AUSA: Faced with a grave threat from Russian electronic warfare improvements in the last five years, the US Army really will develop a useful, effective and adaptable tactical network after a decade of missteps and failures.
“The urgency of now is upon us,” Lt. Gen. Bruce Crawford told reporters and aides to explain why the Army would act and get things fixed.
That was the message from the generals and civilians leading the Army’s network efforts who appeared in an unwieldy panel yesterday.
(The Army loves to put these panels on.
They seem to be a reflection of the service’s approach to acquisition — throw some good people at it and hope they can all make sense of it.)
It was a message similar to the one they delivered to a very skeptical Congress late last month.
Yesterday afternoon’s message was greeted with skepticism from myself and other media who have heard the Army make similar claims for at least five years.
Basically, Russian forces have created the ability to monitor electronic emissions, feed the data to fire control systems and rain death down on Ukrainian and, potentially, NATO forces.
That threat looms especially large for any Tactical Operations Center (TOC), the ungainly collection of generators, tents, computers and communicaions gear. T
hey and their generators light up the battlefield.
And, as Crawford said, “if our TOCS can be found they can be killed.
As for the networks the Army currently uses, they “do not meet the operational requirements of the Army.”
So there’s clearly a host of good reasons to scrap the planned approach and start over.
But why the Army’s Chief Information Officer, should anyone believe the Army this time when it says it will get things right this time?
Boil his talking points down and it comes to this.
The threat is so compelling that “we have to do it differently.” Crawford added that the Army its taking a different approach this time because they had been taking a capabilities-based approach and this is the “first time we’ve been threat focused.”
So it would be reasonable to conclude the Army made the wrong decision and is now trying to fix that.
It also helps, we heard, that the senior Army leadership is focused on this.
Since the Army has been saying its network were the key to its future success for about a decade, it’s not terribly reassuring that the service’s top leadership is now focusing on them.
But those of us who have been following the Army for more than a decade know too well that acquisition has been an Achilles’ Heel of the service since, well, the end of the Cold War.
Several of the generals on the panel after it ended and they conceded that the Army had not done the best job of building these networks but said it had fielded some good kit and done the job needed during the counterinsurgency operations of the last 15 years.
As anyone who deals with the modern Army knows, it’s good at dropping everything for the fight it’s in, but is not usually so good at getting ready for the next one.
To help fix this state of affairs, Crawford told Congress, the service “will immediately halt
procurement of the Mid-Tier Network Vehicular Radio (MNVR))
and legacy Command Post of the Future (CPOF).
The Army will also halt procurement of Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) Increment 2 at the end of FY18.”
The nation has, so far, spent $6 billion developing WIN-T. Crawford and his team are scrambling to change the requirements and get the network gear to our forces lickety-split.
After the panel, I spoke with seven Army and industry sources who follow network issues. They all expressed wry skepticism about the service’s ability to fundamentally change how effectively it builds requirements for and buys networks.
Let’s all hope the Army of the Decker-Wagner Report is dead and this one can build the electronic warfare and network tools we need to better the manage the Russians, Chinese and our other global friends.
The initial Increment 1 will include transportable components, moved among field locations by vehicles or aircraft normally available to the Army).
This does not mean that individual soldier or vehicles will have to stop to communicate, but that the individual equipment will have to have some transportable infrastructure in range. There are three levels of transportable equipment in this increment:
- Unit (or Division) Hub, carried by Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles (FMTV) trucks
- the Brigade (or JNN) Hub, in a shelter that is carried by a HMMWV
- Battalion Command Post Node, transported by vehicle but mounted and placed in the command post in transit cases.
All three types have a satellite terminal. Terrestrial line-of-sight communications between shelters in Increment One is provided by the AN/GRC-245 Enhanced High Capacity Line-of-Sight (HCLOS) radio.
Increment 1 is largely based on the already deployed Joint Network Node, and is seen to be relatively low risk. It contains a number of COTS components, which, according to the General Accountability Office, are added as maintenance updates rather than redesigns: “newer, more capable commercial components replace outdated components as they become available.” 
According to WIN-T program manager COL William Hoppe, WIN-T Increments Two and Three will bring the initial and full on-the-move capability, where stopping is not required for communications.
Your cell phone is a mobile device, but as soon as you leave the coverage area of your cell phone tower, you drop your signal. That’s Increment One, where you have communications at the halt within a footprint. In Increment Two, we’re going to take that cell tower equivalent infrastructure and we’re going to move it along with the mobile device, so you have communications every place you have your infrastructure.
The type of technology required for the Increment Two capability is, in general communications engineering, called self-organizing or ad hoc networking. Increment One makes considerable use of commercial communications satellites.
Increment Two, however, while using commercial capability as an adjunct, will make much more extensive use of military satellites such the Wideband Global Satellite communications system, which had its first operational launch in October 2007.
These satellites have approximately 10 times the bandwidth of their DSCS III (Defense Satellite Communications System) predecessors; the WGS can route between 2.1 and 3.6 Gbps of digital information. 
Increment Two is also specifically oriented to the Brigade Combat Team concept in the restructuring of the United States Army.  It provides the initial OTM capability. : It uses Highband Network Radios for line of sight, and also interfaces to the vehicle- and unit-level SINCGARS radio. SINCGARS equipment radios will be replaced by waveform-compatible equipment of the Joint Tactical Radio System.
Increment Two also makes use of a technology, similar to used in commercial satellite telephones such as the Thuraya system operating in the Middle East and Africa since 2000, which tie into cellular telephony networks when available, but go to a satellite when no appropriate terrestrial capability is present.
Field tests were conducted in 2007, and this increment began deploying in 2009.
In Increment Three, unmanned aerial vehicle communications relays, as in the MQ-8, will supplement the satellites.
These allow operations when insufficient satellite capability is in orbit, or when ground operations are on a part of the earth that is not well covered by satellites (e.g., polar regions), or if an adversary could interfere with or destroy satellites.
It was intended to be compatible with the now-cancelled Future Combat Systems, although compatibility will be maintained with its replacement.
The contract was awarded in 2007, and deployments may begin in 2011.
Increment Four makes the air and satellite communications relays even more robust against electronic warfare. Hoppe described this as “That’s where we’re taking advantage of the secure anti-jam, low probability detection satellite communications off of things like the Transformation Satellite Communications system into our radio systems”. In this increment if not earlier, it will accept traffic from the Global Broadcast Service data and video distribution satellites.
The space segment of Increment Four was to have made use of the five-satellite Transformational Satellite System (TSAT) constellation, using laser rather than radio links to earth, but radio among the satellites. Launches are planned to begin in 2013,  although the project is still in a government-funded competitive proposal stage and operational funds have not been committed. On April 6, 2009, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that TSAT will be terminated, and two additional Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellites would be purchased; final decisions here will depend on the fate of the new budget in Congress. AEHF operates in a different frequency range and is more resistant to electronic warfare (EW) than the Wideband Global Satellite; TSAT was also to be EW-hardened.
- “General Dynamics Tests Largest-Ever Army Information Network“, ArmyTechnology.com, March 6, 2009
- U.S. Army 2008 Posture Statement, Warfighter Information Network-Tactical
- “Appliqués Speed New Technologies To the Front“, Signal, March 2009
- Project Manager Warfighter Information Network – Tactical, Increment 1
- General Accountability Office (March 2008), Defense Acquisitions: Assessments of Selected Weapon Programs., General Accountability Office Report [GAO-08-467SP], pp. 175-176
- Joshua Davidson (April 2008), “WIN-T Expands the Army’s Communications Pipes for Increased Applications“, U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center
- Boeing Integrated Defense Systems, Transformational Wideband Communication Capabilities for the Warfighter: WGS Mission
- “WIN-T Increment 2“, Globalsecurity
- Project Manager Warfighter Information Network – Tactical, Increment 2
- Thuraya satellite
- “WIN-T Increment 3“, Globalsecurity
- “Transformational SATCOM (TSAT), Transformational Communications Satellite (TSAT), Advanced Wideband System“, Globalsecurity