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.
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.