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War games to shape Signal Corps' future

by Steve Brady

FORT GORDON, Ga. (Army News Service Jan. 28, 2005) -- Members from all branches of the Army are scheduled to participate in a weeklong war game to help dictate the future of the Signal Corps.

The Signal Center and Directorate of Combat Developments is holding the LandWarNet war games from Jan. 31 to Feb. 4 at the Fort Gordon’s Reserve Center to test and develop the Army's portion of the Global Information Grid, or GIG.

Simply put, the GIG provides a global strategic network to all active component forces, National Guard and Reserve troops; LandWarNet is the Army's portion of the GIG, said Col. Jeffrey Smith, U.S. Army Signal Center and Fort Gordon deputy commander.

"The war game ought to demonstrate to each of the proponents whether in fact they've got the right communications network that supports the requirement, and second of all what are the modifications we're going to need to make them more effective in the fight itself," said Smith.

The participants include engineers, infantry, armor, intelligence, aviation, air defense artillery, and combat service support branches.
The different groups will be presented the scenario and detail how they would deploy their forces, and the Signal Corps will then determine how to best provide network support.

Support would range from secure and non-secure phone and computer lines, to teleconferencing, networking and command and control interconnectivity.

The war game takes place in a well-known Caspian Sea scenario and includes a map exercise and workgroups to discuss network requirements, network architecture and acquisition strategy, organizational designs, training and sustainment, and numerous other topics.

The war game includes the various points of a large scale deployment including planning, training, deployment, stabilization, redeployment and refitting, Smith said.

Smith said the war game will help leaders determine the doctrine, materiel and personnel to wage that type of fight, and help better organize the Signal Corps and improve communications between Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines.

All of this gaming will help develop the LandWarNet network. But the network is anything but simple. It will provide Soldiers communications and information access anywhere on the planet, he said.

"For instance, anyone on the battle space, in the new technology, should be able to plug into a network capability, whether you're inside a vehicle, on the front lines, on patrol walking through a city, Smith said. "No matter where you are on that battle space, the minute you plug in, you have access to the full suite of network services instantly available to you.”

Some of those services could include managing personnel accounts, battle plans, scheduling vehicle maintenance, ordering replacement parts and more.

Although LandWarNet is still in the conceptual phase, the network is being designed to avoid a tragic byproduct of war: fratricide.

"One of the elements of the network is a Blue Force tracking capability. That Blue Force tracking capability is going to be widely disseminated and it will have the situational awareness, the location of every friendly Soldier on that battle space … so as you begin to do your targeting we'll be able to de-conflict very quickly friendly from enemy," Smith said.

Currently, that type of information is not readily available below the brigade level.

"Those are the kinds of information systems, which because they take up so much bandwidth, are rarely available to the battalion and below Soldier. But the network designs that we plan on fielding, starting in about a year, are going to provide that kind of ability to de-conflict targets at the lowest level," he said.

The advances are being made possible by applying new commercial technology and fielding new equipment that allows the Army to extend the network to lower echelons than previously possible.

"The great thing about this new and emerging technology is to be able to take that kind of capability and provide it to small vehicles, the Soldiers on the move," Smith said, "so that you can get a broadcast image of the enemy location, position or target, and understand what you are up against."