ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (April 23, 2013) — As part of the Army’s effort to continually provide increased network capability for Soldiers and commanders, the second generation of its tactical communications network backbone, Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) Increment 2, is heading into a follow-on test in May.
The test will address focused items identified during its major Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) last spring, items that have since been corrected and improved.
“Preparations for the WIN-T Increment 2 Follow-on Operational Test & Evaluation (FOT&E) are going very well; the equipment has been upgraded and the Soldiers are receiving the training needed to operate and maintain the equipment,” said Col. Ed Swanson, project manager for WIN-T. “During the FOT&E, the unit will conduct the full range of military operations, everything from movement to contact to peace-keeping operations, using the network to support their missions.”
In May 2012, the WIN-T Increment 2 IOT&E was conducted in conjunction with Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) 12.2. Following the test, the Army and Office of the Secretary of Defense outlined requirements for an additional test for WIN-T Increment 2 prior to securing a full rate production (FRP) decision and permission to conduct additional fielding beyond Capability Set (CS) 13.
To fulfill these requirements, the Army will conduct the WIN-T Increment 2 FOT&E, which will be held in conjunction with NIE 13.2 at Fort Bliss, Texas, and White Sands Missile Range, N.M., utilizing 3,800 Soldiers from 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division (2/1 AD).
NIE 13.2 will be the fifth in the series of semi-annual field exercises, which aim to rapidly mature and integrate the Army’s tactical communications network, and accelerate and improve the way network technologies are delivered to Soldiers.
Through its support in previous NIEs, as well as its support for the WIN-T Increment 2 IOT&E, the operational brigade has already gained a great deal of experience in operating the equipment and understanding the network architecture.
To reduce risk prior to the FOT&E, the Army leveraged NIE 13.1 and the network integration facilities at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., for network and application testing, and system integration.
“As with any testing, there is always an opportunity to identify things that went well and things that may need some improvement,” said Lt. Col. Robert Collins, product manager for WIN-T Increment 2. “The Army has taken full advantage of the time period from the completion of the IOT&E to conduct a comprehensive review of all test reports and identify items that we can improve upon to provide the best possible network capability to the Soldier.”
Some of the fixes included overall system reliability improvements and modifications to the WIN-T Increment 2 Soldier Network Extension (SNE), which provides a network connection to company commanders and extends lower tactical internet radio networks. Some of the SNE components have been optimized for a mobile and rugged operational environment, the performance levels “tuned,” and a re-assessment conducted of required mission command applications at the company and below level.
The daily increase in unit proficiency as Soldiers became more comfortable with the equipment during the IOT&E emphasized the fact that training is one the most important aspects the Army can improve upon with network equipment. Part of the corrective action plan also provides modifications in training, including more hands-on training, which was well-received by 2/1 AD.
“We have made the necessary adjustments and prepared the equipment and the unit,” Collins said. “By all accounts, we are ready to go into the FOT&E and have demonstrated the corrective actions for those areas that were identified coming out of the IOT&E, resulting in a better system for the Army and our Soldiers.”
WIN-T Increment 1, formerly known as the “Joint Network Node – Network,” began fielding in 2004 and provides Soldiers with high-speed, high-capacity voice, data and video communications down to battalion level units, at-the-quick-halt. The newly deploying WIN-T Increment 2 provides advanced enhancements over WIN-T Increment 1, including unprecedented on-the-move communications capabilities down to the company level. It also introduces networking radios to the architecture and enhances Network Operations, a suite of integrated monitoring tools used to command and control the network.
WIN-T Increment 2 is an important part of the Army’s tactical network modernization strategy and one of its highest priorities. It is also the centerpiece of the Army’s network capability sets.
CS 13 is the first of these fully-integrated packages, which include radios, satellite systems, software applications, smartphone-like devices and other network components that provide connectivity from the stationary command post to the commander on-the-move to the dismounted Soldier.
WIN-T Increment 2 is being delivered as part of CS 13, which began fielding in October 2012 with the 4th and 3rd brigade combat teams of the 10th Mountain Division. Both of these units are preparing for possible deployment to Operation Enduring Freedom with these advanced capabilities.
Following the WIN-T Increment 2 IOT&E last May, the Army Test and Evaluation Command completed a comprehensive independent assessment of suitability, survivability, and effectiveness and validated that the program met all key performance parameters. WIN-T Increment 2 also meets a critical need for mobile communications as U.S. forces support the drawdown in Afghanistan. Because of these factors, the Army was granted permission to field WIN-T Increment 2 as part of CS 13 prior to a full rate production decision.
A successful FRP decision this fall would allow the Army to continue to procure equipment to support future capability sets, remain aligned with Army modernization and ensure Maneuver BCTs are enabled with a mobile network.
“The PM will continue to work closely with the test community regarding post-FOT&E results and complete any actions necessary to ensure continued production and fielding aligned with the Army capability set strategy,” Swanson said.