Army modernization exercises hosted at Fort Bliss are making a significant shift this fall, from formal tests focusing on the Army’s network, to early assessments of possible technology and capability solutions to meet the Army Warfighting Challenges. These assessments will take place through the Army Warfighting Assessment 17.1, or AWA, where fleets of Army vehicles are currently being configured to support the interoperability of the systems.
Planning for the Army’s first official AWA has been ongoing for more than a year, with Army leaders refining its concept for the past several years. All of this work leads up to an October field event taking place in the realistic operational environment of the Fort Bliss desert, where Soldiers will employ and utilize the innovative capabilities in a variety of mission scenarios.
The AWA is derived from the Network Integration Evaluation, or NIE, which was formerly a semi-annual event. Now, the annual NIEs will continue to mature the Army’s tactical network from a test and evaluation perspective, while annual AWAs will focus on early development and assessments of new technologies for the battlefield.
“As the Army continues to execute and refine modernization efforts, aligned with that are the respective NIE and AWA processes,” said Col. Terrece Harris, director, Capability Package Directorate, or CPD. “AWA efforts will have a tremendous positive impact on the Army’s ability to assess early network and non-network capabilities that can have significant near term benefits for Soldiers.”
Harris leads the team accountable for designing, configuring and integrating the platforms and vehicles utilized during NIEs and AWAs. CPD works with Program Executive Offices, program managers, and industry, who have a variety of capabilities that are in need of Soldier feedback. To give Soldiers time with those capabilities on Army platforms, engineers created 36 different vehicle designs to support the first official AWA.
“What makes AWAs and NIEs so unique is that the vehicle and network architecture changes twice a year, whereas traditional units spend several years on a single architecture,” said Eric Nevarez, integration chief for Capability Package Directorate. “With the AWA being a joint and coalition event, we face the challenge of aligning each Army AWA architecture with other services and nations.”
AWA 17.1 is expected to include more than 44 different capabilities. Engineers and integrators must focus on important factors when integrating capabilities onto vehicles, such as size, weight, and power. Neglecting any of these factors may affect the interoperability of the systems and the overall performance of the equipment for Soldiers executing the event out in the field.
“What we provide to the AWAs are integrated-vehicle networked platforms that will provide the coalition with a network to rely on for the brigade,” said Nevarez. “We also provide an opportunity for the world to see how these technologies and concepts emerge and show how the Army is taking into consideration the need to evolve from legacy Command, Control, Communication, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance systems and what our team is doing to augment that evolution.”
For AWAs, there is a common theme of collaboration. Several stakeholders participate in this joint and coalition environment, which will facilitate improvements of technologies as well as multinational interoperability between the Army and its allies. The combined effort will help develop and refine new concepts and capability requirements by obtaining Soldier feedback early and often.
“Within this world of modernization, we don’t work in a stovepipe fashion,” explained Nevarez. “Instead, we promote working with all stakeholders, take legacy platforms, rapidly integrate and deliver them to meet the AWA mission in just a matter of months. This exemplifies how the Army is working to improve intra-agency cooperation to make Army priorities happen.”
Photo credit: During the Army Warfighting Assessment 17.1 Fleet Build, a Soldier swiftly inspects his vehicle while inside one of the bays at the Integration Motor Pool at Fort Bliss, Texas. (U.S. Army photo by Vanessa Flores)