ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Maryland (July 28, 2021) — The Army’s annual Joint Warfighting Assessment 21 (JWA21) — alternating between the European and Pacific theaters each year — provides an opportunity to demonstrate and improve multinational interoperability during live, virtual and constructive training scenarios.
This year, the service leveraged JWA to conduct an Operational Assessment of Command Post Computing Environment (CPCE) software while fighting a near peer threat in the Indo-Pacific 2028 operational environment.
“We tested future capabilities and improved interoperability and the integration of those capabilities across our multinational force,” said Maj. Gen. Matt McFarlane, commander of the 4th Infantry Division (4ID). “As the battlefield becomes increasingly faster, more lethal and more distributed, this exercise enabled us to improve our interoperability and provide insights to the Army as it develops new tools that integrate multi-domain capabilities to improve a division’s success on the battlefield and gain decision dominance.”
CPCE provides an easy-to-use common operational picture (COP) that is configured, operated, and maintained by Soldiers. CPCE provides a hardware and software framework (common interface, data and services) upon which warfighting capabilities can be converged. CPCE is the primary computing environment under Army Futures Command’s Common Operating Environment modernization effort, supporting command posts and combat operations.
During the exercise, more than 100 users across leadership, system administrator, knowledge master and general purpose user roles within the 4ID, 7th Australian Combat Brigade, 1st United Kingdom Strike Brigade and 5th Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group used CPCE to share a COP and digitally collaborate for combined arms rehearsals, and battle/commander update briefings and assessments.
Using CPCE, each country was able to feed their situational awareness data into the COP for a unified display of the entire battlespace, and was also able to overcome integration challenges to share plans and schemes of maneuver throughout the event.
“The friction that is there as [different nations] start trying to integrate to get the COP is absolutely normal, and ... being here in one location to do this is how you find solutions,” said Brig. Jason Blain, 7th Australian Combat Brigade commander. “To look at what each nation brings to the party in regards to a solution that works, and then documenting [that] across a multinational division…is how we get a stronger, more coherent COP going forward.”
Battle groups within the 1st United Kingdom Strike Brigade were also able to demonstrate how their current digital COP interoperates with the Army’s modernized COP solution by digitally sending observed locations and graphics from the UK COP to CPCE.
CPCE has been optimized through Developmental Operations to improve responsiveness, add briefing capability and implement network management tools. Additionally, to improve system performance and to mitigate unnecessary data flow over constrained tactical network transport bandwidth, program managers and developers are working to address underlying data analytics, data dissemination and federation associated with the use of CPCE. These major efforts are key focuses of Capability Set 23 development.
During WfX 21.1 in October 2020, in which the primary users were elements of the XVIII Airborne Corps, 82nd Airborne Division and 1st Cavalry Division, Soldiers indicated the need for incorporating feeds from unmanned aerial systems (UAS) to enhance the commander’s command post purview, as well as the ability for the G6 to remove a CPCE user if needed. In April, these improvements were put through the paces during WfX 21.4.
Building on the initial movement and maneuver COP capabilities from Increment 0, follow-on increments will introduce enhancements iteratively over time. While remote software patching, improved scalability and performance, CPCE system monitoring via a dashboard and an incorporated geospatial infrastructure are being rolled out to the field through Inc. 1 fielding, current Inc. 2 development is introducing cybersecurity measures (IL5 and IL6), initial cloud computing and a common data fabric for CPCE.XVIII Airborne Corps users executed their mission and provided additional feedback for future enhancements.
In addition to CPCE, the Army’s Cyber Situational Understanding (Cyber SU) capability was exercised during JWA 21 and used by spectrum managers, cyber defenders and operational commanders to understand and visualize their cyber environment and react to cyber electromagnetic activity (CEMA) threats across their battlespace.
“We used Cyber SU to build, track and collaborate on non-lethal effects, and could see other cyber requests being built,” said Lt. Col. Dennis Weaver, electronic warfare officer for 4ID. These requests, known as Cyber Electromagnetic Request Forms, or CERFs, are the format forces use to request effects in and through cyberspace. Effects in cyberspace can support operations in any domain. Support in response to CERFs may be from joint cyberspace forces such as the combat mission teams, from other joint or service capabilities, or from service retained cyberspace forces.
Cyber SU ingests data and information from tactical sources, including the Distributed Common Ground System-Army, Electronic Warfare Planning and Management Tool and other tactical network systems. Analytic, visualization and correlation capabilities then transform data into useful information needed to achieve the commander's situational understanding of cyberspace, and provide a cyber common operational picture within CPCE. This process ultimately provides the “so what” factor needed to drive decisions in Multi-Domain Operations.
“The 4th Infantry Division has certainly learned a lot as we tested these tools, procedures and concepts across multiple domains – mission command, cyber, space and integration of long range precision fires,” said McFarlane. “But as important as the modernization efforts, it provided us an opportunity to prove our current warfighting capability and fight with and learn from our multinational partners.”
Feedback from users during the Operation Assessment is informing the development and refinement of future enhancements, while measured data will reinforce CPCE functionality, scalability and operational effectiveness prior to a fielding decision in 1QFY22.
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.