Army pushing to get Secure Wi-Fi onto battlefields

| January 18, 2018 | 0 Comments

FORT IRWIN, Calif. — Vehicles from 1st Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment hold their positions during movement to engage elements of the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, in the National Training Center, April 2, 2017. The purpose of this training exercise was to challenge the “Raiders” Brigade in mounted combat, in an attempt to subsequently seize an urban objective. (U.S. Army photo by Pvt. Austin Anyzeski, 11th ACR)

Availability could gain strategic edge over enemies in the field

Amy Walker
PEO C3T/PM Tactical Network Public Affairs

FORT IRWIN, California — In support of ongoing efforts to make command posts more resilient, mobile and survivable, the Army is pushing to get Secure Wi-Fi to the field to help gain an operational edge against potential peer and near-peer adversaries.

Following the relocation of a command post on the battlefield, referred to as a “jump,” Secure Wi-Fi enables critical network and mission command systems to come up online in minutes, versus waiting many hours for Soldiers to wire a command post for network connectivity.

The 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division successfully piloted this Secure Wi-Fi capability for a second time during decisive action training at the National Training Center, or NTC, here, which concluded in November 2017.

The 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division successfully piloted the Army’s National Security Agency-accredited Secure Wi-Fi capability for a second time during decisive action training at the National Training Center, at Fort Irwin, California, in November 2017. (U.S. Army photo)

During this realistic combat training event, the unit fought against a capable adversary and used Secure Wi-Fi extensively throughout its brigade command post to speed maneuver, provide continuity of mission command and remain a step ahead of enemy forces.

“The key benefit provided by Secure Wi-Fi is the velocity that it brings to (the set up of) my mission command systems,” said Col. Michael Adams, commander of 1st ABCT, 3rd ID. “Near-peer adversaries are much more capable than enemies we trained against previously. In a decisive action training environment, (armed with Secure Wi-Fi), we are much faster and more mobile, and that equates to survivability.”

The unit successfully used Secure Wi-Fi to provide untethered network connections to enable secure wireless voice, video and data exchange on more than 60 unclassified computers and 100 classified computers and mission command systems, such as Command Post Of the Future. At any given point during this event, there were at least 60 active Secure Wi-Fi users inside the brigade main command post, known as the Tactical Operations Center, or TOC, Adams said. The only wired systems that were not allowed to be wired were those Army mission command systems that were waiting to receive Army authority to operate on Secure Wi-Fi.

“The win was that once the Wi-Fi system was up, I could get everyone up at the same time across the entire staff,” Adams said. “It’s a colloquialism; many hands make light work, but it’s also an ability to fuse the actions of the entire brigade combat team across all warfighting functions.”

Similar to the Wi-Fi used in most homes, the Army’s National Security Agency-accredited solution provides wireless network connectivity inside the command post, with added layers of security. Secure Wi-Fi is managed by the Army’s Product Manager Network Modernization, assigned to Project Manager Tactical Network.

Without wireless capability, establishing a network in a typical brigade command post takes many hours and requires dozens of boxes of expensive CAT 5 network cable that weigh hundreds of pounds.

Every time a command post is jumped, the cables have to be cut, laid out, configured and plugged in, and often replaced because of damage and continual wear and tear. Protective flooring has to be laid over the wiring, making it difficult to troubleshoot network issues.

Secure Wi-Fi can eliminate these hurdles since its small remote access points provide quick and easy network connections throughout the entire command post within minutes.

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