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Enterprise Challenge ’13: Software and Hardware Advances

Part 2

The integrated Distributed Common Ground System – Army (DCGS-A) capabilities demonstrated during the recent Enterprise Challenge ’13 technical demonstration at the Buffalo Soldier Electronic Test Range, Fort Huachuca, Ariz., were supported by a recently upgraded software program.

“The software that we have got in the baseline of the TGS here right now [at Enterprise Challenge ‘13] is called ‘Hunte,’ explained Col. Charles Wells, U.S. Army Program Manager for DCGS-A. “It’s an upgraded version of software based on a lot of lessons learned from the field, and it is fielding in Afghanistan right now. It includes a lot of improvements based on ease of use.”

Program representatives highlighted that software program as a representative example of the kinds of enhancements being introduced into the U.S. Army’s tactical ISR assets.

Enterprise Challenge 2013

A laptop is used to demonstrate Distributed Common Ground System – Army’s (DCGS-A’s) ability to share full motion video between Air Force assets, including Global Hawk, directly to the Army’s DCGS-A Tactical Ground Station during Enterprise Challenge ’13, thus enabling joint intelligence sharing across the battle space, Fort Huachuca, Ariz, July 24, 2013. U.S. Army photo by Sergeant First Class Kristine Smedley

“The software that we have got in the baseline of the TGS here right now [at Enterprise Challenge ‘13] is called ‘Hunte,’ explained Col. Charles Wells, U.S. Army Program Manager for DCGS-A. “It’s an upgraded version of software based on a lot of lessons learned from the field, and it is fielding in Afghanistan right now. It includes a lot of improvements based on ease of use.”

“One of the things we are looking at – at the brigade – is how we can use solid-state technology. So I’ve got two solid-state prototypes. Where traditionally you had a lot of spinning drives to store data I’ve got two systems that are completely solid state that can store a lot more data, use a lot less power, are more rugged, and are much lighter. I think that eventually we will have solid state across the portfolio, but right now we’re got those two prototypes. That’s an example of the kinds of technology improvements we are continuously looking at for the program and rolling out to the field.”

Wells said that the software enhancements explored at Enterprise Challenge ‘13 reflected a lessons learned process that incorporates experiences from new equipment training, input from field service engineers, and close cooperation with the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC).

Enterprise Challenge 2013

Col. Charles Wells, program manager, Distributed Common Ground System-Army, assesses the tactical glasses being demonstrated at Enterprise Challenge ’13, Fort Huachuca, Ariz., July 24, 2013. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Kristine Smedley

In the case of TRADOC input, Wells highlighted the relationship between his program office and the office of the Army’s TRADOC Capability Manager for Sensor Processing, Col. Ed Riehle, offering the example that what Riehle “told the program, after talking with a lot of soldiers, is that we needed to improve ease of use and make the workflow easier. So, instead of taking 13 or 14 clicks to do a task, how can we do it in 3 or 4 clicks and how does it match the way an analyst does their job? ‘Hunte’ has numerous improvements that directly respond to those issues.”

“Prior to ‘Hunte’ we had a version of software called ‘Griffin,’ which has now been fielded across the entire Army,” he added. “It’s in the [TRADOC] schoolhouse here [at Fort Huachuca] being trained. But this is part of the iterative methodology – every 12-18 [months] you want to have a new version of DCGS-A [software] based on soldier feedback and then field that across the Army.”

“Prior to ‘Hunte’ we had a version of software called ‘Griffin,’ which has now been fielded across the entire Army,” he added. “It’s in the [TRADOC] schoolhouse here [at Fort Huachuca] being trained. But this is part of the iterative methodology – every 12-18 [months] you want to have a new version of DCGS-A [software] based on soldier feedback and then field that across the Army.”

Enterprise Challenge 2013

Lt. Gen. Richard Zahner (Ret.) discusses the capabilities of the Distributed Common Ground System – Army (DCGS-A) during Enterprise Challenge ’13 (DCGS-A) with Col. Ed Riehle, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) Capabilities Manager for Ground Sensors, Fort Huachuca, Ariz, July 24, 2013. DCGS-A is an enterprise of capabilities that supports the joint services, multi-national forces, intelligence community, and special operations community. U.S. Army photo by Sergeant First Class Kristine Smedley

Asked about additional program improvements that might be introduced over the coming years, Wells acknowledged that the software enhancements could also be supported by some new hardware developments.

“Hardware is always getting more powerful, lighter, and requiring less power.”

“Hardware is always getting more powerful, lighter, and requiring less power,” he said. “That’s very compelling to us. And we need to upgrade the hardware occasionally to run the latest software. So we do have a regular hardware refresh cycle. One of the things we are looking at – at the brigade – is how we can use solid-state technology. So I’ve got two solid-state prototypes. Where traditionally you had a lot of spinning drives to store data I’ve got two systems that are completely solid state that can store a lot more data, use a lot less power, are more rugged, and are much lighter. I think that eventually we will have solid state across the portfolio, but right now we’re got those two prototypes. That’s an example of the kinds of technology improvements we are continuously looking at for the program and rolling out to the field.”

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