Army Modernization Moves Back into the Field

Article excerpt

In late May, the U.S. Army's 2nd Brigade Combat Team (BCT), 1st Armored Division (2/1 AD), began deploying out of Fort Bliss, Texas, for the field at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., where they will spend the next six weeks conducting the 2011 Network Integration Evaluation (NIE).

The pending NIE will facilitate formal testing for six "program of record" systems while also offering what planners dub an operationally relevant event to evaluate more than 20 additional networked and nonnetworked systems that could fill key near-term capability gaps. In addition, the JuneJuly NlE is the first in a series of four events that will lead to executing a fully integrated brigade combat team network evaluation at the end of 2012.

The evaluation is an outgrowth of the Army's Early Infantry Brigade Combat Team (E-IBCT) effort, with planners now looking at the better alignment of both tactical and global networks with the additional linkage of those networks for the Army force generation (ARFORGEN) model. The process will better connect enhanced capabilities to deploying units, allow the integration of network capabilities to occur prior to deployment and field those capabilities in "capability sets."

Although the predecessor E-IBCT "spin outs" or "increments" [see "Army Evaluation Task Force Expands Increment 1 Testing," ARMY, December 20101 helped build the baseline, waveforms and connectivity for the current effort, that network was not completely aligned with the other supporting capabilities. In addition, the earlier E-IBCT efforts featured a high reliance on the ability to pass sensor data throughout the brigades. The reality, according to several program participants, was that the 2010 evaluations showed that soldiers at all levels -most importantly, the small-unit levels - really preferred connectivity and the ability to collaborate throughout the brigade. That connectivity will be an important feature of the 2011 and 2012 evaluations.

The four tests that culminate in the Integrated Network Test in fall 2012 will solidify what Capability Set [fiscal year] 2013-14, seen by some as "a bridge solution," will look like. The Army is also beginning to introduce additional capabilities into this process that will look at the "out years" capability sets, with Capability Set 2015-16 currently viewed as "the first fully integrated package."

The imminent NIE marks a number of firsts for the Army, including the first time that the Army has dedicated a full brigade to this level of testing and evaluation. The evaluation brigade, 2/1 AD, currently has the role - without formal designation - of the Army Evaluation Task Force (AETF). The formerly designated 5/1 AD (AETF) was a limited-size element that was reflagged as the full-size 2/1 AD at the end of last year.

According to COL Daniel Pinnell, commander of 2/1 AD and former commander of 5/1 AD (AETF), "The construct for this summer will have the entire brigade in the field at a reasonable distance and dispersion for a brigade. That will allow us to get at all of the digital questions we have to answer - ranges and capabilities of each one of the digital and voice systems."

This summer's brigade organization includes three maneuver battalions. One of the combined arms battalions, which would normally be a Bradley/ Abrams mix, will be 100 percent mine resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicles, split between MRAP all-terrain vehicles, MaxxPros and some Caimans, to be used fundamentally in command post roles. The second combined arms battalion is a traditional combined arms battalion, trained and equipped with Abrams and Bradleys. …