Network integration facilities support deployed and deploying forces
April 3, 2013
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ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (April 3, 2013) -- Battlefield scenarios without the battlefield; vehicle configuration items without the vehicle; support to units without unit disruption.
The unique capabilities of the integration facilities here simulate network environments found in theater to help the Army continually improve its tactical communications network backbone, Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T).
"The WIN-T integration facilities enable us to get better capability into the hands of the Soldier faster, replicate and resolve operational network issues in a responsive manner, and help ensure that our forces are fully supported with the best equipment in the world," said Col. Ed Swanson, project manager (PM) for WIN-T, which is assigned to the Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications-Tactical.
In collaboration with the Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC), PM WIN-T leverages two of the varied integration facilities located on the Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG), Md., campus -- the Communications Systems Design Center (CSDC) and the Joint Satellite Engineering Center (JSEC).
The CSDC hosts the WIN-T equipment and engineers who test and evaluate the capabilities and integration of the WIN-T network. It has direct fiber connectivity to many of the other interconnected integration facilities, enabling a wide variety of communication and mission command systems to be tested together as if they were in the same location on the same network. At the Joint Satellite Engineering Center (JSEC), WIN-T engineers test satellite communications (SATCOM) capabilities either over the air or through the use of satellite simulators. The two facilities can "talk" to each other through these SATCOM capabilities or through the APG campus infrastructure fiber network.
"As units deploy, they fall in on theater provided equipment and networks that are unique to the theater environment," said Joseph Sharpe, PM WIN-T systems engineer in the CSDC. "As a result, WIN-T engineers in the CSDC utilize the flexibility inherent in the WIN-T design to assist the units in seamlessly integrating the WIN-T systems into the theater network. These new designs can be tested in the facility to work out any issues that may arise."
When Soldiers in theater have problems that cannot be resolved by traditional field support, their more difficult issues are sent to the engineers in the CSDC who can simulate the field environments and reproduce the exact scenarios to come up with viable solutions without interruption to the unit. The facility contains representative network equipment in racks for low fidelity testing and actual WIN-T configuration items, both with and without their corresponding vehicles, that give engineers a precise idea of a systems' "behavior," both separately and integrated as part of the network, Sharpe said.
While the priority of the CSDC is to support deployed and deploying units, it is also used to evaluate technology refreshments, resolve equipment end of life issues and replacement, and conduct other miscellaneous testing as resources allow. Network modernization remains a top priority for the Army, and these facilities provide that needed real-world environment in a controlled setting, an ideal stage for network improvement.
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. The Army is increasing the increment's capability through the WIN-T Increment 1B upgrade, which not only increases interoperability with WIN-T Increment 2 but also improves the security and efficiency of the network.
The newly deploying WIN-T Increment 2 provides Soldiers with an integrated, self-forming, self-healing and on-the-move network that reaches down to the company level for the first time. It further increases capability by introducing networking waveforms and enhancing Network Operations, a suite of integrated tools used by communications officers to command and control the network. WIN-T Increment 2 is being deployed as part of the Army's Capability Set 13 that began fielding in October 2012 with two brigade combat teams from the 10th Mountain Division, which are preparing for deployment with these capabilities later this year.
"The CSDC is in the process of augmenting its current WIN-T Increment 2 suite of equipment with additional assets that will allow it to test an even more varied group of scenarios and provide a better glimpse into the scalability of the network," Sharpe said.
The integration facilities at the APG campus enable PM WIN-T and other organizations to get capabilities to the field faster and improve existing technologies, and they help prepare for larger evaluations and test events. PM WIN-T leveraged the capabilities of the CSDC and JSEC to prepare and reduce risk for the WIN-T Increment 2 Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) in May 2012. WIN-T Increment 2 is now heading into a Follow-on Operational Test and Evaluation (FOT&E) in May 2013. The CSDC and JSEC are being leveraged for the FOT&E for network and application testing, as well as software integration to reduce risk prior to the test.
Testing ahead of larger events such as the FOT&E and the Army's Network Integration Evaluations (NIEs) help to work out as many technical issues as possible, laying the groundwork for more reliable tests once the equipment is handed off to Soldiers. The NIEs are semi-annual field exercises that allow the Army, through Soldier-led evaluations, to assess and integrate systems that meet operational needs or fill gaps. The CSDC and JSEC facilities were used for integration and pre-testing in past NIEs as well as for upcoming evaluations, such as NIE 13.2, which will host the WIN-T Increment 2 FOT&E. Network pre-testing for NIE 14.1 is taking advantage of the fiber connection to CERDEC's Intelligence and Information Warfare Directorate integration facility at APG, as well as the JSEC SATCOM link to the Network Service Center - Training facility at Fort Gordon, Ga.
In partnership with the Army Research Lab and Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Labs, the CSDC can also take advantage of modeling and simulation research, which provides the ability to emulate a high fidelity test-bed for the developing WIN-T Increment 3 network. WIN-T Increment 3, currently in development and testing, will provide the "full" on-the-move networking capability by improving the line-of-sight capability fielded under Increment 2, providing an air tier to the existing WIN-T architecture, and refining the network architecture.
"As the WIN-T programs roll-out new and updated capabilities, the CSDC and JSEC test these evolving baselines for backward compatibility within the WIN-T architecture, as well as for compatibility between increments," Swanson said. "And as new technologies emerge and mature, they will continue to be integrated and tested in these facilities."