The Army is integrating an emerging software product for its Warfighter Information Network – Tactical Satcom communications system that adds a key interface between otherwise less-connected nodes on the network.
The software, called IQ-Core, provides a computer “layer” engineered for enhanced interoperability between various elements of the WIN-T network – creating more synergy and an improved user interface, industry developers said.
“You might have a firewall from one vendor and a router from another vendor and wireless access from yet another vendor-- all intertwined with a separate cryptosystem,” Charlie Kawasaki, Chief Technical Officer at PacStar.
The WIN-T communications technology is engineered to connect fixed locations and moving vehicles to mission command systems such as mapping, video, intelligence assets, force tracking applications and other command post functions. WIN-T Increment 1 connects fixed locations and the now-emerging WIN-T Inc. 2 enables mission command on the move by building the Satcom network into vehicles.
Army statements state that WIN-T is a critical element of C4ISR modernization because existing and emerging threats require forces to spread out across wider swaths of terrain, and they will need access to extended-reach secure communications.
The mission command on-the-move enabled by WIN-T Inc. 2 is an increasingly vital technology in need of proper management and maintenance, Army officials said. The plan is to better connect mobile and dispersed forces to a Tactical Operations Center.
“As the Army moves to a more expeditionary force, dispersed over ever-increasing distances, managing and defending this sophisticated network (WIN-T) becomes a crucial element in achieving mission success,” an Army statement said.
“We’re still in the process of working with the Increment 2 program to figure out exactly how our software fits in, and we’re in the process of piloting things like immigration steps into our software. But right now, we’re fully deployed on Inc. 1,” Kawasaki said.
The advantages provided by IQ-Core appeared to be aligned with ongoing Army WIN-T modernization efforts. The Army has been working on engineering an Ethernet cable into vehicles for WIN-T Inc. 2 to enable a single laptop to operate an easy-to-use interface.
"From that laptop, a soldier can merely hit a button and perform all the initialization, configuration and software load tasks, for all the vehicles, simultaneously. It will enable units to roll out and conduct on the move operations much quicker," an Army statement said.
Overall, Kawasaki said PacStar has more than 6,000 copies of the software deployed. A key aim of the software is to quicken the pace of mission command activities for soldiers in combat to enable faster, more effective battlefield decisions.
“The reconfiguration of WIN-T nodes out in the field can be done much faster, which means that the warfighters aren’t blind to many situations. That means that comms are up and that systems are less vulnerable during a fight,” he added.
By adding a new user interface, Kawasaki said the IQ-Core aims to reduce the need for soldiers to reconfigure or troubleshoot potentially challenged elements of the WIN-T network.
“To help combat the continued rise in cyber threats, various WIN-T enhancements provide better firewall tools and defensive cyber visualization to help signal soldiers more easily manage, protect, and harden the network from vulnerabilities,” an Army statement said.
Alongside the integration of this technology, Kawasaki explained that PacStar is working to facilitate wireless connectivity within command posts, at times using VPN networks to safeguard or encrypt information travelling across the network between nodes.