US/UK ARMIES COMPLETE JOINT NETWORK EXPERIMENT
By Scott R. Gourley
15 Jun 09. Against an expectation backdrop of the imminent release of the Acquisition Decision Memorandum (ADM) for the Future Combat Systems (FCS) program, U.S. Army FCS representatives, joined by coalition partners, highlighted the recent completion of Multinational Network Experiment (MNE) 3.0, the latest in a series of ongoing experiments designed to support the U.S. Army Brigade Combat Team modernization effort.
Emphasizing that Joint Service and Multinational Network Development will remain a key component of the BCT modernization effort regardless of ADM specifics, U.S. Army representatives highlighted the fact that current conflicts mandate proper multi-national coordination. As a result, the MNE experiment process is being conducted in a Joint and multinational environment to ensure the success of future data transfer and networked target acquisition methods.
The MNE 3.0 experiments were recently conducted at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey and are key to providing an early opportunity to investigate and assess interoperability of platforms and network products with products being developed by coalition partners.
The U.S. experimentation on joint and coalition interoperability should be “no surprise,” according to Brigadier General Lee Price, US Army FCS Deputy Program Manager for Networks. “We’ve been embroiled together with our coalition partners since 2001,” she said. “And it’s not that this is new to us, because we have always operated with our coalition partners and the joint community. So it’s exciting to now be part of a system where we are actively working towards those ends and incorporating them into the ‘front end’ of the design.”
“It’s not just ‘situational awareness,” she added. “It’s being able to do calls for fires and to reach out and touch our coalition partners – that’s why we’re doing this.”
“Irrespective of the recent [FCS/FY10 Defense Budget] announcements, we’re still going to continue to further our ground tactical network capabilities,” she said. “And we’re doing that in an incremental manner, so that we can drop in the capabilities…The Future Combat System ‘Spin Outs’ are critical to be able to meet warfighter needs. And we feel that’s a method where we can balance today’s needs with tomorrow’s technologies, so that we can leverage the best of both areas.”
“We’re very heavily reliant on the Army’s Evaluation Task Force – the AETF, which is out at Fort Bliss, Texas,” she continued. “They’ve given us substantial feedback on some of our systems and we feel like we have been able to adapt a lot of the ‘input’ from the soldiers out there, so that we have a ‘soldier informed’ technologies that we are now developing…And I think the Multinational Network Experiments are a superb example of how we’re working with our partners to be able to ensure not just that the data flows across the battlefield but the situational [awareness] and combat support [information] back and forth.”
Offering what he described as “a quick insight as to why we think this is really important,” Lieutenant Colonel David Raleigh, (R Signals), UK Ministry of Defence, observed, “Obviously, it has become increasingly clear over the last six or seven years, that wherever we go on operations we do fight alongside the U.S. And in order to do that effectively we need to be able to communicate with them and pass data to ensure that we are all up to speed with what’s going on, so we have an understanding of what’s happening in the battlespace.”
“Operating as a unified force, as the US and the UK have done in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last few years, is not going to be effective unless the two countries share information. Without effective communications we will not be able to operate effectively in current and future ops,” he said.
“Clearly there are real technical challenges that continue,” he acknowledged. “And, as things move on, they will