Generals discuss SATCOM capabilities of the past, present and future
February 19, 2009
So, you're wondering - just how far has the United States military expanded in its reach into cyberspace' This simple comparison might shed some light for you.
Upon her recent entrance into the Air Force Academy, Air Force Gen. Kevin Chilton's daughter received a computer. Her father, the first astronaut to obtain a fourth-star in the military and Commander of U.S. Strategic Command, received a post slide rule as a freshman in the academy in 1972.
"Cyberspace wasn't a word and computer networks weren't invented when I joined the Air Force," said Chilton, as he shared stories of the tool's capability to solve simple Mathematics equations, while interviewed at a press conference during LandWarNet 2008, held in August in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Satellite communications capabilities have emerged today, such as the Army's Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) Increment One. The system provides battalion-level and above Warfighters with the ability to connect to the Army's digitized systems, voice, data and video via satellite Internet connection at locations across the globe. On this communications pipe, are systems like Army Battle Command Systems (ABCS) 6.4, a suite of digital capabilities, which Warfighters use to locate friendly units through Global Positioning System (GPS) technology, organize logistics, analyze intelligence data and terrain, manage the airspace, along with other missions.
Chilton used arguably primitive tools such as the Hewlett-Packard calculator he obtained for $250 as a sophomore at the academy, as an upgrade to the slide rule, to illustrate the military's proclivity for technological advancement.
"So, that's where I came from and now I look today at the information we move; the calculating power of computers today is just unbelievable," Chilton said. "It is unbelievable what we can push forward and the decisions tools that are at hand for a Commander, the bandwidth connectivity. It just amazes me."
WIN-T Increment One is filled with information that includes Command and Control applications and sensor-based video of the battlefield and allows for communications at the quick halt. Bandwidth amounts will expand in WIN-T's three remaining increments to support that data, as applications will always continue to fill the Army's network. WIN-T Increments Two and Three will bring the initial and full on-the-move capability, where stopping is not required for communications, to the entire Army. The further-specialized Increment Four will leverage the secure anti-jam, low probability detection satellite communications capabilities of things like the Transformation Satellite Communications (TSAT) system into radio systems.
WIN-T Increment Two already underwent two successful Engineering Field Tests (EFTs). The first, held in October 2007 at Fort Dix/Navy Lakehurst, N.J, consisted of 15 Highband Network Radios and eight Network Centric Waveform modems. It was performed in a highly mobile environment over cross country terrain, WIN-T Increment Two and Three lead test engineer Kenneth Hutchinson has said.
The 30 node EFT held at Fort Huachuca, Ariz. recommenced the "build -a-little, test-a-little" development strategy, which uses networks of increasing scale to identify developmental issues early on and address them before they magnify.
The objective of the WIN-T Increment 1a Initial Operation Test and Evaluation, held at Fort Lewis, Wash. in October, was to demonstrate operational effectiveness, operational suitability and survivability in support of a full rate production decision, Increment One test engineer, Herbert Cort has said.
The Army will proceed with further tests of WIN-T in 2009 and beyond.
Operational benefits rather than risks will emerge among the Joint forces, as bandwidth is moved to the edge of the battle space, Chilton said.
"And you provide to the Soldier, Airmen, Marine and Sailor forward - what they need to accomplish their mission," he said.
While generally not against the notion of pushing information down to the battle space's edge, Chilton stressed that discipline must be exercised when hooking applications to those data streams.
To illustrate this point, Chilton harked back to the military's early experiences in the information technology realm.
"Part of one of the problems, when you look back, not too many years ago; was when we first said, 'OK, we're going to get our arms around cyberspace: well - where is it, what is it, what's on it''" he said. "And, we found all kinds of applications, the pedigree of them, the source code for them, et cetera, not well understood. So, getting an understanding and having configuration control and an understanding of what applications allow you to ride on this network is really important, but certainly not beyond our capability. We just need to be disciplined about it."
In a joint force, it is "absolutely essential" for Soldiers to stay aware of the capabilities the other services are adding to the network, Chilton said.
"We are a joint force; we fight together jointly," he said.
This proves evident today, in the close integration between air and land forces conducting operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said.
"They are already sharing common operating pictures between cockpits and Soldiers on the ground and passing information back, using whiteboard-type technology that's really making them more powerfully combat effective," Chilton said. "And so, if you don't know what your buddy is using and that technology then you are ignorant perhaps of the increased capability you can bring to the fight and vice versa."
Understanding the capabilities of another Warfighter in any domain, is key for leveraging the tools necessary to complete one's mission, he said.
Today, efforts such as LandWarNet are providing Soldiers with a single identity, so they can access the network from any location. It also yields significant cost savings for the tax payer.
The Global Network Enterprise Construct, will leverage Network Service Centers and provide a way to centrally manage limited network resources, such as spectrum and bandwidth, with a decentralized capability, said Maj. Gen. Susan Lawrence, Commanding General, NETCOM.
This means determining the capabilities a Soldier or Airman needs to fight and delivering it through an enterprise network. The use of a singular network, rather than multiple ones, allows for significant cost savings.
"We have to be responsible stewards of our defense dollars as we move forward," said Lawrence, citing the current economic situation in the United States.
Efforts such of these are aligned with the initiative of Gen. George W. Casey Jr., Chief of Staff of the Army, to increase the amount of Army enterprises, Lawrence said.
Casey has asked the Army's leaders to examine "how can we do things more efficiently and effectively and get returns on our investments; deliver a better capability that is value-based," Lawrence said.
"So, he is forcing all of the leaders in the Army to think about how we deliver services different than we did yesterday," she said.
The incremental delivery of WIN-T allows the Army to field technologies that already exist in the WIN-T program to satisfy current Warfighter needs, while planning for the future, said Lt. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sorenson, the Army's CIO/G6.
Separating the delivery of WIN-T into timeframe-based increments, contingent on the availability of technology, is an approach which is similar to that of Future Combat Systems, said Brig. Gen. Jeffrey W. Foley, the Army's Chief of Signal and Commanding General, U.S. Army Signal Center, Fort Gordon, Ga. It lets the Army deliver capability to the Warfighter when it is technologically available and reliable, he said.
"...Get capability into the force as soon as possible, and celebrate the success of that, work on it and build upon it," he said. "It's a very powerful acquisition process."
The Army will stay the course with WIN-T as its main communications pipe for Army Team C4ISR systems, as it evolves into the future.
"WIN-T is our flagship program for the Army C4 world," Foley said. "There are others out there; many of them, and it's important to keep their work redundant, to keep robustness and the bandwidth capability coming. But it is our flagship program."
Sorenson, Foley and Lawrence were interviewed during a press conference at the 2008 Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting and Exposition held during October in Washington, D.C.
Regional combatant Commanders and the joint services would benefit from a Joint Task Force-developed list of metrics of which reporting requirements they should request from their network warriors, Chilton said. These lower echelon Soldiers would report this information to their Commanders, to allow them to understand the readiness of their network for a mission or possible degradations, he said. These metrics can help Commanders ensure the health of their network both prior to and during the fight.
"So, I think there can be an educational part of that, as well, that flows; not only top down, but bottom up," he said.
During his experience as a Wing Commander, Chilton carefully examined maintenance metrics to be proactively aware of the health of his fleet in order to conduct combat operations.
Project Manager, WIN-T is assigned to the Army's Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T). ABCS 6.4 is assigned to Project Manager, Battle Command, of the PEO C3T.