C4ISR

Army streamlines updates to its tactical network

Army tactical network

One of the key elements of a tactical network is its ability to function on the fly—to arrive in an area, connect equipment to the network and get to work.

For the Army, that process had been slowed down somewhat by a simple process familiar to commercial users of new equipment—initializing the new equipment so that it can recognize and connect to other systems and begin exchanging critical information. The process was kind of old-school, requiring soldiers to install a disc with a unit’s data products and then following the initialization steps from there. And with a centralized, disc-based process, any updates or revisions to those data products had to be put on disc first, leaving units waiting up to 15 weeks for the latest software.

The Army began streamlining the process a year ago, by giving the communications officer, or S6, the ability to make changes to equipment as data products arrive, ensuring that systems on the ground are up to date, in real time, according to an Army release. Under the new process, which has been added to Capability Sets 13-15, the S6 can now make changes almost immediately, integrating equipment and adding or modifying roles.

Next, the Army will take the process further down the chain, with a suite of tools that will allow individual soldiers to handle the initialization process at individual workstations, though a user-friendly interface.

The Initialization Tool Suite, set to be deployed this summer, will streamline the process further, allowing a rapid updating of data products to reflect changes such as new communications technology or permissions for accessing another unit, the Army said.  ITS can simplify matters for the S6 while proving a better common operating picture to commanders.

The suite can provide senior commanders a more accurate common operating picture while simplifying the S6’s job of adapting equipment to the network.

"Ten steps in approximately three minutes - that's the process with this new capability," Giovanni Oddo, technical management division lead for product director initialization, said in the release. "Each Soldier at a workstation in a command post will be able to do the initialization themselves. It's very simple, you just pull down the menus and the selections are limited, so it really walks you through the process."

A real advantage is being able to update equipment without waiting for the next disc to arrive.

"ITS gave us the ability to make changes after we've delivered a set of data products," Oddo said. "In the past, we had to deliver a 'set in stone' product, typically on compact discs for the unit to install on their mission command servers. Now, we preload the information on the systems and all the soldier has to do is turn them on and answer a few questions."

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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