Thursday, August 6, 2009

US Military Assesses Tactical Cellular Capability

Focus on Defense

Focus on Defense:

WASHINGTON, Aug. 6, 2009 -- The following news release made available Wednesday by the U.S. Joint Forces Command is the text of an article discussing broadband cellular technology on the battlefield:

U.S. Joint Forces Command's (USJFCOM) Joint Capability Test and Evaluation Division, the Joint Systems Integration Center (JSIC), and the Joint Fires Integration and Interoperability Team (JFIIT) recently conducted a limited operational assessment (LOA) of a broadband cellular capability for use at the tactical level.

The assessment, that ran July 20-24, explored a capability that provides tactical level military units with software-enhanced netbooks and cellular personal digital assistants with blue force tracking, e-mail, whiteboard, chat, streaming video, Internet, video-teleconferencing, and voice over secure internet protocol functionality in remote areas with limited communication access.

"The primary goal of a tactical cellular capability is to enhance small military unit situational awareness by providing a hand-held, wideband communications system capable of voice, data, and video," said Air Force Master Sgt. Wayne Wright, Tactical Cellular project lead at JSIC. "This exercise, combined with our past limited user assessments, will provide the critical information needed so that a comprehensive report about this system can be given to USJFCOM. This report will help impact future fielding decisions about this technology."

An integral part of the LOA included military members with recent experience in Afghanistan or Iraq. Their feedback, based on first-hand knowledge, was invaluable in identifying capabilities required.

Wright said special operations forces (SOF) and conventional small units use many tactical radio systems that are large and non-multifunctional with limited capability to support the data-dominated environment on today's battlefield.

"We believe this capability, combined with other communication systems currently fielded, will take another step towards improving small unit situational awareness on the battlefield and increase our combat effectiveness and help save lives," said Wright.

Another significant element of this assessment was the use of universal joint tasks (UJTs). These basic tasks, as determined by joint force commanders, are considered essential to the success of any joint task force.

According to LOA organizers, UJTs have not been used historically in service assessment methodologies, and this effort represents a ground breaking approach.

"UJTs provide the necessary boundaries and authoritative sources to frame and evaluate technological advancements or enhancements to accurately accomplish military tasks jointly," said Bob Summitt, JFIIT senior analyst. "They serve as a map to guide military operations and identify how well tasks should be performed - it's an absolutely critical element of this LOA."

The idea is to assess the system's functionality, effectiveness, and suitability while executing test threads based on steps selected from tactical UJTs.

Joe Gordon, JFIIT technical advisor and the tactical cellular LOA lead stated, "This approach affords us the opportunity to collect application and network performance data and analyst observations while operators use tactical cellular capabilities to execute their mission tasks."

Air Force Maj. Gen. William Rajczak, deputy director of USJFCOM's Joint Capability Development Directorate (J8), believes strongly in the value of this technology and the methodology used in the evaluation.

"We're trying to accelerate the fielding of capabilities that really make a difference to the warfighter. Every operator that we've talked to that's touched this equipment has said how useful it would be in the field - it's a real game changer," said Rajczak.
(Report by Navy Cmdr. Thomas Thompson and Marie La Touche, USJFCOM JFIIT.)

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