Army PEO C3T managing tactical comms at the terrestrial, aerial and celestial tiers

MG N. Lee Price is the Army program executive officer (PEO) for command, control, communications (tactical) (C3T), which manages the services tactical communications infrastructure and battle command applications, including Army satellite communications and its on-the-move communications efforts. She has been the PEO for about three years, and previously served a three-year tenure as the deputy acquisition executive for the U.S. Special Operations Command. The general responded to written questions from Defense Systems Editor-in-Chief Barry Rosenberg.

DS: What’s at the top of your to-do list at the moment?

Price: Supporting deployed forces always comes first. PEO C3T continues to support the U.S. mission in theater by fielding the coalition network to Afghanistan, Europe, South Korea and the continental United States. We provide the equipment, fielding and training for the U.S. component of the network, known as the Combined Enterprise Regional Information Exchange System (CENTRIXS), which joins with other secure networks to allow separate coalition forces to share data, situational awareness and commander’s intent across the battlefield. As the Army draws down forces in Afghanistan, where it continues to execute critical missions and plans for future contingencies, having a coalition network capability is essential to the way we conduct our operations.

We have also implemented the Host-Based Security System (HBSS) across those areas of operations. As you know, the enemy performs vicious attacks on our network, just as it assaults our soldiers. HBSS is our weapon against these types of attacks. Controlled by a central server, HBSS can monitor and block network intrusions at the host level.

Our HBSS team solved many significant technical challenges to deliver this information assurance capability to the field. The system required our engineers to install software on each and every host on the tactical network, and perform rigorous, but essential, test and configuration management operations. The smallest change, if not properly tested, could result in mission failure.

Another important priority is managing the recent transition of the Handheld, Manpack, Small Form Fit (HMS), Airborne Maritime/Fixed Station (AMF), and Mid-Tier Networking Vehicular Radio (MNVR) from the Joint Program Executive Office for the Joint Tactical Radio System into PEO C3T. This realignment will yield immediate operational benefits as the Army starts to field Capability Set 13 (CS 13) to brigade combat teams this fall. CS 13 is the Army’s first package of radios, satellite systems, software applications, smartphone-like devices and other network components that provide integrated connectivity from the static tactical operations center to the commander on the move to the dismounted soldier. It will be delivered to two brigade combat teams of the 10th Mountain Division beginning October 1.

DS: As we go to press, WIN-T (Warfighter Information Network-Tactical) Increment 2 has a Full Rate Production Decision Review scheduled in September. The next step is Increment 3 and development of an aerial tier with unmanned vehicles to expand line-of-sight communications without the need for a satellite. What are the key near-term Increment 3 milestones, and what new systems are involved?

Price: WIN-T Increment 3 will provide a full on-the-move (OTM) capability by providing an air tier to the existing WIN-T architecture, and enhancing previously fielded WIN-T Increment 2 initial OTM capabilities. The air tier will not only increase network capacity and availability, but also improve the overall reliability and robustness of the network. The air tier will offload network traffic from overburdened and expensive satellites.

With the addition of the air tier, the Army will have a three-tiered WIN-T communication network -- terrestrial, aerial and celestial. WIN-T Increment 3 will also [work with] the Joint Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (JC4ISR) radio, which significantly improves line-of-sight communications throughput capacity and extends ranges. WIN-T Increment 3 continues improvements of NetOps (network operations), providing additional capability to the warfighter and executing NetOps convergence.

In June 2012, the Increment 3 WIN-T Communication Payload (WCP) was tested on a surrogate aircraft, a C-23 Sherpa, at the Electronic Proving Ground in Fort Huachuca, Ariz. The WCP will eventually be integrated onto the Gray Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle platform to provide an aerial tier to the WIN-T tactical communications network. WIN-T Increment 3 development and testing is proceeding on schedule. Some of the key upcoming events for WIN-T Increment 3 include the transmission subsystem Limited User Test in the fourth quarter of FY14 and a Milestone C decision in FY15. Following successful developmental and operational testing, Increment 3 fielding will begin in FY19.

DS: What are the challenges of network operations, how do you gain good insight into all the nodes, and what is the status of your NetOps systems?

Price: NetOps tools are required to plan, operate, manage and defend the Army’s communications networks. This management includes monitoring how quickly and completely information is traveling over the network, allocating bandwidth and other resources to match operational needs, troubleshooting various system issues and other aspects essential to establishing and maintaining communications.

Today, each component of the tactical network – such as a certain type of radio – is managed separately with its own software, hardware and human resources, which poses a challenge for overall network visibility. As the Army begins fielding integrated sets of network capabilities to full brigade combat teams, our objective is to manage the network holistically. The idea is to shift from multiple tools, each displaying data on a certain piece or node of the network, to a broad network operations framework that will aggregate that data into actionable information for the commander.

A key step in this effort occurred in late July when Heidi Shyu, the Army acquisition executive, designated PEO C3T as the “Trail Boss” for Integrated Network Operations (I-NetOps). As the Trail Boss, PEO C3T will synchronize efforts across PEOs to integrate and converge NetOps capabilities. We will establish, manage and maintain an Army-level NetOps systems architecture, recommending changes where necessary to achieve common standards.

In this role, we will converge NetOps capabilities, not just for the tactical domain, but also for the enterprise/strategic domain. We will integrate tools within each portfolio, as well as between the two areas. The goal is to achieve network visibility from the enterprise level to the tactical level, while reducing the number of tools required to do so. One example of bridging this gap is through the implementation of HBSS, in which servers are located at enterprise Theater Network Operations and Security Centers and provide services to tactical users. This solution meant we did not have to duplicate server architecture at the tactical level.

We are currently working with the Network Enterprise Technology Command, the 7th Signal Command and the Army Signal Center of Excellence to achieve solutions for an initial set of convergence priorities for Capability Sets 14 and 15.

There has been significant progress with the NetOps suite supporting the WIN-T network. Build 2 of the WIN-T NetOps suite will be fielded as part of the Network Operations and Security Center at both brigade and division. This initial NetOps suite allows the S6 to manage all aspects of the integrated WIN-T network, including both line-of-sight and beyond line-of-sight communications, through a common operating picture. Inside a tactical operations center, WIN-T Increment 2 NetOps displays maneuver elements on the battlefield (such as dismounted infantry, fires or aviation) on a large screen for easy monitoring. Not only does it display a system’s geographical position, but also network strength and how well the system is working, whether stationary or on-the-move.

This improved WIN-T Increment 2 NetOps suite will serve as the baseline for tactical NetOps as our Trail Boss team works to converge other products, such as those used to manage the lower tactical Internet. Integrated NetOps, from the enterprise to the tactical edge, will achieve efficiencies and improve operational flexibility.

DS: What’s the latest on development of the next-generation Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below (FBCB2)/Joint Capabilities Release?

Price: With the return of U.S. forces from Iraq and the drawdown in Afghanistan, we are gratified to hear that so many soldiers there relied on FBCB2/Blue Force Tracking (BFT) for situational awareness. We are now taking those essential capabilities and making them better. While sustaining the current fight, we are also developing and fielding the next generation of BFT tracking technology.

This upgrade is occurring in two phases: the Joint Capabilities Release (JCR), followed by Joint Battle Command-Platform (JBC-P). JCR provides a bridge to JBC-P, equipping soldiers with a faster satellite network (known as BFT 2), Marine Corps interoperability, secure data encryption and other features. Platform upgrades to JCR/BFT 2 have already begun in Korea, accomplished one year ahead of schedule and fully synchronized with unit training requirements. JCR upgrades are planned for Afghanistan this fall, and we are coordinating with regional commands to field JCR during ongoing combat operations.

One example of improved JCR capability is JCR Chat, which works like an online chat room within FBCB2, allowing users to instant-message in real time. Operators who evaluated JCR at the NIE also praised the speed and accuracy of updates of position location information, which are exponentially faster than the original FBCB2. This is due to the increased bandwidth delivered by the BFT-2 satellite transceiver.

This validation by our customers is extremely important. We are actively incorporating soldier feedback in the evolution of JBC-P, the successor to JCR that is expected to be available for fielding in 2013 as part of CS 14. At one of our user juries at Fort Carson, Colo., soldiers were enthusiastic about JBC-P’s new user interface, which has intuitive features like touch-to-zoom maps and drag-and-drop icons. This was seen as a significant enhancement over the first FBCB2, where users had to select through several menu and grid options in order to place an enemy or obstacle icon on a map.

The JBC-P screen will also integrate the functionality of Tactical Ground Reporting (TIGR), a multimedia reporting system that allows soldiers to digitally capture, report and retrieve patrol data such as common incidents, residents and leaders of a village.

The other major step forward that comes with JBC-P is the introduction of networked handheld devices that will deliver a new level of mission command and situational awareness. For the first time, leaders in vehicles and command posts will be able to view the precise locations of dismounted forces. A handheld version of JBC-P software will run on Nett Warrior hardware devices, connected to the tactical network via the Rifleman Radio and Soldier Radio Waveform. This combination will deliver timely BFT information down to lower-echelon soldiers, specifically at the team leader through platoon leader level. It will also selectively send the BFT information up for use by other Army capabilities.

JBC-P recently crossed a key threshold, receiving a Milestone C decision on July 17 that moved the program from the Engineering and Manufacturing Development phase to the Production and Deployment phase. Next up for JBC-P is a Limited User Test at the NIE 13.1 in the fall of 2012, followed by an Initial Operational Test and Evaluation at NIE 13.2 in the spring of 2013. Those tests will lead to a fielding decision by the Army.

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