By June, General Dynamics [GD] C4 Systems will have completed fielding to 211 units the Warfighting Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) Increment 1, providing the Army’s network and equipping soldiers with commercial-world connectivity, a company official said.
“We’ve been fielding that equipment since 2004 when it was the (Joint Network Node) JNN,” said Jim Price, vice president of Tactical Networks for General Dynamics C4 Systems. “We’ve not had to change the fundamental design since day 1.”
WIN-T Inc 1 is “absolutely” the extension of JNN, he said. The WIN-T program was awarded to General Dynamics in 2002, the JNN program began in 2004, and in 2007 the two were merged.
The completed WIN-T Inc 1 fielding will be a major step in the Army’s number one priority: network modernization.
“They will have completely changed out all of the tactical networking equipment that provides the tactical backbone network for all the battalion, brigade, division, corps headquarters on which rides all the command and control and other information the commanders use to see the battlefield and make their command decisions,” Price said.
WIN -T Inc 1 has been deployed to every tactical unit going into combat, and the fielding has been tracked to the force generation process the Army uses to prepare units for deployment.
Hard on the heels of fielding Inc 1, General Dynamics expects to start fielding WIN-T Increment 2, in the fall into the same units that have Inc 1 today, specifically the combat brigade and division headquarters that get Inc 2, Price said.
Most technical testing on Inc 2 is complete, he said. The next major event is the Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) scheduled for May. Once IOT&E is complete there will be a formal full rate production and fielding decision tentatively scheduled for August. General Dynamics already has on order the equipment for one division headquarters and eight combat brigades.
WIN-T Inc 1 uses a satellite connection, while troops are halted. WIN-T Inc 2 is also satellite connected, but has a “significant” line-of-sight microwave with much higher capacity, Price said. Both of those connections are available at the halt, and now with Inc 2, on the move as well. Commanders still will be connected while moving about the battlefield, and they won’t have to get out of a vehicle and go into a tactical operations center to see command and control displays. They can see them in their vehicle.
“Similarly, that headquarters when it’s moving has a capability to operate,” he said. Today, when that headquarters moves, troops pack everything up and rely on a jump command post that is put into operation while the big one is moving.
Inc 2 also has a “much more robust and integrated network management system that more highly couples the planning and the actual monitoring of the active network,” Price said.
“Between the on-the-move capability of the communication and this integrated network management it’s going to be a game-changer for the Army Signal Corps,” he said. “It’s going to provide them a mobility and ease-of-use factor for their big networking equipment that they’ve not had prior to this.”
Further out, WIN-T Increment 3 will provide full networking capability and some added capacity.
“It adds an aerial tier,” Price said. The high capacity line-of-sight systems are still interrupted by mountains or buildings or other terrain features. By putting an aerial tier in “with a high flyer at 20,000 or 25,000 feet, you now work around that,” adding robustness to the line-of-sight network.
Additionally, the aerial layer also allows forces to be more widely dispersed.
“One thing we’ve learned in Afghanistan and Iraq is that our headquarters are much more geographically dispersed than we trained for, say 20 years ago, so it’s harder to connect them with line-of-sight systems–which is why Inc 1 is a satellite backbone,” he said.
Inc 3 will continue to develop technologies that will be infused into Inc 2, all to provide a highly robust mobile network for the Army, part of the service network strategy for the tactical backbone network.
In the future there could be a WIN-T Increment 4. Currently unfunded, such a system would rely on a new, secure satellite system.