While Army modernization efforts are all about the network—ask anyone involved in the effort since its Future Combat Systems days—if you strolled through the service’s Program Executive Office for Integration’s elaborate two-level, Hesco-enclosed display at AUSA this week, you would have seen that it’s also about something else: a variety of handheld devices.
First off is the new, improved Nett Warrior, which has shed its Soldier Ground Ensemble/Land Warrior/’Old’ Nett Warrior 12-15 lbs. of sensors, monocles, GPS devices and keypads for something a little simpler: an “End User Device” (see: smartphone) plugged into a Joint Tactical Radio System-compliant Rifleman’s Radio. The whole thing weighs just about 3 lbs., and gives you all the capabilities that the 15 lbs. of gear did with the added bonus of its intuitive, smartphone-like design.
As Maj. Bill Veneble walked me through station after station inside the wire, we came up to the Joint Battle Command-Platform, and its handheld option, the JBC-P Handheld. When the smartphone-like Handheld is plugged into a radio, it provides the dismounted soldier with Blue Force Tracker and the Tactical Ground Reporting (TIGR) system, which allows the soldier to access the latest incident reports, maps, and other battlefield reporting products.
This gear is only a small slice of the Army’s new NIE-centric testing process, in which industry submits technologies to the service, which then selects those that meet its needs, and takes them down to Ft. Bliss for testing in an operational environment.
The Army is looking for “heavy and intense industry involvement” in its NIE program, Col. John Morrison, Director G3/5/7 LandWarNet said this week at AUSA. The next round of testing is slated to begin at the end of this month, and will be focused on WIN-T (Warfighter Information Network-Tactical) network integration, which provides network integration down to the company level.
The NIE puts an entire 3,800-soldier brigade in the field in order to test and evaluate a host of communications and sensor technologies, and Maj. Gen. Genaro Dellarocco, Commander of the Army Test and Evaluation Command (ATEC) says that the service is starting to codify its procedures and testing methods, while working on bringing down the overall costs of the testing program. (Army officials said last year that the tests ran about $100 million.)
The physical integration of legacy Army radios, tablets, smart phones, unmanned assets and sensors, and other communications equipment that are being connected to the battle network was more difficult than the Army envisioned, Col. Dan Hughes, Director System of Systems Integration ASA(ALT) said during a panel discussion, adding that such problems were the reason the Army wanted to do the tests in the first place.
Dellarocco added that the NIE is “changing our culture a little bit” when it comes to testing and acquisition, adding that one of the service’s goals is to get the other services involved in future tests.