By Amy Walker, PEO C3TJune 22, 2015
FORT IRWIN, Calif. (June 22, 2015) -- Stryker and other units fighting in realistic missions at the National Training Center (NTC) are finding that the Army's mobile tactical communications network is providing increased communication and mission command capability throughout the austere battlefield, increasing situational awareness and operational tempo.
These capabilities are increasingly important as the Army transitions to decisive action training, emphasizing expeditionary forces in harsh environments facing a hybrid of threats.
"[With these mobile network capabilities], the brigade commander can get orders down to his subordinate commanders more quickly, making decisive actions a lot faster and smoother, allowing us to achieve our objectives a lot quicker," said Cpt. Ian Kinsey, battalion S6 for 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team (BCT), 1st Armored Division (1/1 AD). "It also gives a commander more fidelity in decision making. He understands, all the way down to the platoons, what his forces are doing, where they are going and how they are being affected on the battlefield and that helps him make better decisions."
The backbone of the Army's tactical communications network, Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) Increment 2, which moved into full rate production this month, enables Soldiers operating in remote and challenging terrain to maintain voice, video and data communications while on the move, with connectivity rivaling that found in a stationary command post.
In mid-June, 1/1 AD finished its NTC training rotation that included utilizing WIN-T Increment 2 integrated onto Stryker platforms in an operationally relevant environment. Located at Fort Irwin, Calif., the NTC is roughly the size of the state of Rhode Island, and there the Army conducts a full range of realistic military operations with unified action partners to prepare BCTs and other units for combat.
To best support unique operational requirements, WIN-T Increment 2 has been integrated onto different platforms including Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAPs), High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWVs) as well as Stryker platforms. It provides units with high-speed, high-capacity mobile communications, enabling them to reach further into the fight while staying connected and increasing their effectiveness on the battlefield.
"No matter what platform WIN-T Increment 2 is integrated onto, the system provides on-the-move networked communications and enhanced situational awareness to units whose mobility is crucial to the fight," said Lt. Col. Lamont Hall, product manager for WIN-T Increment 2.
WIN-T Increment 2 enables commanders and staff to stay in the field and retain those capabilities that they would have back in the tactical operations center (TOC), so they can complete their duties and be "hands-on at the front lines" with the rest of their Soldiers. It also aides units when they have to relocate, or "jump," their command post, providing continual network communications even when stationary systems are in maneuver, said Spc. Aaron Noble, 2-3 Field Artillery, 1/1 AD, operator and maintainer of his battalion's WIN-T Increment 2 equipment.
"It's much easier and less stressful to have our network on the move," Noble said. "I can start the system up before we go, and the entire time that I am moving, I am connected. We are never out of the net; we are never out of touch."
During training, Soldiers in their WIN-T Increment 2 -equipped vehicles used the satellite communications capability to retransmit and extend lower tactical internet radio networks to help dismounted Soldiers cover more ground and stay connected. The system's Combat Network Radio (CNR) Gateway connects disparate radio networks over vast distances in the desert and overcomes terrain obstructions such as mountains, significantly expanding the operational reach of the brigade.
"For a field artillery unit, it's a huge advantage especially in hilly terrain like in Afghanistan," Noble said. "We can use WIN-T Increment 2 for retrans [re-transmission] to extend the overall area of our FM communications, so we can stretch out further and talk further out to the guns in the firing batteries."
Additionally, the system's radio cross-banding capability, the Combat Net Radio (CNR) enables different radio networks to talk to each other so everyone can communicate regardless of which radio and waveform they are using.
"Being able to call directly into the TOC with anything that is going on with the mission is a definite plus when we are out there," Noble said.
The training also utilized the military's improved network cyber defense capabilities. These upgrades include the addition of Host Based Security System (HBSS), a commercial-off-the-shelf application that protects the tactical network in much the same way personal computers are protected with spyware and antivirus applications. The security upgrades also help simplify the job of the communications officer (S6). WIN-T Increment 2 cyber network defense enables the S6 to monitor the entire network, all the systems throughout the brigade, and shut down or even prevent cyber attacks, said Cpt. LaMont Foxx, brigade S6 information assurance (IA) manager for 1/1 AD.
"By being able to incorporate IA or cyber defense with the WIN-T Increment 2 training and equipment, we can keep commanders communicating on the move and have that edge over the battlefield," Fox said. "We are able to protect the entire network to enable units to continue to communicate and accomplish the missions at hand."
To successfully respond to global instability and unforeseen contingencies, the Army must be able to communicate and operate in any environment from crowded urban streets to barren deserts. WIN-T Increment 2 enables mission command from anywhere on the battlefield, untethers Soldiers from the confines of the command post and enables the relay of critical situational awareness between higher headquarters and lower echelons.
"We are in an ever changing battlefield where communication is key," said Sgt. Jeremy Miller, 3-41 Infantry Battalion, who maintains the WIN-T Increment 2 equipment for his battalion. "The faster you get information, the faster you can maneuver, and the faster you can bring superior fire power to the battlefield and go home."