Iraq-bound 3rd Infantry ready to share
- By Frank Tiboni
- Nov 21, 2004
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.