The U.S. Army's Acquisition Executive said communication technologies slated to field in the next several years, such as Joint Tactical Radio Systems (JTRS) and Warfighter Information Network - Tactical (WIN-T), could prove to be vital assets in the ongoing war in Afghanistan -- speaking to an audience of industry and military professionals on Jan. 14 at the ninth annual "Army IT Day" put on by the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association of Northern Virginia.

"The ISR [Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance] fight is critical to winning in Afghanistan. In fact, the ISR fight is even more important in Afghanistan than it was in Iraq," Mr. Dean Popps, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, told the crowd. "We are inexorably a net-centric Army."

Popps said the advent of these systems will help the Army continue its transformation into more of an expeditionary force that can share combat-relevant information faster and more broadly across the battlefield. "JTRS is about software programmable radios which will be an ultimate answer for the warfighter. Our goal there is to make sure we field it cheap enough per unit so we can get that fielded," Popps said. "This is a joint program which has just recently come under the leadership of the Army."

JTRS Ground Mobile Radio (GMR) in vehicles and JTRS Handheld Manpack Small (HMS) outfitted on sensors and small radios have, through testing, demonstrated an ability to leverage high bandwidth waveforms such as Soldier Radio Waveform to move voice, video, data and images across a multi-node or "networked" force on the battlefield in real time; JTRS GMR allows networked vehicles on-the-move to view and share real-time feeds from robots, sensors and UAVs.

Both JTRS GMR and JTRS HMS are slated to begin fielding with incremental
"capabilities packages" in 2011. The capabilities packages -- which include networked sensors, robots, and UAVs along with JTRS radios -- are crucial surviving elements of the former Future Combat Systems modernization program, Popps said. "We are going to bring those capabilities and spin them into the force now as the Secretary of Defense [Robert Gates] wants," Popps said.

JTRS and the SATCOM WIN-T network will work in tandem and complement one another by combining terrestrial and satellite networks into a single unified system, Popps said. "The WIN-T program is your uplink with your VSATs [satellites] in the field. Increment 3 of WIN-T will take us to satellite communications on-the-move," Popps said.