All other Army modernization efforts are dependent on the success of its network development, the three-star in charge of Army resourcing and programming said at the C4ISRNET conference June 6.
The Army has established six major modernization efforts: long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift, the network, air-and-missile defense and soldier lethality, all guided under the Army Futures Command stood up last summer.
And although precision fires are the top priority, “the network is the one that if you don’t get it right, it could be, maybe, a lot of wasted effort on all the others,” Lt. Gen. James Pasquarette, the Army G-8, said.
“The network is key in how want to fight in the future,” and a lot of money is being invested in establishing a network that can function in multi-domain operations and in major conflict against peer adversaries, he said.
“We know that our current tactical network is too complex, it’s fragile, it’s not sufficiently mobile nor is it expeditionary and will not survive in a contested or congested environment,” Pasquarette said, then quipped, “so besides that, it’s great.”
The Army has an enormous undertaking to steer the network in the right direction. In past decades, “we allowed ourselves to build out a network environment that optimized a wide area security operation at [forward operating bases] and fixed sites,” he said, “where we could lay in high-capacity fiber backbone to make it operable and as our complicated network architecture grew in complexity, we became increasingly reliant on significant numbers of civilians … and contractors to install and keep them operating.”
Soldiers were unable to do anything when systems went down without contractors to get them back up and running, for instance, Pasquarette said.
And cyber defense and electronic spectrum management “were often after-thoughts.” he added.
Now the Army is headed toward the implementation of a “simple and intuitive tactical network” that will ensure it is the “most lethal” force in the world, according to Pasquarette.
The ideal network would be as simple and intuitive as pulling out a cell phone, he said, “with all the protections and assured [position navigation and timing] wrapped into,” which is “easy to describe but hard to realize.”
The capability not only has to supply a solid tactical network for soldiers even at the smallest unit level but also has to contribute to tying the battlefield together.
For example, the network is needed to enable intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems to find targets deep into enemy territory, track them, target them and assess damage after. “That is a pretty hard trick,” Pasquarette said.
The Army is developing the Integrated Tactical Network, for example, and is investing $1.9 billion in building it in just fiscal year 2020 and $11.3 billion from FY20 through FY24.
That network aims to use cellular services, gateways and radios that enable communications in a constrianed environment incorporating off-the-shelf items, according to Pasquarette. It will rely on machine learning to take complexity away from the soldier and to make it intuitive to use.
That network will be fielded in increments every three years starting 2021 and ending in 2027.
The Army is also investing $59 million in fiscal year 2020 on developing the low-earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellation, which seeks to establish a mesh network using cheap satellites rather than exquisite, expensive satellites located in higher orbits.
Using more, less expensive satellites will create a self-healing and robust layer that will help aid the Army with deep fires operations, communications, assured PNT and other aspects, according to Pasquarette.
The Army is also building a terrestrial layer system that modernized ground systems integrating signals intelligence, electronic warfare and cyber effects, he added.
To address “deep sensing” shortfalls, Pasquarette said the Army is looking to modernize ground stations at the division and corps levels and integrate data from national, commercial, joint and Army ISR assets. “We are very interested in that we have a program we are looking at specifically but it’s not quite developed so there is fertile ground there that we are looking at.”