As reported by U.S. Army, beginning early next year eight U.S. brigade combat teams will be equipped with an advanced, integrated tactical communications network. The U.S. service is now synchronizing the production, fielding and training for Capability Set 13, which is composed of vehicles, network components, and associated equipment and software. These technologies will for the first time deliver an integrated voice and data capability throughout the brigade combat team formation down to the tactical edge.
Capability Set Management
Capability Set Management (CSM) is the U.S. Army process for managing network capabilities as a cohesive portfolio and synchronizing all supporting activities. This revolutionary new way of designing, procuring, testing and ultimately delivering Network capabilities to Soldiers should enable the Army to place new and emerging capabilities into their hands early and often. CSM evaluates the current operational environment, then designs a suite of systems and equipment, a “capability set”, to answer the projected requirements of a two-year period. Instead of developing a capability and buying upfront enough to cover the entire force, the Army will procure only what is needed by units in the train-ready and deployment pools. Every two years or so, U.S. Army will integrate the next capability set, which will reflect any changes or advances in technology realized since the last set was fielded.
Each Capability Set undergoes operational evaluations prior to fielding to assess the collective functionality and interoperability of the set, each component’s individual performance and compliance with architectural standards. Soldiers participates in these assessments and their feedback shape how the U.S. Army determines operational requirements and will guide materiel development. Capability Set 13, in particular, has taken shape through the Network Integration Evaluations, or NIEs, a series of semi-annual field exercises designed to quickly integrate and mature U.S. Army's tactical communications network. The connectivity, architecture and components of the capability set will be validated and finalized at the NIE 12.2, which takes place in May at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., and Fort Bliss, Texas, involving 3,800 Soldiers of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division executing realistic operational scenarios. Capability Set 13 will produce a tangible increase in U.S. Army network capability. 8 brigades will be equipped at the beginning of 2102, and ultimately at least 20 brigades will receive fully integrated network equipment suites.
The centerpiece of Capability Set 13 is the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical Increment 2, a major upgrade to the tactical communications backbone that will enable mission command on-the-move and extend satellite communications to the company level. Integration and configuration of WIN-T Increment 2 equipment on combat vehicles is now underway at U.S. Army facilities in preparation for production and synchronized fielding. The formal operational test for WIN-T Increment 2 will take place in conjunction with NIE 12.2.
The Agile Process
The U.S. Army has leveraged commercial industry to achieve significant modernization of network capabilities through the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan using the flexibility of contingency funding and operational necessity. The challenge has been to define a process that enables success within the current materiel enterprise framework. Under the NIE effort, U.S. Army has established a similar operational environment at Fort Bliss/WSMR, supported by laboratory analysis at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, to institute an “Agile Process” that will introduce and evaluate commercial technologies in a controlled setting.
The Agile Process is thus an effort to procure critical capabilities in a more rapid manner, while ensuring technical maturity and integration synchronization. The ultimate end state of the Agile Process, the NIE, is to procure and align systems that meet a pre-defined operational need or gap and demonstrate success through Soldier lead evaluations during the Network Integration Evaluation.
The U.S. Army is also working to formalize the precise mechanisms through which contracts can emerge from the NIE process. Earlier this week, in its first procurement action resulting from the NIEs and Agile Process, the U.S. Army issued a "sources sought" notice for a single-channel, vehicle-mounted radio. The radios, known as Soldier Radio Waveform, or SRW, will act as a conduit for voice and data between the dismounted Soldier, his unit and higher headquarters, increasing situational awareness and reducing fratricide. This procurement, planned in time for Capability Set 13, illustrates how the NIEs and the Agile Process allow U.S. Army and industry to work together to quickly fulfill network hardware and software capability gaps.
References: U.S. Army (1,2,3)