Openwings team flying high

The team developing the Openwings command and control architecture for the

Army is ecstatic following the successful demonstration of the prototype

to the service's V Corps in Europe.

The Army Command and Control System is composed of several command and control

systems lashed together. But unlike an office network, Army networks on

the battlefield are torn down, moved and set up again about every three

hours, according to David Usechak, Army product manager for common software

in the program executive office for command, control and communications

systems.

The problem is exacerbated because "we have people joining or leaving a

network randomly, with no pre-planning," Usechak said. Furthermore, network

setup and operation is sometimes too complicated for the average soldier,

and the systems that make up the Command and Control System were not originally

designed to interface with one another.

To help solve those problems, Motorola Inc. and Sun Microsystems Inc. demonstrated

a prototype of the Openwings architecture July 28 to Army V Corps officials

during a week-long conference on digitization.

"We were trying to demonstrate this whole business of Openwings, a self-forming,

self-healing, network," Usechak said. "The demonstration pointed out the

robustness of this technology and how easy in one sense it is to take and

start plugging together various types of hardware and software and to make

it work."

"The amount of effort involved is greatly reduced, and you have some level

of confidence that when you plug these guys together, it's going to work,"

he said.

The V Corps demonstration included bringing Unix and Microsoft Corp. Windows

NT-based laptops into the network without prior planning or setup, and it

also included wireless communications between a laptop and the network.

Confident with their success, demonstrators threw in an exhibition of voice

data being passed via an IP network, Usechak said.

Although the demonstration will neither make nor break the fledgling effort,

Usechak said he hopes it will help persuade Army and other service officials

to provide funding for further development.

"For next year, we know the Army will provide some money to Motorola to

keep this work moving forward, but we don't know yet how much. We're hoping

for about $1 million," Usechak said. The service hopes to provide some units

with an initial capability of the open architecture within the next 20 months,

he said.

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