HAVRE DE GRACE, Md. (June 2, 2021) – In 2025, Soldiers will increasingly team with machines to rapidly analyze vast amounts of data, feeding commanders the information they need to act decisively. Command posts will be more modular and dispersed, with greater electronic protection to move stealthily around the battlespace. Armor units will begin to leverage network mobility, scale and bandwidth optimized for their formations.
This vision of the not-so-distant future tactical communications network, known as Capability Set (CS) 25, was detailed for the first time on June 2 as Army leaders hosted an industry technical exchange meeting (TEM) focused on CS 25 design goals and potential opportunities to fuel network modernization.
“The ability to have a network that delivers the right information and data at the right time to command posts and leaders, so you can connect sensors and shooters, is going to be absolutely imperative,” said Lt. Gen. John Morrison, Army deputy chief of staff, G-6. “We need the ability to rapidly deploy and rapidly connect to this unified network, and conduct operations on arrival in a contested and congested environment, at the speed and range that enable decision dominance.”
The goal of CS 25 is to deliver automated and protected capabilities that enable individuals and formations to rapidly and securely collaborate, make decisions and execute decentralized and distributed mission command. It will mark the first time that Armor Brigade Combat Teams receive the Army’s modernized tactical network in their platforms and formations. It also increases joint and coalition interoperability, while expanding current capabilities in areas such as tactical data fabric, manned-unmanned teaming, automated cyber defense, and commercial networking such as 5G.
“2025 is really a benchmark – we have some of these capabilities that are really emerging,” said Col. Rob Ryan, acting director of the Army Network Cross-Functional Team, which led the TEM event along with the Program Executive Office for Command, Control, Communications-Tactical. “The key is, can we use it in a contested and congested environment? Can we leverage all the assets in the joint domain to fight and win? We have to leverage Soldier feedback, flow that information back to industry, and build in scalability and affordability as we grow in the Capability Set series.”
CS 25 will be the third in the Army’s iterative series of integrated tactical communications packages for delivery to Soldiers. CS 21 focuses on expeditionary and intuitive capabilities and is now fielding to select infantry units, while CS 23 focuses on capacity, resiliency and convergence and is in design and development, as well as characterization with Stryker units.
Each capability set builds upon the previous and progresses toward the multi-domain capable network of 2028, which seeks to enable information dominance against a peer or near-peer adversary. Capability Sets are also aligned to joint all-domain command and control, known as JADC2, which is the overarching effort by the military branches to connect sensors, shooters and command nodes to provide commanders the ability to act faster.
As the Army brings the ground domain data and network transport to JADC2, these information-sharing priorities are incorporated into CS design goals and experimentation efforts to continuously refine communications between joint systems and users.
“It’s not enough just to gather data, we have to bring it together for a purpose,” said Brig. Gen. Rob Parker, head of the JADC2 Joint Cross-Functional Team. “We have to create information advantage and set the ability for our commanders and staffs across the joint force to execute at a speed significantly faster than adversaries.”
Along with JADC2, the network is also foundational to delivering other modernized capabilities in the Army priority areas of long range precision fires, next generation combat vehicles, future vertical lift, air and missile defense, and Soldier lethality.
Due to the pace of network technology development in the commercial sector, the Capability Set process relies heavily on transparency with industry partners in order to shape research and development efforts. In support of that goal, the Army established a recurring TEM process that casts a broad net for needed technologies, then narrows them down through analysis and demonstrations to result in contract awards and fully fielded capabilities. The service has also identified dedicated prototyping funding to support the process.
“Army modernization is a team sport, and it takes the whole team working together to do it successfully,” said Douglas Bush, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, who added that the Army is making progress in developing achievable requirements informed by Soldier experimentation and demonstration, and collaborating with industry to achieve those priorities.
“This community has to turn all of those aspirations into reality, and it’s not an easy task,” Bush told industry and government attendees. “The Army has to connect everything from single Soldiers to theater commands, all in a difficult environment, and all the while the technologies behind the network are changing rapidly, along with threats to the network.”
For Wednesday’s TEM 6, there were three specific topics for industry to potentially contribute technologies to Capability Set 25: Predictive combat power using artificial intelligence/machine learning, C4ISR/EW modular open suite of standards (CMOSS), and satellite communications (SATCOM) modernization. On each topic, Army panelists outlined the operational mission goals and the technologies sought to fulfill those needs while operating in a dynamic tactical battlefield environment.
The next step will be for industry to submit white papers with proposed solutions for Army experts to review. Based on that analysis, the service can then issue select invitations for vendors to execute technology demonstrations prior to down-selecting for potential contract awards.
The TEM 6 event was open to any industry partner interested in supporting Army network modernization efforts. Approximately 150 industry representatives attended in person, while nearly 400 attended virtually due to COVID-19 precautions.
“We are making a commitment to provide feedback to industry – to keep the market strong and help you understand the areas where you need to improve,” said Brig. Gen. Robert Collins, PEO C3T. “This is how we keep pace in the future.”