By Maj. Jonathan Lipscomb, Assistant Product Manager for WIN-T SATCOMApril 17, 2017
JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska (April 21, 2017) -- In temperatures dipping below negative 10 degrees, the Army successfully conducted an operational test of its inflatable satellite communications (SATCOM) terminal, known as Transportable Tactical Command Communications (T2C2). This system provides robust early entry and remote edge of the battlefield mission command within the Army's Tactical Network.
Both the Heavy and Lite variants of T2C2 are inflatable, providing units with a larger antenna, increasing capability and bandwidth efficiency in half the size of current solutions. These resilient SATCOM terminals can withstand extreme weather conditions and even air drops.
"The T2C2 system can be rapidly set up, is smaller and more survivable than current capability, and it helps me provide distributed digital mission command in a footprint that makes sense for a decisive action environment," said Maj. Glen Nettrour, communications officer (S6) for the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division (4/25 ID), U.S. Army Alaska. "It's the first time that primary communications systems are tailored for decisive action in the front end, versus us being forced to take legacy equipment and make it fit a decisive action model."
In support of the Army's initiative to reduce the time required to deliver capabilities to the Army, the Program Executive Office for Command, Control, Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T) directed an early initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) for the T2C2 program. Soldiers from the 4/25 ID, Army Alaska and the 55th Signal Company (Combat Camera) stepped up to the challenge and supported the IOT&E of both the Lite and Heavy variants of this critical Program of Record at JBER in March. Results from the IOT&E will support a full rate production decision, currently expected in late fiscal year 2017.
T2C2 has proven to be easy set-up, enter various tactical networks, operate and troubleshoot by general purpose users following just a couple of weeks of training. As the Army continues its effort to reduce reliance on Field Service Representative (FSR) support for increased efficiencies, T2C2 will be fully operated, supported and maintained by the unit. The unit will also be accountable for maintenance and spares, a sustainment plan only made possible by T2C2's ease of use.
"Some of the Soldiers operating the system had no signal experience before this test, and by that I mean none," said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Woody Scott, Network Operations Officer in Charge for 4/25 ID. "It's unbelievable that non-signal Soldiers with only two weeks of training are able to put these systems on the ground, acquire the satellite, put them into operation quickly, make voice and data calls, push products on their military intelligence systems and make mission. That says something incredible about how these systems are designed in their simplicity and the quality of the training that the Soldiers have received."
Among its many operational uses, the Army can employ T2C2 to support potential Joint Forcible Entry missions. During these early entry missions, paratroopers, such as those in the 4/25 ID, jump from their aircraft into enemy territory, sometimes in the middle of the night, to secure an airfield so larger aircraft can safely land and bring in the heavier equipment needed to expand the lodgment.
Situational awareness is critical but limited to the communications and network equipment that can be air-dropped from a plane. But with the air-droppable T2C2, once an airfield is seized, Soldiers can retrieve the system on the ground and rapidly set it up to provide continuity of mission command during the initial phases of operation.
"Units have a requirement for a more easily transportable early entry mission command and communications capability that can better support smaller elements at the tactical edge," said Lt. Col. Jenny Tam, product manager for Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) Satellite Communications (SATCOM), who manages T2C2 for the Army. "T2C2 provides a significant improvement in bandwidth, set up speed and mobility over current capability, arming commanders and Soldiers with the intelligence, agility and operational flexibility they need to stay ahead of the enemy and be successful in the fight."
Because of its significantly higher bandwidth, Soldiers in remote locations, whether on a frozen mountain in Alaska or deep in an austere desert in the Middle East, can leverage T2C2 to utilize mission command systems such as Command Post of the Future (CPOF), Joint Battle Command-Platform (JBC-P), Advanced Field Artillery Targeting and Direction System (AFATADS), and Distribute Common Ground System-Army (DCGS-A). T2C2 also enables communications systems such as whiteboard, chat, video and video teleconference, and Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) calls that require significant data throughput.
"T2C2 brings a lot of throughput and a higher quality network that comes on-line quickly and can operate at much lower temperatures," CW3 Scott said. "Early entry packages like T2C2 Lite, and now a very high throughput T2C2 Heavy that can be air-dropped, making an Artic mission safer for our brigade."
Not only does T2C2 provide mission command during the initial phases of operation, but as operations mature and follow-on forces bring in larger network assets, commanders can extend the battle space to its edge using the T2C2 Heavy to support company-size forward operating bases. The agile high-bandwidth T2C2 can directly support a unit's ability to send smaller elements forward, leaving larger, less maneuverable Tactical Operations Centers (TOCs) and network equipment safely in the rear or even at home station.
"The Army is evolving to become something tactical enough to avoid fire in brigade operations," Scott said. "T2C2 can help develop a TOC structure that is rapidly deployable and re-deployable -- can be taken down quickly and moved out of line of sight. Additionally, a smaller footprint both from an air perspective and from a frequency perspective means that we are harder to detect."
Special team-sized elements, such as Combat Camera and Human Intelligence Teams, also require high-bandwidth network capability to send large data files like photos, geospatial imagery and video. These smaller elements are in line to be fielded with the T2C2 Lite variant to support their unique missions. Since it sets up so rapidly, they can be employed wherever and whenever needed. The versatility of T2C2 increases a commander's operational flexibility and provides the real-time situational awareness needed to make quick battlefield decisions.
"The guys I work with push actionable intelligence, and with T2C2 they can push more intel quicker and more efficiently than with the system we have now," said Pfc. Austin Brogan, signal intelligence analyst for 4/25 ID. "With this system we can provide the ground force commanders actionable intel in a more efficient manner so they are not sitting around waiting for information. The faster intel moves, the more useful it is."