By Caitlin O'Neill, APNT CFT Public AffairsAugust 23, 2019
White Sands Missile Range (WSMR), NM -- It's 0300. A soldier maneuvers a Stryker vehicle through the desert, calling checkpoints back to the forward operating base (FOB) as he advances through the plotted course. A dismounted soldier is running a route 15 kilometers away while another is calling for fires further north. They are in constant communication with the FOB while operating across 50 square miles of desert at the north end of WSMR on Stallion Range Complex. Their mission? Assess technology capabilities and mission effectiveness in a global positioning system (GPS) challenged environment.
This summer, the Assured Positioning, Navigation and Timing (APNT) Cross-Functional Team (CFT) hosted the first annual Positioning, Navigation and Timing Assessment Exercise (PNTAX) where Army Programs of Record (PoR), Science & Technology (S&T) labs, other government agencies, and industry partners joined together to conduct a live-virtual-constructive prototype demonstration, using mission threat scenarios to support system and capability analysis and requirement development.
"PNTAX provides the real-world environment for our partners to use," said Mr. Willie Nelson, APNT CFT Director. "What makes PNTAX unique, is that anyone can participate. Military, other government agencies, industry, academia, it doesn't matter. If you have a technology and you want to assess its ability to operate in a live-sky GPS challenged environment, come to PNTAX."
Participants were allowed to collect their own data and make their own assessments. The information collected will help the CFT better understand not only how systems perform but also how they can impact future soldier operations in contested environments.
"Today's soldiers are already operating in GPS challenged environments," said Mr. Ben Pinx, APNT CFT Integration Branch Chief. "Army operations rely on the ability to shoot, move and communicate and when GPS is challenged so are these core functions. PNTAX is exploring what systems and technologies are out there to support Army operations regardless of their environment."
The APNT CFT is responsible for enabling the delivery of advanced requirements for APNT, Tactical Space and Navigation Warfare (NAVWAR) system and technology development and directly supports the Army Futures Command's (AFC) mission to modernize Army Forces using early and interactive assessment of the future operational environment, emerging threats, and new S&T advances. PNTAX will influence future APNT CFT requirement development to ensure the delivery of reliable and secure solutions to the battlefield.
"The APNT CFT is dedicated to delivering the best solutions to the soldier," said Mr. Pinx. "PNTAX gives us the ability to identify new technologies and capabilities for future Army systems. What we learn here will influence what we build for the future."
ENABLING THE ARMY FORCE
Recognized as the largest test event ever held at Stallion Range Complex, PNTAX brought together over 500 government, industry and soldier personnel to conduct live prototype demonstrations, using various threat scenarios and assessed over 80 dismounted, mounted and NAVWAR capabilities and systems. This included Brigade Combat Team and below ability to operate within a real-world anti-access/area denial environment, the ability to identify GPS threats and assess situation awareness, long-range precision targeting/firing capability, and formation requirements in theater. Close to 40 soldiers from I Corps, U.S. Army Europe (USAREUR), Colorado and New Mexico National Guard, U.S. Army Special Operations Command, Joint Special Operations Command, and the Army Cyber Directorate participated in the event.
"Everything we do is with the soldier in mind, so it was extremely important that we have soldiers participate in the exercise," said Mr. Nelson. "It doesn't matter if a technology works if the soldier can't use it. That piece is vital to our requirement development process."
During PNTAX, soldiers learned to prepare for GPS challenged operational environments.
"We're getting exposed to stuff that we didn't ever know existed," said SSG Gregory Lowell, a Fire Support Non-Commissioned Officer from Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington. "It's very cool to see the new threats that we may be experiencing in combat, while at the same time we can provide a lot of feedback to the engineers about details they might not have realized, having not used it in an operational environment."
Soldier touchpoints play a critical role for the CFT, as their feedback will directly influence the capability requirements process for emerging technologies and equipment.
"The feedback we received back from the soldiers has been very valuable in helping shape where we want to go," said Mr. Pinx, noting that soldier input will be included with the data and analysis gathered during the exercise.
Over the course of five weeks, PNTAX successfully assessed technologies and systems across APNT, Tactical Space and NAVWAR supporting munition, missile, ground, aviation and sensor-to-shooter (S2S) functions. This included the upward invitation testing for the Army PoR Product Manager for the Mounted APNT System (MAPS) GEN II, successful execution of nine S2S vignettes using forward observers and tactical space support, and soldier touchpoints providing real-time feedback to support new and current technology performance and mission effectiveness and efficiency for industry, the Army and other government agencies.
Following a comprehensive analysis, the CFT will consider system capabilities and functions for future APNT, Tactical Space and NAVWAR requirement development, nominate systems and technologies for participation in future Army Joint Warfighter and Forward Operational Assessments, and validate tactics, techniques and procedures for rapid incorporation to multi-domain task force units.
PNTAX will help the Army retain advantages over adversaries and accelerate investments for contested future capabilities in support of the Army Readiness and Modernization Strategies, ensuring overmatch for 2028 maneuvers and beyond. The next PNTAX event will take place in the summer or fall of 2020.
MAKING PROGRESS AND THE PATH AHEAD
This year, the APNT CFT received AFC approval for the Mounted and Dismounted Directed Requirements, which will influence future Capability Development Documents for mounted and dismounted APNT solutions; established a Military Code (M-Code) Task Force, which is responsible for delivering a strategy on how the Army will successfully transition to M-Code; finalized the APNT Roadmap with concurrence from Army Senior Leaders; hosted the first APNT CFT Partnership Symposium at the University of Texas -- Austin; and developed an integrated Army Tactical Space Low-Earth Orbit architecture.
This fall, the CFT will participate in the equipping of MAPS GEN I in USAREUR, where systems will be installed on Stryker platforms as part of an operational needs statement for electronic warfare capabilities. Additionally, the CFT will participate as observers in the Maneuvers & Fires Integrated Experiment at Ft. Sill, OK where the team will monitor PNT systems and equipment as an enabler for S2S linkages.
Headquartered at the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, AL, the APNT CFT is one of eight CFTs supporting the AFC. It is responsible for accelerating the delivery of advanced APNT, Tactical Space, and NAVWAR capabilities to the soldier. Utilizing technological demonstrations, prototyping, S&T reviews, and soldier feedback, the APNT CFT has accelerated and streamlined the requirements development process with the ability to learn fast, mitigate risks early, and achieve a higher level of technical readiness more rapidly. The APNT CFT is in the process of evaluating various technologies that will make systems more resilient and secure, ensuring future generations of America's soldiers get what they need, when they need it, and remain the most lethal and effective land force in the world. For more information on the CFT please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.