TOBYHANNA ARMY DEPOT, Pa. (September 25, 2019) -- Predicting the future may be impossible, but planning for it is imperative.
As the Army implements its network modernization strategy, it is considering the full lifecycle of the hardware and software comprising the tactical network. Representatives leading the tactical network modernization effort recently visited Tobyhanna Army Depot (TYAD), where they collaborated on best-practices to ensure the prototype and experimental technologies of today are able to be sustained tomorrow.
"The Army is modernizing and has set an objective to deliver a tactical network that ensures it can prepare for war and fight and win against any adversary in any environment by 2028," said Dr. Portia Crowe, Chief Data Officer for the Network Cross-Functional Team (N-CFT). "Our goal is to jump the technology curve so that we are not just keeping up with technology. We must lean ahead to set the infrastructure, which allows us to support and ensure interoperability with current technologies."
The N-CFT, and its acquisition partner Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T) are collaborating to identify and develop near- and far-term solutions for an improved and resilient tactical network through a two-year incremental capability set (CS) fielding approach, beginning in FY21.
As part of CS 21, PEO C3T is executing near-term experimentation and fielding plans to make systems from the command post to the tactical edge more expeditionary, simple and intuitive; whereas, the N-CFT is focused on developing a strategy to address network goals of Capability Set 23.
Modernizing the Depot for Agility
TYAD provides full-spectrum support for sustainment, overhaul and repair, fabrication and manufacturing, engineering design and development, systems integration, technology insertion, modification, and global field support to our Warfighters.
TYAD leadership continually assesses their modernization programs to ensure they align with big Army, and they are currently supporting logistics and sustainment efforts for Air and Missile Defense, Next-Gen vehicles, Future Vertical Lift, Precision Fires, Network/C3Iand Soldier Lethality, said Frank Zardecki, TYAD Deputy Commander.
As it drives towards 2028, TYAD now includes cyber protection and software deployment sustainment support.
"Tobyhanna's emphasis on modernization to support our strategic partners is vital to successful collaborative efforts that will ensure readiness of the Army's future force," said Col. John McDonald, TYAD Commander. "With significant investment in our facilities, equipment and development of our workforce, we are confident we can sustain PEO C3T hardware and software requirements today, tomorrow and well into the future."
In addition to its modernization program, TYAD provides the Army a valuable and flexible venue to conduct prototyping. This capability offers TYAD the opportunity to be involved at an earlier stage in the planning and positions a critical member of the Army's organic industrial base for future sustainment of those products. TYAD's services may also by an option for industry partners.
"We encourage industry to team with us because we may be able to provide the lower cost-solution based on our geographic location here in North East Pennsylvania," said Bob Katulka, TYAD Director of Production Engineering.
Sustaining the Integrated Tactical Network
One critical effort coming out of TYAD is its support to the Army's Integrated Tactical Network (ITN) effort.
The ITN injects new commercial components and network transport capabilities into the Army's tactical network environment. These components include radios -- the most critical component enabling ITN -- and variable height antennas, small satellite terminals and commercial phone technology. For CS21, the ITN will provide battalion and below with smaller, lighter, faster and more flexible communications systems in threat-based environments.
The SFAB integration team, comprised of PEO C3T and TYAD staff, is responsible for preparing, ruggedizing and shipping ITN components, including the handheld single- and two-channel radios and vehicle -mounted Manpack radios, to the Army's Security Force Assistance Brigade (SFAB) units.
"Having Tobyhanna as the centralized location saved the team from sending personnel to multiple vendor locations and expedited the logistics process," said Lt. Col. Brandon Baer, Product Manager for Helicopter and Multi-Mission Radios, Project Manager (PdM) Tactical Radios (TR), assigned to PEO C3T. "We are excited to see the SFAB team here establish an enduring SFAB support facility to assist with equipment."
The team continues to refine their support capabilities by refining their processes to not only ensure equipment received from vendors meets the Army's stringent accountability requirements, but it is shipped back out to the SFAB fielding sites across the U.S. and Afghanistan within 24 hours. Using the DoD's Cargo Movement Operations System, the SFAB team is averaging 60% cost savings per shipment.
In addition, the team recently applied innovative techniques to problem solve equipment issues reported by SFAB 4 in Fort Carson, Colorado, where one of the radio cables was too short to operate with a critical situational awareness system. Within one week, the SFAB TYAD team redesigned the cable, which met original equipment manufacturer requirements, while allowing proper connections and driving down cost and schedule.
"This fix was rapid, provided more flexibility for our field installers and was much more cost effective than shipping it back to the vendor," said Tim Ivory, Branch Chief for Integrated Product Support, PdM TR.
Enduring Need for the Organic industrial Base
The Army's modernization effort, which includes incrementally injecting new commercial technologies through a capability set fielding process, means not all Soldiers will receive the same equipment at the same time. However, this does not preclude the need for sustainment, Baer said.
"We have not finalized what we will field in CS 21, and we're just now exploring technologies for CS23, but we understand including our Tobyhanna partners in early discussions is important for our courses of action," Crowe said, "Bottom line, we do understand sustainment should never be an afterthought."
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.