Army, Congress evaluate the future of WIN-T
- By Kris Osborn
- Jul 11, 2017
The future of the Army’s flagship Warfighter Information Network–Tactical (WIN-T) now hangs in a balance of uncertainty after Senate authorizers cut funding for the emerging mobile satcom network by $448 million.
While the 2018 NDAA still needs full Congressional approval after upcoming conference negotiations, the move by the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) underscores the high stakes of the current Army network analysis.
Critics of the network, such as those from the SASC, are raising questions about its ability to perform its necessary combat functions amid jamming, electromagnetic interference and cyberattacks from a technologically advanced enemy.
Responding to some Congressional concerns, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley has launched a service analysis of battlefield networks, including WIN-T. Among other things, the assessment is expected to evaluate the degree to which WIN-T can be adjusted to meet future threats.
WIN-T has been fielded to at least 16 Brigade Combat Teams and performed well in combat during ongoing ground wars.
A recent Director, Operational Test and Evaluation, or DOT&E, report expressed concern about whether WIN-T technology can withstand advanced combat prove resilience.
Despite some of these concerns, many observers believe WIN-T is too valuable to lose. Loren Thompson, defense industry consultant and Chief Operating Officer, The Lexington Institute, anticipates that the promise of the technical and combat advantages of WIN-T Inc. 2 will wind up with full Congressional funding.
“I expect lawmakers will ultimately side with the House and increase funding for WIN-T in 2018. Senators confused WIN-T with problems elsewhere in the Army network, and ended up assailing a program that is actually meeting all of its requirements.
General Dynamics developers emphasize that WIN-T is constructed with a new baseline in U.S. military acquisition – open architecture.
By using common IP protocol and identified, interoperable standards for hardware and software, emerging technologies can much more successfully be integrated with existing systems. Based upon this premise, new software designed to address new threats, fixes, patches or even new hardware can be implemented in a seamless fashion.
This kind of approach, GD developers say, has already enabled designers to reduce the hardware footprint of the mobile WIN-T Inc. 2 system. It is now smaller and lighter, so a WIN-T equipped Humvee can sling-load beneath a CH-47 Chinook cargo helicopter. Storage space and processing functions have been substantially consolidated.
“The latest version of WIN-T got a mixed reception when it was first fielded, because it was too big and heavy to be air dropped. But that problem has been fixed, enabling it to ride on humvees with the rest of the force,” Thompson said.
Kris Osborn is a former editor of Defense Systems.