By Kris Osborn August 16, 2011
ARLINGTON, Va. (Army News Service, Aug. 16, 2011) -- The Army is beginning to harness some initial lessons learned from its recent Network Integration Evaluation this past June/July at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.
Scores of technologies were assessed at Network Integration Evaluation, or NIE, and integrated in realistic combat-like scenarios in order to evaluate their potential military utility as part of a battlefield communications network, service officials said.
Initial indications are that much was learned about the Army's ability to integrate a host of emerging technologies into a single coherent network architecture, said Col. John Wendel, deputy program executive officer, Network Integration.
"The integration is a tremendous accomplishment. There is a lot of value added by integrating 35 SUTs [Systems Under Test] and SUEs [Systems Under Evaluation] in a true systems of systems environment that spanned 285 by 50 kilometers and included rugged, strenuous terrain. When you bring everything together simultaneously, you end up with the best solution for the network and for the Soldier," Wendel said.
Overall, the NIE included six systems under formal test and 29 emerging technologies slated as Systems Under Evaluation: radios, satellites, sensors and Battle Command applications were technically synchronized together to provide real-time, combat-relevant information to Soldiers who could then view the same data on computers and monitors using common software programs.
For instance, Soldiers were able to make a digital "call for fires" from more than 100 kilometers away, sending information from a forward location back to the artillery guns equipped to "fire" the mission, Wendel explained.
In order to accomplish this, legacy radios such as the Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System, known as SINCGARS, were integrated with software programmable radios such as Joint Tactical Radio Systems Ground Mobile Radio, JTRS GMR, and a satellite capability called Warfighter Information Network-Tactical, known as WIN-T, Increment 1 in order to move information across large distances in a matter of seconds, he said.
"We cut across programs of record to provide a high-payoff solution," Wendel said.
Although much more detail regarding lessons learned about specific technologies will be available when the Army Test and Evaluation Command issues its formal NIE assessment at the end of August, many involved in the NIE have already been harvesting key "take-aways" from the successful, large-scale exercise which involved 3,800 Soldiers of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division -- a unit dedicated to performing operationally relevant tests and evaluations. Consolidating the network evaluation at Fort Bliss/WSMR enabled testing and evaluating the Army network as a whole vice individual programs.
"The intent of this initial NIE was in part to start forming an Integrated Network Baseline. The integration of the systems and how we manage that was a more pivotal weapon for us -- rather than how individual systems performed," said Jennifer Zbozny, chief engineer, Program Executive Office Command, Control, Communications - Tactical, or PEO C3T.
As many as 35 product leads, 11 Program Executive Offices and numerous industry partners participated in the NIE, Wendel said.
Preparations are underway for the next NIE which is slated to start at the end of October.