Video: Army to Test Battlefield Network

The U.S. Army plans to conduct a key test of the next installment of a battlefield communications network made by General Dynamics Corp. this month at Fort Bliss, Texas.

The system, known in military parlance as Warfighter Information Network – Tactical, or WIN-T, Increment 2, is a high-speed, high-capacity communications network for the war zone. It uses radios, satellites and antennae on blast-resistant trucks to provide troops with mobile voice and data communications.

The product is one of five major systems under review this month as part of the Army’s so-called Network Integration Evaluation, the fifth in an ongoing series of semi-annual exercises that began in 2011. A lot is riding on the assessment, according to the Army.

“A successful test will enable the Army to keep fielding WIN-T Increment 2 to operational units,” the service said in an overview of the systems under review.

Soldiers with the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, are already deploying to Afghanistan with the service’s next-generation communications system that includes smart phone-compatible radios developed under the Joint Tactical Radio System and Nett Warrior programs.

See related video, “Soldiers Test New Radios at Polk.”

The Army has called upgrading its battlefield network its “foremost investment priority.”

WIN-T is at the heart of those efforts, though in a test last year the second part of the program was found “not suitable due to poor reliability and maintainability and not survivable,” according to a January report from J. Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon’s top weapons tester.

The Army says it “has aggressively pursued and implemented corrective actions to address the areas identified for improvement during the previous test,” according to the review.

The second installment of the program is estimated to cost $6.2 billion for 2,846 units, a 64-percent increase in cost from 2007, according to a Government Accountability Office report from March.

Funding for WIN-T and other programs may be threatened this year as the Army grapples with a budget shortfall due to automatic spending cuts and high-than-expected war costs. The service may face an imbalance of more than $15 billion, Army Secretary John McHugh and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno have said. The situation is hurting its ability to prepare for war, they said.

In a lobbying blitz, General Dynamics and its suppliers reportedly deployed hundreds of officials to Capitol Hill last month to argue against plans to transfer funding from the program.

About the Author

Brendan McGarry
Brendan McGarry is the managing editor of Military.com. He can be reached at brendan.mcgarry@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.
  • USS ENTERPRISE

    “General Dynamics and its suppliers reportedly deployed hundreds of officials to Capitol Hill last month to argue against plans to transfer funding from the program.” Not surprising. They want the money. Please, Gov’t, fund this. We are going away from the defense contractors. Look at one of the last com systems the US had resulted in, the Internet. If the gov’t allows, I would love to see what this results in (hopefully more than just a battlefield network).

  • gezzr

    I wonder how long it would take a set of Chinese, NK, or Iranian hackers to pwn a battlefield network?

    • cenobyte40k

      I don’t think it will be that easy. In general militaries don’t even try to listen to each others radio traffic because the encryption makes it nigh impossible. That’s not to say we don’t use their transmitters to tell us other things, but we are generally not list straight up listening to them.

      • USS ENTERPRISE

        Uhm. I know it was a while back, but didn’t the Allies actively try and SUCCEED in cracking the “Enigma” and the Jap’s code? Is that not “tapping” into someone’s radio network?

      • tmb2

        Oh yes we do. It’s still one of the cheapest forms of gathering intel. There’s a reason listening to police radio traffic is a popular hobby. Even if you don’t have the enemy’s crypto, all you need is for them to forget to use it one day or listen to innocuous conversations over phones and unencrypted walkies that lead to something bigger.

      • johnvarry

        There are whole units and vehicles dedicated to nothing but ELINT gathering.

        • Musson

          The Russians hacked our GPS signals during the Gulf War. That lasted until we adjusted our anti-radiation missiles to go after their jamming stations.

    • bmq215

      Probably quite a while. Crypto has advanced to the point where the free stuff out there takes thousands of supercomputer hours to even attempt to break. Plus if they’re smart this is an isolated network which means that to penetrate it you either have to inject commands (requiring breaking crypto, knowing handshakes, ect.) or have physical access. In the case of the latter you’ve screwed up long before the network became involved.

  • oblatt1

    There are a lot of retirement jobs on the line with this project. That is why handsets that deliver last centuries technology at $2.1.million each and will make no operational difference are considered critical.

  • Nick

    Gotta get the big rollout of hardware made by company X so when you retire you can be a board adviser to company X!

    Wish that was a joke, I’ve personally heard first hand accounts of this happening.

  • GioC

    Good , all the people use smartphones and satellite signal today , you need a great and better system to encript the signals ….. like a “new” navajo code ……. because all in the air could be taked ……. You can’t trust in the machines …….

    • blight_

      You place way too much trust in the Navajo thing. If a single codebook in the instruction schools had made its way to Japan, the entire enterprise would have been toast. Almost everything can be ruined by good espionage.

      Standard crypto techniques will eat a word substitution + alphabet cipher for lunch. Assuming the language is known.

  • GioC

    You can use a doble system for encript the signals …….. machine and human …….. remember II War …….. use the history …… include you will be seek for a third ……

  • RunningBear

    Good ideas are “re-nvented” every twenty years. Today, the kids have to make it to forty before they get the “hang of it”. :)

    Don’t you know!, history is for old people!; not realizing that is how they got to be old. :D

    …oh and RC-12s weren’t just invented for Iraq and A..stan.

  • ConcernedCitizen

    I am worried about electronic emissions. How easy is it to spot a bunch of electromagnetic energy emitting from each of these sources?

  • Isrrael

    From an operational standpoint this project looks very promising. It would essentially improve efficiency and provide a new infrastructure to the way the Army operates. My only concern is sustainability of the project. Imagine the costs of updating this system. Now that scares me.

  • VMan a V4…
  • snile

    If you are using WIN-T equipment your not trying to hide yourself from anyone… so worrying about EM emissions is kind of moot. WIN-T will be used in big battle groups not necessarily by stealthy special forces.

  • SFP

    There are a lot of retirement jobs on the line with this project. That is why handsets that deliver last centuries technology at $2.1.million each and will make no operational difference are considered critical.

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