FORT MYER, Va. – The U.S. Army this week completed evaluation of a set of technologies that will better align soldier radios, satellite terminals, mission control software and more to help deliver the robust network sought by the service.
Completion of critical design review for Capability Set ’23 means the equipment is relevant, conceptually sound, and cost-effective, among other considerations. It also opens the door to sourcing.
“With each of the design reviews, we look at four things,” Army Maj. Gen. Robert Collins said at an April 26 protest, which was hampered by bad weather. “We look at the requirements, we look at the concepts, the technological maturity and the affordability.”
Capability Set ’23 is intended to improve communications and data sharing capabilities, and focuses on Stryker Brigades, a departure from the infantry-first tactics of the previous set. The systems will soon be shipped to Europe, where further testing and demonstrations will shape go-live decisions.
Collins, as Program Director for Command, Control and Tactical Communications, or PEO C3T, oversees the development and distribution of Army-enhanced hardware and software alongside Brig. Gen. Jeth Rey, director of the network’s cross-functional team.
“One of the things we’re saying is that General Rey, with the network cross-functional team, is really focused on the ‘what’, the vision, the data types, the transport agnostic, the security and zero trust,” Collins said. “And where I come in is kind of the ‘how’, the acquisition. How do we acquire, how do we procure?
The Army is seeking $2.65 billion in fiscal year 2023 for the NCFT, up from $2.6 billion this year.
Capability Set ’23 also opens the door to electronic and cyber warfare, brings in additional players for a more holistic approach, emphasizes the division as a unit of action, and begins to lay the foundations for a command and joint cross-domain control, the Pentagon’s campaign to connect disparate systems and better share information across land, air, sea, space and cyber.
“In previous wars, the difference between a good call and a bad call could be minutes,” Collins said. “In the future battlespace, that difference between a good decision and a bad decision can be seconds or milliseconds. So the network allows you to tie it all together, synthesize that information, and be able to present it to the people who have to make that decision. »
Network modernization is a priority for the military as the service transitions to multi-domain operations and grapples with compromised communications environments.
Elements of Capability Set ’23 will be included in Project Convergence ’22, the Army’s JADC2 experiment where advanced technology is put to the test. What is learned will likely influence the ’25 ability set more than ’23.
The capability set initiative began in fiscal year 2021, with combined upgrades planned in 2023, 2025, 2027, and beyond. The two-year increase, Collins said Tuesday, is the “sweet spot.”
“Now obviously we’re doing things from a cyber vulnerability perspective, from a patching perspective ‘much faster,’ he said. “But when you look at logistics, you look at training, two years is about the right set of abilities.”
Capability Set ’21 was the foundation of Capability Set ’23, and the Army had nearly completed outfitting a Seventh Brigade Combat Team with related gear by 20 April. Nine teams were waiting for the upgrades.
On April 26, the military said Capability Set ’23 was “in short-term development”; ’25 was “in technology maturation and prototyping”; and the design goals for ’27 merged.
“The network is the backbone of everything we do, and data is our new ammunition,” said Lt. Gen. James Richardson, acting commanding general of Army Futures Command, which oversees cross-functional teams, in a press release. “All the experimentation we do today tells us where we are going for the future.”
Colin Demarest is a reporter at C4ISRNET, where he covers networking and computing. Colin previously covered the Department of Energy and its National Nuclear Security Administration — namely nuclear weapons development and Cold War cleanup — for a South Carolina daily.