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Enabling the soldiers' network

Sep. 13, 2013 - 04:04PM   |  
By CHRIS MARZILLI   |   Comments
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In the 2014 Army Equipment Modernization plan, Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army chief of staff, said, “We can never know with certainty what lies ahead, but it is clear the Army must be capable of conducting many missions, at many speeds in diverse environments, all while maintaining a decisive advantage over any adversary.”

Two critical enablers to maintaining a decisive advantage are the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical Increment 2 — the Army’s No. 1 modernization priority — and the AN/PRC-154a Rifleman and AN/PRC-155 two-channel Manpack radios. Combined, they form the soldiers’ network that ensures soldiers are always connected and never alone.

The Army has put WIN-T Increment 2 and the PRC-154a Rifleman and PRC-155 Manpack through their paces. In hundreds of evaluations reflecting the full spectrum of Army operations, the radios and the network perform, ensuring that when soldiers are in combat, their connection to the soldiers’ network remains available, secure and constant. This connectivity makes soldiers more efficient and effective, and keeps them safer as they conduct “many missions, at many speeds, in diverse environments.”

Many of the capabilities that WIN-T Increment 2 and the PRC-154a and PRC-155 networking radios deliver to soldiers are new — capabilities that change the way they fight, capabilities that give them the decisive advantage they deserve. For example, soldiers at the squad level now have a radio to replace hand-signal communications. The PRC-154a Rifleman radio, combined with a smartphone, lets soldiers see one another, receive detailed information about their surroundings, and chat, text and collaborate.

Soldiers need to take their network with them wherever they go. Rifleman radios create their own network and, with embedded global positioning, the leader can track the movement and location of every soldier, whether they are inside of a building, a cave or in the middle of a street. As a result, squad leaders using the PRC-154a Rifleman and a smartphone now can see where individual squad members are located.

With WIN-T Increment 2, commanders no longer are tethered to the command post. Instead, they stay connected to the soldiers’ network as they move at mission speed across even the most rugged, isolated terrain.

The Army’s 2014 modernization plan keeps the soldiers’ network and their networking radios a top priority. Acquiring cost-effective, commercial solutions is a critical component to the Army’s acquisition path, and the service’s plan for acquiring the PRC-154a Rifleman and PRC-155 two-channel Manpack radios keeps these radios affordable because competition is baked in. The two qualified manufacturers for each radio will vie for radio production orders, so the Army gets the best price for every radio delivered. Having gone through rigorous testing and qualification, the PRC-154a and PRC-155 guarantee the promise of secure, consistent connectivity to the soldiers’ network.

The soldiers' network is in the field

As part of the Army’s Capability Set 13, the 3rd and 4th Brigade Combat Teams of the 10th Mountain Division and Division Headquarters of the 101st Airborne Division are the first to deploy with WIN-T Increment 2 and the PRC-154a Rifleman networking radios. The 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, recently deployed to Afghanistan as part of the U.S. military’s Security Forces Advise and Assist Team.

An Army communications officer assessed the new capability in a recent Army news story: “As SFAAT missions evolve, soldiers will no longer be tied to fixed U.S. bases and secure network infrastructure, so maintaining communications through WIN-T Increment 2 while assisting the Afghans is a ‘tremendous capability’ to bring to the effort, said Maj. Graham Wood, brigade communications officer for 3rd BCT, 10th Mountain Division.”

General Dynamics works closely with the Army to keep WIN-T Increment 2 agile and relevant to the soldier’s mission. By applying soldiers’ feedback, we are adding new capabilities, making it easier to use, while reducing the system’s overall cost. On the radio side, we demonstrated recently how the two-channel PRC-155 Manpack radio bridged and boosted voice and data messages from a soldier’s Rifleman radio, meant for close-in communications, up hundreds of miles to an on-orbit Mobile User Objective System satellite using the second channel on the PRC-155. With that capability, no soldier will be “out of range” of the soldiers’ network.

General Dynamics is committed to supporting the Army’s 2014 modernization plan. More than 7,000 skilled professionals, working for more than 500 businesses nationwide, ensure the delivery of the soldiers’ network — and focus on reducing the network’s cost while increasing its capability.

Chris Marzilli is the President of General Dynamics C4 Systems.


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