FORT BLISS, Texas — The Army equipped the first two units — the 1st Armored Division Artillery at Fort Bliss Texas, and the 101st Airborne (Air Assault) Division Sustainment Brigade, at Fort Campbell, Kentucky — with new commercial at-the-halt network enhancements to increase mobility, situational awareness, and ultimately, lethality.
Tactical Network Transport-At The Halt, or TNT-ATH, leverages robust satellite communications and high-capacity line-of-sight capability to enable mission command, a trusted real-time common operating picture, and global voice, video and data communications from anywhere on the battlefield.
As part of a robust overhaul of ATH network communications across the force, Network Integration Technology Enhancement —or NITE — addresses the obsolescence of end of life ATH equipment with modernized technologies, arming units with the advanced capability and data exchange they need to combat near peer threats.
“The foundation to my success as a commander is my ability to communicate,” said Col. Thurman McKenzie, commander for the 1st Armored Division Artillery. “In the fires enterprise, we operate throughout the depth and breadth of the battlefield. I have observers far forward and assets to the rear to coordinate supplies and logistics support, which requires a very strong network.”
“This increased computing capability will allow us to operate quicker, use our fires systems the way that they were intended, and ultimately, to get inside of the enemy’s decision cycle,” he said.
The Army’s Project Manager Tactical Network, at the Program Executive Office for Command, Control, Communications-Tactical, completed fielding NITE to the first two units this month. In conjunction with the NITE fieldings, the Army is also fielding modernized TNT-ATH Satellite Transportable Terminals, which provide robust satellite capability and work together with the ATH network nodes to enable global network transport in and out of a theater of operations. The project office will begin fielding the next two units in the first quarter of fiscal 2022 and will continue to field several units per year until the enhancements are delivered across the extensive TNT-ATH fleet.
NITE includes modernized Joint Network Nodes, Command Post Nodes, user access cases, and a software-based virtual server stack. The enhancements reduce size, weight and power (SWaP), system complexity, and setup time. NITE also improves system reliability and increases computing power by 200 percent. These benefits are derived from new commercial hardware, software and virtualization technologies, which enable more Soldiers to conduct mission command and exchange more data, faster and at the same time, without lag in the network.
“Being able to deploy with more efficient equipment will give the end user the ability to run their estimates [situational assessments] at a much faster pace for the Commander, leading to faster decision making. In a near peer [fight], too much time in this process can be detrimental,” said Cpt. Norberto Perez, commander of the 58th Signal Company, 101st Airborne (Air Assault) Sustainment Brigade.
The lighter, more modular ATH NITE equipment is deployed in smaller transit cases with tow handles and wheels that can be dragged like a suitcase, versus permanent shelter integration, and it takes less space inside the shelter and command post, and requires less command post cabling. The user friendly equipment is also easier to operate, train and maintain, with significantly faster set up time, keeping Soldiers connected for longer periods of time, said Cpt. Luis Narvaez, Tactical Network Transport-At The Halt Command Post Node operator for the 1st Armored Division Artillery.
The 1st Armored Division Artillery and the 101st Division Sustainment will put their systems through their paces in upcoming training and field exercises and provide continued feedback to the Army to inform potential future enhancements to further refine the systems. The first two units equipped follow a year-long NITE pilot in 2019 that leveraged Soldier feedback from the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, which informed current system design and fielding decisions.
Looking forward, NITE’s extensive virtualization of hardware provides the capacity and will make it easier for the Army to insert new capabilities to keep up with technology advancements as they evolve. These can now be done via software upgrades versus having to add more hardware as the service would have to do in the past, McKenzie said.
“No longer are we bogged down by programs of record that take years to develop,” McKenzie said. “Now we have fundamental infrastructure that allows us to grow at the pace of change, at the pace of technology.”
As the Army modernizes its network communications capabilities, the service will continue to field different units with different capabilities to best suit mission requirements. Whether it’s TNT-ATH, TNT-On The Move, or other expeditionary network equipment such as the new Scalable Network Node that replaces TNT-ATH equipment all together, unit requirements will continue dictate the Army’s network development, design and fielding efforts.
“As we continue to modernize how data is exchanged across a worldwide battlespace in support of multi domain operations, we will leverage and enhance current capability fielded across the Army, while seeking to integrate innovative commercial technologies,” said John Gillette, product manager for Mission Network, Project Tactical Network. “As commercial technology evolves, so too will the Army’s network.”
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.