A massive network test, termed the Network Integration Evaluation, which kicked off this week at White Sands Missile Range will evaluate capabilities of a developmental vehicle mounted company command post system intended to give enhanced on the move networking to company commanders.
Keeping a mobile commander well informed can be tough. Communications trouble, both technical and environmental in nature can cause a leader at any level to not feel he has enough information to make the right decision. In combat this lack of information is so common it’s earned itself the name “fog of war.”
“A key portion of the Network Integration Evaluation will take a look at collapsing networked battle and mission command capabilities into mobile company command post platforms. This may give company commanders the ability to take advanced network technology with them as they move around the battlespace"they will no longer need to be tied to a static location to receive mission command information,” said Paul Mehney, chief of public communications for Program Executive Office Integration, one of the offices involved in the evaluations.
The Network Integration Evaluation will bring together several different sets of communications equipment that’s expected to allow for better communications among Soldiers. The test will also see a newly networked vehicles such as Strykers and MRAPs rolling through the Range’s rough deserts and giving the commanders on the ground more information then they previously had.
The company command vehicles are specially equipped and loaded with communications and display gear intended to give the company commander access to the same kind of information normally only available in a command tent. “If the evaluations go well for this concept it could end up being huge for the Army, giving that small unit commander the mobility that he needs to move around his area of operations,” said Mehney.
One of the concept vehicles to be used in the evaluation is an MATV, an all terrain armored truck seeing extensive use in Afghanistan, but the communications package is being developed for use in a wide range of vehicles. “If you’re a Stryker company commander then your command post vehicle will be a Stryker. If you have a mechanized company (it’ll be a different vehicle) so this is all adaptable to the unit you’re assigning it to,” said Richard Steinau, the network synchronization center lab manager.
The decision to include the company command vehicle package in the evaluation came from feedback from troops in the field. “One of the biggest lessons learned in theater out of the company commanders was: ‘We are tied down, we cannot maneuver around our battle space because we do not have the connectivity,’” Meheny said. In response to this feedback the prototype company command post packages were rapidly assembled by Program Executive Office C3T and Integration and then rapidly inserted into the evaluation process.
The Network Integration Evaluation will be conducted at WSMR this summer with the goal of evaluating various different sets of network equipment being developed for future use. The test will see over 4,000 Soldiers, contractors and civilians come to WSMR and will take place at a number of locations on the range intentionally chosen because they represent the kind of communications challenging terrain, and overall environment encountered in areas like Afghanistan.