Army fields net-centric system now

MONTEREY, Calif. — When soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division return to Iraq later this month, they will leave with a new battlefield communications system that will drastically improve how they send and receive warfighting information, according to the Army's chief information officer.

The 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," Lt. Gen. Steve Boutelle, the service's CIO. "The Army is building an IP, net-centric force." He spoke yesterday at the Milcom 2004 Conference, sponsored by AFCEA International.

Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan showed Army officials that they need a system that provides communications for soldiers when they fight out-of-sight from one another. They decided that they could not wait until 2008, when they start fielding the multibillion-dollar War-fighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) system, Boutelle said.

JNTC includes the Joint Network Node. The node provides voice over IP, dynamic IP, video teleconferencing and access to the military's classified and unclassified networks for commanders at headquarters and soldiers operating in smaller units, he said.

JNTC also includes the use of mini satellite dishes for combat service support personnel. Soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division received 40 very small-aperture terminals to help them access logistics and medical data faster, Boutelle said.

JNTC represents the Army's new acquisition strategy to get new communications technologies to soldiers faster. It will field the capability to four service units this year and next, and will start fielding an early WIN-T capability to others in 2006, he said.

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