COL Edward Swanson is the project manager for Army Program Executive Office Command, Control, Communications-Tactical’s (PEO C3T) Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) program, a position he took in summer 2011. Recently he’s been spending much of his time at Fort Bliss/White Sands Missile Range, where his WIN-T Increment 2 program for on-the-move communications underwent its Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) during the Army’s recently concluded Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) 12.2. Sixty comms-on-the-move vehicles/platforms were part of the IOT&E, which was a significant expansion in nodes from the 13 vehicles that took part in NIE 12.1 in fall 2011.
Swanson and Increment 2/3 Product Manager LTC Robert Collins spoke with Defense Systems Editor-in-Chief Barry Rosenberg about the details of the IOT&E.
DS: What were the elements involved in the WIN-T Inc 2 IOT&E during NIE 12.2?
Swanson: We had a fully equipped brigade combat team, the 2/1 AD, down at Fort Bliss/ White Sands Missile Range, and then we had the 101st Air Assault Division at Fort Campbell acting as the higher headquarters. Also participating in the IOT&E was an Inc 1b-equipped unit, the 1st Sustainment Brigade at Fort Riley. And acting as a Regional Hub Node was the NSCT (Network Service Center-Training, part of the Signal Center of Excellence) at Fort Gordon. So we had units dispersed over 2,000 miles, and maybe over 6,000 soldiers involved in this IOTE. It’s probably the largest network test of its nature for the Army.
DS: What does Increment 1B include?
Swanson: What 1B did was to take 1A, which is finishing fielding in August, and pull forward a couple of the key capabilities that will enhance the interoperability between Inc 1 and 2. Those two capabilities are the colorless core and the NCW (Net Centric Waveform), which is the beyond line-of-sight waveform.
DS: What is the colorless core?
Collins: What we do today is to tunnel security enclaves like SIPR and NIPR on top of one another, which is very inefficient from a bandwidth and throughput perspective to accomplish this. You’re also transmitting network control information in the open, so you are very vulnerable. What we have done from the DISA GIG standards…it’s not NIPR, it’s not SIPR, hence the name colorless… it’s the backbone encryption enclave that NIPR and SIPR hang off of, and all our network control information [such as] frequencies and network management flows on this colorless core backbone. We have found that it’s very efficient, enhances throughput and makes it easier for soldiers to manage within that single enclave.
DS: With 60 on-the-move vehicles participating in NIE 12.2, you’ve gone up by multiples from the 13 WIN-T vehicles that took part in NIE 12.1 last fall. There must have been many lessons learned that have allowed you to make that jump.
Swanson: So you are right in that we went up a factor of four almost five. We learned a lot of painful lessons in 12.1, such as the challenges of doing vehicle integration on a new platform for the first time. So some of the things we did for the ramp up for 12.2 and the IOT&E was to lock down what was going to be on that vehicle, so once we had the Inc 2 kit installed on an M-ATV (MRAP All-Terrain Vehicle) we didn’t then have other systems coming in after the fact…unhooking and re-plugging and redoing the configuration on the vehicle. By knowing upfront all the different systems going on the M-ATV we could holistically install all the equipment at one time because going in after the fact causes a lot of issues in second, third order effects. So we had a lot more success this time.
DS: I was at Fort Bliss and 2/1 AD brigade commander COL Dan Pinnell laid out for me the exercise scenario for NIE 12.2. What would be examples of how on-the-move communications played a role in his attack scenario, looking at both the battalion/brigade level and the company level?
Collins: I will illustrate two things. There are numerous scenarios where they will take company formations and put them an operational distance away from their battalion headquarters like we have never done before. I mean, literally hundreds of kilometers. With the WIN-T Increment 2 Soldier Network Extension (SNE) they can extend three things.
Some of the lower radio elements can extend their data links with Satcom on the move, which also operates at the halt a virtually unlimited distance. Second, the company commander can engage in full-voice phone calls with his battalion commander, which greatly facilitates the battalion commander and company commander exchanging commander’s intent. And the third thing that the SNE does is it has a combat net radio SINCGARS (Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System ) extension, so that company net can reach through the SNE virtually an unlimited distance over the Satcom back into the battalion. Or like we had in 12.1 you can even have the brigade monitor a company push if they were the main effort. So that’s three areas for the company formation.
Second, for the company command posts, we saw the TCNs (Tactical Communications Nodes), which are replacements for JNN, roll out of the motor pool and be up and in the network from the moment they rolled out. They were the first piece of kit to be operationally ready when the TOC hit the ground. And so the command post had a paradigm shift and had to rethink how they would be ready to command and control that network site when they came to a short hold.