Raising the Combat-Ready Comms Bar

The U.S. Army is leveraging traditional mobile network integration to modernize Stryker and armored formations.

By Amy Walker, PM Tactical Network, PEO C3T

From Armor & Mobility, Fall 2021

Army Program Executive Office for Command, Control, Communications-Tactical (PEO-C3T) is leveraging years of lessons learned from fielding tactical on-the-move network capability to Stryker formations to Integrate new network capability set designs into both Stryker and armored formations. The intent is to enhance network mobility and situational awareness, while providing more options for units’ primary, alternate, contingency and emergency communications planning, known as PACE.

Evolving at Mission Speed

Integrated on a variety of tactical and combat vehicles to best suit mission requirements, the Army’s traditional Tactical Network Transport On The Move, or TNT-OTM, leverages robust satellite communications and high-capacity line-of-sight capability to enable mobile mission command, a trusted real-time common operating picture, and global voice, video and data communications. The Army has been fielding and modernizing TNT-OTM integrated on Stryker platforms since 2014.

Most recently, the Army’s Project Manager Tactical Network, assigned to the Program Executive Office for Command, Control, Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T), completed converting the 3rd Cavalry Regiment from TNT-At The Halt capability to TNT-OTM, in September 2021, Fort Hood, TX.
“As the Army transitions away from COIN-centric warfighting [to multi domain operations], maneuverability and speed translate to survivability,” said Maj. Christopher Drescher, signal officer (S6) for the 3rd Cavalry Regiment, during his unit’s training. “If a unit doesn’t have to stop and set up a satellite dish, if they can keep driving and pull data, it gives them an additional layer of survivability and lethality that they didn’t have before.”

Training at the Forefront

Following further hands-on use with the systems, 3rd Cavalry will leverage its new OTM capabilities during decisive action training rotation this spring at the National Training Center, at Fort Irwin, CA, to gain first-hand insight on the extent that the systems could support the unit in real-world large scale and multi domain operations.
“We are a cavalry regiment, but we are also a Stryker brigade combat team; we have the punch of a light infantry brigade and the speed of a motorized formation,” Drescher said. “If these systems work as advertised, they will dovetail nicely with how Stryker brigade combat teams fight.”

Dreshcher explained that his Stryker unit provides high mobility with combat effectiveness mainly derived from dismounted Soldiers. Missions include reconnaissance and surveillance, with squads rapidly moving far forward in the fight to “screen the battlefield and find the enemy,” to pass data and situational awareness back to the fires units so they can engage, or to higher headquarters so decisions can be made on how to successfully move forward into the battle.

Enhancing Tactical Network Thru Net Mod

Building on the network foundation laid by TNT-OTM Stryker integrations, the Army is currently integrating the 2nd Cavalry Regiment’s Stryker platforms with new commercial systems from the first of its two-year iterative network modernization capability sets (CS), CS21. The unit is providing feedback on these CS21 capabilities as part of a Stryker characterization effort to inform CS23 designs.

CS21 provides new data radios, more expeditionary satellite communications gear, updated mission command applications and cross domain solutions/gateways to allow units to better communicate with coalition partners and across commercial and military networks. The CS23 network design informed by this integration effort will be focused on providing Stryker formations with better on-the-move communications, better linkages between mounted and dismounted Soldiers, and a variety of connectivity options for commanders through the new more flexible and expeditionary network capability known as Integrated Tactical Network (ITN).

The ITN approach injects new commercial components and network transport capabilities into the Army’s tactical network environment to provide maneuver brigades and below with smaller, lighter, faster and more flexible communications systems. Adding mounted ITN capabilities allows commanders to maintain battalion-wide terrestrial voice and data network and enables Soldiers to operate over the Secure But Unclassified enclave while transitioning between dismounted and mounted operations. The Stryker characterization will enhance mounted, on-the-move and at-the-quick-halt ITN capabilities.

After-action review comments from 2nd Cavalry Regiment’s participation in the Army’s annual large-scale European Saber Junction exercise in September 2021, gathered by U.S. Army Operational Test Command and assessed by U.S. Army Evaluation Center, will inform the network characterization in preparation for follow-on testing in the form of the CS23 Technical Test and Operational Demonstration in fiscal year (FY) 2022. On the current timeline, the 2nd Cavalry Regiment Stryker characterization effort will conclude in FY22, marking the unit as the first Stryker unit equipped with CS21 ITN.

Meanwhile, the Army is also leveraging lessons learned from traditional, TNT-OTM Stryker integration and the Stryker characterization effort to inform CS25, as it prepares for an upcoming pilot this winter to evaluate a variety of new and emerging commercial OTM network communications prototype solutions integrated onto select armored brigade combat team vehicle platforms. The Army is working side-by-side with industry partners and the pilot unit — the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, at Fort Stewart, Georgia – to evaluate potential solutions that could deliver resilient OTM network communications to these lethal formations.

Ongoing Operations-Ready Evaluation

Like the Stryker characterization effort, the Army will evaluate mature and emerging commercial network communications equipment leveraging an array of experiments, technical observations and Soldier touch points, and user feedback will be critical to the initial ABCT OTM solution set.
Throughout all capability set development efforts, the Army is using proven industry standards to conduct Soldier-driven experimentation to inform Soldier-centric network designs. This approach puts the warfighter at the center of the process, informs less prescriptive requirements, and allows for incremental insertion of capabilities that keep pace with emerging threats and IT technology trends.

“Building on lessons learned from previous platform network integrations, coupled with Soldier feedback and close working relationships with the S&T community and industry partners, we will deliver the advanced technologies Soldiers will need to achieve dominance in multi domain operations,” said John Gillette, product manager for Mission Network, Project Tactical Network, which manages TNT-OTM fielding and the ABCT OTM pilot. “While we integrate current technologies, we will continue to look at emerging capabilities, such as multi-orbit satellite communications, to retain technological advantage over our adversaries.”