FORT BRAGG, North Carolina (September 09, 2019) -- During a recent joint force training exercise, the Army's inflight network communications capability knowns as Enroute Mission Command, or EMC, enabled the 3rd Battalion, 321st Field Artillery Regiment to receive real-time battlefield updates that enabled the unit to make operational changes enroute, improving fires planning, precision and execution.
EMC provides XVIII Airborne Corps units with the critical in-flight mission command and plane-to-plane/plane-to-ground network communications they need to be successful in joint forcible entry operations.
"Enroute Mission Command opens up the aperture of what we are able to receive in terms of intelligence; we now know what's happening in real-time," said Lt. Col. Brian Kavanagh, commander for the 3-321 FAR. "It enables us to reach forward to elements at the location we are flying to, or back to our headquarters. Having that dialogue enables me, as the commander, to assess the tactical situation on the ground and implement any kind of mitigation measures if there is risk associated with our plan. Then I can disseminate that information so we have situational understanding across the entire formation."
Kavanagh's unit is responsible for executing precise missile and rocket fires utilizing the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System in support of XVIII Airborne Corps missions.
"There is an adversary out there and we are operating in an environment where there is a lot of uncertainty; we can't see the picture on the ground unless we have someone feeding that to us," Kavanagh said. "EMC allows us to communicate enroute and that is of utmost importance if we are going on a long mission that has operational and strategic reach. If we have that common operational picture, we understand where our launchers can go, and where they can't."
Delta Company, 50th Expeditionary Signal Battalion-Enhanced (D Co, 50th ESB-E) is the Army's EMC operating unit, and it provided its EMC support to the 3-321 FAR during a recent bi-annual Air Force Weapons School Integration (WSINT) capstone event.
"Prior to EMC, there really wasn't a lot of capability available to airborne commanders," said 2nd Lt. Aleksanders Sils, platoon leader for 3rd platoon, D Co, 50th ESB-E, who supported the mission. "EMC provides a critical component enroute to an objective -- speaking to the drop zone safety officer, speaking back to the joint operations center -- everyone is connected and everyone has a real understanding of what is happening at any given moment. And that is something that we didn't have before. It is a major advantage strategically and operationally."
During the WSINT mission, Sil's platoon rolled its EMC equipment into the Air Force C-17, which is integrated with a permanent EMC Fixed Installed Satellite Antenna (FISA), and the platoon flew with the 3-321 FAR Soldiers from Pope Airfield at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to Creech Airforce Base in Nevada.
The 3-321 FAR's mission was to integrate into the joint operational planning process and provide timely and accurate fires support. When they reached their destination, the unit offloaded the aircraft, drove to a firing point and executed long range fires, "pressing enemy air defense networks and systems to enable the combat Air Force package to complete its mission," said CPT James Ford, A Battery commander, 3-321 FAR.
"EMC provided us with the upper tactical internet during that four hour flight, to enable our fires mission processing and tactical communications," Ford said. "The system enabled us to receive situational updates via phone, email and enabled our mission command systems. We received our fires missions on our Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System (AFATDS) from a combined air operations center. When things changed on the ground, we were able to react."
Ford said that following a final brief on the ground, the unit took off with a particular planned target location, but while enroute they received an updated fires mission with a new target location. They were able to update the tactical firing data solution in AFATDS and push that through the launchers and update their fire control panel with the new target location.
Project Manager (PM) Tactical Network fields and manages the EMC equipment for the Army and is working with the Air Force to transition the current C-17 Ku-band (commercial satellite) FISAs to commercial Ka-band FISA capability, which, on the current timeline, is expected to begin in mid-fiscal year 2020. The commercial Ka-band provides dedicated bandwidth, improved service, and better worldwide coverage at a comparable cost, said Matthew Maier, product manager for Network Modernization at PM Tactical Network.
Cpt. Lisa Hubert, commander of D Co, 50th ESB-E, said that it's important to note that along with its traditional EMC support to XVIII Airborne Corps early entry Global Response Force units, the 50th ESB-E can provide EMC support to any XVIII Airborne Corps unit with enroute network communications mission requirements, including fires units like the 3-321 FAR.
"EMC improves the Army's ability to combat sophisticated peer threats by enabling commanders to continue to refine their products and plan the mission as they approach their objective, receiving all the needed intelligence before they get there," Hubert said.
"Once they hit the ground, they can immediately begin executing the mission."
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The U.S. Army Project Manager Tactical Network is assigned to Program Executive Office Command, Control and Communications-Tactical, which 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.