Iraq-bound 3rd Infantry ready to share

When soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division arrive in Iraq later this month, they will be equipped with a new battlefield communications system that will drastically improve how they send and receive warfighting information.

Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan demonstrated to Army officials that they need a system that provides communications for soldiers when they fight out of sight of one another. The new Joint Network Transport Capability (JNTC) relies on IP, satellites and commercial products to provide more mobile communications and greater access to logistics and intelligence data.

"The Army has a new networking

capability that will help transform deploying units," said Lt. Gen. Steve Boutelle, the service's chief information officer. "The Army is building an IP, net-centric force."

The new Joint Network Node powers JNTC. The node consists of vehicles and shipping containers equipped with systems that provide voice over IP, dynamic IP, videoconferencing and access to the military's classified and unclassified networks for commanders at their headquarters and soldiers operating in smaller units, said Boutelle, who spoke earlier this month at the Milcom 2004 conference in Monterey, Calif., sponsored by AFCEA International.

General Dynamics officials developed and fielded the node. They delivered the first system in August so troops from the 3rd Infantry Division, which fought in Iraq with Marine Corps and British forces last year, could train with it before returning to Iraq.

JNTC also includes the Combat Service Support-Satellite Communications system. It consists of a very small-aperture terminal satellite dish, a ruggedized notebook computer and supporting equipment that comes in four transit cases. It allows logisticians and medical personnel to order and track supplies and use text messaging and videoconferencing.

Army officials learned from experiences in Iraq they must improve the ordering and tracking of supplies in combat. Before the military conflict, orders for spare parts from combat units averaged 15,000 to 20,000 per day, but after U.S. and coalition forces attacked, orders for spares went down to almost zero and stayed there for 30 days, said Lt. Gen. Claude Christianson, the Army's deputy chief of staff for logistics.

"It makes no sense that when you're in the middle of a war, driving your way to Baghdad over this very, very complex battlefield that you wouldn't have any requirements for spare parts," Christianson said. He added that Army officials will solve the problem by putting logisticians and medical personnel on a network as part of the Connecting the Logistician program.

Officials at iDirect Technologies developed and fielded the system, including 40 to 3rd Infantry troops for use in Iraq. They plan to field 200 more in the coming months, and that could increase to more than 1,000 during the next 18 months.

Improved communications

The Joint Network Transport Capability (JNTC) gives soldiers improved mobile battlefield communications, better than the current Mobile Subscriber Equipment-Triservices Tactical terminals. Those terminals were built in the 1980s to support the fighting of forces from the former Soviet Union.

The JNTC, however, will not provide as much function as the future Warfighter Information Network-Tactical system, planned for fielding in 2008. JNTC includes:

* Joint Network Node — Delivers voice over IP, dynamic IP, videoconferencing and access to the military's classified and unclassified networks.

* Combat Service Support-Satellite Communications — Lets logisticians and medical personnel order and track supplies and use text messaging and videoconferencing.

* Blue Force Tracking — Shows soldiers the locations of friendly forces on the battlefield via blue and red icons displayed on terminals inside vehicles and handheld computers.

* Trojan Spirit — Gives commanders and soldiers intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data using Ku-band satellite communications.

* Global Broadcast Service — Distributes images and video using Ka-band transponders on military satellites and Ku-band transponders on commercial satellites.

— Frank Tiboni

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