NIE continues to modernize the Army in an austere environment
December 17, 2012
FORT BLISS, Texas -- Soldiers from 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division will continue to evaluate Warfighter Information Network-Tactical Increment 2, both in static command posts and on the move with mission command, during the next network integration evaluation, or NIE 13.2, scheduled for spring 2013 at Fort Bliss and White Sands Missile Range, N.M.
The goal of NIE is to validate Capability Set 14's upper tactical Internet in an operational environment, where Soldiers will conduct wide-area security and combined arms maneuver operations in an area comparable to the size of Connecticut.
The upper tactical Internet provided by WIN-T INC 2 is composed of high band-width satellite and terrestrial radio networks. The military is putting new technologies in the hands of Soldiers for operational assessment to accelerate the acquisition process in a more cost-effective manner in an era of fiscal austerity.
NIEs provide the opportunity to get capabilities into the hands of Soldiers early and often. Soldier-driven evaluations and assessments of network technologies performed during the NIEs are helping the Army in the development of Tactics, Techniques and Procedures, or TTPs for Capability Set 13.
Soldiers from 10th Mountain Division are getting CS 13 equipment that includes smart-phones and radios, said Lt. Col. Andy Morgado, the operations officer for the Brigade Modernization Command.
"The piece of equipment that gets fielded, especially in Capability Set 13 -- which the two first brigades in the 10th Mountain Division are receiving-- are going down range with it," Morgado said. "So we're going to put our stamp of' 'Hey this is going to operate when you need it the most,' and that's what we do here at the NIE."
The end state, is to have an agile and adaptive Army that meets current, future and unexpected requirements of a joint task force. NIEs that take place twice a year are designed to take emerging technologies that commercial industry or the government side is developing, put them in the hands of Soldiers and try to get immediate feedback.
"So that we don't go through a complete developmental cycle and then find out later that it simply doesn't work, the Soldiers don't like it or they're not going to use it," said Brig. Gen. Randal Dragon, commanding general of BMC.
U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command is the lead proponent for developing future concepts, and is the architect for where the Army is going to head over time.
Gen. Robert W. Cone, commanding general of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine command, believes connecting individual Soldiers to the network is critical to achieving greater synchronization on the battlefield.
"The network provides the best information possible to decision makers at the lowest level. It also allows the staff to have a level of rigor that didn't exist before in terms of monitoring and synchronizing activity," Cone said.
While the NIE offered greater synchronization at the staff level, it also extended the network to the Soldier level in unprecedented ways.
"With the radios that we've got and the wave forms that we're using, we are able to get information across the battlefield like we never were before," said Col. Elizabeth Bierden, chief of BMC's Network Integration Directorate. "[Soldiers] are comfortable with the Soldier Radio Waveform now -- in that it can handle the data load down to the individual Soldier level."
NIE 13.1, which took place during October-November time frame, looked at both on-the-move communication and at-the-halt communication -- each which has a different wave form. There are a variety of radios, said Bierden, some that can handle high band-width and some that are very low band width.
"But it's the appropriate wave form for the appropriate echelon that then has the right amount of power, the right-size antenna -- which can be small or huge," said Bierden. "The brigade can afford to have a big dish and then have much more band-width. A rifleman obviously can't. So it's different waveforms and different radios that will allow us to get the right capability to the right echelon."
Spc. Steven Thomas, an operator for the WIN-T INC 2 Tactical Communications Node for the 47th Brigade Support Battalion, said he would take the system to combat because it delivers the capability of having continuous communication while moving.
"Overall, I would take it to combat because that way, if you were to get ambushed, you are able to pack it up and move it and still be able to provide communications on --the -move," said Thomas. "Last NIE, we jumped at least three or four times and the whole time, we were actually testing it, making phone calls, testing the Internet … making sure that we could pull the services that were promised."
Thomas also said he is seeking a wider range capability from the system which he believes will be delivered and put to the test in the upcoming evaluation.
The challenge to the tactical network of keeping it secure from vulnerability while facilitating communication on-the-move was put to the test during the NIE.
On the cyber side, Bierden said the brigade and battalions have tools to counter susceptibility to threats, which was monitored throughout the mock scenario.
"We're looking at it … as well," Bierden said. "Do we have holes in our network where a hacker or an enemy can get in and then exploit? At every echelon, we're looking for these types of things."
NIE, managed by the "Triad", the Brigade Modernization Command, the Army Test and Evaluation Command and the System of Systems Integration Directorate -- is the Army's largest and most robust network test/evaluation, demonstrating the service's holistic focus to integrate network components simultaneously in one operational venue. The NIE brings together the operational test, acquisition and requirements communities to synchronize and streamline the evaluation and feedback approach, allowing for more usable test data and direct feedback from 2-1 AD Soldiers.
BMC is looking at a broad range of capabilities -- some networked and some not -- to get into the hands of Soldiers to obtain immediate feedback. These Soldiers deploy to a tactical environment at Fort Bliss and White Sands Missile Range, operating like they would if they were deployed.
The high tempo operation for 2-1 AD is a year-round mission in preparation of NIE. More than 2800 Soldiers receive equipment training to ensure they fully understand the operational capability of the technologies to include those systems under test or systems under evaluation.
Systems under test for NIE 13.1 included Nett Warrior, Joint Battle Command Platform, or JBC-P, SPIDER, Ram Warn, and M109A6 Paladin Integrated Management system.
Nett Warrior provides the dismounted Soldier with information such as maps, troop positions, and operational updates that were previously restricted to vehicles or hard wired command posts.
Joint Battle Command Platform is the future version of the Army's friendly force tracking and messaging system, known as Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below/Blue Force Tracking, known as FBCB2/BFT, which also allows users to plot hazards and enemy locations on a digital map. Plugged into the Rifleman Radio, these devices provided mission command and situational awareness information down to Soldiers at the tactical edge during the NIE.
"2-1 AD is a well-trained unit of exceptional Soldiers," said Lt. Gen. Keith Walker, deputy commanding general of Futures and director of TRADOC's Army Capabilities Integration Center. "Not only do these 2-1 AD Soldiers train for combat, but they learn to use equipment that has not yet been fielded to the Army. They evaluate this equipment in a tactical operational environment, assess solutions, and provide detailed feedback to the Army. 2nd BCT, 1st AD is not a 'test unit.' Much of the credibility of NIE evaluations lies in the fact that 2-1AD is a regular BCT that trains like any other brigade in the Army; it simply has the mission of evaluating potential capability solutions across the [doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership and education, personnel and facilities] capabilities and providing rigorous feedback during NIE."
Walker said NIEs are critical to executing the network strategy and fielding current technology, while being fiscally responsible.
The feedback Soldiers provide is invaluable, said Lt. Col. Willie Roseman, branch chief for requirements and analysis for Brigade Modernization Integration Directorate.
Roseman said data collected from Soldiers evaluating the equipment is analyzed in a collaborative effort with individuals from the centers of excellence, Triad system managers and observer-controllers from Test and Evaluation Division. Soldiers are asked to provide details on what they like or dislike about the systems, added Roseman.
"We look at the data as it's put into the data base," said Roseman. "We look at it, review it and do analysis on it, come up with a trend and insights on what the system is telling us so we can provide that to the Vice chief of staff and to the Army for them to make acquisition processes."
Soldiers from the brigade said NIE provides a platform to not only evaluate equipment, but also to train and maintain their warrior tasks.
"Even though a lot of people from the outside might look at us as all we do is test, to a certain point that is correct; however, the main objective is still to train," said Capt. Brandon Chase, commander for A Troop, 1st Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment. "We still can conduct our scout reconnaissance task, our urban operation task while we're evaluating this equipment. We'll be conducting air assault operations, dismounted operations - all this training-wise and yet still evaluating the systems that we've got to do."