Mobile satellite network gives Army swift artillery support
- By Kevin McCaney
- Dec 02, 2014
The satellite network enabled quicker response to calls for artillery support.
Taking advantage of a satellite component to its battlefield tactical network, the Army has been able to extend its ability to call for and monitor artillery support further into the field.
To date, forward observers and fire support officers have been limited in their ability to share information by the line-of-sight restrictions of their radios. But in the latest test of the Army’s Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) Increment 2, a field artillery battalion was able to use the satellite network to communicate from any place on the battlefield, increasing the speed of fire support as much as tenfold during some missions.
"WIN-T Increment 2 allows us to operate as a lethal battery with the platoons much farther out than we normally would be able to operate," Capt. Sean Williams, said in an Army release. "Before we were constrained by terrestrial location systems; since this is a satellite-based system, there is a much greater range now to digitally call for fire and process fires missions on the battlefield."
The maneuvers took place during Network Integration Evaluation 15.1, a 19-day exercise in October and early November held at Fort Bliss, Texas, that involved more than 5,000 participants and covered over 3,000 square miles. NIEs are semi-annual exercises during which the Army tests different aspects of its network and plans improvements based on soldier feedback.
Artillery Fire Direction Center personnel use the network to process live fire artillery missions.
At NIE 15.1, a battalion used the satellite-based Soldier Network Extension (SNE), which takes network communications to the company level, to extend the range and cut the time involved for fire support operations, retransmitting information between upper and lower echelons during a realistic exercise. SNE proved to be a big improvement over the previous Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System data and voice network, the Army said. Units far forward during a mission could send target information back to headquarters, and that information could be shared with all other participants, including aircraft and air defense systems.
The NIE exercise also was the first time the Army used field artillery radars—AN/TPQ36 and AN/TPQ37—with WIN-T Increment 2 as part of an official test. The radars can locate enemy fire, from short and long range, allowing units to know when a mortar or missile is fired, as well as where to fire back if necessary.
"Because this WIN-T asset allows us to push farther away, we can push our radars out now, we can push our guns out, we can give immediate suppressive fire back," said Sgt. Loveland Craig, radio retransmission team chief. "And it also allows us to have situational awareness across the entire battlefield."
"We did an air assault a few days ago and it was too far out for FM communications, but with the WIN-T assets we were able to communicate efficiently," Craig said. "With WIN-T Increment 2 we can go farther, fight faster."
Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.