VILSECK, Germany -- U.S. Army communicators in Europe are turning to a legacy system more than three decades old as a way to provide commanders today with secure and redundant tactical satellite communications in a congested and potentially contested signal environment.
The Secure Mobile Anti-Jam Reliable Tactical Terminal, or SMART-T, allows for secure communications that cannot be jammed, detected or intercepted by an adversary. It can even survive an electromagnetic pulse generated after a nuclear explosion.
To learn more and to test their systems, Soldiers from four units - the 173rd Airborne Brigade; 2nd Cavalry Regiment; 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division; and the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division - participated in a SMART-T Rodeo hosted by the 2nd Theater Signal Brigade, March 12-15, 2018 in Vilseck.
"The goal of the rodeo is to ensure units in theater are practiced and proficient on the SMART-T," said Maj. Danny Cornejo, a systems engineer assigned to 2nd Theater Signal Brigade.
Soldiers set up seven SMART-T systems, practiced obtaining a satellite link through an Air Force-managed satellite gateway in Ramstein, and passed voice, data and video teleconference using the Global Agile Integrated Transport framework. Additionally, there were SMART-T training classes taught by experts from the U.S. Army Network Enterprise Technology Command and the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command.
So what is driving the Army to rediscover the SMART-T, and why now?
"Now we have adversaries that have ways of blocking, jamming [certain communications bands], which then puts us in the black and we have no way of talking between one headquarters to another. This is a way to counter that activity," Cornejo said. "It gives us the anti-jam capability that we don't have in any other satellite terminal."
Maintaining the communications link between headquarters and Soldiers on the battlefield is essential for enabling effective mission command and sharing a common operating picture across units.
"Our ability to communicate across the battlefield is critical to our success. Regardless of the mission, if we can't communicate at some level, then things get much more difficult," said Lt. Col. Jesse Curry, commander of the 82nd Brigade Engineer Battalion, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, during a visit to the SMART-T Rodeo training site.
Curry said he sees value in using the SMART-T in a potentially contested environment as a way of ensuring redundant communications for his unit, which is part of Europe's Regionally Allocated Forces.
"It's another layer of that redundancy, that capability when other layers become unavailable. This additional layer increases the chances that we'll still be able to talk - anytime we can build that it's beneficial," Curry said.
Cornejo said the rodeo has been extremely beneficial and that several new checklists and procedures have been developed from the lessons learned. He said SMART-T will be also integrated into future U.S. Army Europe exercises, including exercise Saber Strike in Poland later this year.
Cpl. Koty Kennedy, a SMART-T team chief assigned to Charlie Company, 82nd Brigade Engineer Battalion, 2-1 ABCT, said before the rodeo he only had six months of experience on the system.
"I learned that, just like the name says, it truly is a secure and reliable system," Kennedy said.
2nd Theater Signal Brigade conducts Department of Defense Information Network operations to enable mission command in support of U.S. Army, Joint and multinational operations throughout the U.S. European Command and U.S. Africa Command areas of operation.