FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- During initial entry missions, the Global Response Force is called to rapidly deploy and jump into potentially dangerous situations, and being armed with agile resilient network communications is critical to operational success.
In support of these and other tactical edge missions, the Army equipped its first unit -- the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division -- with the new inflatable satellite communications system known as Transportable Tactical Command Communications, or T2C2, to enable expeditionary mission command and situational awareness in the heart of evolving fights.
"We are the 82nd Airborne Division, the Army's Global Response Force, and for us, expeditionary communications are essential," said Maj. Nathan Spreitler, communications officer, or S6, for the 3rd Brigade Combat Team 82nd Airborne Division. "We have to go in light and we have to bring capability that is rapidly deployable, self-sustaining, and easy to set up, so we can have network connectivity and be operational in a matter of minutes, rather than hours or days like heavier units. I see T2C2 supporting our mission in that early entry capacity."
When the Global Response Force first deploys, before boots even hit the ground, the Army's Enroute Mission Command system, or EMC, provides the unit with an expeditionary command post capability in flight. This allows the unit to retain the same level of situational awareness and collaborative communications it has on the ground, during the long hours in the air.
Then once on the ground and an airfield is seized, Soldiers can rapidly set up their inflatable T2C2 satellite system, and retain continuity of mission command during the initial phase of the operation. Later in the mission, when follow-on forces fly in larger network assets, commanders can extend the battlespace using T2C2 to support company-size forward operating bases and special team-size elements that need an easily transportable network capability at the tactical edge.
"With T2C2, we have reach-back to our higher headquarters for sustainment, reporting, and to call for support when needed; the commander can receive intelligence updates and operational orders," Spreitler said. "Any capability that gives us an edge, that gives us that communication piece before we typically would have it, improves our readiness to fight, because we have to be reactionary to a [peer or] near peer threat."
As part of the fielding process, Product Manager Satellite Communications, assigned to Project Manager Tactical Network, together with the Communications-Electronics Command trainers, provided new equipment training in February and March at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. In March 2017, the Army conducted the T2C2 operational test at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska and was then granted approval to proceed to full rate production in January 2018. The 2nd BCT, 2nd Infantry Division, at Joint Base, Lewis-McChord, Washington, will be the next unit fielded with T2C2, with fielding expected to be complete in mid-April 2018.
On the current basis of issue, the Army will field over 800 T2C2 systems across the force. Project Manager Tactical Network has already fielded easy to deploy Global Rapid Response Information Package and SIPR/NIPR Access Point satellite terminals as bridging capabilities until T2C2 can be fully fielded.
"T2C2 is packed in easily transportable hard side transit cases or soft sided cases and can be rapidly setup or torn down," said Lt. Col. Jenny Stacy, product manager for Satellite Communications, assigned to Project Manager Tactical Network, who procures T2C2 for the Army. "The expeditionary capabilities of T2C2 improves readiness, operational flexibility and increases a unit's ability to quickly relocate, which in turn improves the survivability of units in a tactical fight."
As part of the Army's network modernization strategy, the T2C2 program of record is designed to enable the service to "fight tonight." Both T2C2 Lite (1.2 meter satellite terminal) and T2C2 Heavy (2.4 meter satellite terminal) provide agile robust high-bandwidth network communications and mission command. Both variants 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.
T2C2 enables uninterrupted mission command and secure reliable voice, video and data communications at every stage of the joint operational spectrum. Because of its significantly higher bandwidth compared to transport volume of satellite terminals of the same size, Soldiers in remote locations 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 Tactical Data System (AFATDS). 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.
"Our mission as paratroopers is to jump in and secure a drop zone," said Sgt. Dominic Steinel, 307th Engineer Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. "It's important for us to be able to drop in and directly support the infantry Soldiers first and set up our communication devices without having to land an [Air Force] C17 to bring in the larger network transport equipment. That is really the application, to have that network and voice access instantly, instead of having to land larger pieces of equipment."
The U.S. Army Program Executive Office Command, Control and Communications-Tactical develops, acquires, fields and supports the Army's mission command network to ensure force readiness. This critical Army modernization priority delivers tactical communications so commanders and Soldiers can stay connected and informed at all times, even in the most austere and hostile environments. PEO C3T is delivering the network to regions around the globe, enabling high-speed, high-capacity voice, data and video communications to a user base that includes the Army's joint, coalition and other mission partners.