SPECIAL REPORT: The 24 Programs the Army Promised to Expedite: Part Three — Network and GPS
In October 2021 then Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville vowed to put 24 key technologies “in the hands of soldiers” by the end of fiscal year 2023.
Now that the deadline has passed, National Defense in this special report looks at each of the 24 technologies and assigns them a letter grade based on how close the Army got to fielding the systems. See the end of the article on how the 24 programs were graded.
Part Three: Network and GPS
INTEGRATED TACTICAL NETWORK
The Army has called the Integrated Tactical Network a “critical component” of its Unified Network Plan, a modernization effort to employ a common operating environment for multi-domain operations. Three years after achieving rapid prototyping status, the Army is fielding network capabilities to priority infantry, Stryker and division headquarters.
The Integrated Tactical Network’s goal is to provide a simplified, independent, mobile network down to small-unit dismounted leaders to facilitate mission command, situational awareness and air-to-ground integration, a spokesperson from the Program Executive Office for Command, Control, Communications-Tactical said in an email.
The network is not a replacement for any current network, but rather adds communication options for commanders at various stages of operations, the spokesperson said. It includes kits of both terrestrial and satellite communications through single and two-channel radios.
The radios run advanced networking waveforms and enable secure but unclassified-encrypted communications through voice and data gateways; tactical cross domain solutions; and expeditionary servers, the spokesperson said.
The network is rolling out requirements incrementally through capability sets, with sets 21 and 23 the focus of the Army’s 24-by-23 promise.
Leveraging the middle-tier acquisition process, capability set 21 became the Army’s first to transition from rapid prototyping to rapid fielding in 2020, allowing brigade combat teams to experiment with equipment.
Since the network’s transition to rapid fielding status, the Army has fielded capability sets 21 and 23 to nine brigade combat teams and one Stryker regiment. The service is currently fielding to the 82nd Airborne Division and 101st Airborne Division.
“The ITN rapid prototyping MTA is paying modernization dividends,” the spokesperson said. “It is still being used to design/develop and test/evaluate the future network architecture in support of Army of 2030 network and division echelon design.” — Laura Heckmann
The widespread deployment of the first iterations of the Integrated Tactical Network to brigades and divisions well before the fiscal year 2023 deadline earns it an A+.
MOUNTED COMPUTING ENVIRONMENT/
COMMAND POST COMPUTING ENVIRONMENT
The Army’s Common Operating Environment seeks to bring stovepiped systems onto a common infrastructure, including two computing environments promised in fiscal year 2023.
The Mounted Computing Environment, or MCE, and the Command Post Computing Environment, or CPCE, make up “key parts” of the Common Operating Environment, and together count as one program under the 24-by-23 promise, a spokesperson for the Program Executive Office for Command, Control, Communications-Tactical said in an email.
The Command Post Computing Environment is a server-based software system that provides hardware and mission command software to support commanders and staff using general-purpose client computers, according to a Director, Operational Test and Evaluation report.
The system aims to reduce unique hardware and software programs and provide commanders with a consolidated warfighting picture on a single workstation, an Army fact sheet stated.
The Mounted Computing Environment provides on-the-move mission command information and situational awareness on Army tactical vehicles. The environment is a collection of applications, terminals and data aimed at building a more resilient network transport and enhanced communications for commanders, the spokesperson said.
As part of the Mounted Computing Environment, Mounted Mission Command-Software, or MMC-S, will replace the Joint Battle Command-Platform across the force in the coming years. The new platform will have “all the movement and maneuver apps” for the common operating environment and is based on open standards that will enable technology updates every two years, an Army fact sheet stated.
CPCE is being developed and fielded in increments, and units in Army Pacific and Europe are currently conducting developmental operations with version 2, the spokesperson said, adding 74 units will receive updated CPCE applications and server hardware in fiscal year 2023.
The Mounted Mission Command-Software underwent initial operational test and evaluation in April 2023 with the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, and was deemed “effective, suitable and survivable” by the Army Test and Evaluation Center and Director, Operational Test & Evaluation, the spokesperson said.
MMC-S has been authorized by Command, Control, Communications-Tactical to issue the software, which is currently underway with elements of the 82nd Airborne Division. — Laura Heckmann
The command post program has reached operators in the field and the mounted version passed the test-and-evaluation period with no hiccups, garnering the overall program an A+ grade.
MOUNTED ASSURED POSITIONING,
NAVIGATION AND TIMING SYSTEM
In 2019, the Army drafted new requirements aimed at improving access to navigation data in impeded environments. That resulted in the development of the Mounted Assured Positioning, Navigation and Timing System, or MAPS. Now a program of record, the Army says it’s “on track” to equip units in 2024.
The system will outfit Army ground vehicles with trusted positioning, navigation and timing information to conduct operations in degraded or denied GPS environments, according to a January 2023 report from the Director, Operational Test and Evaluation.
MAPS will replace the Army’s Defense Advanced GPS Receiver in priority platforms requiring M-code and assured positioning, navigation and timing capabilities, a spokesperson from the Program Executive Office for Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors said in an email.
The system protects access to GPS in a jammed environment through an Anti-Jam Antenna System. It distributes assured positioning, navigation and timing data against GPS spoofing threats through use of the M-code, a highly encrypted military GPS signal.
MAPS can maintain timing when GPS access is lost using embedded timing chips, and it can distribute positioning, navigation and timing data to multiple systems, removing the need for multiple Defense Advanced GPS receivers on a vehicle.
The DOT&E report said MAPS “improved situational awareness, assisted individuals and units with navigation and allowed the unit to maintain tempo while moving to various objectives in contested GPS environments.”
The system’s first generation, MAPS GEN I, is now in sustainment, with contractor General Dynamics Mission Systems subsidiary GPS Source having delivered and fielded 1,803 units, the spokesperson said.
MAPS GEN II is the system’s current program of record, being developed by Collins Aerospace, which is under a five-year, indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity production contract. The company has been awarded two orders for a total of 1,417 systems. They include the NavHub-100 navigation solution and Multi-Sensor Antenna System, or MSAS-100.
To date, the program is “on track to complete initial operational test and evaluation activities” in the second quarter of fiscal year 2024, with first units equipped in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2024, the spokesperson said. — Laura Heckmann
The Army’s 24-by-23 list makes no distinction between the first and second generation MAPS. But it’s clear soldiers have an initial capability and the second iteration looks on track to deliver in early 2024, earning the program a B+.
DISMOUNTED ASSURED POSITIONING,
NAVIGATION AND TIMING SYSTEM
The Dismounted Assured Positioning, Navigation and Timing System, or DAPS, is designed to bring trusted positioning, navigation and timing information to dismounted soldiers operating in GPS denied or contested environments.
DAPS will replace the Army’s legacy anti-spoofing Defense Advanced GPS Receiver in units equipped with the Nett Warrior system — a dismounted leader situational awareness system used during combat operations.
Unlike the legacy system, DAPS incorporates M-code, a highly encrypted military GPS signal, in addition to other non-GPS capabilities, according to a report released in January 2023 by the Director, Operational Test & Evaluation.
The current program of record has been informed by lessons learned from previous iterations and requirements laid out in a January 2022 Capabilities Development Document. The system addresses shortfalls in access to positioning, navigation and timing information in impeded conditions, a spokesperson from the Program Executive Office for Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors said in an email.
Impeded conditions could include dense vegetation, built-up urban environments and mountainous terrain, as well as the presence of electromagnetic interference or enemy jamming and spoofing, the report stated.
Successful testing of earlier DAPS systems in 2021 informed the Army’s decision to equip an Infantry Brigade Combat Team, and the selection of TRX Systems as the vendor for the DAPS GEN II system, the DOT&E report said.
TRX was awarded a $402 million, seven-year indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract for the program in April, according to a company press release. The TRX system is a small, lightweight device designed for both standalone operation and integration with the Nett Warrior ensemble, a company fact sheet stated.
The current program of record is “on track” to complete initial operational test and evaluation activities in November 2024 with the 2nd Brigade 82nd Airborne Division, the spokesperson said. First Unit Equipped is scheduled for the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2024.
The spokesperson said feedback from soldier touchpoints has been “overwhelmingly positive,” and that the program has maintained its schedule since the 24-by-23 goal was announced. — Laura Heckmann
DAPS appears to be on track with positive test results and some early versions being sent to a brigade for feedback. Final delivery for Milestone C test and evaluation is still a year off, earning it a B grade.
COMMAND POST INTEGRATED INFRASTRUCTURE
The Army needs to make command posts more mobile, scalable and survivable by switching from tents to vehicles.
The Command Post Integrated Infrastructure, or CP12, is a replacement for the Army’s current system that uses large tents to house personnel and relies on “a great deal of machines” that consume resources and generate detectable electronic and thermal signatures, a spokesperson from the Program Executive Office for Command, Control, Communications-Tactical said in an email.
Making command posts smaller, more mobile and harder to detect electronically or visually also makes them more survivable, the spokesperson said.
The centerpieces of the program are the mission command platform and command post support vehicle. The platform provides digitally connected workstations while the vehicle serves as a communications node for brigade and above, assorted shelter systems and intelligent power capabilities.
The program is under development in two increments, termed Inc 0 and Inc 1. Inc 0 is the initial effort and meant to inform Inc 1. Inc 0, being developed by Elbit Systems of America, is currently executing “multiple phases of prototyping, integration and experimentations through multiple soldier touchpoints,” the spokesperson said.
Inc 1 will expand on product lines with an additional mix of military vehicle platforms, including a variety of armored tactical vehicles.
The program has achieved its Milestone B decision authority under Inc 1, allowing the program to move forward into the engineering and manufacturing phase. Following the Inc 1 contract award and platform production, the Army plans to field the first unit equipped with Inc 1 platforms in fiscal year 2025, the spokesperson said.
Inc 0 is currently going through a Limited User Test with the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team and 2nd Infantry Division. The Army plans to field four brigade sets of Inc 0 by the end of calendar year 2024, the spokesperson said. — Laura Heckmann
The Army has been talking about the need to make command posts more survivable for almost a decade now. When will a solution reach the field? Not for one more year apparently. Grade: B.
A-plus — Initial operating capability or first unit fielded. Must be “in the hands of enough soldiers” to where it could make an impact if the Army were asked to go to war on Oct. 1, 2023.
The editor in chief assigned the letter grades based on the reporters’ findings and after conferring with the managing editor. The final decision on the grade was the editor in chief’s alone, and criticism, feedback and general disagreements should be directed his way.
Topics: Army News