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Army Prepares to Wrap Up NIE 12.2

The U.S. Army’s 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division (2/1 AD) is currently wrapping up the tactical operations phase of the service’s pivotal Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) 12.2, the latest in a series of semi-annual evaluations designed to further integrate and mature the Army’s tactical network, and accelerate and improve the way network technologies are delivered to soldiers.

Following an NIE 12.2 “Capstone Exercise” phase, running May 29 – June 8, 2012, the Army will use data gathered over 8 weeks to help generate a DOTMLPF [doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership and education, personnel and facilities] report that will be used to validate the Army’s “Capability Set 13” (CS 13), an integrated network baseline from the static Tactical Operations Center to the dismounted soldier that will be fielded to eight U.S. Army brigades beginning on Oct. 1, 2012.

Although the emphasis is on the integrated network, CS 13 baseline components include:

  • Warfighter Information Network – Tactical (WIN-T) Increment 2;
  • Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) Handheld, Manpack, Small Form Factor (HMS) 2-channel manpack radio;
  • Secure, Mobile, Anti-Jam, Reliable, Tactical-Terminal (SMART-T);
  • Rifleman Radio End User Device;
  • Nett Warrior;
  • Mission Command Capabilities;
  • Distributed Common Ground System – Army (DCGS-A);
  • Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System (SINCGARS);
  • [Harris] AN/PRC-117G radio;
  • Net Ops Capabilities;
  • [ITT Exelis] Sidehat;
  • [GDC4S] Sidewinder vehicle mount;
  • [Harris] AN/PRC-152A, and;
  • SINCGARS PLI [position location information].

The Army NIE process can be traced back to the aftermath of the cancelled Future Combat Systems (FCS) Brigade Combat Team (BCT) program. A few months after the June 23, 2009 Acquisition Decision Memorandum formally cancelling the FCS BCT Program, the Army announced a new modernization strategy focused on delivering “capability packages” [now “Capability Sets”] consisting of key technologies and warfighter urgent requirements in two-year increments. Although some FCS “spin-outs” were envisioned for an initial package – including the Non Line of Sight Launch System (NLOS-LS); Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle (SUGV); Unattended Ground Sensors (UGS); Class I Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV); and the Network Integration Kit (NIK) – the Army focused on the critical integrated network concept [Note: SUGV was also fielded under separate program decisions].

In terms of field evaluations, so-called Early-Infantry Brigade Combat Team (E-IBCT) events evolved into the network-focused NIE process, with the initial NIE 11.2 held June 1 – July 15, 2011.

The subsequent NIE 12.1 (Oct.-Nov. 2011) and NIE 12.2 expanded the network focus, while providing realistic venues both for formal testing of identified systems under test (SUTs) and parallel evaluations of selected systems under Evaluation (SUEs).

While the SUTs are identified based on formal acquisition requirements for things like initial operational training and evaluation (IOTE), candidate SUEs are solicited through a “sources sought” process. For NIE 12.2, for example, the Army released announcements on May 27, Aug. 4, and Oct. 13, 2011, soliciting “candidate Systems Under Evaluation (SUEs) against a narrow set of specific, identified gaps in the current and evolving networked equipment solution set.”

These gaps were identified as including:

  • a Multichannel Radio;
  • a Low-Cost- Low-SWaP Tactical Cross Domain Solution;
  • a Small Form Factor, Modular Transit Case Based Company Command Post;
  • a Tactical Router, and;
  • Improved Operational Energy.

An industry white paper submission process was followed by laboratory network integration at Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG). By late Feb. 2012, systems that had successfully completed the laboratory phase at APG were provided to 2/1 AD, based at Ft. Bliss, Texas, for new equipment fielding and training beginning in late February. That training was followed by garrison-based communications exercises and initial deployment to the field in mid-April. Following a week of field-based communications exercises, NIE 12.2 tactical operations began on April 30, 2012.

Meanwhile, the Army has already been soliciting “interested industry and government sources with mature solutions to enhance existing network systems capabilities to participate in the Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) 13.1 event, scheduled to occur in Oct./Nov. 2012 at Fort Bliss, Texas and White Sands Missile Range (WSMR), N.M.”

The Jan. 11, 2012 announcement called for “solutions with a narrow focus on specific identified gaps in the current and evolving networked equipment solution set…”

The identified gaps included:

  • Multi-Channel Tactical Radio;
  • Mission Command on the Move (MCOTM);
  • Low-Cost-Low-SWaP Tactical Cross Domain Solution;
  • Joint Participation Capability (U.S. & allies);
  • Aviation Extension;
  • Small Form Factor, Modular Transit Case SATCOM Terminal and Baseband;
  • Mission Command In-Garrison Training, and;
  • Improved Operational Energy.

Solutions generated during future NIEs will be incorporated into future Capability Sets, with each set building on the backbone network established for CS 13.

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Scott Gourley is a former U.S. Army officer and the author of more than 1,500...