In the harsh desert and mountains of the southwestern United States, Soldiers relied on transportable headquarters operation centers to extend mission command capabilities to the edge of the battlefield during the Army's Network Integration Evaluation 12.2.
These Command Post, or CP, capabilities, previously found only at battalion and above echelons, enabled commanders at the company level to exchange critical information, increasing the speed of decision-making and providing an advantage over the enemy.
"A Command Post is like a scope on a rifle; it magnifies the battlefield for a commander so he can make decisions on when and where to pull the trigger," said Maj. Brian Mack, Network Integration Evaluation, or NIE, 12.2 company command post, or CoCP, trail boss for Product Manager for Command Post Systems and Integration, known as PdM CPS&I.
NIE 12.2 wrapped up on June 8 and was the third and largest in an ongoing series of evaluations utilizing the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, to assess the network's performance while the brigade was stretched across vast distances and punishing terrain at White Sands Missile Range. To recreate a relevant operating environment in which to test the network, realistic tactical operations simulated a hybrid threat.
Not only did the 2/1 AD have to combat components of conventional enemy forces, but it also had to contend with insurgent and criminal elements with goals and motives of their own. Soldier feedback and test results from NIE 12.2 will validate and finalize Capability Set, or CS, 13, the first integrated package of tactical communications gear that will be fielded starting in October.
"The Company Command Post increases the effectiveness of commanders in decentralized operations by increasing their situational awareness," said Lt. Col. Carl Hollister, PdM for CPS&I, which is assigned to Project Manager Warfighter Information Network-Tactical,or PM WIN-T. "This system expands the battle space to austere locations, and by providing the company with its own communications transport layer, increases its Area of Responsibility."
Compared to battalions and brigades, companies have their own unique requirements. A maneuver company requires a command post that is scalable, supports mobile and short halt operations, requires minimum manpower and is reliable with limited field support necessary to sustain it. The basic elements of a CoCP include infrastructure, power, beyond-line-of-sight (satellite) communications, tactical radios and mission command systems, Mack said.
"Combined, these elements provide a commander a complete picture of their battle space that can be shared with adjacent and higher units," he said. "They enhance the commander's ability to make informed decisions and execute troop leading procedures."
During NIE 12.2, the CPS&I team supported the system integration and fielding of the CoCPs. There were 12 CoCPs utilized during the evaluation, each containing a combination of approximately a dozen Systems Under Evaluation, known as SUEs, from both military and industry. By employing an Agile Process that includes assessing industry solutions during NIEs to meet defined capability gaps, the Army is able to keep pace with industry and ensure the latest technological advances have the potential to benefit deployed Soldiers as quickly as possible.
A majority of the SUEs focused on which Small Form Factor Very Small Aperture Terminals, or SFF VSAT, satellite terminals to field to CoCPs as part of CS 13. SFF VSATs will provide the satellite transport necessary to conduct beyond-line-of-sight (satellite) communications at the company level. Other SUEs focused on mobile power and infrastructure requirements such as the On Board Vehicle Power system and an air beam tent sponsored by the Project Manager for Mobile Electric Power.
Many of the systems managed by the Program Executive Office Command, Control, Communications-Tactical, known as PEO C3T, to which PdM CPS&I is assigned, are also integrated into the CPs at battalion, brigade and now at the company level. These PEO C3T capabilities include Tactical Ground Reporting, or TIGR, a multimedia, patrol-level reporting system; Command Post of the Future, known as CPOF, which provides a collaborative common operating picture; Joint Capabilities Release, or JCR, the second generation of Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below that tracks friendly and enemy forces on a geospatial imagery map; and Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System, or AFATDS, the primary fire support system supporting Army mission command. Inside their CPs commanders can also utilize many other mission command systems as well as e-mail, chat and Voice over Internet Protocol functions.
"Mission command systems at the company allow the commander to anticipate and see the enemy first, and use this initiative to defeat him," Mack said. "Proper use of information or intelligence provided by these systems often expands a commander's options to deal with a situation on the battlefield. These systems not only help us see the enemy first, they help us see ourselves or our allies, which improves coordination and logistics on the battlefield and reduces risk of fratricide to friendly coalition forces."
Among the many mission threads conducted during NIE 12.2, each of the companies moved, or "jumped," their CPs three to six times. This required them to tear down the CPs, move into uncooperative and unpredictable environments, and then quickly re-establish the CPs and the network to full operational capability. The brigade and battalions conducted similar operations during the evaluation and even though they relocated CP's in stormy weather, the 2/1 AD Soldiers overall improved set-up and tear-down times.
"The CoCP jumps were important to validate maneuverability requirements of not only individual systems, but the capability as a whole," Mack said. "The most limited resource on the battlefield is time, so it's important that units are not burdened with non-value added activities to set up and employ systems. With limited personnel at the company, the need for speed is magnified."
During the "jumps," the on-the-move mission command capabilities of the next generation of the Army's tactical communications network backbone, Warfighter Information Network-Tactical, known as WIN-T, Increment 2, enabled commanders down to the company level to retain their situational awareness and remain in continued communications with Army forces right from the front seat of their vehicles. The WIN-T Increment 2 Initial Operational Test and Evaluation was held in conjunction with NIE 12.2.
The mission of PdM CPS&I during the NIEs is to provide a team to assist in the development of the Command Post in all echelons. It will also continue to support CoCP layouts and advise the Army on geographical locations to ensure the capabilities of each system, from baseband and communication equipment to power solutions, can be optimally leveraged and utilized. NIE 13.1, scheduled for this fall, will continue to build on the Army's CP solutions. Additional satellite communication systems, mission command systems and power solutions will be evaluated.
"NIE continues to provide new advancements in technology that will give today's Army the tactical advantage," Hollister said.