The U.S. Army selected a wireless network developed by Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) to participate in the second Network Integration Evaluation (NIE), underway at White Sands Missile Range, N.M, and Fort Bliss, Texas.
Northrop Grumman's Advanced Meshnet Technology (AMT) forms a very high-speed network that provides enhanced situational awareness, communications and command and control capabilities to dismounted soldiers, commander's vehicles and company-level command posts at the last tactical mile. It works in conjunction with FBCB2 (Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below), a key situational awareness and command-and-control system developed by Northrop Grumman and used by U.S. and coalition forces. More than 100,000 FBCB2 systems have been deployed worldwide. FBCB2 Joint Capabilities Release (JCR) is the next-generation, software-enhanced version of FBCB2, which began fielding to operational units in January 2011.
"FBCB2 JCR brings critical situational awareness and mission command to platforms on the battlefield. Our Advanced Meshnet Technology extends that network to the edge - down to the dismounted soldier in the fight," said Joe G. Taylor, Jr., Northrop Grumman Information Systems' vice president for ground combat systems. "Like FBCB2, AMT is reliable, secure, affordable and interoperable with existing systems. Most importantly, its design and operation make it a true mission command enabler."
In developing AMT, Northrop Grumman and its teammates adapted commercial technologies for tactical environments. Mobile ad hoc networks, or MANETs, like AMT can be quickly deployed, because any device, piece of equipment or platform on the Meshnet can serve as a node for accessing information.
Adapting another commercial innovation, soldiers will use 'battle smart' Android phones that support full-motion video, text-based chat, file transfer protocol and voice over Internet protocol and provide a complete platoon and company headquarters network for dismounted soldiers down to the rifleman level.
Connected in this MANET through AMT, every soldier, command post and vehicle becomes a high bandwidth node. AMT also interfaces with legacy networks, including the Harris Falcon III AN/PRC-117G tactical radio system, Warfighter Information Network - Tactical, Blue Force Tracking and Joint Tactical Radio System, which allows C2 and situational awareness messages to be exchanged in variable message format.
AMT handsets can also operate on current 3G cellular networks and are adaptable for future 4G LTE systems. This multinet capability means the system can operate in any environment including fixed forward operating bases or while conducting mobile operations outside the range of a fixed infrastructure.
The October-November NIE is one of a series of semiannual evaluations designed to rapidly advance the Army's tactical networks. Some 3,800 soldiers from the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, Fort Bliss, Texas, are field testing new technologies in a near-combat, fully integrated environment. By synchronizing and streamlining the evaluation and feedback process, the Army expects to send better products more quickly to the field.
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