By Mrs. Annie Gammell (TRADOC)December 17, 2009
FORT BLISS, Texas (Dec. 17, 2009) Aca,!" Several months ago when the Army's modernization program (previously called Future Combat Systems) was modified to focus on the Infantry Brigade Combat Team instead of the Heavy Brigade Combat Team, the Director of the Future Force Integration Directorate noted that the program's Network Integration Kit that ties the different weapons, aerial vehicles and robots together may need to be tailored for the dismounted Soldier. Instead of being mounted into a vehicle like the Humvee, he said it would be helpful if the NIK could be worn or carried by Soldiers, since Infantrymen most often travel on foot when performing their mission tasks.
Based on this observation, the TRADOC Capabilities Manager, Col. Dave Bushey, whose office is co-located with the FFID at Fort Bliss, then decided to make network portability for the Infantryman a desired capability for the modernization program. The work to provide that capability fell on the Program Executive Office, Integration (PEO-I), headquartered in St. Louis, Mo., with offices at Fort Monmouth, N.J., where work on communication and the network is undertaken. The idea of providing Infantrymen with a portable network capability has now come full circle and was recently embodied in a Common Controller Interoperability and Network Evaluation Experiment (INE), Phase 1 VIP Demonstration hosted by the PEO-I, at the 901 Complex at White Sands Missile Range. Although the weather was cold and windy, organizers are calling the demo a success.
The demonstration involved a platoon-sized unit equipped with Land Warrior vests and a Small, Unmanned Ground Vehicle (SUG-V) with an operator who performed tasks to transfer information from the SUG-V's sensors to a Common Controller. From the controller, information was successfully sent via a Mobile Network Integration Kit (M-NIK) worn by the operator to the platoon's higher headquarters located some distance away. The demo began when a busload of visitors approached the gate, where the Land Warrior took a photo of a suspected "high-value target (HVT)," the bus driver, and sent it to the tactical Command Post (CP). Next, the bus reached a checkpoint before entering the main 901 area, where it was greeted by a SUG-V. The robot gave the vehicle and its passengers a thorough inspection, taking pictures of a "suspicious individual." The SUG-V sent its pictures back to the operator, who entered data into the Common Controller. He then sent it through the M-NIK to the unit's higher headquarters, the company CP, which was actually inside a building several kilometers away. Using data from the Land Warrior and SUG-V that went to the Common Controller through the M-NIK and finally to the CP, the unit was able to successfully identify a suspicious individual, or HVT.
After they first boarded the bus, the visitors, mostly contractors from the communication/network industry, had received a briefing on the INE from Lt. Col. John Matthews, assigned to the PEO-I, to prepare them for what the demo would entail. After the scenario was completed, the group went to the CP for another briefing, delivered by Lt. Col. James "Darby" McNulty from the PEO-I, which included a viewing of the footage that had been captured by the SUG-V sensors.
Objectives for the demonstration included the following:
Aca,!Ac To demonstrate the ability of the Common Controller to control and manage native functionality of a SUG-V with a System of Systems Common Operating Environment application running on a LINUX- based operating platform.
Aca,!Ac To demonstrate the ability of the Common Controller to participate in the Land Warrior network using the Enhanced Position Location Reporting System (EPLRS), exchanging tactical situational awareness and command and control with a Land Warrior-equipped operator.
Aca,!Ac To provide lateral exchange of tactical data between the Common Controller/Land Warrior unit and a geographically remote Land Warrior unit using an M-NIK-to-M-NIK link for long haul over a PRC-117G radio, exchange situational awareness and command and control between units and provide imagery from the Common Controller to the remote Land Warrior unit.
Aca,!Ac To use EPLRS to connect the Common Controller and Land Warrior to the M-NIK, use the PRC-117G radio for long-range connectivity between the M-NIK and the CP, exchange situational awareness and command and control between the Common Controller and the Land Warrior systems and CP and provide Common Controller-generated images to the CP.
According to Col. Kenneth Carrick, PEO-I Project Manager for Network Systems Integration, not only was the demonstration a success, it also offered an opportunity for his office to capture and validate comments and suggestions from potential users of the equipment.