Army exercise tests communications on the move
Mobile comm, network management and power systems examined
- By Henry Kenyon
- Jul 26, 2011
A recently concluded military communications exercise focused on mobile communications and networking across three continents.
The Joint Users Interoperability Communications Exercise, which took place in June, is an annual exercise run by the Army’s Communications Electronics Command to test new methods and techniques for running and managing joint and coalition networks.
There were three primary themes to this year’s event: expeditionary communications, pushing communications to the edge of the battlefield and CECOM’s transition from Fort Monmouth, N.J., to the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. JUICE 2011 took place in three separate regions — North America, Asia/Hawaii and Europe — and involved 20 satellite communications shots, said John Caruso, chief executive agent for JUICE.
For expeditionary communications, the event set up a small Marine Corps combat operations center powered by a combination of solar cells and small portable generators. During the event, the solar cells provided enough power to run the center’s equipment for a half day of operations. By using solar power for half the day, the centers can provide the Marine Corps with considerable fuel savings, Caruso said. Marine and Army command centers use diesel generators for power, which require frequent supply deliveries through potentially dangerous stretches of Southwest Asia.
An important part of the command post demonstration was to determine the overall fuel savings created by solar cells. The backup generators were small commercial systems that fit in a two-foot case. The technology demonstration was also the last test before the equipment ships to Afghanistan for operational use, he said.
Besides power savings, JUICE also tested communications on-the-move applications. In Hawaii, an iDirect satellite hub was installed in a truck for on-the-move communications. In Tampa, Fla., the Special Operations Command also installed an iDirect hub in a speed boat to test mobile communications, he said.
The mobile communications platforms were able to conduct full-motion videoconferences from the moving truck in Hawaii via a small 60-cm satellite antenna. By using video compression, engineers were able to stream the video in high definition from the moving vehicle and across the network, said Karl Fuchs, vice president of technology at iDirect Government Technologies, which contributed equipment and support personnel to the exercise.
As part of its joint mandate, JUICE saw the creation of joint network operations centers run by the Air Force’s 281st Combat Communications Group. The network operations centers also helped establish the event’s operational rhythm, which included teams of Air Force cyber operations personnel who monitored and defended the network.
This year’s JUICE also emphasized CECOM’s transition from Fort Monmouth to Aberdeen. The new complex at Aberdeen has a number of advantages, Caruso said. Those advantages include the ability to collocate development laboratories with tent-based combat operations centers, which allows engineers to test and track a system through its entire life cycle. “The intent that we had was to showcase the entire life cycle of a system,” he said.
Henry Kenyon is a contributing writer for Defense Systems.