Army satellite communications connect enduring forces, evolve for the future
August 19, 2014
- Army.mil: Science and Technology News
- PM WIN-T
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- New satellite program of record increases capabilities, rapid response
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- Soldiers test changes to Army's mobile network that make it easier to use
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (August 19, 2014) -- As the U.S. operational footprint in Afghanistan diminishes, the Army's portfolio of ground satellite terminals will continue to support operations -- enabling enduring forces to communicate in the region for as long as the mission requires.
With terminals ranging in size from carry-on luggage to a small house, the Army's global network of satellite communications (SATCOM) capability provides high-speed, high-capacity connectivity, so Soldiers can communicate across vast distances and in austere locations and terrains.
"Today's changing operational landscape requires versatile and reliable communications that extend around the world," said Brig. Gen. Daniel P. Hughes, program executive officer for Command, Control and Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T). "As current and future operations continue to evolve, delivering today's SATCOM portfolio and improving it to support Force 2025 will allow our Soldiers to be more adaptable and expeditionary to support all contingencies."
Different regions, echelons, mission sets and phases of operations require different SATCOM capability. Various ground satellite terminals have supported operations in Iraq and Afghanistan before and during the use of the SATCOM-based Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) Increments 1 and 2 -- the Army's tactical communications network backbone. At the height of combat operations in that region, the at-the-halt WIN-T Increment 1 network provided secure voice, video and data to support evolving mission requirements. In 2013, as the mission in Afghanistan changed to an advisory role to help the Afghan forces secure their country, the Army introduced the upgraded WIN-T Increment 2 to theater as well. With its network-equipped vehicles, the WIN-T Increment 2 network added mobility to the network and extended operational reach as the U.S. began drawing down forces and dismantling its fixed network infrastructure on forward operating bases (FOBs). Both increments were augmented with additional ground satellite capability as part of the Army's network architecture.
Now, as U.S. forces return to the states with their WIN-T Increment 1 and 2 equipment, the Army will continue to utilize a combination of deployable SATCOM terminals to support enduring forces, just as some of these terminals still support the Office of Security Cooperation-Iraq in support of Operation New Dawn.
"We are utilizing a combination of SATCOM terminals of different sizes and capability to best meet requirements remaining in Afghanistan," said Lt. Col. Leonard Newman, product manager for SATCOM, assigned to Project Manager WIN-T. "Each element works in unison with the others to support the greater network architecture across the region."
As part of the Army's redefined SATCOM footprint in Afghanistan, the largest terminal, the Deployable Ku-Band Earth Terminal (DKET), uses both commercial and military satellites to provide long haul, high-capacity transport both within and beyond the Afghan theater. These systems can establish headquarters-level, network-hub connectivity anywhere a mission demands. In July, the Army successfully completed full installation of new monitor and control software in all DKETs in Afghanistan and Kuwait. This upgrade provides better configuration management, reporting and data collection of potential faults for corrective action and trend analysis for preventative maintenance.
While DKETs are designed for larger headquarters locations, Secure Internet Protocol Router/Non-secure Internet Protocol Router (SIPR/NIPR) Access Point (SNAP) satellite terminals are designed for use at smaller outposts. These transit-cased satellite terminals can be transported in the back of a truck, increasing unit agility and ability to communicate from remote locations. SNAPs use both commercial and military band satellites to efficiently provide high-capacity beyond-line-of-sight SIPR, NIPR, coalition networks and voice capability out to remote company and platoon FOBs.
For even smaller team-size elements, the Global Rapid Response Information Package (GRRIP) is deployed in a single transit case that can fit in the overhead bin of an airplane and can be set up in minutes. GRRIPs provide secure and unclassified communications to forces operating in austere and demanding environments. These commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) terminals are designed for small teams entering locations where the infrastructure has either been dismantled, destroyed or hasn't been built up, and are perfect for first responder communications.
"It's all about providing communication where and when you need it, whether transporting large volumes of data in and out of the country with a DKET, or relaying situational awareness at the tip of the spear with a SNAP or GRRIP, it's all equally important," said Lynn Epperson, deputy PdM for SATCOM.
Although GRRIPs only leverage commercial satellites and currently are not part of the WIN-T network, a new program of record known as Transportable Tactical Command Communications (T2C2) will incorporate a more advanced SATCOM capability of similar size into the WIN-T network for the first time. In support of a leaner, more expeditionary future force, the T2C2 program will provide both a light and a heavy version. Its carry-on luggage-size satellite dishes will support small detachments and teams, while its larger, though still easily transportable, satellite dishes will support company-sized elements. This advanced COTS technology utilizes both commercial and military satellites for optimum bandwidth and cost efficiencies.
The Army will use SNAPs and GRRIPs as a bridging capability for T2C2 Heavy and Lite respectively, until the T2C2 capability is fielded. The basis of issue plan for the SNAP and GRRIP is very closely aligned with that for T2C2, so as T2C2 begins fielding, the Army will just replace those legacy systems with the new, more advanced capability.
To further support forces in the Afghan region and around the world, the Army will also continue to leverage its deployable transit-cased Global Broadcast Service (GBS) satellite terminals. These terminals provide one-way high-speed broadcast of large-volumes of data and multimedia for situational awareness including Unmanned Aerial Vehicle video, imagery, terrain, weather and biometric data. In other operations GBS can also receive large files such as software updates for WIN-T terminals.
Contingencies over the last decade have taught the Army that its future force will have to be able to deploy teams to any austere environment at a moment's notice, with the ability to connect and access data at the point of need. To make that happen, the Army is working to provide a network that is robust, versatile and rapidly deployable, allowing for quick adjustments based on mission, region and other factors.
The Army plans to leverage new technologies as they emerge in the commercial sector, such as lightweight inflatable satellite antennas that can even withstand small caliber rounds, to provide new capability to the Soldier quickly and cost effectively. The service will also keep improving current and future SATCOM systems to reduce size, weight and power requirements, as well as increase throughput, network extension and operational versatility to support Force 2025.
"Communication is the most essential element of any mission," Newman said. "The Army's advanced SATCOM capability and flexible network architecture is continually evolving to support more information for increasingly agile and expeditionary units."