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Network Integration Evaluation: Aviation plays key role in maturing tactical network

Soldiers from 4th Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, maneuver an all-terrain vehicle into a CH-47 Chinook helicopter during Network Integration Evaluation 14.2 on Fort Bliss, Texas, May 1. (Photo by Sgt. Vincent Byrd)

Soldiers from 4th Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, maneuver an all-terrain vehicle into a CH-47 Chinook helicopter during Network Integration Evaluation 14.2 on Fort Bliss, Texas, May 1. (Photo by Sgt. Vincent Byrd)

Published: October 30, 2014

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (October 30, 2014) -- Army Aviation plays a key role in semi-annual evaluations designed to integrate and mature the Army’s tactical network.

The Network Integration Evaluation, conducted at the Fort Bliss, Texas, and White Sands Missile Range Complex, New Mexico, provides a robust and realistic operational environment to evaluate network and other capabilities and to gain Soldier feedback on the value of these capabilities in an operational scenario.

Army Aviation participated in every NIE since inception in 2011. Aviation’s participation in the event remains crucial, according to Ellis Golson, director of the Aviation Capability Development and Integration Directorate, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence.

“Army doctrine states that we fight as a combined arms team, and the architecture and design of the future tactical network must reflect that doctrine. Army Aviation must maintain its role as a primary member of that team and must be fully integrated into the Army’s future network,” Golson said.

Aviation units provide a representative force to fully incorporate air-ground operations into realistic combat scenarios and evaluation events. Units that have participated include the 1st Infantry Division Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division’s 6/6th Cavalry Squadron and the 1st Armored Division Combat Aviation Brigade.

The challenge facing Aviation is keeping pace with the network communications technology developed and capabilities provided to the ground brigade combat teams, as the Army’s network matures.

The Army’s ground maneuver forces are being equipped with new communications capabilities, including the new Nett Warrior Rifleman’s Radio, which operates on the Soldier Radio Waveform, the second generation of Blue Force Tracking and soon the Mid-Tier Networking Vehicle Radio that operates on both the SRW and the Wideband Network Waveform.

The intent of these systems is to facilitate increased data capacity and transmission speeds across the tactical network to enhance situational awareness and maintain uninterrupted connectivity for the commander on the ground.

Army Aviation, as the maneuver commander’s primary combat multiplier, must stay synchronized with the BCTs while operating over the Army’s tactical network.

With Aviation’s ability to rapidly traverse across a division’s area of operations, it is essential that Aviation maintains interoperability and simultaneous communications with multiple BCTs and other supporting units.

Army Aviation currently uses the Single Channel Air-Ground Radio System as the primary means of communications in all platforms.

The Army is developing the Small Airborne Network Radio that will be installed in all Aviation platforms to work with the new networking waveforms, as well as future ground radios.

The NIE is the perfect venue to analyze and develop these procedures in an operational environment.

In past NIEs, the USAACE and the Program Executive Office, Aviation experimented with and evaluated network gateways that allow SINCGARS equipped aircraft to communicate with SRW equipped ground radios.  The SRW experimentation at NIE is just one of the many efforts utilized to establish interim solutions and procedures to network challenges.

During the spring 2014 NIE event, the Aviation team demonstrated several innovative capabilities for managing data that clearly showed the potential for the mission command network to make significant improvements in its ability to share information within the combined arms team.

“The development of the Army’s network is an essential aspect of an expeditionary 21st century Army and is therefore the service’s No. 1 modernization priority,” said Col. Mark Moser, director, Concepts and Requirements Directorate at USAACE.

“In order for Army Aviation to remain viable in air-ground operations, it must remain in lockstep with the ground forces as the network develops,” Moser said. “It must continue to prove its viability in the realistic environment of the NIE.”

This article was originally published at http://www.army.mil/article/137277/

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