Story and photo by
System of Systems Integration Directorate; Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — In October, the Army will begin fielding the first integrated group of networked technologies — radios, sensors and associated equipment and software — that will, for the first time, deliver an integrated voice and data capability throughout the entire brigade combat team, or BCT, formation — from the brigade commander to the dismounted Soldier.
This networked package, known as Capability Set 13, or CS 13, is the Army’s tactical network baseline designed to extend the network down to the individual Soldier and significantly enhance Mission Command On the Move and Soldier connectivity.
The connectivity, architecture and components of CS 13 were validated at the service’s most recent Network Integration Evaluation, or NIE 12.2, conducted May-June at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., but the ongoing integration and planning work began months before.
In May, the Army completed the mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle, or MRAP, final design review, which solidified how CS 13 assets will be integrated into that vehicle platform.
Currently, the first five “super configuration” MRAP prototype vehicles are being built at the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center, or TARDEC, in Warren, Mich. The five MRAP super configurations include Soldier Network Extension, as well as Point of Presence, Vehicular Wireless Package, MaxxPro and MRAP-Lite.
“This project is considered a level one because it’s so large,” said Marc Mroczka, project engineer, Center for Ground Vehicle Development and Integration, TARDEC. “There are five trucks, a lot of electronics equipment, a lot of design and a lot of integration.”
Each BCT has more than 300 vehicles, and under the current construct there are 42 combinations under the five super configurations, which allow the Army to build any combination within each configuration without altering the vehicle.
“This allows you to change what you put in a vehicle while protecting the vehicle space,” Mroczka said. “For example, if you needed to swap out a radio for a different one, it can easily be done.
“There is some overlap in the individual systems, but it wasn’t necessary to put every CS 13 system on every vehicle in the NIE,” Mroczka added. “The main thing we had to do was figure out how to pull all those systems together afterward. That’s how we designed the super configurations.”
Soldier feedback has been invaluable, as it has led to many significant design and user interface improvements that are currently being incorporated into the final MRAP configurations.
“One of the things we learned was that both the commander and the driver need to be able to see the display screen in an MRAP,” said Jerry Tyree, lead engineer, System of Systems Integration Directorate, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology.
“Based on Soldier feedback, we were able to move a screen to the back of the seat so the commander and the driver could see what was going on,” Tyree said.
These screens, known as Multi-Domain Atlas, were not part of NIE 12.2, but they will be installed on the CS 13-equipped vehicles.
TARDEC is also working on the design for networked Humvee platforms that will be used as training sets by continental U.S.-based units as they prepare to deploy.
The remaining prototype vehicles to be equipped with CS 13 will be built at the Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, in Charleston, S.C., and the Red River Army Depot in Texarkana, Texas.
Once fully built, they’ll be shipped to Aberdeen Proving Ground, where they will undergo initial safety release and network verification testing beginning mid-August. The last set of vehicles will be shipped mid-September.
Following this, the vehicles will be turned over to the 3rd and 4th brigades from the 10th Mountain Division to begin new equipment training, Oct. 1. The units will train on the equipment until they deploy with CS 13 assets in 2013.
The Army will field CS 13 to eight BCTs, with priority going to deployed forces, units scheduled to deploy next, a forward-stationed brigade in Korea and the 2nd Heavy BCT, 1st Armored Division, which was the first unit to receive CS 13 equipment during NIE 12.2.
The Army will program to field up to six BCT sets of network equipment per year for the fiscal year 2014-2018 Program Objective Memorandum to better synchronize its platform and network modernization efforts.