Everything you want to know about the Army’s NIE 12.2

Far more than a sequential enhancement to the Army’s evolving Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) process, the recently completed NIE 12.2 served as a critical milestone to validate a network and communications architecture that will not only be fielded to eight brigades beginning in October but also provide the foundation for all future Army combat communications.

The multi-phased event was held at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., from April 16 April to June 8 with primary participation by the Army's 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division (2/1 AD), and additional support from across the service.

Conducted under the leadership and guidance of the triad of the Army Brigade Modernization Command (BMC), Army Test and Evaluation Command (ATEC) and the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology (ASA/ALT) Systems of Systems (SOSI) Directorate, the latest evaluation was built upon a foundation of NIE 11.2 and 12.1, held in summer and fall 2011, respectively.

“More than anything else, NIE 12.1 was a condition setter for 12.2,” said COL David Miller, BMC deputy commander. “We tested some things, did a lot of evaluations and did a report. That was all valuable. But more than anything is that we learned an extreme amount about the network and what we had to do to make it functional, and [also] so that we could have a successful 12.2.”

NIE 12.2 addressed a number of specific Headquarters Department of the Army (HQDA) objectives, including:

  • Accomplishing required evaluations of specified Systems Under Test (SUT) to support program-of-record milestones and funding decisions.
  • Validating the Army’s Capability Set 13 (CS13) network architecture and establishing the CS13 integrated network baseline.
  • Finalizing mission command on the move and soldier connectivity [Nett Warrior] configurations.
  • Establishing an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) baseline while integrating command and control and ISR functions at battalion and below.
  • Deploying/evaluating all warfighting functions (ISR, medical and logistics).
  • Finalizing some command node configurations and assessing/evaluating network vulnerabilities.

SUTs, SUEs and Demos

NIE 12.2 SUTs included the Warfighter Information Network – Tactical (WIN-T) Increment 2; Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) Handheld, Manpack, Small form factor (HMS) 2-channel manpack radio; and JTRS Enterprise Network Manager (JENM). The SUTs are all formally instrumented to collect test data for the operational tests.

In addition to the formal testing of SUTs, the NIE was used to perform assessments on a range of Systems Under Evaluation (SUE). Following NIE participation, the SUEs receive a formal Doctrine, Organization, Training, Materiel, Leadership and Education, Personnel and Facilities (DOTMLPF) assessment provided to the Army and its appropriate center of excellence for future requirement decisions and procurement actions.

The 37 SUEs explored during NIE 12.2, which includes 27 from industry, fell into the broad categories of aerial tier, soldier connectivity, mission command, multichannel radio, company command posts, cross domain solutions and operational energy.

Also, the NIE provided an umbrella environment to allow the conduct of additional system “demonstrations.” Demonstration systems must have minimal impact on NIE resources, and, while evaluations can be done, results are not formally submitted to the Army.

One example of these demonstrations during NIE 12.2 was the Army’s Rapid Equipping Force “Net Zero Tactical Edge Package,” which was conducted in parallel with several separate operational energy SUEs.

Pending analysis of data derived throughout the event it is anticipated that the NIE 12.2 results will pave the way for fielding of the CS13 network/communications architecture to eight Army brigades beginning in October of this year.

Conceptual Communications Architecture

Emerging in the aftermath of the Army’s cancelled Future Combat Systems program and follow-on Enhanced Infantry Brigade Combat Team efforts, CS13 provides an integrated network baseline from the dismounted soldier to static tactical operations centers, as well as a convergence of some mission-command applications to provide situational awareness, collaboration, fires, sustainment, air defense and airspace management.

At its simplest level, the CS13 conceptual communications architecture provides the dismounted soldier at the forward edge of the battle with the Rifleman Radio AN/PRC-154. Co-developed by General Dynamics C4 Systems and Thales Communications, the radio can simultaneously transmit voice and data utilizing the Soldier Radio Waveform (SRW), and allow team leaders to track an individual soldier’s position location information. The dismounted soldier is part of a platoon level SRW net with both squad leaders and platoon leaders carrying Rifleman Radios attached to Nett Warrior end-user devices with user-defined graphical user interface.

Nett Warrior is currently slated for its initial operational test and evaluation
(IOTE) as part of NIE 13.1 in October or November and was present at the recent NIE 12.2 as part of a risk reduction effort. Service planners currently estimate that approximately 400 Nett Warrior ensembles (including smart phone and hardened dock/case) will be fielded within each brigade.

The NIE 12.2 architecture connects the platoon level SRW net up to the higher  company net through the use of SRW appliqué – adding an SRW capability to existing Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System (SINCGARS) radios – and other radios, coupled with on the move applications where necessary.

The network linkages are also integrated into company command post designs and Soldier Network Extension (SNE) platforms that link the company commander while on the move. Along with the SRW appliqué, the company net also features the AN/PRC-152A (Harris Falcon III) running SRW and FM, and is also linked to a battalion Adaptive Wideband Networking Waveform (ANW2) net via the Harris AN/PRC-117G radios.

The battalion ANW2 net (also including SINCGARS capabilities) is linked into the brigade WIN-T backbone through both WIN-T Tactical Communications Node (TCN) and mobile Point-of-Presence (POP) systems.

Both company/troop-level SNE vehicles and battalion/brigade level POP vehicles are currently integrated onto Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) All-Terrain Vehicle platforms.

Expanded Battlespace and Expanded Communications

Driven in part by performance test mandates of the WIN-T Increment 2 IOTE, NIE 12.2 spread 2/1 AD across a 220 km x 60 km battlespace, with the brigade tactical operations center required to “jump” multiple times in a tactical environment. Tactical realism of an opposing force trained to fight as a hybrid threat was provided by the Army’s 2d Engineer Battalion, based at White Sands Missile Range. In addition to the brigade operations, system testing required the participation of a higher command element. For purposes of NIE 12.2 that command was provided by the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Ft. Campbell, Ky.

Early Field Observations

In the closing days of the recent NIE 12.2, CPT Josh Horner, commander, Alpha Company, 1-35 Armor (an armor battalion that for the purposes of the NIE operated as an MRAP-equipped infantry battalion), 2/1 AD, climbed out of his SNE to offer a few observations about his company network experiences.

Noting that the company internal net ran SRW over the AN/PRC-152A, he said, “That worked extremely well for us. The only issue I had there was that the platoons had to report through an RTO (radio telephone operator)…the PL (platoon leader) couldn’t contact me directly. Their -154 only carried their platoon internal net. So they had to talk back to company via -117 Golf, whereas I had my own -152 Alpha on company net. We still made it work. It was just a little longer talking through an RTO, especially when I wanted to talk to the PL directly.”

He continued: “At battalion we talked FM comms. And we did have some issues with that. It was a good thing I had my FSO (fire support officer)] with me so that he could talk to the battalion commander directly, because my -152s [on FM] didn’t work properly. Sometimes that happens and we always have redundancy in comms.”

Horner said that another communications enabler was the Joint Capabilities Release chat function, which had “helped us out a lot, especially at battalion level. It also helped at the company level. My first sergeant opened up a chat room so that he could talk to the platoon sergeants for things like passing [casualty evacuation] information, which in turn cleared up my SRW net so that I could ‘fight the ground.’”

“The SRW network on the -152 Alpha has definitely helped us out on operations,” he reiterated. “The communications have been crystal clear. I can talk from my vehicle, as well and on the approach march up [during the NIE 12.2 tactical phase].  I was anywhere from 30 to 40 km away from the objective and my units could hear me talking on my company internal net. And I mean crystal clear.”

“I’m still a big fan of FM comms,” he said. “But when I had a platoon leader tell me yesterday that he could hear me 30 k (kilometers) away crystal clear …I mean, with FM comms the further you get away the contact is usually a little degraded. But to have a platoon leader tell me, ‘I heard you plain as day over SRW,’ that was something for me.”

He continued, “I was asked the other day whether there was any other stuff we could take right now to combat? If you had to take something, what would you take? I told them it would be the SRW and -152 Alpha.”

Future Actions

As noted above, NIE 12.2 is also providing DOTMLPF reports on a number of SUEs. One example from the mission command and ISR arena to earn early positive comments is the Ringtail Common Tactical Vision, developed by Ringtail Design.

As described by triad representatives, CTV is a multi-touch and multi-intelligence visualization tool with digital video recorder capabilities. CTV provides a real time, unified vision of the battle space including BFT (Blue Force Tracking)  significant activities, signals intelligence, audio transcriptions and full-motion video to support historical analysis of geospatial and temporal data. CTV fuses intelligence at the tactical edge allowing collaborative, multi-user and multi-touch data exploration in a common geospatial representation .

Planners were quick to emphasize that Ringtail is not considered to be a replacement for any current command and control system but could represent one way to visually enhance the presentation and exploitation of tactical data for future commanders.

While the future of the SUEs will depend on follow-on actions driven by the related Army centers of excellence, preparations are already underway to start fielding CS13 to the first eight Army brigades beginning in October, with several of those units slated for deployment to Afghanistan during 2013.

Triad representatives have revealed that the first two brigades are elements of the Army’s 10th Mountain Division and acknowledged the presence of a contingent from that unit at NIE 12.2 to try to get an early feel for the network and communications capabilities.

As the CS13 fielding to those units is taking place in the October – November 2012 timeframe, 2/1 AD elements will again be heading to the field to conduct NIE 13.1 next year. The 13.1 event will be much smaller in scope than 12.2 and will be a first look at a Capability Set 14 (CS14). The CS14 architecture will build on the CS13 baseline and is believed to focus on expanding the integration of network communications capabilities into the Army’s Stryker family of vehicles.

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