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Army tactical communication network organization reflects on its rich history

Tue, 04/24/2012 - 3:54pm
Project Manager Warfighter Information Network-Tactical, www.army.mil

As the parent organization of Project Manager Warfighter Information Network-Tactical celebrates its 25th anniversary this month, PM WIN-T reflects back on its own history, with roots in early satellite development that date back more than 60 years.

"As far as tactical military communications, it never ceases to amaze me when I look at where we started and where we are today," said Col. Ed Swanson, PM for WIN-T. "I'm proud to be a part of such a great organization as we continue to advance the Army's tactical communications network and provide critical capabilities to the Soldier."

The Program Executive Office for Command, Control, Communications-Tactical, known as PEO C3T, to which PM WIN-T is assigned, celebrated its 25th year anniversary, April 12, at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md. The PEO provides Soldiers with the computer systems, radios and communications networks they require for successful missions. As part of this larger organization, PM WIN-T provides fully integrated, tactical networks and services to meet the ever expanding needs of the Solider.

Part of the PM WIN-T mission is to provide advanced tactical satellite communications, or SATCOM, to the battlefield, and its ancestors at Fort Monmouth, N.J., were there at the earliest celestial communications tests. The onset of satellite communications began at the U.S. Army Research and Development Laboratories at Fort Monmouth.

On Jan. 10, 1946, in the first experimentation of radio waves traversing space, a radar signal was transmitted from the Fort Monmouth area and two and half seconds after reflecting off of the moon, it was received back at Fort Monmouth. This project, named after the mythological goddess of the moon, Diana, demonstrated the feasibility of satellite communications.

The U.S. Army Research and Development Laboratories at Fort Monmouth also built the first man-made communications satellite, the Signal Communications by Orbiting Relay Equipment, or SCORE. The U.S. government launched it on Dec. 18, 1958. It had an elliptical orbit and operated in a real-time and delayed-repeater mode, in which messages were recorded on magnetic tape and re-transmitted.

A follow-on to the SCORE program was Project Courier, a Department of Defense satellite launched on Oct. 4, 1960. It had greater capability than SCORE and allowed for testing between Fort Monmouth and Puerto Rico of delayed and real-time voice, teletype and facsimile signals.

"These earliest milestones in military SATCOM history are the cornerstone of our current capabilities," said Lt. Col. Greg Coile, product manager for SATCOM, assigned to PM WIN-T. "We've gone from shooting a signal at the moon, to enabling Soldiers in austere environments to communicate at the very edge of the battlefield."

Following these early research projects, the first U.S. military agency for the management of satellite communications, the U.S. Army Advent Management Agency, was established at Fort Monmouth on Sept. 1, 1960, as a tri-service activity under Army leadership. In mid 1962, the roles and missions were redefined, establishing the U.S. Army Satellite Communications Agency, or USASATCOMA, responsible for the development, acquisition and support of ground terminals for all of the services. USASATCOMA existed for approximately 26 years, providing a progression of ground terminals and satellite designs brought into operational use for both strategic and tactical satellite missions.

In October of 1988, USASATCOMA was disestablished and replaced by organizations with narrower scopes of responsibility. The USASATCOMA Program Management responsibilities were divided into three Project Manager Offices: Global Positioning Systems, the Single Channel Objective Tactical Terminal, known as PM SCOTT, and Satellite Communications, or PM SATCOM.

The research, development and engineering support missions were transitioned to CECOM. In the early 1990s PM SCOTT transitioned to PM Milstar and eventually combined with PM SATCOM in 1996 to form PM MILSATCOM. In 2002, PM MILSATCOM was integrated into the newly-formed PM WIN-T.

Meanwhile on the tactical communications network side, in 1982 the Army embarked on the acquisition of the Mobile Subscriber Equipment system, known as MSE, at an overall cost of more than $4 billion, to fill communications requirements from division down to the battalion level. MSE filled tactical telephone and switchboard requirements with a smaller, more mobile switching capability than had previously been used.

However, military operations in Desert Storm in 1992, as well as Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan in 2001 and Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 revealed inadequacies in MSE to support highly mobile and dispersed forces in a digital environment. Before the widespread availability of satellite communications technology, battlefield communications required the installation and maintenance of relay towers and cables, limiting range and flexibility of missions.

The outdated MSE could no longer keep up with the pace of battle. WIN-T was conceived to solve this problem and to enable mobile mission command on the battlefield. The systems development and integration for Project Manager WIN-T began in 2002, with initial fielding planned for 2008.

Consequently, the Joint Network Node, or JNN, as an outgrowth of the 3rd Infantry Division Operational Needs Statement, was developed to bridge the gap between MSE and the mobile WIN-T capability. JNN provides battalion-level and above with the ability to connect to the Army's digitized systems, voice, data and video via satellite Internet connection at-the-quick-halt. It obtained instantaneous battlefield success.

"We continue to transition from having Soldiers tethered to their Tactical Operations Centers in order to receive the common operating picture, to enabling them to place themselves at the most critical points on the battlefield while still leveraging all of the same mission command capabilities," said Lt. Col. Carl J. Hollister, product manager for Command Post Systems and Integration, which is assigned to PM WIN-T. "The effects of that transition will revolutionize the way the Army fights."

Similar to a home Internet connection, WIN-T Increment 1 provides Soldiers with high-speed, high-capacity voice, data and video communications to tactical units down to the battalion level, with Soldiers having only to pull over to the side of the road to communicate. WIN-T Increment 2 introduces numerous additional capabilities including an on-the-move communications network that reaches down to the company echelon for the first time.

As a result, the Army, along with Congressional assistance in the form of supplemental funding, shifted their priority from WIN-T to JNN. The fielding of JNN started in 2004 to support operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. As the result of a Nunn-McCurdy restructure in June 5, 2007, the WIN-T program was restructured into four separate Increments. The JNN program was integrated into WIN-T as Increment 1.

WIN-T is heading towards another significant milestone scheduled in late summer 2012 timeframe, when WIN-T Increment 1 fieldings will be 100 percent complete, providing for the first time a WIN-T Increment 1-equipped force across the entire Army. The WIN-T Increment 1a upgrades will also be completed in roughly the same timeframe, increasing previous capability and bringing all of the original JNN equipment to a common baseline across the force.

"As WIN-T continues to evolve, WIN-T Increment 2 will provide an on-the-move tactical communications network that reaches down to the company level for the first time," said Lt. Col. Robert Collins, product manager for WIN-T Increment 2 and 3. "With this capability, commanders will be able to enhance the speed of the military decision cycle, increase the tempo of battlefield operations and the company Soldier will now be fully connected and become a vital part of the give and take of critical, real-time battlefield information."

WIN-T Increment 2 is preparing for its Initial Operational Test and Evaluation, or IOT&E, scheduled in May 2012. The main effort of the three-week WIN-T Increment 2 IOT&E will be conducted at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., in conjunction with the Network Integration Evaluation 12.2. The analysis and test results from the IOT&E will be used to inform the Full Rate Production Decision scheduled for the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2012 to allow for the fielding of WIN-T Increment 2 to maneuver units across the force.

"We've come such a long way and the evolution continues as we improve our tactical communications capabilities with advanced technologies," Swanson said. "These are exciting times and PM WIN-T is proud of its heritage, contributions to the current force and the capabilities Increment 2 and Increment 3 will bring to the Soldier and Army."

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