Army plans spring bid for WIN-T proposals

Army plans spring bid for WIN-T proposals

The Army plans to release a request for proposals next year for the next generation of battlefield communications systems: the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical.

The RFP for the WIN-T is set for release March 15. The Communications-Electronics Command in Fort Monmouth, N.J., will oversee the project, which is expected to cost $6.6 billion.

'This is the most important communication program the Army has going,' a senior project officer for WIN-T said. 'We've tried to anticipate command and control flow for the next 15 to 20 years and make sure we have the capacity to handle it.'

The system is intended to provide new capabilities and flexibility for troops in battle. By incorporating advanced terrestrial, airborne and space-based battle command systems, WIN-T will let the Army concentrate combat power by means other than massing its forces, which will make smaller units tougher and more lethal.

WIN-T will replace the Tri-service Tactical Communications system, which is based on military technology from the 1970s. Signal battalions are required to use the system for most communications functions.

The new system will use commercially available products and standards so that new technology can be incorporated as soon as it becomes available. The network will be part of the user's platform and not dependent on the signal corps to provide the communications link.

'What we are trying to do is bring that communications support closer to the soldier,' said the WIN-T spokesman, who requested that his name not be used. 'This way, he can move faster, he gets more bandwidth and he has priority on the communications, which he doesn't have today.'

WIN-T will handle communications for users from the theater level down to individual battalions, allowing them to exchange voice, video and data over wired or wireless systems.

Common platform

The network will connect all its users to each other as well as to joint and multinational forces and the Defense Information System Network. The rapid exchange of information, the Army brass hope, will let commanders create a common tactical picture that will aid joint planning, precision engagements and focused logistics. Army officials expect such capabilities to reduce friendly fire incidents and enable fast, secure, seamless communication for precise targeting of enemy forces.

According to the WIN-T network description at www.monmouth.army.mil/peoc3s/win-t/main/wintordv5.doc, the system will employ switching and routing systems that will allocate bandwidth and route information over several transmission paths to bypass outages and congestion.

The system will use three terminal devices for communication with warfighters. Some users will have secure wireless handheld computers to connect to the WIN-T network using radio and satellite links. Others will use secure or nonsecure wired voice terminals.

But the contractor who develops the network will determine the details of the system.

'Our specification is performance-oriented, defining everything in terms of warfighter needs,' the project officer said. 'Bidders can present any type of technology that will provide that communications path.'

Widespread deployment is at least five years away. The Army plans to select two vendors that will independently develop networks to meet the specifications. The two options will be tested in 2004, and the Army will pick one to begin producing the units at a low rate. It will initially build enough equipment to supply a single division for further testing. The units will be delivered to the field in 2006 for training purposes. By mid-2007, the tests will be completed and the units will be broadly deployed in the field.

Since WIN-T will incorporate commercially available systems, the Army will be able to keep it updated as newer communications technologies reach the market. 'WIN-T will be out there for the next 25 years,' said the WIN-T spokesman.

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