By Josh Lewis, WIN-T staff writerMay 5, 2016
FORT BLISS, Texas (May 5, 2016) -- During past combat operations, Signal Soldiers performed a Communications Security (COMSEC) changeover by designing a radio network plan and physically loading the radios with new radio configuration files and COMSEC channel fills--a laborious and time-consuming process. A unit often moved expansive distances over the area of operations to perform the radio procedure and Signal Soldiers did not have oversight on the individual radio nodes within the massive network.
The Joint Enterprise Network Manager (JENM) product office within Project Manager Warfighter Information Network -- Tactical (PM WIN-T), and the waveforms and radio product offices within PM Tactical Radios, recently demonstrated a solution to this problem with a new enterprise Over-the-Air Management (eOTAM) capability for Mid-Tier Networking Vehicular Radios (MNVR). eOTAM is a real time command/response protocol between JENM and radios enabling over-the-air management with JENM as the controller.
"eOTAM is a key capability that has been added into JENM as part of a collaborative effort with Project Manager Tactical Radios to enable a rapid reconfiguration capability for radios," said Dan Preissman, JENM product lead for PdM WIN-T Increment 3.
During the early phases of Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) 16.2 in April, the JENM demonstrated this promising new capability that will help solve radio over-the-air reconfiguration issues. The eOTAM enhancement reduces manpower hours to reconfigure, manage, and control a tactical radio network, by performing the tasks rapidly over-the-air. The JENM/ eOTAM capability reduces the need for Signal Soldiers to travel from location to location, allowing them to manage and configure their radio networks from remote locations, such as the battalion tactical operations cell.
"JENM 3.3 and its eOTAM capability is the future; it's that simple," said Sgt. Leroy Solomon, a veteran Signal Soldier with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team (BCT), 1st Armored Division (2/1 AD), the current main operational unit for the NIEs. "It takes a lot of user error out of the process. Instead of needing 20 Simple Key Loaders [to load the software into radios on site], I can now plan and load every radio in my network from my location, and manage and monitor them, with less time and manpower required to perform the procedures. The eOTAM capability reduces risk and resources, especially when a unit is on-the-move or located at a combat outpost."
JENM is a consolidated software application that plans, loads, and manages Mid and Lower-Tier software defined radios and associated waveforms that include: the Soldier Radio Waveform (SRW), Wideband Networking Waveform (WNW), the Mobile User Objective System (MUOS), as well as the Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System (SINCGARS) and some Satellite Communications (SATCOM).
The Army conducted the April eOTAM demonstration in correlation with its assessment of the more user-friendly and upgraded version of JENM, called JENM 3.3. In addition to eOTAM, new improvements of the JENM include a more intuitive graphical user interface, simplification in planning tactical networks, network monitoring and troubleshooting, and capability with more software defined radios and respective waveforms. On the current timeline, the Army will field JENM 3.3 in fiscal year 2017. During NIE 16.2 JENM is supporting the Mid-tier Tactical Network assessment, which includes Midtier Networking Vehicular Radio (MNVR) operations.
"The Army continues to listen to Soldier feedback from theater, user juries and test events like the NIEs to make the network and Network Operations (NetOps) systems and user interfaces more intuitive and easier to operate," said COL Ward Roberts, product manager WIN-T Increment 3, which includes the JENM product office. "The eOTAM demonstration highlighted an exceptional team effort between the user, tester, and project manager communities in building effective and suitable tools for the Soldiers who manage the network."
PdM WIN-T Increment 3 manages NetOps for both the Upper Tactical Internet (WIN-T, the Army's tactical communications network backbone), and for the Mid and Lower tactical internet (tactical radio networks).
"The eOTAM demo, along with the MNVR monitoring of WNW and SRW networks, introduces a jump forward in capability for the management of the tactical radio networks," COL Roberts said. "For the first time, JENM enables the BCT and battalion S-6 (communications officer) to support Warfighter radio communication needs in near real-time."
During the eOTAM demonstration, Soldiers successfully executed a simulated SRW COMSEC changeover, followed by remote erasing of the radio (zeroization), both previously requiring manual on-site execution.
"In future combat missions, BCTs will be required to meet a wide variety of warfighting challenges and conduct Joint Forcible Entry (JFE) operations, where Joint forces establish a lodgment to prepare for the onset of a larger force and network buildup," said Major Nathan Rozea, WIN-T Increment 3 assistant product manager for JENM. "To facilitate JFE, JENM's interoperable NetOps management reduces network complexity across all echelons and Joint communication domains."
The JENM 3.3 enhancements are also helping pave the way for the convergence of NetOps tools and management for both the Upper Tactical Internet (WIN-T) and the Mid and Lower Tactical Internet (radio networks). The goal of NetOps convergence is to provide one framework for integration of tools, into a single seamless delivery so that the S6 has one tool set to more easily see and manage the entirety of the network. The S6 will be able to see all the many facets of the network in one cohesive picture. The JENM 3.3 monitors the WNW and SRW networks and radios, and provides the data as part of the converged system.
"In the future, as we continue to integrate JENM and WIN-T network management systems, we will look to integrate the existing capabilities to standardize over-the-air management and monitoring functions between the upper and lower tactical internet tools," Roberts said. "The S6 should not have to view them as two different networks; he should be able to seamlessly view all his assets. Looking forward, the Army will also continue to increase NetOps integration efforts with other program offices to reduce hardware, increase simplicity and unit agility."