ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (Sept. 3, 2021) – The U.S. Army is continuing the DevOps drumbeat on network modernization with a pair of rapid prototyping contract awards for wireless communications technologies supporting mobile command posts.
On Sept. 2, the Army Contracting Command-Aberdeen Proving Ground issued contract awards to L3 Harris Technologies, Inc. and Broadband Antenna Tracking Systems (BATS), Inc. on behalf of the Network Cross-Functional Team (CFT), part of the Army Futures Command. The awards stemmed from the Army’s ongoing series of technical exchange meetings, or TEMs, with industry partners designed to target promising prototype technologies for experimentation and potential fielding.
“Delivering Soldiers the communications systems they need today and in the future depends on getting new solutions into the DevOps pipeline so we can rapidly iterate and improve tactical network capabilities,” said Chief Warrant Officer 5 Jeramy Cosner, chief of market research at the Network CFT. “Working with industry to assess prototypes in Army labs and out in the field with Soldiers ensures we continue that cycle.”
Under the contracts, each vendor will have up to one year to deliver a prototype Intra Command Post Wireless communications system that provides vehicle-to-vehicle communications operating in multiple frequency bands. If the prototypes prove successful in a lab environment, the government can opt for a second phase of hands-on training and experimentation with an Army unit.
From an operational perspective, the technology supports the Army’s goal to improve command post agility and survivability for mobile, dynamic operations in contested environments.
“Modernized command posts will not be static – they have to be agile and deployable across the spectrum of operations from early entry to large-scale combat,” said Matthew Maier, project manager for Interoperability, Integration and Services, which oversees the Command Post Integrated Infrastructure (CPI2) program that is replacing existing command post equipment with next-generation capabilities. “Providing state-of-the-art communications to our command post vehicles is critical, and we are very encouraged to see industry’s focus and investments in this area.”
The two awards resulted from the Army’s TEM 5 session and call for whitepapers released to industry late last year. For the Intra Command Post Wireless topic, 30 vendors submitted whitepapers. The Army chose 10 vendors to present their technologies to government subject matter experts during “shark tank”-style technical demos, leading to the selection of L3 Harris and BATS for contract awards. The upcoming lab assessments and potential field experimentation with those two systems will inform the CPI2 program’s incremental strategy for upgrades and fielding.
While the two initial contracts are for Intra Command Post Wireless, the Army also plans to issue contract awards for another TEM 5 topic, focused on the C5ISR/EW Modular Open Suite of Standards (CMOSS) and Modular Open Radio Architecture.
The TEM series is a joint effort of the Network CFT, the Program Executive Office Command, Control, Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T), and the DEVCOM C5ISR Center, designed to facilitate transparency with industry partners and shape research and development efforts tailored to Army tactical network needs. The recurring TEM process casts a broad net for needed technologies, then narrows them down through analysis and demonstrations to result in potential contract awards and fully fielded capabilities. The Army has also dedicated CFT prototyping funding to support the process.
Technologies identified through TEM help shape network Capability Sets, the integrated tactical communications packages the Army fields to Soldiers. Each capability set builds upon the previous in order to ultimately enable multi-domain operations and information dominance against a peer or near-peer adversary.
Due to the pace of network technology development in the commercial sector, several TEM cycles are in progress at once. TEM 6, the first to focus on Capability Set 25, took place in June, and the Army recently completed reviews of vendor whitepapers submitted on three technical topics in preparation for “shark tank” style technical demos this fall. Meanwhile, vendor-developed technology discovered through TEM 4 that demonstrated promise during lab assessments will participate in Soldier-led experimentation this fall, informing Capability Set 23.
“The TEM process is introducing innovative technologies and adapting them for the Army environment, while informing Army network design decisions and keeping our industry partnerships strong,” said Brig. Gen. Jeth Rey, director of the N-CFT. “Accelerating the transition from idea to lab to field is an essential part of modernization.”