The Army’s armored brigade combat teams, or ABCTs, successfully combat enemy forces using a combination of organized fire power and rapid movement.
To retain battlefield advantage against increasingly capable adversaries, commanders of these armored units will increasingly rely on mobile, robust and real-time communication and data exchange.
In support, the Army is preparing for an upcoming pilot to evaluate a variety of new and emerging commercial On The Move, or OTM, network communications prototype solutions integrated onto select ABCT vehicle platforms. The service is working side-by-side with industry partners and the pilot unit -- the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, at Fort Stewart, Georgia – to evaluate potential solutions that could deliver resilient OTM network communications to the Army’s most lethal force.
“The projected OTM capabilities will increase armored brigades’ survivability by increasing mobility, while simultaneously enhancing lethality through an improved capacity to rapidly share the current enemy situation and expeditiously synchronize enablers to support Soldiers in contact,” said Col. Terry R. Tillis, commander of the 2nd ABCT, 3rd ID.
The Army will evaluate mature and emerging commercial network communications equipment leveraging an array of experiments, technical observations and Soldier touch points. User feedback from the 2nd ABCT, 3rd ID will be critical to support the initial ABCT OTM network communications solution set that the Army is developing for armored units.
Following the pilot’s preliminary design review in late February 2021, the Army and industry partners conducted a critical design review in late May to collectively solidify the pilot’s final design and map out potential integration challenges. Industry partners are now currently integrating select 2nd ABCT, 3rd ID vehicle platforms with prototype equipment, after which the Army will conduct the necessary safety releases and Soldier training to support the two-week pilot this winter. The selected vehicle platforms are for pilot purposes only and are not the objective platforms.
Currently, ABCTs leverage legacy Tactical Network Transport network communications equipment that provides robust network capability for secure voice, video and data exchange, at the halt, or ATH, such as in a command post. The ABCT OTM networking solution will integrate enhanced line-of-sight and beyond-line-of-sight mobile network solutions onto select vehicles to enable Soldiers and their commanders to retain network communications as they drive across the battlefield. The expeditionary line-of-sight and beyond-line-of-sight network equipment package solution will also operate ATH in support of command post operations.
“We’re looking at the full ABCT OTM equipment set from a holistic point of view, to ensure the right mix of capability to most optimally enhance mobile network communications, command post survivability and unit lethality, at a cost that’s affordable and sustainable,” said Col. Shane Taylor, project manager for Tactical Network, at the Program Executive Office for Command, Control, Communications-Tactical, which is leading the pilot effort for the Army. “More importantly, we are looking at potential solutions from a Soldier’s perspective, to ensure we deliver a Soldier-centric design and equipment set that is easy to use and best meets their mission needs.”
User experience will be key factor in solution set design decisions, supporting the Army’s desire for a non-signaler Soldier to be able to operate the kit with minimal training. System simplicity will also enable rapid command post setup and tear down while maintaining communications, helping to make command posts more survivable.
“One of our biggest challenges will be the limited space inside armored vehicles,” said John Gillette, product manager for Mission Network, at Project Manager Tactical Network. “Potentially, the solution set could include a dismountable kit versus one that is completely integrated into the vehicle. This would give the maneuver element more choices when transitioning to at-the-halt support, and it also lines up with our desire to create a platform-agnostic kit that is compatible with different vehicle variants.”
During the pilot, the Army will examine a wide range of commercial technologies from over 20 industry partners. Three battalions from the 2nd ABCT, 3rd ID will provide feedback on three different OTM equipment sets. Each course of action includes innovative operational uses and pushes the boundaries of technology readiness, whether it’s currently available commercial basebands or evolving next generation multi-orbit satellite communications. The service will use Soldier touch points and quantitative test data to determine the best path forward for the ABCT OTM networking capability.
ABCT OTM networking is a key component and one of its most complex integration efforts of Capability Set, or CS25 -- the third installment in the Army’s iterative two-year network modernization capability set acquisition and fielding process.
To inform ABCT OTM network requirements, Project Manager Tactical Network has been garnering feedback and best practices for years from signal and armored units as they trained to fight in the rugged terrain of the National Training Center, at Fort Irwin, California, as well as from the center’s Operations Group that support these training efforts. The Army is also leveraging lessons learned from its 2019 Expeditionary Signal Battalion-Enhanced, or ESB-E, pilot in support of CS21, which it conducted to inform a more mobile and scalable network equipment set to enhance legacy ESB formations. To help inform the integration of OTM capability for ABCTs, the team will also leverage work currently being done in support of CS23 to modernize Stryker units and vehicles, which is being supported by the 2nd Calvary Regiment in Germany -- the first unit integrated with CS23 capabilities.
“ABCT pilot and experimentation efforts will balance technical maturity, system complexity, ease of component integration and use, affordability and component density within the formation,” said Capt. Detrick Moore, ABCT OTM lead at Product Manager Mission Network. “All of these factors will inform network design.”
Solution tradeoffs could potentially include cost, baseband solution sets, satellite and line-of-sight equipment size, weight and power (SWaP), weighing computing power versus size, as well as emerging versus currently available capability solutions, he said.
Results from the ABCT OTM networking pilot will be used to inform decisions on potential CS25 solutions for the most affordable best-of-breed ABCT OTM network communication capabilities and potential fielding decisions. The final ABCT OTM networking solution set will enable more effective, less predictable offensive and defensive operations, and increase the lethality of the Army’s ABCTs.
The U.S. Army Program Executive Office Command, Control and Communications-Tactical, or PEO C3T, 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.