Army fields new toolkit to streamline network management
June 18, 2013
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (June 19, 2013) -- The Army has fielded a new tool kit to help communications officers streamline how they manage the tactical network.
The 3rd and 4th Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs) of the 10th Mountain Division were the first two units equipped with the Joint Tactical Networking Environment Network Operations Toolkit (J-TNT) in February 2013. Each Brigade received 58 J-TNT systems as part of Capability Set (CS) 13, the Army's first integrated, mobile communications package that connects all echelons of the BCT.
"The J-TNT provides a means to load and configure our family of software-defined radios," said Jennifer Zbozny, chief engineer for the Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T). "We have collapsed several lower tactical network tools, mostly radio management tools, onto one laptop so that users can also configure legacy Single Channel Ground and Radio Airborne System (SINCGARS) radios and monitor all radios on the battlefield from one compiled set of tools."
Before J-TNT, there were nearly 50 tools for signal Soldiers to plan, manage, monitor and control the Lower Tactical Network Environment (LTNE). This prompted the Army Chief Information Officer/G-6 to place a moratorium on fielding Network Operations (NetOps) tools in February 2012. The G-3/5/7 then issued a directed requirement for integrated tactical NetOps last July. In effect, this called for convergence of the NetOps tools already in use.
In August, the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology asked PEO C3T to develop a plan to converge the tool sets. The development and fielding of J-TNT is one step in that overall roadmap to convergence, which also includes efforts aimed at the upper tactical internet and greater integration between the tactical and strategic components of the Army LandWarNet.
To create the J-TNT, several organizations worked together to quickly condense three major NetOps tools onto one laptop, or "box." The first of three primary software systems is the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) Enterprise Network Manager (JENM) that configures the Soldier Radio Waveform for software-defined radios. The second system is the Automated Communications Engineering Software/Joint Automated Communications Electronics Operating Instructions (CEOI) System (ACES-JACS) that helps with COMSEC keying, information key tags and signal operating instructions development. The third major system is the Tactical Internet Management System (TIMS) that is part of the Joint Battle Command-Platform (JBC-P) friendly and enemy force tracking and messaging system. TIMS displays blue situational awareness icons generated by radio-based systems that report their geospatial position via position location information multicast messages.
"J-TNT also has six other frequency-based applications that are part of it, so there are nine total applications running on one laptop," said Project Director Communications Security (PD COMSEC) Stan Niemiec. "J-TNT lowers the burden on Soldiers by giving them only one laptop with multiple NetOps management tools. Previously, they had the logistics burden of hauling multiple laptops and cables to manage networks."
Prior to the fielding, J-TNT took part in a laboratory-based risk reduction at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., to ensure interoperability with existing structures. A few items for improvement were found. For example, it was important to ensure that port settings, timing and output were set correctly because the ACES-JACS was developed in different software environment than TIMS and JENM.
All of the improvements were included in the fielded capability. Prior to fielding, J-TNT also participated in the CS 13 Network Verification exercise conducted at Fort Dix, N.J., to solidify its performance standards and demonstrate its importance in unit task reorganization efforts, which are adjustments required to the network to support a change in task organization. The Army is also streamlining the systems involved in this process.
The J-TNT team also worked with U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) to fine-tune its training efforts, reducing a 192-hour course to 80 hours and refining the presentation for Soldiers.
"We require radios in the classroom so we can set up a network so Soldiers understand the look and feel of the network in the field," Niemiec said.
J-TNT's accelerated fielding was due to PD COMSEC, Project Manager Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (PM WIN-T), PM Joint Tactical Networking, PM Tactical Radios, PD Tactical Network Initialization and Product Manager Network Systems supporting this initiative. The team also collaborated with four TRADOC Capabilities Managers and PM Electronic Warfare, part of PEO Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors.
As the First Unit Equipped deadline approached, the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center and the Communications-Electronics Command Software Engineering Center helped replicate hard drives, assemble Soldier training material, pack J-TNT transit cases with all equipment and ship the devices to the 10th Mountain Division's 4th BCT at Fort Polk, La., and 3rd BCT at Fort Drum, N.Y., in time to meet tight unit schedules.
To support J-TNT, field service representatives and subject matter experts were well trained to provide field elements the resources they need. Warfighters can access support around the clock through the Single Interface to the Field helpdesk.
The next two brigades to receive J-TNT are the 2nd BCT of the 1st Armored Division at Fort Bliss, Texas, which conducts the Army's Network Integration Evaluations, and the 2nd BCT of the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Ky., which is the third unit to be fielded with CS 13. The J-TNT team has been fielding the toolkit through the Unit Set Fielding process. It has participated in all new materiel introductory briefs and synchronization meetings with all the other platforms and systems that are going to the brigades that receive CS 13.
"I see this as a huge success in an austere environment," said Lt. Col. Gregory Grzybowski, assistant TRADOC capability manager for Tactical Radios. "It is not where we want to be, but it's a fantastic start. J-TNT has been very successful in providing units increased capabilities, effective training and it will only improve with time."
The J-TNT team's efforts were duly recognized by the command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR) community when the team was selected May 29 as the C4ISR Center of Excellence Team of the Quarter for the 2nd Quarter of Fiscal Year 2013.