The Army is testing a new equipment design that increases the number of small network nodes to a unit, allowing for a reduced expeditionary signal battalion without decreasing capability.

The new Expeditionary Signal Battalion-Enhanced (ESB-E) pilot unit — the 50th ESB, 35th Theater Tactical Signal Brigade — used its agile networking suite for the first time during a training mission at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in December, according to an Army release.

Not unlike the efforts underway to modernize its tactical network, the service is leveraging rapid prototyping, experimentation and development operations to inform future needs. The pilot is aimed at providing scalable units to ensure uninterrupted mission command and faster movement. The ESBs provide tactical network communications support to other units.

"The ESB-E effort is, in part, intended to deploy capabilities previously limited to Special Operations Forces-type units," Lt. Col. Ronald Iammartino, 50th ESB-E commander, said.

“Because these kits are designed to be light, scalable and easily adaptable, we can now give commanders far greater flexibility in how they use signal assets to support the fight.”

With assistance from the Army’s network cross-functional team and the program office — Command, Control, Communications-Tactical — the pilot is testing a suite of tools that is lighter and more mobile, as well as easier to operate in order to provide hardened communications in contested environments.

By using a DevOps approach, the team went from a concept approval to fielding equipment to the first company in eight months, according to the Army. The two remaining companies will begin fielding starting in 2019.

Equipment being used by the ESB-E includes:

  • Small, medium and large triband satellite dishes and network baseband equipment packages;
  • Transit case-based Terrestrial Line Of Sight (TRILOS) Radio providing an increase in bandwidth; and
  • Secure Wi-Fi allowing the network to come online in minutes.

“We are informing the ESB of the future,” said Col. Christopher O’Connor, commander of the 35th TTSB.

“We want to reduce the amount of time, get a commander on the network and able to use his mission command systems in a much quicker manner, which helps them make decisions in support of the fight. It comes down to survivability and reduced footprint, smaller electromagnetic signature, being able to move and displace with the command post more quickly so that we aren’t a target.”

Mark Pomerleau is a reporter for C4ISRNET, covering information warfare and cyberspace.

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