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A Communications Network for Today’s Logisticians

The challenge for the Army logistics community is to support the speedy deployment of soldiers and equipment and to sustain them through mission accomplishment. A combat task force generates thousands of supply requests a day. To manage that workload and quickly and efficiently process requests from the battlefield in support of the warfighter, the logistician clearly needs a robust communications network.

Current tactical communications systems, from the Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System (SINCGARS) to Mobile Subscriber Equipment (MSE) and the Tri-Services Tactical Communications (TRI–TAC) system, served well to support yesterday’s command, control, and support services, which relied heavily on voice and short text messaging at security levels of secret collateral and below. But today’s commander needs a network that permits mounted and dismounted, on-the-move communications; disseminates information at all levels of security; extends reach and reach-back capabilities; and provides increased throughput to support warfighter operations.

Because the Army tactical communications network of the 1990s does not support current needs, Army signalers and logisticians have been designing connectivity and bandwidth capabilities that will allow warfighters to get the supplies they need when they need them. The Army is rapidly infusing state-of-the-art, commercial off-the-shelf information technology into brigade combat team (BCT), unit of employment x (UEx, a division equivalent), and unit of employment y (UEy, a theater and corps equivalent) warfighting platforms, strategic reach-back sites, and signal formations. This information technology effort includes hardware, software, training, and elements of network management, information assurance, and information dissemination management.

The Army’s Bridge to Future Networks (BFN) concepts are providing warfighters with the commercial off-the-shelf communications backbone that enables voice, data, and video information exchanges throughout the tactical UEy and into the sustaining base. The BFN is replacing the Area Common User System Modernization Plan and takes advantage of existing and directed capabilities. The BFN primarily enhances battle command technological capabilities.

Communications capabilities for specific combat service support (CSS) and intelligence programs continue to be developed and recapitalized to meet
program-specific requirements. Examples include the AN/TSQ–190 Trojan SPIRIT (Special Purpose Integrated Remote Intelligence Terminal), the AN/MLQ–40 Prophet system, and CSS business communications initiatives like “Connect the Logistician.” [Trojan SPIRIT is a satellite terminal that provides access to intelligence systems. Prophet is the principal signals intelligence and electronic warfare system for the division and armored cavalry regiment.]

Major Change for the Signal Corps

The Army’s new division construct—the BCT and the UEx headquarters—is transforming the Army and the signal services. In practice, all division-level signal battalions in the Army are going away. To keep the network whole, the UEx will have a G–6 who also will be the “commander of the network” and will be responsible for integrating the BCTs into the overall UEx network, managing the network, and defending the network at the UEx level.

Signal services will reside inside the BCTs as well as inside the UEx. This arrangement will ensure that each BCT can provide its own signal support with minimal dependence on higher echelons. This decentralization promises to be a major change for the Signal Corps.

Each light BCT will consist of a brigade troop battalion that includes a signal company, an engineer company, and a military intelligence company. This BCT also will have two infantry battalions similar to the ones deployed in Iraq. This approach allows staff functions previously performed at the division level to be pushed down to the infantry BCT level. A UEx will replace division main headquarters.

Signal support organizations will drastically reduce the need for remote signal sites on hilltops, thereby minimizing the requirement for force protection of those remote sites, and reduce the wheeled-vehicle footprint of existing signal support units at the UEy (theater and corps), UEx (division), and BCT levels.

Tactical Warfighter Information

“ The Army has accelerated the implementation schedule of the Warfighter Information Network Tactical (WIN–T),” said Lieutenant General Steven Boutelle, the Army’s Chief Information Officer/G–6, “and is providing interim networking capability, bandwidth, and connectivity through the Joint Network Transport Capability-Spiral (JNTC–S).” The JNTC–S fills a gap in bandwidth capability for command and control, CSS, and intelligence beyond-line-of-sight communications support down to the battalion level. [WIN–T will replace MSE and TRI–TAC as the foundation system for routing tactical information.]

Currently, the JNTC–S is being fielded to the 3d Infantry Division (Mechanized) as it converts to lighter BCTs. JNTC–S will serve both the BCTs and the UEx and will replace MSE as the networking element of the battlefield infostructure.

The concept behind JNTC–S is that satellites play a key role in providing communications links. The 3d Infantry Division’s JNTC–S capability provides a mixed satellite and line-of-sight architecture from the UEx level down to the battalion level. Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) will enable a commanding general to talk to individual battalion commanders. The VoIP telephones are slated to replace existing digital and most circuit-based telephone systems, providing greater bandwidth efficiency across the network.

The extended networking capability provided by the JNTC–S will affect the way in which the UEx allocates forces. In the past, a division would dispatch a BCT to carry out a mission 100 miles away. Now, with new satellite assets, a battalion may be sufficient to perform the same mission. Units not fielded with this capability will use gateway switches to interface with units possessing the new technology.

Custom Network for Supply and Maintenance

Warfighters around the globe are starting to benefit from the capabilities of new network systems. The CSS Very Small Aperture Terminal (CSS VSAT) system provides Non-Secure Internet Protocol Router Network (NIPRNET) access for logistics transactions to CSS users almost anywhere on the planet using a global network that connects remote users to one of several hub stations located around the world via satellite. Soldiers often use the CSS Automated Information Systems Interface (CAISI) as a wireless local area network to connect to the satellite. With the satellite connection, a soldier can check instantly on the status of supplies and replacement parts.

CSS VSAT, which was first used by several divisions in the 2003 Iraq campaign, makes a huge difference. This system enables individuals with minimal training in satellite communications to acquire NIPRNET access. Setup time for the user generally is less than 30 minutes, depending on the field environment. By using a wireless interface, such as CAISI, CSS VSAT can be connected either to a local area network via a hub, router, or switch or to a wide area network. CAISI, which allows the operator at the terminal to be positioned up to 4 miles away from the antenna, also allows supply troops to start checking immediately on the status of desperately needed supplies and to enter requests that combat units radio in while the logisticians themselves are on the move.

Bypassing “Sneaker Net” and Saving Lives

CAISI allowed much more flexibility in the positioning of units, both in tactical and garrison facilities, during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Extended NIPRNET connections allowed support personnel to exchange data over the network rather than travel and risk exposure to hostilities. Troops also were able to avoid exposure by reducing the number of trips needed to move data by “sneaker net” from one location to another. In Iraq, this reduction in travel and exposure to hostilities has become a lifesaver.

CAISI provides 11 megabytes of wireless line-of-sight transmission, encryption on all wireless local area network links, and a 2-megabyte Digital Subscriber Line backup capability for non-line-of-sight requirements within a 4-mile distance. It extends the tactical connectivity capability from the theater level to the brigade support area and provides a communications capability that traditionally has been lacking in such areas as supply chain management, maintenance, and CSS business systems.

New equipment training will serve as the basis for developing institutional training, for unit sustainment training, and for rapid train-up of replacement personnel in support of contingency operations. All training will exploit the right mix of hands-on training and classroom training needed to maximize the effectiveness of individual and collective training. The bridging strategy toward full WIN–T capabilities will reduce personnel, training, and equipment requirements resulting from the anticipated consolidation of capabilities into common facilities. ALOG

Lieutenant Colonel Tony C. Munson is assigned to the Office of the Chief Information Officer/G–6, Department of the Army. He has a B.S. degree in industrial technology from Jackson State University in Mississippi and an M.A. degree in national security affairs from the College of Naval Command and Staff. He is a graduate of Officer Candidate School, the Signal Officer Basic and Advanced Courses, and the Army Command and General Staff College.

Lieutenant Colonel Forrest Burke is assigned to the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, G–4, Department of the Army. He was the Logistics Automation Chief in Kuwait with the Coalition Forces Land Component Command during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He has a B.S. degree in industrial Operations from Auburn University in Alabama and M.S. degrees from Florida Institute of Technology and the Air War College. He is a graduate of the Armor Officer Basic Course, the Ordnance Officer Advanced Course, and the Air Command and Staff College.