FORT BLISS, Texas— During Army Warfighting Assessment (AWA) 17.1 in October 2016, U.S. and coalition forces conducted realistic war games in the austere southwest desert to improve how they fight, communicate and share digital data on the battlefield.
At the center of the exercise, held at Fort Bliss and White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, was the tactical network, fielded by the Program Executive Office Command, Control and Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T), enabling high-speed, high-capacity voice, data and video communications even in austere and remote locations.
More than 5,000 personnel participated in this year’s AWA exercise, including U.S. Army elements from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division (2/1 AD), who are fighting in realistic operational environments alongside U.S. Marine, Air Force, and Special Operations elements, as well as five multinational partners from Australia, Canada, Denmark, Italy, and the United Kingdom.
“This exercise is an incubator of tactical interoperability,” said the commanding brigadier of the U.K.’s 1 Armoured Infantry Brigade. (U.K. names omitted per unit request). “We want to efficiently share intelligence so we can see and visualize the battle space the same way and make quick decisions together.”
Among the tools in the coalitional interoperability tool box is an embedded software application known as the Multilateral Interoperability Programme, or MIP, which is provided by PEO C3T and enables the U.S. and partner forces to share a comprehensive common operating picture. The UK is using MIP during AWA 17.1 to mediate between various coalition C2 systems that share locations, graphics and reports.
“To be able to work together with our joint international partners in the construct of AWA is very powerful,” said Col. Charles Lombardo, commander for 2/1 AD. “In a coalition environment we have to have that interoperable bandwidth; it’s incredibly important. Even though we are an armored brigade, our main weapon system is really our network, and being able to distribute mission command down to the edge and to our joint and collation partners is the focus.”
During the exercise, the U.S. Army is used its Commercial Coalition Equipment (CCE) enclave to connect to the coalition network over its mobile tactical communications network known as Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T). Fielded by PEO C3T, WIN-T enables mission command, situational awareness and secure reliable voice, video and data communications, both inside a stationary command post or on-the-move in tactical vehicles.
AWA 17.1 provided a venue to securely improve the interoperability between American and coalition mission command and communication systems, including the speed and accuracy of coalition fires missions.
“The WIN-T network provides more operational flexibility and agility, which gives back tactical time,” Lombardo said. “I am making more educated decisions because I am making decisions with better and more accurate information.”