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The IT Warrior: Information Technology on the Battlefield
MITRE is working with the U.S. Army to use Internet technology to enhance effectiveness on the battlefield.
Computers and the internet have become important parts of every-day life for millions of people worldwide. We instantly recognize and capitalize on the benefits of the Internet—everything from exchanging jokes via e-mail to trading stocks and buying cars. Just as the commercial world is taking advantage of the Internet, the U.S. Army, in partnership with MITRE, is leveraging Internet technologies to empower its forces to reduce fratricide, enhance the capability of existing weapons, and improve interoperability with the other services.
Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the U.S.S.R., the world's geopolitical landscape has been transformed. In response, the Army is modernizing its forces to counter new threats to U.S. security. The Army, with MITRE, is utilizing commercial information technology to improve the survivability, effectiveness, and interoperability of existing armored vehicles, helicopters, and weapons—capitalizing on existing investments.
In the early 1990s, the Army started experimenting with existing units and commercial information technologies to seamlessly connect ground vehicles and helicopters. These experiments allowed the quick exchange of information to coordinate operations and conduct decisive maneuvers against adversaries. In March 1997 at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, the Army, with MITRE playing a strategic role as network architect, first demonstrated a mobile battlefield Internet—referred to as a Tactical Internet (TI)—using the commercial Internet Protocol (IP) and Cisco routers. This exercise was called "Task Force XXI," and it provided the future vision for the Army.
Since demonstrating the benefits of the information age in 1997, the Army and MITRE have been working closely with commercial companies to enhance commercial information technology for the battlefield. These companies include Sun Microsystems, Microsoft, Oracle, Informix, Motorola, and Cisco Systems, to name but a few. The result is an integrated system of communications equipment, computers, and software delivered to field the first "information age" Army division. At the same time, the U.S. Navy, Marines, and Air Force also have been modernizing using the same commercial technologies to provide a foundation for information exchange and increased interoperability among all the services.
The 4th Infantry Heavy Division, stationed at Fort Hood, is the first Army unit equipped with the latest information technology. Each tank, combat vehicle, and helicopter uses the Global Positioning System (GPS) to identify its location on the battlefield, and, via a wireless TI, each platform's position is shared with every other platform. The position of every friendly unit is displayed automatically on a computer in every platform—helping to ensure that friendly elements are not mistaken for the enemy. Besides providing the location of friendly vehicles, the battlefield TI is used to share other important information such as intelligence about the enemy and status of food, ammunition, and personnel.
Not only can the 4th Infantry Division exchange information and locations among different platforms on the battlefield, but it also has access to information anywhere in the world. Just like any computer user surfing the Web, the 4th Infantry Division is connected to the worldwide Internet via wireless and satellite communications. The battlefield commander has access to the most current information, including video from unmanned aerial vehicles, satellite imagery, and the latest weather reports.
The first of two Capstone exercises, DCX-I, was conducted by the Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) to test the effectiveness of the new digital systems, including Force XXI Battlefield Command Brigade and Battalion (FBCB2), Maneuver Control System (MCS), other supporting Army Battle Command Systems (ABCS), as well as their communication and network systems. In this first test, questions of speed of maneuver/operational tempo, synchronization of fires and maneuver, and information as an element of combat power were given special attention. The second of the two Capstone exercises will be a command post exercise in October. During this exercise, the Army will stress the tactical operations centers and the joint connectivity necessary to conduct Joint operations. If this second exercise is successful, this revolutionary architecture and technology will be fielded worldwide.
MITRE participated in the first exercise and will continue to play a pivotal role in the second and in the evolution of Army Battlefield Command Systems. MITRE engineers contributed directly in the development of the communications/network architecture, security architecture, and command and control software integration in support of the Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communication Systems (PEO C3S).
"Rarely do engineers and product managers have an opportunity to see how their work and products can change the way the Army fights. This division Capstone exercise symbolized the end of the experimental period and the beginning of fielding information-enabled forces. Exercises such as these give us a glimpse of how Network Centric Operations will change the face of land warfare,"; says Fred Stein, Battlefield Command, Control, and Communications (C3) sites manager.
According to John Kreger, Army program area manager (Battlefield Systems division), "The MITRE team worked across department, division, and even Centers to make one of the most complex communications, computation, and network systems work in the real world in near combat conditions."
A team comprising technical staff from Integrated Enterprise Computing, Battlefield Communications and Networks, Strategic and Theater Army Systems, and Fort Hood were directly involved in the development of the router and server topography and architecture. Since Task Force XXI '97, MITRE has enhanced the network through an interactive process, through concept development, modeling and simulation, data collection, and analysis during several exercises leading up to the Capstone exercise. This process ensured the successful deployment of the network/communications architecture. During the Capstone exercise, Yosry Barsoum (Battlefield Systems division) and Shawn Duffalo (Battlefield Communications and Networks department) collected data to ensure that network integrity was maintained when deployed to the field. While at the National Training Center, Duffalo commented, "It is remarkable that we were able to combine commercial and military components into a large-scale tactical wireless network that operates efficiently under harsh tactical conditions."
Additionally, Barsoum noted, "The network enabled the warfighters to share information and collaborate more efficiently, allowing them to anticipate the enemies' actions and dominate the battlefield." The Integrated Enterprise Computing Technical Operations Center team of Randy Mitchell, John Durand, Gary Blythe, Jim Dick, and Mike Liu monitored and made essential engineering modifications to optimize network performance.
Randy Mitchell, principal networking and communications engineer (Integrated Enterprise Computing), summarized the progress, "This event highlighted both the importance and the fragility of the Army's tactical networks. These networks provide a great advantage to the Army—but only when they are working as designed! MITRE has been instrumental in the design of the Army tactical network and continues to play a key role in making it robust and deployable. I think it can be truly said that MITRE's involvement in DCX-I was critical to the successes of that event."
Additionally, a security team from Secure Information Technology worked both directly with the unit and on the PEO staff. Henry Allen, Secure Information Technology section leader, supported the PEO staff with a mission to protect the networks used in the first Capstone exercise. Deryk Gannon and Rick Ashworth (Secure Information Technology department), who had worked in the design and assessment phases of the Information Assurance architecture and were intimately familiar with the systems being used, worked with the unit to help evaluate their systems and provided security recommendations to the commander.
Daniel Reed, CIO for the 4th Infantry Division, called the demonstration of Information Assurance capabilities during the DCX "a great success." Secure Information Technology Department Head Steve Godin stressed "the importance of providing security engineering throughout the development process, to include operational support during the exercise." This support has provided MITRE with the opportunity to interact with the soldiers using the systems and to assess the systems' effectiveness in a realistic environment.
By providing unique information age solutions, MITRE is partnering with the U.S. Army to provide our soldiers with information on battlefield conditions and the location of both friendly and enemy forces, ensuring that the Army has better information than its adversaries. This futuristic technology will enable our soldiers to stay out of harm's way and to decide when and how to engage an adversary—the result: a more effective and flexible fighting force that allows the Army to protect U.S. interests in the world's ever-changing geopolitical landscape.
Page last updated: August 20, 2001 | Top of page
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