Soldiers in combat need, and soon will have, faster mobile communications capabilities. (Army)
The Army is pushing high-speed 4G LTE infrastructure out to the battlefield, offering deployed soldiers the ability to carry out missions and in more flexible, agile ways.
The Army’s Tactical Network Transmissions (TNT) package was introduced at Network Integration Evaluation 14.2, held in March at Fort Bliss, Texas and White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. The TNT package offers soldiers and coalition partners access to 4G bandwidth and capabilities that allow faster access to mission-critical applications via devices such as smart phones and tablets.
“Soldiers and commanders in tactical operations centers need more bandwidth for data-intensive tasks like sending large PowerPoint files, maps and full motion video," Lt. Col. Joel Babbitt, product manager for Warfighter Information Network-Tactical, Increment 1, said in an Army release. WIN-T Increment 1 is responsible for fielding this new equipment. “The transformational nature of these technologies is increasing situational awareness and effectiveness for soldiers at all echelons.”
The TNT equipment and 4G LTE infrastructure aims to provide soldiers and coalition partners with Wi-Fi coverage at forward operating bases and tactical operations centers, giving users more freedom of movement and access to information away from their desks. They can connect to the secure network via smart phone, and eventually that access also will include laptops and tablets.
So far, the Army is making use of Android devices as well as iPhones and iPads, among others. NIE has proved to be fertile testing ground for evaluating commercial devices and how they work with troops and with Defense Department networks and capabilities.
“We’ve got a number of other systems related to or identified through [NIE’s] mobile program early on, and pushed off to other programs throughout the Army,” said Michael McCarthy, director of operations and program manager at Army Brigade Modernization Command. “In terms of Android tablets, Samsung tablets perform very well. The iPads and iPhones are very popular; one of the things we’re looking at that’s gaining traction is the iPad Mini. A few years back it was indicated, particularly for dismounted soldiers, that they liked the smaller form factor of a 7-inch tablet. The iPad Mini now fills a niche that previously only Android tablets things like the Nook and Kindle fit into.”
To help address security issues, the Army married the 4G LTE and Wi-Fi systems to the National Security Agency’s commercial solutions for classified capability, which uses the same encryption technology as the commercial internet but enhanced for military purposes, according to the Army.