Within the next six months, the Army is expected to choose at least two companies for prototypes and experiments on the service’s first integrated signals intelligence, electronic warfare and cyber platform.
The Army has been conducting what it calls “pre-prototypes” to test capabilities, concepts and receive feedback from soldiers for the platform, known as the Terrestrial Layer System.
The window for proposals to evolve these pre-prototypes closes Oct. 31 and the Army’s electronic warfare program manager said the plan is to have a decision on the winners by April.
“The next goal is for them to provide some prototypes and we’ll put those prototypes on a platform and then we’ll actually put those in the soldier’s hand to help evaluate those,” said Col. Kevin Finch, program manager for electronic warfare and cyber within Program Executive Office Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors. Finch spoke to C4ISRNET during an interview Oct. 15 at the annual Association of the U.S. Army conference. “Then we’ll downselect to one vendor and then we’ll go forward."
Finch said the plan is to have the first units equipped with the system by fall 2022.
The two primary pre-prototypes include the Tactical Electronic Warfare System (TEWS) — mounted on a Stryker and its smaller Flyer72 based variant Tactical Electronic Warfare Light (TEWL) — and the Tactical Signals Intelligence Vehicle (TSIG). Both are integrated platforms the Army is using to experiment with technologies that would allow for sensing, signals intelligence, electronic warfare and RF-enabled cyberattacks.
TEWS is being used with 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, which took the system to the National Training Center as a way for Army leaders to learn how it was used. It was also part of the Cyber Blitz experiment in September.
TEWL has also been used by 173rd airborne brigade combat team in Vicenza, Italy, according to officials with General Dynamics. Army leaders aren’t just interested in the capability itself, officials and members of industry have said, but the concepts for how they will be used.
Finch explained that service leaders aren’t exactly sure which vehicle types TLS will be outfitted to.
“The feedback that we’re receiving from [Forces Command] is driving that as well as the feedback from the units,” he said. “Obviously, they want to see a vehicle that is like to the formation. For a Stryker to have a Stryker. For an armored formation it would be an [Assault Breacher Vehicle] type of platform. Right now that’s actually one of the decisions we’re waiting to get finalized moving forward is ‘hey, what platform do you need to put this on?’”
Officials have described a TLS family of ground systems to include an extended range, which will be used as a division and corps asset, TLS large, which will be a mounted on a large vehicle like a Stryker, TLS small, which will likely remain vehicle mounted but feature a smaller form factor, and TLS dismount.
TLS large is expected to be the first to be developed and fielded.