In response to feedback from soldiers requesting easier and faster ways to plan and manage the Army’s advanced software defined radios, such as the 2-Channel Chief Radio, the service is piloting a new suite of software tools that reduces the time required to initialize, plan and load the equivalent of a brigade of radios, from four weeks to a few minutes. Amy Walker, PM Tactical Network, PEO C3T Public Affairs, explains.
A forward observer from the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division uses components of the Integrated Tactical Network during a live-fire exercise at Camp Atterbury, Indiana in January 2019. (Image source: Kathy Bailey, PEO C3T Public Affairs )
These new, user-friendly software prototypes also lay the foundation for rapid reorganization of unit tasks and allow tasks once performed by advanced signals soldiers to be performed by general-purpose users for increased operational flexibility.
The Army’s Program Executive Office for Command, Control, and Tactical Communications (PEO C3T) leveraged its Unified Network Operations Mid-Level Acquisition Authority (UNO MTA) to develop these pioneering capabilities. in just three months, compared to a traditional fully custom Army development effort that would have taken 12-18 months or more. “Our new user-friendly network operations planning and management software prototypes work hand-in-hand to initialize, plan and load a brigade’s radios faster than ever before,” said Cpt. Nicholas Milano, Assistant Product Manager for Tactical Cyber & Network Operations, Project Manager Tactical Network, assigned to PEO C3T. “Each integrated software works in unison in an end-to-end network planning and initialization workflow.”
The suite of prototype software tools includes:
– The Integrated Scheduler: A global system that schedules and creates configuration files for many network elements, including Software Defined Radios supporting the Army Tactical Network. This scheduler was developed to integrate or replace existing network schedulers.
– Network Operations Management System (NOMS): A global prototype system used to manage the network and support unclassified, classified, and coalition network enclaves with a common look, feel, feel, and functionality.
– Initialization Tool Suite (ITS): Allows soldiers to manage and modify the design of their network initialization data products in the field in a theater. Data products provide the information necessary to enable end-to-end network connectivity and interoperability on the Army Tactical Internet.
— Codex: an authoritative database with a common data model and open application programming interfaces (APIs), enabling standard access to the design of the data product network. APIs allow applications to “talk” to each other.
— Atom: A simplified radio planner that provides an intuitive workflow and an open API that uses the data product network design to deliver a radio waveform plan. The Atom prototype will inform future capability and provisioning improvements and decisions for the new end solution to support existing and emerging planning requirements, potentially replacing the legacy common enterprise network management capability .
–Black Sails: A simplified radio configuration tool that uses the waveform plane via an open API to configure inferior tactical software-defined Internet radios. Atom and Black Sails work hand in hand – Atom creates the plan and Black Sails generates the configuration files and loads the radios.
The UNO MTA helps the PEO rapidly deliver a more robust, integrated, and standardized set of network management capabilities that enable soldiers from the tactical edge to the corps to plan, configure, manage, monitor, provision, and secure /defend their network assets. UN efforts are simplifying and reducing the number of tools soldiers use to manage and defend the tactical communications network.
“We are leveraging OTAs to prototype solutions to configure and integrate tactical and enterprise networks, enabling information and communications distribution between soldiers at all echelons, using prioritized network resources based on of the commander’s intent,” Milano said.
To create the unified radio planning and management software suite, the UNO MTA team of teams focused on prototyping commercial off-the-shelf software applications for network planning and management, by integrating them into existing government programs and then quickly inserting them into military formations to gain feedback for further improvements and to support future Army capability decisions.
The team works with operational units to pilot these software tools and leverage soldier feedback to inform requirements as part of the development of the Army Integrated Tactical Network, or ITN. ITN capabilities work together to enable commanders to leverage military and commercially available networks for secure and reliable multipath communications and information sharing between military, joint and coalition partners. ITN’s off-the-shelf commercial equipment includes new expeditionary satellite terminals, line-of-sight link, mobile broadband kits, radio waveforms, dual channel leader radio, single channel radios , end-user devices, network gateways, unified network operations tools and data products.
As part of a development operations build, C3T PEO engineers implement the continuous exploration, integration, and deployment of software prototypes that include quarterly soldier touchpoints with various units, including including 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division; 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division; and the 10th Mountain Division. Using this common cadence, each program office has the dedicated resources needed to continuously define, build, test and deliver value to the military, said Keith Whittaker, network planning product manager for PM Tactical Network. “We’re getting continuous feedback on the prototype design, which immediately feeds back into the software development sprint cycles, to be further refined as part of the next quarterly release cycle,” Whittaker said. “This build has already proven its worth, allowing program offices to observe soldiers interacting with mock-up prototypes before a single line of code is ever written.”
Through tenders and technical exchange meetings – initiated by the cross-network functional team – PEO C3T determined the best options for integrating existing capacities with a minimum of development effort. JThroughout the development process of the suite of radio planning and management software tools, the team deliberately laid the foundation for an open framework and open standards, including open APIs. “This open architecture ensures that future DoD software and system developments can more effectively and efficiently share information between systems and more easily and quickly integrate future systems to improve functionality and capabilities,” Whitaker said. . Open construction will be critical to future network modernization efforts as the DoD continues to develop integrated capabilities, such as the ITN, which includes multiple vendors, hardware, software, configurations, and systems that span multiple programs.
— — — — — —
The U.S. Army Project Manager’s Tactical Network is assigned to the Command, Control, and Communications-Tactical Program Executive Office, which develops, acquires, fields, and supports the Army’s Mission Command Network to ensure the force preparation. This critical Army modernization priority delivers tactical communications so commanders and soldiers can stay connected and informed at all times, even in the most austere and hostile environments. PEO C3T provides the network in regions around the world, enabling high-speed, high-capacity voice, data, and video communications to a user base that includes the military’s joint, coalition, and other mission partners.
The Command, Control, Communications – Tactical (PEO C3T) Program Executive Office provided a leadership professional development session to the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Aug. 26, 2019, in preparation for the implementation in service of the capabilities of the integrated tactical network. (Image source: 1st BCT, 82nd Airborne Division Public Affairs)