The US Army has installed the soldier network extension (SNE) on its mine-resistant, ambush-protected (MRAP) all-terrain vehicles, in an effort to enhance communication between the soldiers and commanders in Afghanistan.
Installed as part of the service's mobile warfighter information network-tactical (WIN-T) increment2 network, the tool enables the geographically dispersed company formations to maintain the required network connectivity and situational awareness with their respective battalion headquarters.
WIN-T increment2 product manager lieutenant colonel Lamont Hall said SNE availability at the company level enables dissemination of real-time situational awareness across the entire brigade combat team formation through restoration of lower tactical internet (TI) radio networks, which is sometimes restricted by distance or terrain features.
"It is critical to keep those lower TI radio networks connected into the network and ensure commanders can see and understand what is happening on the battlefield," Hall added.
The tool will for the first time provide lower echelons with the mission critical network reach-back to the army's global information grid, which will prove critical as the US shifts its mission from combat to training in Afghanistan.
Operating from company level, SNE will allow soldiers to transmit critical information from lower echelons up to higher headquarters, and vice versa, eventually enhancing commanders' battlespace awareness and decision-making capability.
In addition, the extension offers company-level soldiers access to advanced collaboration and on-the-move situational awareness tools, once only available at higher echelons, simultaneously enabling commanders on the move to make voice phone calls, hold battle update briefs, access email over the army's secret network and exchange planning files and documents.
Besides keeping the lower TI radio networks connected, even in adverse environments, SNE's combat net radio extension further extends the networks, comprising the soldier radio waveform, enhanced position location reporting system and single channel ground and airborne radio system to unlimited distances, allowing soldiers to extend their data links according to mission requirements.
The second brigade combat team, first armored division company commander captain William Branch said: ''Giving me those services is enabling me and my platoon leaders to do a much better job and operate within my commander's intent."
Image: the WIN-T increment2 soldier network extension is currently installed on select US Army's MRAP vehicles. Photo: courtesy of Amy Walker.