Spartan Brigade conducts Army's newest armored network pilot
Soldiers assigned to the "Can Do Battalion," 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, test, assess and provide feedback on one of the three commercial On-The-Move network equipment sets during the U.S. Army’s three-week Armored Formation OTM Network Pilot at Fort Stewart, Georgia, Feb. 2, 2022. The Army will use the Soldier feedback and data collected to inform the Army's Capability Set 25 network design and market research to determine currently available and maturing industry solutions for potential armored formation network integration. (U.S. Army photo by Capt. Detrick Moore, Assistant Product Manager for Mission Network, Project Manager Tactical Network, PEO C3T) (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL

To be successful in a future multi-domain operational fight against a near-peer adversary, U.S. armored formations will require robust resilient network connectivity, and they’ll need it on the move. A recent Army pilot assessment of new and emerging commercial on-the-move network capabilities demonstrated how modernized commercial command and control capabilities could enable mobility, increase survivability, and ensure lethality at the decisive point, across all warfighting functions.

The Army’s Armored Formation On-The-Move, or OTM, Network Pilot – supported by the “Spartan Brigade,” 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division – was conducted at Fort Stewart, Georgia, in January and February 2022. The pilot was not a formal operational test or acquisition down-select, but an opportunity for the Army to inform operational and technical concepts, requirements, technological maturity and affordability in support of the service’s network modernization Capability Set 25 design goals.

During the pilot, Soldiers evaluated innovative commercial network technology from more than 20 industry partners integrated onto the unit’s available surrogate armored command vehicles. Intended platforms for future network integration include the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle and Joint Light Tactical Vehicle. Three battalions received three unique commercial network communications equipment sets with varying satellite communication and line-of-sight capabilities. Soldiers provided their feedback on how well each equipment set delivered mobile, simple, flexible, and resilient command and control.

Spartan Brigade conducts Army's newest armored network pilot
Spc. Elijah Tenbrink, an Army intelligence analyst Soldier assigned to the "Mustang Squadron," 6th Squadron, 8th Calvary Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, leverages the upper tactical internet to conduct mission command and network communications during the Army’s three-week Armored Formation On-The-Move Network Pilot at Fort Stewart, Georgia, Feb. 7, 2022. The Army will use the Soldier feedback and data collected to inform the Army's Capability Set 25 network design and market research to determine currently available and maturing industry solutions for potential armored formation network integration. (U.S. Army photo by Amy Walker, Project Manager Tactical Network, PEO C3T Public Affairs) (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL

Pilot intent and capabilities

Lessons learned from previous combat training center experiences drove the brigade’s goals and desired outcomes for the Armored Formation OTM network assessment. For example, at the brigade’s most recent combat training center rotation at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center, or JMRC, in Hohenfels, Germany, September 2020, the unit experienced long delays while trying to establish upper tactical internet. In one instance, command post relocation caused a loss in operational tempo when a battalion needed to establish upper tactical internet to enable communication.

With these things in mind, the brigade commander’s intent was to meet Army pilot objectives by answering the following questions: will these systems increase the survivability of the warfighter on the ground while enhancing lethality? Can these systems increase the accuracy of the common operating picture to inform the commander’s decisions to allocate resources? Are these systems simple to use and reliable? Do they enhance the unit’s primary, alternate, contingency and emergency, or PACE, plans for increased network resiliency?

The unit executed the pilot over three weeks, with each week dedicated to a different battalion and equipment set. The pilot’s commercial OTM network prototype systems provided several enhanced network capabilities across the battalion-specific equipment sets, along with several satellite communications, or SATCOM, antennas prototypes at the brigade command post. These included SATCOM integrated onto individual vehicles that required a “flip of a switch” to operate, as well as brigade and battalion line-of-sight, or LOS, mesh networks.

The battalion LOS mesh enabled redundant SATCOM. If one vehicle’s SATCOM was degraded or inoperable, it could use another vehicle’s feed within the LOS mesh. For contrast, one battalion operated solely with vehicle-level SATCOM connectivity and had no internal mesh network. The brigade LOS mesh provided upper tactical internet connectivity via LOS to the battalions using a tethered drone that could reach up to 200 feet, a vehicle-mounted Quick Erecting Antenna Mast, or a non-vehicle mounted 15-meter mast.

Spartan Brigade conducts Army's newest armored network pilot
Soldiers assigned to the "Can Do Battalion," 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, set up a satellite terminal to test and assess one of the three commercial On-The-Move network equipment sets during the U.S. Army’s three-week Armored Formation OTM Network Pilot at Fort Stewart, Georgia, Feb. 2, 2022. The Army will use the Soldier feedback and data collected to inform the Army's Capability Set 25 network design and market research to determine currently available and maturing industry solutions for potential armored formation network integration. (U.S. Army photos by Capt. Detrick Moore, assistant product manager for Mission Network, Project Manager Tactical Network, PEO C3T) (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL

Warfighting Function: Movement and Maneuver

The commercial OTM network capabilities in this assessment were critical to the movement and maneuver warfighting functions. Network connectivity is a fundamental condition check with the brigade before initiating decisive action. Currently, a battalion command post must come to a halt and wait while establishing upper tactical internet communications, relying solely on less-optimal lower tactical internet systems in the interim. The equipment assessed during the OTM network pilot enabled continuous upper tactical internet connectivity at the battalion level with two of the three equipment sets, and it reduced connection time at-the-quick-halt for the last battalion down to five minutes.

Retaining near-constant upper tactical internet significantly reduces a battalion commander’s need to stop to set conditions for an operation. Armored formations must retain mobility to balance dispersion and survivability with the ability to mass at the decisive point.

Warfighting Function: Command and Control

Command and Control is essential and enduring in support of all warfighting functions. A key focus of OTM network connectivity in support of the Army’s network modernization Capability Set 25 design is to develop a network architecture that is transport agnostic, with multiple digital data transportation pathways where the transmission path is unknown to the user. Currently, armored formations at the brigade and below rely on a singular SATCOM transport method with their at-the-halt Satellite Transportation Terminals, or STTs. This singular transmission pathway is not conducive to network resiliency.

To help solve this challenge, during the pilot, each equipment set provided different transport configurations utilizing SATCOM or digital LOS mesh at the brigade and battalion level. For a network to be genuinely transport agnostic and simple for the user to operate, it must provide automatic failover. Automatic failover requires zero user interaction when one method of transport fails, compared to switchover, which requires the user to manually select the next method of transport. The pilot demonstrated the network’s ability to seamlessly provide failover, thus simplifying the user’s experience and allowing the user to focus solely on their warfighting function tasks. This auto-PACE capability facilitated the success seen across all Warfighting Functions.

Warfighting Function: Intelligence

The 2nd ABCT, 3rd ID, evaluated how the OTM network capabilities affected the unit's ability to maintain a current common intelligence picture, or CIP, and if the CIP could feed the brigade COP. Maintaining a CIP is typically challenging for units due to being required to have connectivity to upper tactical internet. When battalions are not established on the tactical network, they often do not receive up-to-date higher echelon enemy composition and disposition reports. Battalions are also less likely to provide a holistic picture of the enemy to the brigade command post, leading to decision-making based on stale information.

Unlike the brigade’s previous JMRC rotation, where information sharing was a constant challenge, the commercial OTM network prototype capabilities helped solve this problem by providing flexible and resilient digital connectivity at the battalion level. Upper tactical internet is required to access the collective shared Intel database, such as Distributed Common Ground System-Army, or DCGS-A, Capability Drop 1. The OTM equipment sets enabled near-continuous intelligence data sharing across the brigade using these intelligence warfighting systems. The OTM network systems also improved intelligence reporting timeliness, which increased the effectiveness of the fires enterprise.

Warfighting Function: Fires

An accurate and timely intelligence picture enables effective brigade-level fires support that shapes the brigade’s close-fight and ultimately provides brigade and battalion commanders more decision space. The commercial OTM network capabilities in this assessment facilitated improvements in providing lethal shaping fires. The fires warfighting function realized similar benefits as the Intel warfighting function did, by placing an Advanced Field Artillery Data System, or AFATDS, in the battalion fires support element vehicle. This allowed the fires enterprise to process more fire missions from the battalions using digital upper tactical internet capabilities instead of slower lower tactical internet methods like Very High Frequency, or VHF, or High Frequency, or HF radios. Processing fires on the upper tactical internet is typically up to 10 minutes faster than processing on the lower tactical internet.

Due to the prototype OTM network's digital data transport design, multiple data pathways supported digital fires processing. Multiple data pathways further reduce lower tactical internet reliance by creating a robust, flexible and resilient network for fires mission processing. The OTM network pilot’s mobile, flexible and resilient capabilities facilitated the brigade's ability to provide timely and lethal shaping fires, which are critical to the survivability of the unit’s movement and maneuver elements.

Spartan Brigade showcases Army's Armored Formation On-The-Move Network Pilot
First Lt. Thomas J. Allen, assigned as the battalion communications and network officer for the "Mustang Squadron," 6th Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, showcases his unit's On-The-Move prototype equipment set during a media day at Fort Stewart, Georgia, Feb. 8, 2022. The Army will use the Soldier feedback and data collected from the "Spartan Brigade," 2nd ABCT, 3rd ID, to inform the Army's Capability Set 25 network design and market research to determine currently available and maturing industry solutions for potential armored formation network integration. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Trenton Lowery) (Photo Credit: Sgt. Trenton Lowery) VIEW ORIGINAL

Conclusion

Each equipment set displayed strengths and weaknesses. However, there were common capabilities that enabled authentic OTM network communications for pilot armored unit.

The commercial OTM network prototypes provided commander’s options to improve survivability and lethality without sacrificing command and control of the current operational fight. Commanders could establish command posts according to operational tempo instead of location and disperse their command posts to increase survivability from indirect fires. Units could process faster fire missions from sensor-to-shooter through reliable access to upper tactical internet and maintain a more accurate COP across the formation. The OTM network capability could also greatly enable a unit’s sustainment enterprise by providing upper tactical internet at combat trains command posts, or CTCPs, and field trains command posts, FTCPs, to increase command and control of sustainment operations, improving the timeliness and accuracy of logistics operations.

The OTM network prototype capabilities have the potential to change battlefield network architecture, command and control, and the way the Army fights in future multi-domain operations. Network mobility and continual resilient connectivity will be key enablers in future near-peer fights.

US Army commences Armored Formation On-The-Move Network Pilot
First Lt. Holly Gerber-George, assigned to the "Hound Battalion," 3rd Battalion, 67 Armor Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, supervises her Soldiers and vehicles as they begin start movement to begin the Army's Armored Formation On-The-Move Network Pilot, Jan. 24, 2022. The Army will use the Soldier feedback and data collected from the "Spartan Brigade," 2nd ABCT, 3rd ID, to inform the Army's Capability Set 25 network design and market research to determine currently available and maturing industry solutions for potential armored formation network integration. (Courtesy Photo) (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL

Editor's note: an OTM white paper inspired this article. Both the white paper and this article were by the authors. This article is published online in conjunction with an earlier version in the Summer 2022 edition of the Armor Mounted Maneuver Journal at Armor Magazine.

Author Backgrounds

Maj. Alex Barron was the brigade operations officer at the time this article was written for the 2nd ABCT, 3rd ID, Fort Stewart, GA. His previous assignments include operations officer, 6th Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd ABCT, 3rd ID; chief of operations for the Train, Advise and Assist Command – South, Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan (under Operation Resolute Support); and small-group leader at the Maneuver Captains Career Course, Fort Benning, Georgia. He commanded companies in 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd ID, and 316th Cavalry Brigade. He also served as a platoon leader and staff officer in 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. Barron’s military education includes Command and General Staff College, Joint Firepower Course, Ranger School, MCCC, Armor Officer Basic Course and Air Assault School. Barron holds a master’s degree in business administration from Kansas State University and a bachelor’s of science degree in Spanish and Arabic from the U.S. Military Academy. His awards include the Bronze Star Medal and the Meritorious Service Medal with three oak leaf clusters.

Maj. Bryan DiPalermo was the brigade executive officer at the time this article was written for the 2nd ABCT, 3rd ID. His previous assignments include executive officer, 3rd Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 2nd ABCT, 3rd ID; assistant operations officer, 3rd ID; planner, Operational Test Command Future Operations, Fort Hood, Texas; commander, Brigade Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood; commander, Company D, 6th Sqn., 9th Cav. Regt., 3rd ABCT; assistant operations officer, 504th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, III Corps, Fort Hood; assistant operations officer, 6th Sqn., 8th Cav. Regt., 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Fort Stewart; company executive officer, Company B, 6th Sqn., 8th Cav. Regt., 4th IBCT; and platoon leader, Cavalry Squadron Reconnaissance Troop, Company B, 6th Sqn., 8th Cav. Regt., 4th IBCT. DiPalermo’s military schools include resident Command and General Staff College, Cavalry Leader’s Course, MCCC, Army Reconnaissance Course and Armor Basic Officer Leader’s Course. He has a Master of Science degree in military studies from American Public University and a bachelor’s of science degree in interdisciplinary studies from Arizona State University-Tempe. DiPalermo’s awards include the Bronze Star Medal and the Meritorious Service Medal with oak leaf cluster.

Maj. JayPatrick Griffith was the brigade fire support officer at the time this article was written, assigned to the 1st Battalion, 9th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd ABCT, 3rd ID. His previous assignments include fire-support officer, 2nd ABCT, 3rd Infantry Division; assistant S-3 officer, 2nd Battalion, 12th Artillery Regiment, Fort Carson, Colorado; and commander, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson. Griffith’s military schools include Field Artillery Basic Officer Leader Course, Joint Fires Observer Course, Joint Firepower Course, Paladin Leader Course, Bradley Leader Course, Field Artillery Captain Career Course and the Australian Defence Force Command and Staff College. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in liberal studies from Iowa State University and a Master of Arts degree in policy and strategic studies from Australian National University.

Maj. Todd Klinzing-Donaldson was the brigade communications and network officer at the time this article was written for the 2nd ABCT, 3rd ID. His previous assignments include operations officer, 4th Battalion/Capabilities Integration Group, Fort Belvoir, Virginia; commander, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 67th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, Fort Gordon, Georgia; commander, Company C, 67th Expeditionary Battalion; and Battalion S-6, 3rd Battalion, 321st Field Artillery Regiment, Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Klinzing-Donaldson’s military schools include the Infantry Officer Basic Course, Ranger School, Airborne School, Battalion/Brigade S-6 Officer Course, Signal Captain Career Course and resident CGSC. He has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Messiah University and a Master of Arts degree in information-technology management from Webster University. Klinzing-Donaldson’s awards include the Bronze Star and Meritorious Service medals. He is a former infantry officer who deployed for Operations Spartan Shield, New Dawn and Unified Response, a humanitarian relief mission.

Maj. James Napper was the brigade intelligence and security officer at the time this article was written for the 2nd ABCT, 3rd ID. His previous assignments include division G-2X, 3rd ID; small-group leader, Captain’s Career Course, 304th Military Intelligence Battalion, Fort Huachuca, Arizona; brigade assistant S-2, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Kentucky; and battalion S-2, 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st BCT, 101st Airborne Division; and commander, Aerial Reaction Force Detachment, 5th Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st BCT, 3rd ID. Napper’s military schools include the Infantry Basic Officer Leader Course, Army Reconnaissance Course, Military Intelligence Captain’s Career Course and command and resident CGSC. He has a bachelor’s of arts degree in political science from Auburn University, a Master of Arts degree in international relations from Webster University and a Master of Arts degree in operational studies from CGSC. Napper’s awards include the Bronze Star Medal with oak leaf cluster and the Meritorious Service Medal with oak leaf cluster.