progress of its bat­tle­field net­work.

Army Evaluation Task Force Soldier
In this file pho­to, An Army Eval­u­a­tion Task Force Sol­dier waits for exer­cis­es to begin dur­ing the Lim­it­ed User Test, Media Day Sept. 1, 2009, at White Sands Mis­sile Range, N.M.
Source: U.S. Army photo 

“We are going to stress the net­work to see how far we can go to extend the net­work. It is not a test — but an inte­gra­tion exer­cise. We are going to see what this demon­stra­tion can do — learn from it — and then if nec­es­sary adjust our pro­grams,” said Lt. Gen. Bill Phillips, prin­ci­pal mil­i­tary deputy to the assis­tant sec­re­tary of the Army for Acqui­si­tion, Logis­tics and Technology. 

The exer­cise, which is envi­sioned as a key step with­in the larg­er devel­op­men­tal tra­jec­to­ry of the Army’s bat­tle­field net­work, is aimed at inform­ing the devel­op­men­tal cycle. It will involve less than 100 Sol­diers and engi­neers at Fort Bliss, Texas, who will place Sol­diers and tech­nolo­gies in a series of vignettes designed to stress and eval­u­ate the network’s mul­ti-node ter­res­tri­al lay­er and broad­er satel­lite connectivity. 

“This will inform the Army’s net­work devel­op­ment strat­e­gy as part of an ongo­ing process by bring­ing all of the piece parts togeth­er in an inte­grat­ed fash­ion. This is the first time we have begun to con­nect from sol­dier-leader lev­els up to com­pa­ny, brigade, bat­tal­ion and beyond,” said Paul Mehney, a spokesman for PEO Integration. 

The exer­cise is designed to be sep­a­rate and dis­tinct from a planned Lim­it­ed User Test of Incre­ment 1 capa­bil­i­ties slat­ed for Sep­tem­ber of this year; as opposed to func­tion­ing as part of a for­mal pro­cure­ment cycle pri­or to a Mile­stone C pro­cure­ment deci­sion, the exer­cise is pure­ly aimed at push­ing the enve­lope of tech­no­log­i­cal pos­si­bil­i­ty as a way to fur­ther the learn­ing process, offi­cials said. 

The idea will be to con­nect net­work nodes to one anoth­er through one seam­less bat­tle­field net­work where­in Sol­diers, com­man­ders and sen­sors can share voice, video, data and images across the force in real time. 

Vehi­cles out­fit­ted with Net­work Inte­gra­tion Kits will serve as key net­work hubs con­nect­ing the ter­res­tri­al and satel­lite lay­ers of the net­work to one anoth­er. The NIKs con­sist of an Inte­grat­ed Com­put­er Sys­tem, JTRS Ground Mobile Radio and Blue Force Track­er dis­play screen. 

A ter­res­tri­al net­work of sen­sors will send voice, images and data through Joint Tac­ti­cal Radio Sys­tems, or JTRS soft­ware pro­gram­ma­ble radios using high band­width wave­forms such as Sol­der Radio Wave­form, or SRW; the infor­ma­tion sent and received by the ter­res­tri­al lay­er will be con­nect­ed to Warfight­er Infor­ma­tion Network-Tactical,or WIN‑T, a satel­lite net­work able to send infor­ma­tion over long distances. 

“The plan is to con­nect the ech­e­lons. I will have the abil­i­ty to take a pic­ture of a vehi­cle three or four kilo­me­ters in front of me. I will be able to bring that image into the net­work and then I will be able to send that image from Fort Bliss, Texas, back over WIN‑T to Aberdeen Prov­ing Ground, Md.,” said Col. Michael Williamson, deputy pro­gram exec­u­tive offi­cer, Net­works, PEO Integration. 

By con­nect­ing the ech­e­lons to one anoth­er, dis­mount­ed sol­diers car­ry­ing a JTRS Rifle­man Radio or JTRS Hand­held Man­pack Small radio will be able to instant­ly share infor­ma­tion across the squad, pla­toon, com­pa­ny and bat­tal­ion lev­els and, if need­ed, all the way up to com­man­ders at high­er head­quar­ters or com­mand posts. 

Send­ing voice, video and images through SRW, sen­sors such as the Unat­tend­ed Ground Sen­sors, Small Unmanned Ground Robots and Class I UAS sys­tems will instan­ta­neous­ly share infor­ma­tion across the force; the NIKs will have the abil­i­ty to view and share the sen­sor infor­ma­tion in real time on Blue Force Track­ing dis­play screens in vehi­cles on-the-move — and WIN‑T can then beam the images over longer distances. 

The data will be shown on a Com­mand Post of the Future dis­play screen — a bat­tle com­mand appli­ca­tion which orga­nizes and dis­plays a host of rel­e­vant bat­tle­field information. 

The exer­cise will also include an air tier with Apache and Black Hawk heli­copters and a Shad­ow UAS con­fig­ured to func­tion as nodes on the net­work con­nect­ing groups of sol­diers to one anoth­er who are sep­a­rat­ed by ter­rain and do not have a line-of-sight connection. 

“There will be a shad­ow UAV fly­ing over brigade com­bat teams. The data will be con­nect­ed to the sen­sors to allow com­man­ders and sol­diers at var­i­ous lev­els to see those sen­sors,” said Phillips. 

The exer­cise is planned as mere­ly an ini­tial step in the broad­er devel­op­ment of the Army’s network. 

“This is about how I get more capa­bil­i­ty to Sol­diers and con­tin­ue to build this net­work. Suc­cess is under­stand­ing the process of inte­grat­ing mul­ti­ple pro­grams. What I am look­ing for is an endur­ing process to see what tech­nolo­gies are out there and how they are matur­ing,” said Williamson. 

“In the long run we will save DoD mon­ey,” he said, “because we will under­stand what is real­ly possible.” 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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