Network validation effort sets stage for Army’s upcoming NIE 13.1

It’s no easy task getting the communications equipment on hundreds of vehicles ready for the Army’s semiannual Network Integration Evaluation.

In preparation for NIE 13.1, several key Army components work closely together over a period of four weeks to conduct a network validation exercise to ensure that the 3,800 soldiers of the Army’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Armored Division (2/1 AD) will have a fleet of vehicles with integrated communications equipment in time for the evaluation slated to begin in mid-October. The fleet of vehicles designated for the upcoming NIE include mine-resistant, ambush-protected all-terrain vehicle, or M-ATV, variants, Bradleys, Strykers, Abrams Tanks, Scout vehicles, Humvees and Light Weight Tactical Vehicles

The preliminary work is done to “load” the network throughout 2/1 and set the stage for developers and brigade staff to validate its functionality in a network validation exercise (VALEX), according to an Army news story. The work is done by the Army System of Systems Integration (SoSI) Directorate with help from the Army Test and Evaluation Command, Brigade Modernization Command and 2/1.

“During VALEX, we stand up every node and every vehicle in order to do a connectivity check," COL Gail Washington, Project Manager Current at SoSI, said in the story. "We're doing a lot of integration work, along with shooting satellite signals to Aberdeen Proving Ground and Fort Gordon, which is the regional hub. We're also running validation threads which will allow us to pass position location information, calls for fire, send an email and various other communication tasks."

During a preparation phase called the loading exercise (LOADEX), Army Acquisition Officers, who serve as the link between 2/1 and the acquisition, training and test communities, lead teams of specialized technical and logistics personnel who synchronize and integrate multiple systems under test and evaluation that are scheduled for the field evaluation.

"The whole intent of VALEX is to make sure the pieces are communicating," Alex Gonzales, 1st Battalion, 35th Armored Regiment trail boss, said in the story. "The end state for us is to hand off a 100 percent integrated network to the brigade combat team so that every piece of equipment is communicating with platoon, company and battalion, all the way up to the brigade level. We're testing radios at the platoon level to ensure everyone at the platoon level is talking and knows each other's position location at the dismount level through the use of handheld radios and up so the people in the vehicles are able to see where all their soldiers are on the battlefield."

In the Execution Phase, 2/1 AD will operate the network with all systems configured and tested at the individual system level, the story said. These tests will be conducted during the Brigade's Garrison communication exercise (COMMEX), and will be scheduled as independent company, battalion headquarters and brigade headquarters events.

"We're loading roughly 1,800 systems during VALEX," Lt. Col. Keith Taylor, with Product Manager Capability Package Integration, SoSI and 2/1 AD trail boss, said in the story. "The integration work is intense. Everyone thinks about the major systems involved in each NIE, but they don't realize we have to install, integrate and validate every radio on every system undergoing test and evaluation prior to the evaluation."

To complete the integration, about 600 cables with various connectors on both ends are produced and recorded. Before handing off the integrated network to the 2/1, the network is shut down and brought back up to ensure that everything is functioning as it should. If problems are encountered, they are addressed before handing off the battlefield communications network to the brigade.

“This ensures these bugs are worked out prior to taking the systems out to the field during the NIE,” Washington said.

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