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AUSA 2021: US Army networking capability rolls out

7th October 2021 - 14:30 GMT | by Tim Fish in Auckland

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Project Manager Tactical Network has completed the 67th ESB's new equipment training and fielding for the TriLOS radio. (Photo: US Army)

Expeditionary Signals Battalions are undergoing a process of modernisation to enable them to better provide networking and mission command support to deployed forces.

The US Army’s Expeditionary Signal Battalions-Enhanced (ESB-Es) are fielding new COTS equipment that will enable faster deployment.

The ESB-Es are more capable versions of the existing ESBs that deploy to support rapid reaction forces and provide signals support with alternative tactical networking equipment.

The 50th ESB-E (Fort Bragg, NC), 57th ESB-E (Fort Hood, TX), and 304th ESB-E (US Forces Korea) have been testing COTS equipment that has reduced SWaP but provides faster communications with higher throughput. The service is currently standing up the 44th ESB-E stationed in Germany.

A Scalable Network Node (SNN) medium ground satellite terminal and baseband kit was first fielded to the 50th ESB-E in January. It will continue to roll out at a rate of three units per year through to FY2028. The US Army has a total of 24 ESBs.

SNN replaces At-the-Halt Tactical Network Transport equipment. A spokesperson from PEO C3T, which is managing the project, told Shephard that with SNN an ESB-E can ‘significantly increase its network support to other units with more nodes and less manpower while reducing transportation requirements by over 60%'.

A new high-throughput dual-channel Terrestrial Transmission Line of Sight (TriLOS) radio is also being delivered to give an alternative signal pathway to SATCOM in a contested environment. This is transportable in cases and with a reduced SWaP is faster to set up, operate and maintain than the High Capacity Line of Sight (HCLOS) radio it replaces. It is part of the wider Capability Set 21 equipment roll-out.

TriLOS provides ‘a significant increase in bandwidth and range, with lower latency than satellite communications,’ the spokesperson said, adding that as well as performing point-to-point communications it will (unlike HCLOS) also provide point-to-multipoint, ‘enabling soldiers to shoot multiple shots with one antenna mast, versus needing extra antennas to shoot to multiple terminals.’

During SNN satellite operator training, soldiers from the Alpha Company, 50th ESB-E troubleshoot instructor-installed faults on the Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT). (Photo: US Army)

Meanwhile the Commercial Coalition Equipment (CCE) was fielded to the 50th ESB-E in June and is being supplied to other units. It provides connectivity to mission command with voice, video and data between army, joint and coalition forces. The US Army uses this to connect to coalition networks over its tactical network.

Looking ahead the army is planning to field an upgraded Phoenix-E ground satellite terminal that will be the main SATCOM capability for ESB-Es. These terminals are soldier-transportable for use at divisional and corps headquarters to provide high bandwidth X/Ka- and C/Ku-band SATCOM for C2, logistics, operational intelligence and administrative data.

‘Its dual-head capability enables the use of two antennas on two different frequency bands, or two different satellites, simultaneously. This reduces manning requirements, doubles bandwidth throughput, and enhances multipath diversity and resiliency within the tactical network,’ the spokesperson said.

The army will also field a Tropospheric Scatter Transmission (Tropo) system from FY2023 that will provide a next-generation COTS beyond line-of-sight extended network with increased throughput. Like TriLOS it will be an alternative pathway to SATCOM.

‘On the current plan, PM Tactical Network will field several ESB-Es per fiscal year until all of the army’s 23 ESBs have been upgraded to the new baseline capability by 2028,’ the spokesperson said.

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