The Army lays out its objectives for this month's NIE 13.2

WIN-T Inc 2, Nett Warrior and other tactical communications systems now testing at White Sands Missile Range.

The Army is testing how its forces stay connected and aware of their surroundings while they maneuver on the battlefield. A fully equipped brigade is conducting operations in New Mexico’s vast White Sands Missile Range as part of the service’s bi-annual Network Integration Evaluation 13.2, which runs throughout the month of May. The unit will try out new communications and networking equipment to see how they work while on the move in the field.

For this event, the Army is continuing its evaluation of Increment 2 of the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T); the Nett Warrior soldier communications and situational awareness system that connects through the Rifleman Radio; the Joint Battle Command Platform; and the Tactical Communications and Protective System. Besides the operational focus areas and new systems, NIE 13.2 is also examining at how commanders use all of these components in a single network, said COL David Miller, deputy commander of the Army’s Brigade Modernization Command, who briefed reporters last week on NIE 13.2.

The Army is also testing systems such as tactically deployed networks, extending the network to soldiers, the common operational picture, network-enabled air-to-ground communications integration, and understanding cyberspace capabilities as force protection, Miller said. The Army is also looking at capabilities that improve collaborative decision making, allow unit communications tasking orders to be reorganized across the network and to reduce network complexity through soldier training and education.

A big part of NIE 13.2 is mission command on the move, which Miller explains goes beyond just testing hardware to more effectively use networking technology. “Mission command is not a technical, physical piece of equipment. It is an intellectual concept,” he said. Effective mission command requires a dialogue between all echelons.

From recent experience in counterinsurgency operations, Miller noted that most of the tactical intelligence is generated from the lower echelon units, but there was often a disconnect between the tactical and the strategic views because of a lack of communications between commanders at different levels. If forces have no unified strategic and tactical view “you get bogged down in a quagmire,” he said.

In this case, the NIE allows the Army to understand how orders moving across all echelons interact through a spectrum of events, from full-on combat through peacekeeping and disaster relief missions. As in previous years, the results of the evaluation will allow the service to see which systems and equipment allow warfighters and commanders to make more effective decisions while on the move, Miller said.

At the heart of the Army’s efforts is how to best match up and balance physical gear and systems with the techniques and training needed to use them efficiently. “We’ know we’re not going to get it right today, we’re going to get it partially right.” Miller said.

Soldier Feedback

Soldier feedback is at the heart of the NIE. As troops test out new systems, the results are plugged into modifications in future capability sets—the annual packages of tested and approved equipment issued to Army units as the refit prior to deployment. Miller noted that these changes have already appeared in Capability Set 13, and will be a part of future increments.

This year’s NIE will emphasize movement and maneuver across long distances. The Army brigade participating in the exercise, the 1st Armored Division’s 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team is simulating an overseas deployment, moving from Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, and traveling 100 miles to the far end of the nearby White Sands missile range.

The testing will see how effectively the network operates on the move and provides commanders and soldiers with a common operating picture said COL David Wellons with the Army’s Operational Test Command. Once the brigade arrives it will conduct force protection operations in a simulated friendly nation.

The results of previous NIEs have already saved the Army $6 billon dollars because the service avoided purchasing unsuitable systems, Wellons said. By combining soldier feedback in the selection and acquisition process, the Army can be sure that the gear meets soldiers’ needs, he added.

Training is also key and the information collected from the event is plugged into the training and operational doctrine for the systems. He added that soldiers in the field are unhappy using equipment they’re unfamiliar with, making it vital that the training and doctrine are worked out beforehand. “It’s important that we test this here,” Wellons said.

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