New Networks in Formation


AUSA, Washington DC, October 2009: The network centric that transformed the capabilities of air and naval forces in recent years is finally settling with the land forces, where outdated platforms and communications technologies, coupled with complex integration challenges have hindered sofar the introduction of wide-scale network-centric capabilities. With wide-band networking services becoming accessible at theater, the services are beginning to outfit command vehicles with mobile wideband connectivity that connects them to the global network. This tasks will become simpler with the introduction of JTRS wideband networking radios as part of the Network Integration Kit, as part of the brigade combat team moderrnization process. As these floodgates are open, the procedures, equipment and applications used at the tactical operations centers must be modified to prepare for the handling of masses of information. Some of these services are tailored as mission specific, assisting combat platoons in mission preparation and debriefing or helping medics perform lifesaving support on medical evacuation. These Some of these elements were displayed at AUSA 2009.

A 4×4 Cougar MRAP displayed at General Dynamics C4 Systems at the AUSA 2009 exhibition demonstrated how this command vehicle can be tailored to offer company commander continuous connectivity on the move. This Cougar demonstrated how the company could access the ‘global information grid’ (GIG) using battalion command post as a ‘bridge’. The Cougar is also equipped with wireless networking to support local users, including smartphones, iPhones, notebooks and the GoBook digital dial tone mobiles.

To extend effective links to dismounted soldiers Soldier Radio Waveform (SRW) is employed linking with teams equipped with the AN/PRC-154 JTRS HMS rifleman radios. For the demonstration the armored vehicle was fitted via vehicular radios supporting the new Wideband Network Waveform (WNW), linking via Network Centric Waveform (NCW) to the battalion tactical operations center. To support the company in its forward position, the battalion operates a Tactical Communications Node-Lite (TCN-Lite) providing satellite WIN-T connectivity to support battle command and network services. ‘Point of Presence (POP) application, linking a company commander into the GIG through the current tactical net and broadband WIN-T network, to his battalion, and brigade networks, extending full situational awareness, video conferencing and C4I supporting the mobile users at the lower echelon.

A ‘side effect’ of the decision to modernize all brigade combat teams with new sensors, robotics and precision fires is the introduction of relevant networking infrastructure to make the sensors, weapons and unmanned systems work. This process will drive a technological transformation of the combat units, eventually leading to the replacement of all the Army’s 30 year old radios. The first phase of this process is the ‘Network Integration Kit’ (NIK). An incremental collection of radios, computer software and networking capabilities, NIK is required to connect between the new sensors and their operators. It will also enable information and images to be transferred to from the squad to the platoon, company, battalion and brigade, enabling all networked users to access all sensors.

While the primary goal is sensor access, the new networking infrastructure is not limited to sensor data – in fact, the entire brigade will rely on its wideband connectivity. Company and battalion command posts will become information and networking hubs, carrying data and images from the lower echelon, transferring it over WIN-T and satellite links to throughout the brigade and above. At its present form, the NIK comprises the integrated computer system (ICS) that hosts the Battle Command software and the new System of Systems Common Operating Environment (SOSCOE) software, along with Joint Tactical radio System (JTRS) Ground Mobile Radio (GMR) systems. NIK is currently configured as a vehicular system but future versions will also be developed to support man-portable applications.

The Battalion Tactical Operations Command post displayed at the AUSA exhibition represented this new concept. Utilizing existing systems, such as the Command Post Of the Future (CPOF) system, supporting collaboration between brigade and battalion commanders, Maneuver Control System (MCS) operational planning applications and the recently enhanced version of Force XXVII Battle Command Brigade & Below (FBCB2) Joint Capability Release (JCR), providing the ‘blue force’ tracking and ‘red force’ data to be superimposed on aerial imagery. The new FBCB2 also enables live streaming ‘picture in picture’ to be integrated on the display; it also provides for color marking of specific elements – a unit formation or vehicles in a convoy, obtaining better situational awareness in complex situations, where multiple friendly forces clutter the screen.

With the increasing flow of information and assuming more tasks beyond their combat responsibility – battalions are responsible for everything – combat support, civil affair, legal and media relations. The TOC, once the kingdom of the battalion commander has turned into a beehive, accommodating at least 20 staff officers and assistants, dealing with everything from combat decisions to communications, fire support to medical evacuation and intelligence to legal matters. Much of the complexity in operating these diverse tasks was coordination and update of the operational picture – developing situational awareness, providing early warning on hostile actions, preventing risk of friendly fire, managing movement of units, coordinating support etc. With the new networking systems, such coordination will be automatic. Distributing the tasks to different workstations performing collaborative work from different locations, thus relieving the pressure from the TOC, provide more time for decision making and analysis, in a less pressured environment.

An integrated information system literally designed to save lives is the Global Patience Care and Tracking System (GPCATS) developed by Sierra Nevada Corp. (SNC). The system integrates airborne medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) helicopters, medics on the ground and forward medical care facilities to assist the medics with modern telemedicine technology. A central element of the system is the Electronic Critical Care Flow Sheet (ECCFS), which handles all the patient’s treatment procedures and history. The system uses wireless communications to monitor multiple patients, administering necessary intervention when needed; providing hospital specialists will also be able to network with medics, assisting medevac and preparing the hospital to receive the patient on arrival.

Different aspect of military operations in counterinsurgency and stabilization operations is the understanding the ‘human terrain’ – the environment which the unit is operating in. Understanding this subtle social matrix is an anthropological challenge, which has never been part of the military commander’s skill set. Assisted by advanced technology, officers are able to rely on new software tools developed under the ‘Mapping the Human Terrain (MapHT) – a Joint Capability Technology Demonstration (JCTD) managed by the Office of Secretary of Defense (OSD). The Human Terrain System (HTS) developed by BAE Systems, utilizes the Tactical Ground Reporting System (TIGR) for reporting and services of the Distributed Common Ground Systems – Army (DCGS-A), developed by Overwatch Technology, to run the database and server services. The system tracks surveys, interviews, patrol debriefs, human intelligence from local sources, and ethnographic reports to create a situational understanding of the human, sociological and cultural environment related to the area of operation. MAP-HT is currently undergoing evaluation in Afghanistan and is scheduled for fielding with all teams through 2010.

Our AUSA 2009 highlights include: