The Army is undertaking a multiyear effort to improve and modernize its tactical battlefield network. However, up to this point, tactical networks were relatively stovepipped and the process of connecting networks — whether in the same theater or across the world — required an extremely laborious process.
Enter the Global Agile Integrated Transport, or GAIT. GAIT is essentially a router that allows equipped units the ability to connect point to point with each other across the world without having to go through the enterprise.
“The beauty of GAIT is it doesn’t really carry data that you can use; it’s a transport,” Joe Vano, Tactical Network Transport at The Halt product line manager at Product Manager Mission Network, Project Manager Tactical Network, told C4ISRNET during a Dec. 19 trip to the GAIT network operations center at Fort Detrick, Maryland. “You can’t take anything out of there. Everything has to be encrypted.”
Under the old network architecture, if a unit in the United States wanted to see into the network of its subordinate unit deployed overseas — or if that deployed unit wanted to connect to another tactically deployed unit — they would have to go into the Army enterprise, up through the Defense Information Systems Agency infrastructure and all the way back down. This process had a litany of technical and bureaucratic hurdles and could sometimes take weeks or longer, Vano said.
With GAIT, it’s like these units are sitting in the same parking lot, he added.
GAIT will also be playing a big role in the upcoming Defender 2020 exercise in Europe in the spring — a massive exercise testing how the Army will conduct a large-scale deployment to the continent in a crisis if needed. GAIT will help connect coalitions together improving interoperability and providing valuable data to inform in what the military is calling the Mission Partner Environment.
The Army, in particular, has been working to make information sharing between coalition partners easier. In the past, restrictions to network access and classified information has prevented timely sharing of data. Or, nations are forced to share information through “swivel chairing,” the act by which units in a command post all operating on their separate networks turn to each other and pass the information orally or by hand.
As long as other nations have a GAIT router and are allowed into U.S. networks, they can connect and seamlessly share data remotely.
“Never before have we had a network where we said, here’s my coalition network, it has an authorization and an executive agent that now comes in and could be distributed to an American commander and vice versa,” Vano said. “But now we can do that. Now we are doing that.”
GAIT could also have wide application for humanitarian assistance, as officials explained that it can also connect to non-military domains, such as .com or .org, as long as other have a GAIT router. This could also delivery medical expertise to the battlefield as remote doctors could be patched right into tactical units’ networks.
Mark Pomerleau is a reporter for C4ISRNET, covering information warfare and cyberspace.