WASHINGTON — Network modernization is one of the Army’s top priorities, as it is an essential component of the mission command and control.
As such, the Army stood up two Cross-Functional Teams to pursue the network modernization goal. Those teams are the Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence Cross-Functional Team, and the Assured Position, Navigation and Timing Cross-Functional Team.
Those CFTs will work to ensure the network is “reliable on the move in any environment,” stated Secretary of the Army Dr. Mark T. Esper in written remarks provided to a House Armed Services Committee hearing on the fiscal year 2019 budget request, March 20.
“The network should incorporate electronic warfare; resilient, secure, and interoperable hardware; software and information systems; assured position, navigation, and timing; and low signature,” he added.
Maj. Gen. Peter Gallagher, director of the C3I CFT, said the current Army network is not where it needs to be. It is far too complex, with multiple systems, and it is too fragile to counter electronic warfare attacks from a peer adversary.
The network, he said, should be easy to use and should provide survivability from cyberattacks. That network, he continued, should be easily accessible within all Army formations and to joint, interagency and coalition partners.
Another highly important aspect of the Army network, Gallagher said, is that it must be expeditionary, and able to be set up and taken down at a tactical operation center in a matter of minutes.
Network components must also be standardized and modular so that new technologies in the future, irrespective of manufacturer, can be incorporated into existing systems in a “plug and play” fashion, Gallagher said.
Modernizing the Army network so that it meets those standards is the responsibility of Gallagher’s C3I CFT.
Col. Brad Hilton, chief of staff of the C3I CFT, described it as “a very small group working with a large supporting cast.”
That supporting cast includes representatives of the Army’s requirements, acquisition, and sustainment communities, experts in cybersecurity and radio wave spectrum analysts, program managers, industry experts and network professionals from the other military services.
The C3I CFT, Hilton said, is focused narrowly on solving specific problems across the larger Army network. The Army’s new network modernization strategy, he said, is using a “halt, fix, pivot” strategy to do that.
What that means, he said, is that the Army intends to halt programs that are not addressing emerging technologies and future threats, fix programs necessary to fulfill the most critical operational needs, and pivot to a more rapid “find-try-adapt-buy” acquisition strategy.
“Find and try” means that the Army will use operational units to experiment with potential technologies in the field. “Adapt and buy” means the Army will then buy and adapt the best of the solutions, he said, adding that “adapt and buy” is done by program executive office partners.
Before diving into a problem, Hilton said, the CFT also reaches out to industry and joint partners to look for existing “proven solutions or emerging capabilities they may have, so we don’t reinvent the wheel.”
The C3I CFT also hosts regular industry day events to solicit ideas that might tie in with network solutions.
Soldiers rely on GPS to navigate, just as ordinary people often do when driving their cars. However, if there is no GPS signal or if it is blocked, that’s a problem.
The APNT CFT is focused, in part, on finding assistances to GPS, so Soldiers can continue to “shoot, move and communicate effectively, and maintain situational awareness,” said William Nelson, APNT CFT director.
Nelson divided the research his CFT is responsible for into two categories, APNT for dismounted Soldiers and APNT for mounted Soldiers, as in ground vehicles or aircraft.
The mounted APNT “will fuse GPS data with navigation technology … distributed via a network on a platform, replacing the need for multiple GPS devices in a single platform,” he said.
A promising way to assist GPS is by using “pseudolites,” or pseudo-satellites, which are ground-based or flown in aircraft instead of flying in space like normal satellites. They transmit signals similar to those produced by GPS, he said.
“Pseudolite transmitters deliver a high-power signal that is more difficult to interfere with. The increased signal power improves a GPS receiver’s ability to acquire and track PNT information, providing a protected area for the warfighter to operate,” he said.
For dismounted Soldiers, the team is working on an improved GPS receiver as well as developing multiple situational awareness sensors for assisting GPS, he said.
Also, software solutions to prevent jamming for both mounted and dismounted APNT are being evaluated, he added.
Work on the mounted APNT capability is being accelerated and will be developed first, he said. It will be employed on a number of long-range precision fires platforms.
(Editor’s note: This is one of six articles covering the Army’s six modernization priorities. Those priorities are long-range precision fires, a next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift platforms, a mobile and expeditionary Army network, air and missile defense capabilities, and Soldier lethality.)