Battlespace Tech

Army staging largest ever joint-forces network exercise

NIE 16.1 illustration

As the U.S. military and its allies move toward more integrated, innovative multinational training exercises, the Army is providing a pretty convincing dress rehearsal, starting today, with its Network Integration Evaluation 16.1.

NIE 16.1, the latest in a series of twice-yearly large-scale exercises that started in 2011, is by far the largest ever, incorporating units from the U.K., Italy, 12 other nations and other U.S. military services (some of them participating virtually). In all, more than 9,000 U.S. and coalition soldiers and 3,000 civilians will take part in the exercise, which runs through Oct. 8, the Army said in a release. A typical NIE has had between 3,500 and 3,800 participants.

Based at Fort Bliss, Texas, but also including adjacent Holloman Air Force Base, White Sands Missile Range, N.M., and other locations around the world, NIE 16.1 also is incorporating the Joint Chief’s Bold Quest, a joint and multinational exercise designed to test interoperability. (The Army points out that White Sands covers 3,200 square miles and Fort Bliss 1,700, while Rhode Island covers 1,214.)

NIE 16.1 mine-clearing vehicle

Soldiers prepare a mine-clearing vehicle for NIE 16.1.

NIE 16.1 is considered the final proof of concept for the new Army Warfighting Assessment (AWA), which will replace one of the two NIEs held each year with a multinational exercise that focuses on innovation and building partnerships with industry and academia.

NIEs have mostly been used to test various aspects of the Army’s battlefield network, but this event will focus more on experimentation, testing manned and unmanned teaming, as well as readiness. About 300 platforms, including nearly every type of vehicle the Army has, will be used.

A big reason for moving to AWA is that the Army is, according to its keystone doctrine, operating as a part of a joint, multinational force, Brig. Gen. Terry McKenrick said in the Army’s release. While staging NIE 16.1, the Army also is assessing the White Sands/Fort Bliss/Holloman AFB area as a "joint-multinational training capability,” McKenrick said. “That will help us bring in more joint and multinational partners in future exercises."

About the Author

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

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