ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (January 23, 2013) -- To counter insurgent activity in Iraq, the Army introduced capabilities that put sensors onto various towers and aerostats. Today, nearly every operating base of significant size has one or more of these intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and force protection platforms providing day-and-night over watch of our bases, forces, allies and the Afghan people.

These capabilities were the product of a Coalition, Command, Control, Communications, Computer, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C5ISR) Operational Needs Statement (ONS) for command and control and terrain-related challenges. The team that developed these capabilities was recognized in November with a 2012 Army Acquisition Excellence Award in the Equipping and Sustaining Our Soldier's Systems category. The Program Executive Office for Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors (PEO IEW&S) and the Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T) were co-winners of this honor.

The C5ISR ONS was developed in summer 2010 when the U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, Task Force 236 from U.S. Central Command and the Army's G-3/5/7 LandWarNet Directorate were flooded with ONSs from Afghanistan's regional commands. Some of the ONSs requested specific vendor solutions to various command and control (C2) and terrain-related challenges; others asked for more general capabilities. Fulfilling these requirements in a piecemeal fashion would have resulted in an expensive, suboptimal network architecture. So the team developed the C5ISR ONS, which grouped related capabilities under a single requirements document.

To further leverage fielded ISR systems, the Army added the C5ISR Quick Reaction Capability, which provides an Aerial Layer Network Extension initial operational capability (IOC). The Aerial Layer Network Extension improved sensor and communications networking among forward operating bases (FOBs) and combat outposts (COPs) in Afghanistan so that forces can communicate and access network resources across dispersed areas and challenging terrain. The C5ISR team received additional Aerial Layer Network Extension requirements from theater in early June 2012.

The C5ISR Team received approval from the Army Requirements and Resource Board to implement in mid-July 2012 and started to deploy the capability on Persistent Threat Detection Systems (PTDS) and Rapid Aerostat Initial Deployment (RAID) towers in November 2012.

Lt. Col. Garth Winterle, PEO IEW&S's product director for Team C5ISR, added that the request and approval of additional Aerial Layer Network capabilities in theater verified the criticality and utility of the systems the C5ISR team is deploying.

"We continue to receive positive feedback from the Soldiers in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF)," Winterle said. "Units are trying to get our capability as fast as they can -- it really motivates the C5ISR team when we know we are making a difference."

This ONS was met by reconfiguring PEO IEW&S host platforms, primarily the RAID towers and PTDS aerostats. The primary mission for these assets will remain ISR collection and force protection; however, once the C5ISR radios and network solution sets are deployed on elevated platforms, they instantly extend communication links. This allows the Army to distribute critical data, including biometrics and full-motion video, to lower operational levels in real time, across the country.

"The elements of this QRC greatly improved the ability of units in austere locations throughout Afghanistan to share information," said Lt. Col. Shane Sullivan, PEO IEW&S' product manager for Ground Sensors and the former product director for Team C5ISR. "In particular, the ability to share large data files enabled crucial information sharing that made units more informed and more lethal."

The Challenge: Integration

The desired level of integration was the most significant challenge posed by the C5ISR ONS. One integration requirement involved the five capabilities being fielded in Phase 1 of the execution, listed here:

• Secure compartmented information to battalion, which allows for the dissemination of classified information to a lower tactical echelon than previously possible.
• Increased bandwidth to battalion, a significant upgrade to satellite communication capabilities fielded to tactical users.
• Regional broadcast capability, which allows one-way broadcast of large data files, full-motion video, or other bandwidth-intensive applications.
• Full-motion video, a two-part capability that takes the stovepiped analog video from ISR and force protection sources and encodes it so that it is routable on the C2 network, and the line-of-sight network capacity to carry the encoded video.
• Aerial Layer Network Extension IOC, the integration of tactical and high-bandwidth networking radios onto existing elevated, persistent ISR and force protection platforms.

Terry Claussen, PEO C3T's deputy product director for Team C5ISR, said that overall, troops in theater are satisfied with all capabilities. Full Motion Video and High Antennas for Radio Communications (HARC) will deploy significantly more systems than originally planned to support theater requirements.

"The HARC system provides network extension to elements operating outside the FOB and COP, allowing them to maintain communications where previously communications were lost," Claussen said. "We have received feedback that this has been very effective for convoy operations."

The increase in systems for OEF showed the high demand for Team C5ISR's capabilities.

"We've also received critical operational feedback on all five C5ISR capabilities that can inform future Army development and procurement decisions," Winterle added. "This feedback and the lessons learned from the integration and fielding efforts can be useful as the Army optimizes the force and plans for the next 30 years."