JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. (Nov. 30, 2015) -- Soldiers and commanders from brigade and below echelons continue to take advantage of the Army's mobile tactical communications network to enable mission command on the move, or MCOTM, and advanced communications from inside various combat vehicles on the battlefield.
Now corps headquarters, or HQ, elements are also looking to join this mobile network to quench their thirst for high-level situational awareness while in transit.
In response to an I Corps operational needs statement, a new MCOTM pilot program is expected to provide an armored platform that enables corps-level leaders to execute mission command during ground maneuver by obtaining real-time situational awareness, a common operating picture, and voice, video and data communications with higher and subordinate HQ.
"This effort started with our previous commanding general, who needed a robust tactical vehicle to get him around an active battlefield," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Lawrence Ware, I Corps G6 signal systems integration officer. "He needed to be armed with capability that enabled him to maintain contact with forces in the rear and in developing situations, and which could also provide critical battlefield information so he could monitor it [and decisively act] when necessary."
As part of the pilot program, I Corps, which covers the Pacific theater of operations, is validating new mobile network configurations integrated on Stryker platforms to prepare for operational exercises that will evaluate whether these networked Stryker prototypes could fit the corps HQ's MCOTM Concept of Operations.
The new network configurations provide advanced communications and a suite of mission command applications that enable, command and control, and near real-time situational awareness, including operational, intelligence and fires information. These capabilities are delivered by the mobile connectivity provided by the Army's on-the-move tactical communication network backbone, Warfighter Information Network-Tactical Increment 2, or WIN-T Inc 2, as well as tactical data radios and Blue Force Tracking 2, or BFT 2.
"The proof-of-principle Strykers will allow corps leadership the ability to maintain their regular headquarters staff functions and enablers while in transit, and it's compressed into a design that will enable them to actually interact with the staff during battlefield circulation," said Staff Sgt. Daniel Stack, I Corps G6 operational staff noncommissioned officer, during new equipment training. "They'll be able to communicate effectively and still be able to do things like PowerPoint, [just like he would at his desk at HQ]."
The Army began systems integration on the Stryker platforms at the end of August, on Joint Base Lewis McChord, Washington, with new equipment training/new equipment fielding wrapping up in mid-November. On the current timeline, the MCOTM proof-of-concept Stryker vehicles and trained Soldiers are expected to be ready for operational exercises at the end of January 2016. The Army will decide which exercises it will use to evaluate the proof-of-concept vehicles once the capability has been fully validated and any necessary changes have been made to the configurations.
"When I was with the 25th [Infantry Division] in Hawaii, if we had had these capabilities supporting any of our operations, it would have brought a lot more to the fight," said Sgt. Rylan Labatto, who works on the signal retransmission team for 1-23 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division, I Corps, and who was also training on the equipment. "Having this type of capability at all the different echelons offers a lot more opportunity to maintain connectivity, either while jumping a Tactical Operations Center [TOC] or moving from place to place; it eliminates any lack in communications."
The prototype Strykers were integrated with WIN-T Inc 2 Point of Presence capability, which provides the satellite and line-of-sight network transport to enable corps leadership and staff to access advanced voice, video and data communications and mission command applications while on the move, with connectivity rivaling a stationary command post.
Soldiers on-the-move will now be able to tap into applications such as Command Post Of the Future, or CPOF, while the fires element can access Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System, or AFATDS, and Joint Automated Deep Operations Coordination System, or JADOCS. One System Remote Video Terminals, or OSRVT, will enable Soldiers to view unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV, feeds and control UAV sensors. The various mission command systems will be spread out among several I Corps Stryker vehicles to enable more bandwidth, redundancy and operational flexibility.
Currently, the mobile WIN-T Inc 2 network is not programmed to be fielded at the corps' HQs level, which traditionally utilizes the at-the-halt WIN-T Inc 1 to support more stationary tactical headquarters facilities. The two increments are fully interoperable.
"WIN-T Inc 2 will enable the corps to utilize the same mission command and communications capabilities found back at stationary headquarters facilities to conduct battlefield circulation and monitor successive decisive points on the battlefield during operations," said Lt. Col. Lamont Hall, product manager for WIN-T Inc 2.
The BFT 2 network was also integrated into the pilot Strykers, providing near-real time situational awareness, faster position location information and additional mission command capabilities. Additionally, tactical data radios will provide redundant, enhanced line-of-sight communications.
"The I Corps proof-of-concept capability highlights the interoperability, scalability and flexibility of the Army's holistic network and mission command systems to support units at every stage of military operations, whether stationary or on-the-move, in a TOC or en route in the heat of battle," Hall said.
While crossing the battlefield, Strykers can easily maneuver across the roughest terrain, and the prototypes integrated with WIN-T Inc 2 allow Soldiers to operate the various systems on board and protect the armed vehicle from enemy forces. Currently, Strykers platforms are not part of I Corps HQ's organic equipment and sustainment plans would have to be set into place should the Army decide go with these prototypes.
MCTOM provides operational flexibility and options for developing multiple courses of actions for corps Soldiers moving across the battlefield, instead of being locked into just one, Ware said.
"If you're always locked into one course of action you become predictable," Ware said. "MCOTM will allow freedom of movement, enabling the Soldiers at corps-level to move to and from points of interest on the ground while remaining connected."