C2/Comms

Where the next iteration of the Army’s network capabilities is heading

The Army is finishing up a list of requirements for technologies it needs for the next round of its network modernization capabilities, known as Capability Set 23, one of the service’s network leaders said May 6.

The Army wants to have research and development contracts for prototypes signed no later than July, according to Maj. Gen. Peter Gallagher, director of the network cross-functional team for Army Futures Command. He added that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has slowed the timeline.

Capability set 23 is a follow-on effort to capability set 21, which is addressing current capability gaps in the Army’s network with technology currently available, such as improved network transport capabilities. The service plans to deploy new network tools every two years starting in 2021 as part of a continuous network modernization plan.

“We realized we weren’t going to be multi-domain dominant with what we fielded in Cap Set ’21,” said Gallagher, speaking May 6 at the C4ISRNET conference.

For Capability Set ’23, the service plans to take advantage of emerging technology, with developments from either commercial industry or internal researchers that are part of the Command, Control, Communications, Commuters, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground.

“The next steps for Cap Set ’23 — it’s about enhanced capacity in our network backbone,” said Gallagher. “High capacity, low latency communications that are not readily available today, but they’re emerging in technology."

The key piece for is medium-Earth and low-Earth orbit satellite constellations, which will provide the Army with significantly more bandwidth and reduced latency.

“In some cases, it’s kind of like having a fiber optic cable through a space-based satellite link,” Gallagher said.

Gallagher added that Army plans to prototype the technology over the next year and added that around spring next year the Army plans to be working on the preliminary design review for Capability Set ’23.

Capability Set ’23 will also expand on tools from Capability Set ’21 to increase the resiliency of the Army’s network. Gallagher said that the service is looking at advanced networking waveforms that can be effective in a contested environment.

For Capability Set ’23, the Army reviewed more than 140 white papers on capabilities and narrowed its selection to 12 papers that they thought would be ready for the second capability set iteration and will help “prototype and make some network design choices," Gallagher said.

The Army then held a “shark tank” style event in March and is now “actively in discussions with vendors,” said Justine Ruggio, director of communications for the Network Cross Functional Team at Army Futures Command.

Meanwhile, the Army is collecting feedback from soldiers on Capability Set ’21 pilots and will procure those technologies this year. Initial delivery of the new capabilities to units is scheduled for second quarter of fiscal 2021, Gallagher said.

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