WASHINGTON (Army News Service) — Modernization in the Russian military has resulted in exceptional cyber, electronic warfare, and anti-access/area-denial capabilities that have raised concerns in the U.S. Army, particularly in the wake of Russia’s 2014 invasion of Crimea and subsequent involvement in Syria.
FORT BLISS, Texas — A 13-day exercise checking the Army’s battlefield network capabilities of hardware and mission command applications wrapped up here Saturday, and test data is still being collected to evaluate those systems.
Network Integration Evaluation Exercise 16.2 — the 11th iteration since 2011 — evaluated seven systems, to include the latest version of the Command Post Computing Environment (CPCE) version 2, which aims to provide a mission command application experience while also simplifying software and hardware command post infrastructure.
“NIE is the Army’s largest operational exercise that tests and evaluates battlefield communication systems and capabilities, and is our most critical modernization effort,” said Brig. Gen. Kenneth L. Kamper, commander of U.S. Army Operational Test Command, the Army’s only independent operational test organization.
The NIE experience places Soldiers in a desert landscape, 40 miles by 183 miles, wrapping together enormous training areas of Fort Bliss Texas; McGregor Range and White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico; Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico’s Tularosa Basin between the Sacramento and San Andreas mountain ranges.
NIE 16.2 also allows the Army to test two core capabilities: a Command Initiated Munition Weapon System (Spider), and Network Operations with a Network Centric Waveform as an advancement to the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T). The exercise also provides the environment for the operational assessment of the Mid-Tier Networking Vehicular Radio (MNVR).
Kamper said NIE essentially provides capabilities that translate information superiority into combat power by interconnecting Soldiers and systems — no matter where they are on the battlefield — to achieve improved situational awareness, access to knowledge sources and shortened decision cycles on the battlefield.
“NIE tests systems that enable commanders with the information they need to exercise mission command,” Kamper said.
“Our Army continually modernizes equipment because of what Soldiers learn during combat,” Kamper continued. “Our enemies are also advancing their technologies and procedures, so through Soldier feedback and lessons learned, we improve our capabilities.”
Along with equipment improvement, Kamper also said improvements are also made in doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership education systems, personnel support systems, and even in Army facilities used to supply and maintain its equipment.
“This modernization effort throughout our Army is critical to Soldiers taking the fight to our enemies, and returning safely back home,” Kamper said. “Test data is collected from Soldiers and their feedback is provided to improve upon existing and future systems they will ultimately use to train and fight with.”
All of the equipment tested during NIE is part of a coordinated and controlled realistic operational environment scenario by over 2,000 Soldiers of the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division here.
NIE is a collaborative effort between the Brigade Modernization Command — a subordinate unit of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command’s Army Capabilities Integration Center, the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command and the System of Systems, Engineering and Integration Directorate, under the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology.
FORT BLISS, Texas (May 12, 2016) — During battlefield operations, a brigade’s fleet of Warfighter Information Network-Tactical network equipped vehicles are often spread out across great distances and austere terrain, supporting both stationary command posts and on-the-move missions. Newly enhanced and simplified Network Operations tools will make it easier for communications officers (S6s/G6s) to see the “big picture” as they plan, manage and defend the vast tactical mission command network, increasing its security and strength.
FORT BLISS, Texas — Soldiers are getting a hands-on look at the latest enhancements to Army tactical communications equipment during the two-week long Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) 16.2, which kicked off, May 2.
With 2,000 Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division performing combined arms maneuver missions spread out over more than 1,000 miles at Fort Bliss, Texas, the exercise will build on previous NIEs as it evaluates and improves the tactical network.
Utilizing Soldier feedback, the NIEs are designed to help the Army keep pace with rapid advances in communications technologies and deliver integrated network and mission command capabilities, a top Army modernization priority for readiness.
“NIE is really a team-of-teams effort between 1st Armored Division, Operational Test Command and the acquisition community,” said Brig. Gen. Terrence McKenrick, the commanding general of the Brigade Modernization Command (BMC), which helps execute the NIEs on behalf of the Training and Doctrine Command.
Since it was established in 2011, the NIE construct has continuously enhanced the Army’s expeditionary mission command network baseline for fielding to brigade combat teams by incorporating Soldier feedback into system design, performance, functionality and training. NIE 16.2, the eleventh such event, will support two Army program of record tests, as well as informal evaluations of several emerging network enhancement capabilities.
“We have repeatedly seen the value of hands-on Soldier feedback from NIE to help the Army make better decisions in our modernization efforts, while simplifying and cyber-hardening the system of systems network,” said Douglas K. Wiltsie, executive director of the Army’s System of Systems Engineering and Integration Directorate, which helps oversee and execute the NIE process for the acquisition community.
NIE 16.2, which runs through May 14, focuses on evaluating network operations (NetOps) tools that Soldiers use to manage the network, assessing the Army’s next generation of mission command applications, and informing the radio basis of issue for the mid-tier of the Army’s tactical network.
A critical objective of NIE 16.2 is focused on network simplification and management. The Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) Increment 3 NetOps test will look at enhancements that increase visibility and cyber-hardening across the network, while making network management tasks easier and more efficient.
Command post requirements will also be refined during NIE 16.2, with an assessment of the second version of the Command Post Computing Environment, which introduces mission command “apps” and provides commanders improved situational awareness and understanding.
An operational assessment of the mid-tier network will inform the Army on the capability and capacity of the mid-tier and how that capability should be employed throughout the brigade combat team – much the same way previous NIEs conducted similar assessments for the lower tactical internet and upper tactical internet.
While NIE exercises used to be held twice a year, these events will be now be held annually starting with NIE 16.2. In the fall, the Army will hold the first official Army Warfighting Assessment (AWA), a complement to the NIE.
NIEs, to be held each spring, will focus on formal testing and evaluation of network programs of record, while the AWAs, held each fall, will provide an experimental environment to help assess and refine requirements and improve emerging capabilities in a joint and coalition environment. Both events will work to promote innovation, modernization, readiness and developing capabilities for the future force.
“AWA is about innovation – we will work with industry to look at capability that will aid Army readiness, early developmental prototypes that we can evaluate before they are ready for NIE,” McKenrick said. “AWA will help increase the rate of readiness.”
As the Army continues to transition to a regionally aligned, expeditionary force that acts in partnership with joint and coalition forces, exercises such as the NIEs and AWAs will help inform more mobile, scalable and expeditionary network capabilities.
“We are continuously evolving the NIE and AWA construct to meet Army priorities in a resource-constrained environment, while increasing the emphasis on rapid prototyping to get Soldier feedback on leap-ahead technologies,” Wiltsie said.
FORT BLISS, Texas (March 10, 2016) — Before Soldiers can evaluate the latest version of the Army’s on-the-move communications network this spring, hundreds of Army tactical vehicles are receiving technological upgrades within the Integration Motor Pool at Fort Bliss, Texas.
Preparation for the Network Integration Evaluation 16.2, also referred to as NIE, is in full swing. NIEs and Army Warfighting Assessments (AWAs) are complementary events designated to continually assess and rapidly improve the Army’s communications network — including systems that reside on tactical vehicles so Soldiers can stay connected as they cover vast distances and challenging terrain.
Engineers, technicians and Soldiers work together to accomplish the technological upgrades on vehicles in two phases. The first phase is the Golden Vehicle Build, which was completed in February and consists of creating unique prototype vehicles that carry the specific systems to be evaluated in each NIE or AWA event. The second phase is the Fleet Build, when the Golden Vehicle prototypes are utilized as the physical blueprint for the rest of the fleet.
“The ability to configure hundreds of vehicles for NIE and AWA within a few weeks is accomplished with vast preparations and a great team,” said Col. Terrece Harris, director, Capability Package. “Not only do we do this in a short span of time, but we also do this twice a year. It may be tough but we keep in mind our mission is to get this equipment into the hands of our Soldiers.”
The Capability Package Directorate, known as CPD, is responsible for integrating network equipment onto the vehicles utilized during NIE and AWA. It is part of the Army’s System of Systems Engineering and Integration Directorate, which executes the NIEs and synchronized fielding for the network Capability Sets that are proven during the events.
Participating NIE vehicles, equipment and systems are delivered to Fort Bliss from organizations nationwide that support Army modernization. CPD brings all the efforts together by integrating platforms with communications systems, thus making them functional for the NIE’s array of operational tests, evaluations, risk reduction events and demonstrations.
“Without vehicles and associated equipment, there is no NIE,” said Bob Rivas, chief of CPD’s System Integration Division. “We build, install, and integrate all the systems onto platforms that are going to be in the field for Soldiers to operate.”
Preparing such a large number of vehicles requires a detailed schedule and logistics plan — and the ability to adjust both on the fly.
“You need to make sure you have all the vehicles in place, the metal needed to install each system, all the cables, associated hardware, the systems themselves, and most of all you need to have flexibility,” Rivas said.
While the vehicles are being integrated, Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division learn how to operate the technologies through New Equipment Training, or NET. Multiple classes are provided by Program Executive Offices, Project Managers and industry representatives to instruct Soldiers on how to use their equipment. Once the vehicles are built, users get additional hands-on training and reinforcement to prepare them for operational evaluations.
“Once Fleet Build comes to completion, Soldiers are able to utilize the equipment hands-on,” explained Mario Hernandez, lead training specialist for CPD. “Since the technology is new, continuous training and reinforcement is necessary to ensure our Soldiers are familiar with using the equipment, and so they become more proficient before going to test.”
Training is a joint effort between acquisition organizations and the Brigade Modernization Command. Together they determine which Military Occupational Specialties (MOS) need to be trained on each system, to best maximize the proficiencies of Soldiers. Bringing Army and industry instructors and Soldiers together allows for more feedback, informing the development of the technology from an experienced Soldier’s perspective.
Continuously assessing technology with Soldier feedback has become crucial to modernization efforts, which is why the spring NIEs will focus on formal evaluations, while the fall AWAs will have a more experimental environment to shape concepts and requirements.
Photo caption: Wrapping up their day, Capability Package Directorate technicians work on installing equipment onto a High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle during the Network Integration Evaluation 16.2 Fleet Build. U.S. Army Photo by: Vanessa Flores, U.S. Army