November 4, 2011

Network Integration Evaluation 12.1

News Report

Here in this blog we've already discussed about the benefit that U.S. Army is receiving through the Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) exercises (1,2), i.e. a serie of semi-annual evaluations designed to integrate and mature the U.S. Army’s tactical network.

In July 2011 the US Army concluded the first NIE. The evaluation was a six-week effort conducted at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., involving the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division (2/1 AD). Its primary purpose was to conduct formal tests of 6 Army Programs of Record, with a secondary purpose to less formally evaluate 29 developmental and emerging networked and non-networked capabilities. The July exercise was the first of this type of combined test and evaluation – a new process that demonstrated the U.S. Army’s holistic focus to integrate network components simultaneously in one operational venue.

Doctrinal results from the July 2011 NIE have shown two broad network findings for Capability Set 13: the U.S. Army lacks Soldier-level connectivity and unit mission command capabilities, and must develop comprehensive requirements accordingly.
The second event in that series, known as NIE 12.1, officially began on Oct. 31. A triad consisting of the U.S. Brigade Modernization Command, U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command and U.S. System of Systems Integration Directorate will integrate and assess a host of capabilities and determine their implications across doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership, personnel and facilities, (known as DOTMLPF). During NIE 12.1, more than 3,800 Soldiers will operate the systems and employ them in various realistic combat scenarios in operationally relevant terrain designed to replicate the environment in Afghanistan.

The U.S. Army has three overarching priorities for NIE 12.1:
  • Bringing lower-echelon Soldiers into the network
  • Executing mission command while on the move
  • Establishing an integrated baseline for the objective and bridge U.S. Army network architectures.
For the first time in an operational setting, Soldiers will attempt mission command on the move using WIN-T Increment 2. WIN-T Increment 2 is a major upgrade to the tactical network backbone that will extend satellite communications to the company level, allowing Soldiers to communicate seamlessly through voice, data, images and video -- even in complex terrain that can break line-of-sight radio connections.
While WIN-T Increment 2's formal operational test will take place during NIE 12.2 in the spring of 2012, the U.S. Army's Program Executive Office Command, Control and Communications-Tactical, known as PEO C3T, has installed WIN-T Increment 2 equipment on more than a dozen 2/1 AD vehicles for NIE 12.1, some of which also contain an initial set of mission command software applications. Hosted on a single computing system, the applications will provide mobile company Soldiers with the real-time information that typically would only be available inside a tactical operations center.

These capabilities include Command Post of the Future, or CPOF, a collaborative system allowing users to visualize the common operating picture and efficiently plan the battle; Tactical Ground Reporting, known as TIGR, which empowers Soldiers to collect, share and analyze patrol data in a central database; the Effects Management Tool, which provides access to critical fire support information; and the Microsoft Office Environment, which enables interaction with email and documents from the command post.

These applications will run alongside the next-generation software for Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below, or FBCB2/Blue Force Tracking, which is the only major mission command application available on-the-move in theater today.
Soldiers will informally evaluate more than 45 other systems, including solutions proposed by industry to meet the U.S. Army's identified network-capability gaps.
Soldier feedback and test results from the NIEs are directly shaping the makeup of the U.S. Army's network Capability Set 13, which will begin fielding to eight brigade combat teams in fiscal year 2013. Ten additional brigades will receive the latest network assets as part of Capability Set 14. Those capability sets will include much greater bandwidth to transmit voice, video and data across the battlefield, as well as bring situational awareness and mission command information down to the dismounted Soldier.
The Technology (WIN-T Increment 2)
Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) was designed to be the cornerstone tactical communications system supporting the implementation of the U.S. LandWarNet strategy during the 2007 to 2025 timeframe (look here for additional information)
WIN-T is the U.S. Army’s on-the-move, high-speed, high-capacity backbone communications network, linking Warfighters on the battlefield with the Global Information Grid (GIG). WIN-T introduces a mobile, ad-hoc, self-configuring, self-healing network using satellite on-the-move capabilities, robust network management, and high-bandwidth radio systems to keep mobile forces connected, communicating, and synchronized

WIN-T Increment 2 adds Warfighter mobility and provides a communication network down to the Company level. Increment 2 enables mobile battle command from Division to Company in a completely ad-hoc, self-forming network. The WIN-T Increment 2 addition of embedding communications gear in the Commander’s vehicles enables SIPR (Secure Internet Protocol Router) into the Warfighting platform. Commanders and select staff have the ability to maneuver anywhere on the battlefield and maintain connectivity to the network.
The Technology (Command Post of the Future)
The Command Post of the Future (CPOF) is an executive level decision support system providing situational awareness and collaborative tools to support decision making (look here for additional information). Originally a DARPA technology demonstration, in 2006 CPOF became an U.S. Army Program of Record.
The CPOF software is based on the CoMotion platform, a proprietary commercial framework for building collaborative information visualization systems and domain-independent "decision communities". CoMotion's design principles originated as a research program at Carnegie Mellon University, and was subsequently developed at MAYA Viz Ltd and General Dynamics C4 Systems.
The Technology (Effects Management Tool)
Raytheon's Effects Management Tools provide a fires and effects command and control tool to remote users of the Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System (AFATDS). 
  • Initial proven capabilities include:
  • Display AFATDS derived fire support situational awareness on the Joint Mapping Tool Kit (JMTK)
  • Initiate a call for fire from the EMT
  • Allow movement of AFATDS maintained units from the JMTK
  • Import and export target lists, air support lists, and geometry worksheets
The Technology (FBCB2/Blue Force Tracking)
FBCB2/Blue Force Tracking (BFT) is a digital, battle command information system intended to provide commanders, leaders, and soldiers with integrated, on-the-move, near real-time battle command information and situational awareness from brigade to vehicle level. Three principal components are the hardware, software, and either a Tactical Internet (Terrestrial FBCB2) or L-band
satellite (Blue Force Tracker) communications means. FBCB2 provides a capability for developing and distributing orders, friendly locations, operational graphics, combat reports, and free text messages.
The FBCB2 system provides software and hardware tools that supporting battle command and near-real-time brigade level situational pictures, down to the individual soldier, single platform level. The system integrates over 1,000 subscriber sets covering the brigade's entire area of interest, including Bradley or Stryker combat vehicles, M-1A2 tanks, AH-64D, OH-58D and Black Hawk helicopters, artillery and combat support elements etc.
Comments on NIE 12.1
"It's a revolutionary thing to push the network all the way down, because it allows a more real-time interchange of information and a much more proactive force," said Capt. Joseph D. Perry. "You provide the data up, it's analyzed, and they can turn around and say, 'Hey, this number matches this number,' push it right back down to the patrol and say, 'We need you to go hit this place now."
"Our mission is to integrate network capabilities into a real-world scenario, and evaluate how the networked capabilities interface with each other and how we can employ that effectively on the battlefield," explained Capt. Patrick Lavin, 2/1 AD Brigade battle captain.
"We can shorten the cycle time of acquisition, which equals cost savings, and gets capabilities to the hands of our Warfighters a lot quicker," said Heidi Shyu, the acting assistant secretary of the U.S. Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology. "Leveraging these types of exercises also allows us to understand and resolve interoperability issues before we deliver this equipment downrange."
"The network is nothing more than an enabler," said Col. John Morrison, director of the Army G-3/5/7 LandWarNet-Battle Command Directorate. "The key is mission command essential capabilities that we want to deliver for our leaders and our Soldiers. That is what we're really after. It's about achieving an operational effect."

The Context (NIE)

Establishing the NIE helped the U.S. Army employ a new agile acquisition process; the U.S. Army now has a strategy to keep pace with industry and technological network advances and accelerate the pace of network modernization to a rate unachievable by traditional acquisition strategies. The NIE also has enabled an Army ability to integrate network hardware and software up front before deployment - this will lessen the integration challenges faced by deployed units.

NIE represents thus for the U.S. Army a new way of doing business – a fundamental change in how capabilities are delevered to the Soldiers. The US Army has in fact adopted a strategy that will align the tactical network to the Army Force Generation process (ARFORGEN) through Capability Sets that will enhance vertical and horizontal connectivity and provide an integrated network baseline from the static tactical Operations Center (TOC) to the dismounted Soldier. Network Integration Evaluations are key enablers to executing this strategy.

References: C4I Technology News (1,2), ASDNews (3), U.S. Army (4), Fort Hood Sentinel (5), GD (6), (7), Raytheon (8), DefenseUpdate (9), Dote.Osd.Mil (10)

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