Vendors showcase high-tech WIN wares

Potential suppliers for the Army's Warfighter Information Network (WIN), a multibillion-dollar project to upgrade all aspects of battlefield communications - from fiber-optic cable to wide-bandwidth routers - used last week's Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association/TechNet '96 (AFCEA) convention to showcase their solutions.

GTE Corp., builder of the Army's current Mobile Subscriber Equipment (MSE) and Tri-Tac battlefield communications systems, mounted the most elaborate WIN display. Al Whitmore, GTE's vice president of business development, said he believes the company's long-term experience with Army tactical communications systems should give the company an "edge" in the upcoming WIN procurements.

GTE is also well-positioned for WIN because the Army plans to evolve the new system from existing MSE gear, "and we know that system better than anyone else," Whitmore said. If the Army plans to run a large-scale, integrated procurement for the total WIN architecture, GTE intends to "go after the whole thing," Whitmore added. If the service breaks the WIN procurements into pieces, the company will carefully target its bidding strategy, he said.

GTE plans to bid the key component of the WIN architecture - upgrades of MSE gear to handle Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) communications - and displayed two products that will allow the easy integration of ATM technology into existing MSE nodes. The GTE Switch Multiplex Unit and Tactical Service Adapter (TSA) will bridge the gap between high data rate ATM networks and the lower data rate MSE networks. The TSA can support up to eight cell-bearing networks operating between 128 kilobit/sec and 8.192 megabit/sec.

The TSA also includes an ATM Forum-compliant DS-3 (45 megabit/sec) user-to-network interface. Whitmore said he expects the Army to specify an off-the-shelf ATM router for inclusion in the WIN package.

At AFCEA, GTE also formally unveiled a teaming agreement with Lucent Technologies, recently spun off from AT&T, to bid on the battlefield cellular service portion of WIN, which the Army calls Personal Communications Systems. WIN PCS is designed to replace the MSE Mobile Radio Terminals and Radio Access Units with commercial CDMA cellular gear. Whitmore said Lucent has developed a PCS base station that can easily be fitted into existing Humvee-mounted MSE Small Extension Node shelters.

Qualcomm Inc. also intends to pursue the WIN PCS procurement, according to Michael Lapadula, director of marketing for Qualcomm's Government Systems Division. Qualcomm showed its WIN-type base station at the AFCEA convention.

Lapadula said Qualcomm developed the CDMA technology that Lucent plans to use under license for its WIN PCS bid, making Qualcomm "a winner, no matter who wins WIN." But Lapadula added that he believes Qaulcomm is ahead of its competition for WIN because the company has already developed and demonstrated an integral Condor security system for its battlefield cellular phones, based on Fortezza cards.

At AFCEA, Motorola Inc. displayed its secure cellular product, the Ciphertac portable with Fortezza security features. Qualcomm's Lapadula views that company as another potential WIN PCS competitor.

AT&T demonstrated its battlefield ATM capability. While competitors expect AT&T to partner with Lucent to pursue all or parts of WIN, company executives at the show declined to detail their strategy.

One industry executive said that if the Army decides to turn WIN into a "mega-procurement, instead of buying it in pieces, we'll see a lot of big companies going after it, like Lockheed Martin and Hughes. WIN is definitely heavy iron."

Satellite, Rugged News

In news outside the WIN procurement, MCI Government Markets debuted at AFCEA a modification to its SCAMPI contract with the Special Operations Command that will provide global, high-bandwidth satellite connectivity to deployed forces.

The new global SCAMPI network can tap into transponders on three different International Telecommunications Organization satellites for for secure voice, data, fax and videoconferencing services at speeds up to 1.5 megabit/sec.

Jerry Edgerton, vice president of MCI Government Markets, said deployable SCAMPI will allow the command to "move communications forward quickly and efficiently in the field."

In the rugged computer arena - a mainstay of the AFCEA convention - GTE demonstrated its rugged version of the new 64-bit Ultra workstation recently introduced by Sun Microsystems Inc. GTE has proposed adding the Ultra line to its Army Common Hardware/Software-II contract but has not yet received the go-ahead from the Army.

Datametrics Corp. introduced the first rugged version of a Motorola Power PC capable of running the Apple Computer Inc. Macintosh OS, OS/2 from IBM Corp., Unix, DOS and Windows. Jim Foti, vice president of North American sales for Datametrics, said the company priced the rugged Power PC in the $10,000 to $12,000 range, depending on peripherals.

Datametrics also showed board versions of Hewlett-Packard Co. Navy Tactical Advanced Computer-4 (TAC-4) workstations integrated into an 18-slot VME computer for use on the Seawolf attack submarine. "We call it the TAC-4 in a drawer," Foti said.

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