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Next Generation Army Radios Get High Grades in Afghanistan

by Kris Osborn on October 23, 2013

NIEArmy network developers have received positive feedback thus from 10th Mountain Division commanders in Afghanistan about the recently-fielded radio and satellite communications gear the division deployed with, service leaders said Tuesday.

WIN-T 2 is part of a group of networking gear and technologies called Capability Set 13 which was sent to Afghanistan this past June, Army officials explained.  The gear includes radios, hand-held devices, Satcom technology and other technologies.

In development for several years as a mobile radio and satellite communications network, Warfighter Information Network – Tactical Increment 2, or WIN-T, provides commanders the ability to perform mission command activities while on-the-move in armored vehicles.

“It is saving lives already. The [communications] on the move capability is what someone called a digital guardian angel,” said Brig. Gen. Daniel Hughes, Program Executive Officer, Command, Control, Communications.

For instance, a unit leader using WIN-T while driving in Afghanistan would not have to arrive at a fixed location or Tactical Operations Center in order to view moving digital maps showing terrain and force location information, perform chat and messaging functions, or look at battle-relevant intelligence information.

Hughes explained how commanders in Afghanistan with WIN-T Inc. 2 have a substantially decreased communications and logistical burden when it comes to moving across a tactical environment. Without WIN-T, commanders often have to “leap frog” the movements of their unit by ensuring the communications infrastructure and gear is in place, Hughes said.

Having an on-the-move network means fewer soldiers have to put themselves in harm’s way and expose themselves to risk in a tactical environment in order to provide logistics support and sustainment for communications infrastructure, Hughes added.

“The commanders have said this really does enable me. It allows me to communicate continuously with my commanders. In Afghanistan, you can get into valley where there are 10,000-foot mountains on either side,” Hughes explained.

In addition, fewer, more dispersed units are now operating in Afghanistan due to the drawdown, under scoring the value of on-the-move communications technology — there are far fewer forward operating bases in Afghanistan compared to activity in recent years.

WIN-T is self-healing, meaning it can switch dynamically from satellite connectivity to radio as needed, utilizing both line-of-sight as well as beyond-line-of-sight technology.

WIN-T Inc. 2 and other elements of Capability Set 13 were developed in through an Army process referred to as Network Integration Evaluations, or NIEs, which are semi-annual exercises wherein developing technologies are placed in tactical scenarios in a combat-relevant environment.

The Army has been conducting two NIEs per year as a way to identify emerging systems and refine integration of existing ones. The exercises take palce at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.

Army leaders explain the NIE process as integral to force development for the service.

The ongoing NIE process is poised to help develop the next iteration of networking technologies now under development, Capability Set 14, or CS 14.  The NIE process is set up to synchronize technologies so that new and emerging systems can more seamlessly integrate with existing ones.

CS 14 will have upgraded routers and it will integrate Hand-held Manpack Small radios, two-channel software programmable radio designed to enable the transmission of IP packets of data across the force in real time.

Network development is also heavily focused on something the Army calls Common Operating Environment, essentially a common set of IT standards designed to increase interoperability.  The COE effort has led to the creation of a common desktop, Hughes explained.

“On the mission command side we are going toward a Common Operating Environment. If I can train soldiers on one set of maps, one set of email, one set of chat and one interface – I can train them all at once,” Hughes said.

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