Modernizing and equipping the force (Part 4)
December 30, 2010
By U.S. Army
JTRS: THE SOLDIER'S NETWORKING BACKBONE
The Joint Tactical Radio System, or JTRS, is transitioning from research and development, to production and delivery to Soldiers in the field. Providing cyber-hardened Internet Protocol networking on fluid, rough terrain battlefields, JTRS radios seamlessly interconnect air, ground, maritime and space platforms and networks in a multi-band, multi-mode capability to the individual Soldier.
The Soldier's personal C2-on-the-move communications network capability, located in a single box that acts like a mobile cell tower and router, operates in a deployable, mission-programmable, worldwide spectrum. Without JTRS, net-centric warfare, quite literally, stops at the command center. With JTRS products, every warfighter is connected to every other warfighter.
Today's Soldier can look forward to a personal communication support package that is lighter, self-contained, and cannot be hacked; has longer lasting batteries, and is able to transmit and receive at distances previously unimagined in a net-centric capability, at battlefield locations previously unreachable by legacy technologies. JTRS software-defined architecture increases network security as threats evolve, while providing position location information to the Soldier as real-time situational awareness is passed to the company level and below. Soldiers are safer, smarter and always in touch.
En-route to a remote security base, your convoy is sidetracked with a vehicle maintenance problem: pulled over in extremely rough mountainous terrain, no sign of civilization in any direction, and the weather is getting worse. The mountains are so high you can only see straight up. Your lieutenant needs to communicate the situation. There are no cell towers, you may or may not have an unmanned aerial vehicle relay overhead, and you wonder if a satellite connection is even available. No satellite, no worry. The convoy does not lose contact with battalion headquarters. JTRS products immediately go to work establishing a communications system and link throughout the entire convoy.
For the first time, the network now moves with the individual Soldier rather than the Soldier having to move with the network. All operational and tactical data are at the Soldier's disposal, not pre-empted or interrupted by traditional communication limitations. With JTRS, the battlefield is truly networked and every Soldier is connected in a safe, secure communications nerve system where they need it most: at the tactical edge.
-Al Clayton and Mike Daily/Joint PEO JTRS
AFGHAN MISSION NETWORK
The Afghan Mission Network is filling a void and facilitating communication between the U.S. and key allies in Afghanistan. Until 2010, the 45 coalition nations fighting in Afghanistan were essentially speaking 45 different electronic languages. With each country using its own secure network to transmit critical information, there was no quick and efficient way to share battlefield data across the coalition.
With coalition partners playing a prominent role in Afghanistan, International Security Assistance Force leadership deemed adopting the AMN critical to victory. Using the North Atlantic Treaty Organization ISAF Secret Network as the backbone, the AMN incorporates network extensions from each participating nation. This allows unrestricted data sharing among the separate existing networks, erasing barriers to situational awareness and communicating the commander's intent.
For the project to succeed, the U.S. piece of the network-Combined Enterprise Regional Information Exchange System-ISAF-needed to become the new home for all mission-critical systems in Afghanistan.
All tactical systems were brought onto the new network. Program Executive Offices Command C3T (Control and Communications-Tactical), Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors, and elements of U.S. Central Command migrated all appropriate mission-critical United States Command and Control and Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance systems from the U.S. SIPR network to the CX-I.
A command post of the future allows commanders to see a common operating picture and to collaborate in real time. The insatiable demand for the full-motion video which is collected by the Persistent Threat Detection System, Unmanned Aircraft System and various Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance platforms will now be at the fingertips of coalition forces with feeds from as well as information available through the Distributed Common Ground System-Army.
The network, fielded on a tight timeline, was equipped with the technology by March 2010, about four weeks after ISAF leadership's directive. The initial plan-to procure a new set of equipment for use on the U.S. component of the AMN-could have dramatically slowed the process. But PEOs C3T, IEW&S and the CENTCOM elements involved shifted strategies, opting instead to reconfigure existing equipment where possible. That saved more than $10.7 million in equipping the 2SCR, and total savings on CX-I are projected at nearly $59 million.
The urgency also meant units were trained on the new network in the U.S. before deploying, ensuring they were prepared to operate the technology when they arrived in theater.
-Claire Heininger/PEO Command Control Communications-Tactical
BRIGADE COMBAT TEAM INTEGRATION EXERCISE
During the Brigade Combat Team Integration Exercise-a demonstration that took place in July 2010 at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., and Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.-a team of Soldiers, engineers and Army senior leaders experienced the future of the integrated network. In particular, they actualized the concept of using unmanned aircraft and integrated Soldier Network Extensions to connect Soldiers at all echelons of the brigade combat team.
Using White Sands as a stand-in for the harsh terrain of Afghanistan, the Army Evaluation Task Force navigated improvised explosive device routes, executed air assaults and simulated a variety of other missions.
Scattered throughout the far-flung mountains and deserts of Afghanistan, Soldiers are increasingly reliant upon the Army's tactical network to gain a decisive edge over the enemy.
Fortunately, the network is getting smarter.
With a Rifleman Radio attached to each of its wingtips, the Shadow unmanned aircraft system-which can fly for six hours and reach a ceiling of nearly 15,000 feet-allowed two Rifleman Radio networks on the ground to communicate beyond line of sight. That meant individual Soldiers in separate companies could successfully pass messages without seeing one another-something that's currently not possible below the battalion level.
For the first time, three separate waveforms were integrated, connecting the lowest to the highest echelons. They included the Soldier Radio Waveform, used by individual Soldiers or teams within a company; the Wideband Network Waveform, used to share tactical data at higher echelons; and the Network Centric Waveform, a satellite layer.
At White Sands, the Soldiers within a company could seamlessly communicate with their own platoons and even with other Soldiers at the battalion level. Inside their command posts, company commanders exchanged text messages and e-mails, tracked simulated IEDs, collaborated on the battle with Command Post of the Future, and planned fires with the Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System. They tracked automatically populated friendly forces' movements and manually added enemy and hazard locations with Force XXI Battle Command, Brigade-and-Below, or FBCB2.
The BCTIE is expected to be the first of several exercises as technology continues to evolve.
-Claire Heininger/PEO Command Control Communications-Tactical
TOW: COMBAT-PROVEN WEAPON OF CHOICE
Originally intended as an anti-tank weapon, the Tube-launched, Optically-tracked, Wire-guided missile remains an extremely effective weapon system.
In the last seven years of conflict, the Army has fired more than 7,600 missiles in support of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The TOW's precision and effectiveness with minimum collateral damage make it particularly suitable for the non-tank targets of current theater environments.
The Improved Target Acquisition System is the latest fire control system for the TOW and consists of integrated optical forward-looking infrared sights and an eye-safe laser range finder. A recent upgrade to ITAS is the far target location capability, which allows gunners to accurately determine the position of enemy threats well beyond traditional engagement ranges.
The system's FTL incorporates a global positioning satellite-based Position Attitude Determination System. The addition of the PADS to the TOW ITAS system provides the Soldier an instant grid location of his position and the target he sees in his ITAS sight. The new capability improves the Soldier's situational awareness, while giving the ground commander the option either to destroy a wide array of target sets with a missile, or direct other assets (such as close air support or indirect artillery fire) against threats.
Current TOW missile improvements include a Bunker Buster variant and replacement of the obsolete wire guidance link with one that operates via radio frequency. The new TOW BB, which is just entering the Army and Marine Corps inventories, is optimized for precision assault capabilities that better suit the target set in Afghanistan than the original anti-tank rounds.
While unavailability of wire drove the development of RF, modest improvements included the elimination of overwater and power line restrictions, enhanced combined-arms applications in urban environments and greater environmental compliance under training conditions.
Recent feedback from theater indicates that the TOW weapon system made a difference across the entire area of operation. Insurgents gave TOW ITAS the code name The Finger of God, for its imposing ability to not only locate the enemy, but to reach out and destroy them.
-Maj. James Stepien/PEO Missiles and Space