Army seeks to align networks for maximum capability

New business model to focus on full integration for battlefield supremacy

The Army depends on its battlefield networks to maintain fighting efficiency. But even as the service becomes more network centric, from headquarters down to individual soldiers, there is still much work to do to improve existing capabilities and to develop new functionalities.

Speaking Jan. 25 at the Network Enabled Operations conference in Arlington, Va., Col. John Morrison, Army LandWarNet/Battle Command director, outlined the service’s current goals and the status of its networking programs.

“We want to get the soldier into the network,” Morrison said. He added that one of the challenges facing the Army is that while there are multiple network programs, they are not aligned to provide proper capability. Current programs only serve to deliver components, which forces soldiers to integrate them in the field, he said.

To change this state of affairs, Morrison advocated stressing capability set management with the goal of providing fully integrated and aligned capability sets for systems. This new business model will ensure backward-forward compatibility for systems and equipment. He stated that it is the Army’s goal to vertically align systems from the tactical operations center down to the individual soldier. However, Morrison added that the service is only now on the cusp of truly understanding and achieving enterprise efficiency.

In outlining the Army’s current network goals, Morrison said that the first is building/extending network capability to as many units and formations as possible. There is also work on providing an aerial layer, supported by a variety of unmanned aerial platforms, to greatly extend the network in the field. Additionally, he cited ongoing goals to design and develop a capable and affordable mobile digital company command post.

The Army is also working on edge network integration. Morrison noted that this included determining the cost efficiency of developing a common, integrated platform and inserting it into the Army’s network architecture. Work is also progressing on the Common Operating Enterprise implementation, which was fielded in August 2010. Morrison said that the COE allows the Army to rapidly develop software applications and platform components.

Many of these components will undergo evaluation testing at Fort Bliss in 2012. Among the evaluations will be the Unit as Network Capability testbed. Morrison said that the system will undergo integrated network evaluations this summer. At the end of the evaluation period, the capability will be tested as a network supporting a single brigade in operational conditions to see if all the components work together.

The brigade capstone test will take place in mid 2012, followed by validation and issuing to units through the Army force regeneration process in 2013. However, Morrison cautioned that much of this work has only just begun. He added that there remains a need for a mobile command and control network that must be integrated, have commonality with other systems and share a cross-platform capability. 

About the Author

Henry Kenyon is a contributing writer for Defense Systems.

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