ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Maryland — Highlighted in the war between Russia and Ukraine, the rapid delivery of the right supplies and personnel to the right locations on the battlefield has always been the foundation of any successful mission.
With this in mind, the U.S. Army continues to modernize the way it exchanges logistics data, both globally and locally on the battlefield. In support, the service recently established three new data transport programs known as the Sustainment Transport System (STS): STS Satellite Communications (SATCOM), STS Line-of-Sight and STS Wireless-Fidelity (Wi-Fi).
“As part of our unified network modernization efforts, once fielded, these new systems will improve logistics data exchange through enhancements in network security, capacity, resiliency, range and mobility,” said Col. Shane Taylor, project manager for Tactical Network (PM TN), assigned to the Program Executive Office for Command, Control, Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T). “The STS will enable our Soldiers to access critical sustainment tools that ensure that our forces always possess the supplies, personnel, medical and force protection when and where they need it, in any future fight, against any adversary.”
PEO C3T, the STS milestone decision authority, granted the STS materiel development decision in November, to initiate the three new programs of record into the Army acquisition life cycle utilizing the major capability acquisition pathway. Once the PEO grants milestone C authority, which is expected this spring, PM TN will immediately maximize the use of indefinite delivery indefinite quantity contracts to purchase low rate initial production quantities, and PM TN will integrate STS into the unified tactical network to function both as an individual system as well as a system-of-system when mission dictates. On the current timeline, the Army plans to conduct an STS operational test in fiscal year 2024 to support final acquisition and fielding decisions, with fielding expected to begin under a conditional material release later that fiscal year.
“Our Army sustainment units and signal maintainers have done an amazing job sustaining the current system, but it is time to invest in solutions that provide an increased communications capability in terms of speed, band flexibility and capacity,” said Lt. Col. Mark Scott, product manager for Unified Network Capabilities and Integration (PdM UNCI), at PM TN, which manages STS for the Army. “Future sustainment applications and tools will require SATCOM, Line of Sight and Wi-Fi systems to keep pace with massive amounts of data transport and STS will meet those requirements.”
The STS systems will modernize and ultimately replace the SATCOM and line-of-sight systems in the current logistics network program, known as Combat Service Support (CSS), which have been in operation since 2004 and are nearing obsolescence. PM TN continues to deliver bridge enhancements across the Army’s current fleet of logistics systems to make the CSS network more secure and capable. The program office will also continue to manage CSS until the new STS network systems are fully fielded across the force.
STS SATCOM will enable global data exchange for the Army’s logistics information systems and applications, such as Enterprise Resource Planning, Global Combat Support System-Army, Integrated Personnel and Pay System-Army, Medical Communication for Combat Casualty Care and General Fund Enterprise Business Systems. STS SATCOM systems will expand current CSS SATCOM capabilities to operate on both commercial and military satellites on Ku, Ka and X bands.
For local data exchange across battlefield logistics support locations, STS Line-of-Sight will increase the range and speed of existing line-of-sight data transmission solutions, while STS Wi-Fi will provide secure wireless connectivity at each of the STS network nodes. All of the easy-to-use STS expeditionary network transport systems are developed for general-purpose users and can be rapidly setup and torn down for enhanced unit maneuverability.
Since 2021, PdM UNCI has been conducting early lab and field-based experimentation and Soldier assessments to inform capability and design requirements needed to modernize the CSS logistics network. As part of the process, Soldier feedback continues to inform near-term Army requirements and future acquisition decisions for STS solutions that are secure, affordable, and in-line with the Army’s network modernization priorities.
“We will field the STS SATCOM, line-of-sight, and Wi-Fi solutions to ensure the Army’s sustainers, maintainers and support personnel have the network connectivity they need to execute missions in tomorrow’s complex and continually evolving operational environments,” Scott said. “It’s all about ensuring readiness, delivering the right personnel, equipment and logistic support to be successful on the battlefield.”
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.