Command Posts To Go Wireless

By Amy Walker
PEO C3T

During combat operations, units often change base locations to outmaneuver the enemy or avoid attack, requiring the entire command post to be moved, or jumped. By going wireless, command posts not only shed cumbersome cabling, but network set up and tear down times are cut from hours to minutes, making those jumps easier and faster.

The Army demonstrates a new command post wireless solution, which provides Wi-Fi to the command post leveraging Warfighter Information Network-Tactical Increment 1 satellite equipment, during Network Integration Evaluation 15.2 on Fort Bliss, Texas, in May 2015. (Photo: Amy Walker/PEO C3T/Released)

The Army demonstrates a new command post wireless solution, which provides Wi-Fi to the command post leveraging Warfighter Information Network-Tactical Increment 1 satellite equipment, during Network Integration Evaluation 15.2 on Fort Bliss, Texas, in May 2015. (Photo: Amy Walker/PEO C3T/Released)

“Wi-Fi makes the command post much more defensible,” said Lt. Col. Stephen Dail, brigade communications officer (S6) for 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, or 2/1 AD, the operational unit for the Army’s Network Integration Evaluations, or NIEs.

Commanders actually had to weigh the option of jumping because it would take too long to reestablish command and control, he said.

“We would start figuring out how to improve the base defenses rather than moving like we should, simply because of how long it takes just to wire everything back in, which is probably the single biggest piece of that time,” Dail said. “Command post wireless will definitely reduce that, so there is a huge advantage for us.”

The Army demonstrated an unclassified wireless command post, with a battalion-sized element, during Network Integration Evaluation 15.2, or NIE 15.2, on Fort Bliss, Texas, in May. This fall, during NIE 16.1, the Army plans to demonstrate unclassified and classified command post wireless capability with a full brigade main command post. The wireless command post capability is expected to be fielded to units as part of the Army’s at-the-halt network Warfighter Information Network-Tactical, or WIN-T, Increment 1.

Without the wireless capability, setting up a network in a brigade command post takes hours and requires 17 boxes of 1,000 feet CAT 5 cable, which weighs a total of 255 pounds. The cables have to be cut, laid out, configured and plugged in, taking hours for a battalion or brigade command post. By going wireless, network set up and tear down time is reduced to minutes, enabling the unit to get up and go as needed.

Additionally, without Wi-Fi capability, the command post has to be setup in necessary phases, with tent infrastructure, generators, network servers and satellite shots set up first, after which Soldiers run the cable to provide the local area network, also known as LAN, to support the command post.

“Now, right after the tents go up, units can turn on the Wi-Fi ‘hotspot’ and bam! They have a LAN,” said Lt. Col. Joel Babbitt, product manager for WIN-T Increment 1, which manages the command post wireless capability.

“So instead of your network coming up last, now it comes up first. Meaning that instead of network communications being restored several hours after jumping to a new location, a unit has it within the first hour after arriving. That’s enabling maneuver. Wireless reduces a unit’s most vulnerable time period,” Babbitt added.

The Army’s biggest challenge in providing secure Wi-Fi for use on military networks has always been information security. With the command post wireless solution, the Army broke the barriers of the past, which hindered secure wireless access by using a National Security Agency encryption solution called Commercial Solutions for Classified.

As the Army transitions to a regionally-aligned force, which responds to unexpected contingencies at a moment’s notice in accordance with the new Army Operating Concept, units will require mobile, scalable and expeditionary command post capabilities. By reducing command post size, weight and power, or SWaP, units will gain freedom of maneuver to meet the needs of today’s complex missions.

To read the rest of this story, visit the U.S. Army website.
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