The Army is moving toward fielding a smaller, more compact version of its main battlefield tactical network despite the program facing a barrage of criticism.
The warfighter information network-tactical (WIN-T) program has spent $6 billion spinning out the system in increments since 2004. It is the primary means by which the service transmits data around battle zones to forces on the move, and is now fielded with 14 brigade combat teams and their division headquarters.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., is one of the program's most vocal critics and has gone as far as saying it is a waste of taxpayer money. Joining him is Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, who has ordered a review of the system. He has said WIN-T is too complex for soldiers to use, vulnerable to cyber attacks and too cumbersome.
Program managers attempted to address the latter two issues at the Network Integration Evaluation 17.2 exercise at Fort Bliss, Texas, this summer.
The tactical communications node-lite (TCN-L) and the network operations security center-lite (NOSC-L) were two upgrades brought to the desert for operational testing.
Milley has stated that the Army has to become more mobile. The service has relied on static, semi-permanent forward operating bases over the past 15 years but will not have such luxuries in future conflicts. Near-peer competitors such as Russia would be able to attack such bases with relative ease. The Army will not be able to stay in one place for too long, he said.
Maj. Wayne Dunlap, assistant program manager for WIN-T increment 2, said the two upgrades will make the network lighter, more efficient and faster. The two systems previously had to be transported on heavy tactical wheeled vehicles. The new versions can be placed on a Humvee and a trailer or the new joint light tactical vehicle. They can both be sling-loaded on a CH-47 Chinook.
"That's the point of this test: to make sure we can make the transfer from the heavier version to the lighter version," he said.
Along with kinetic attacks, potential adversaries will use electronic and cyber warfare to go after the network, Milley has said. He has expressed his displeasure with how WIN-T performs in such circumstances.
"We are all aware of the chief of staff's review of the network," Dunlap said. "Everyone here is waiting on his decision on which way he wants to go, but in the meantime we are going to continue with the operational tests for these units. It...