Army reviews bids for tactical net

Three Defense contractors this month submitted bids detailing how they would develop a tactical communications network for the Army to help today's soldiers fight smarter on tomorrow's battlefields.

The Army in mid-August plans to award a 15-year, $6.6 billion contract for the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical program.
Col. Tom Cole, WIN-T project manager at the Army Communications-Electronics Command in Fort Monmouth, N.J., said the high-speed, high-capacity communications backbone is a key component of the Army's plan to transform itself and prepare its troops for warfare in the future.

The network will use wired and wireless voice, data and video communications to move information with the soldier on the battlefield, whether he's riding in a combat vehicle, manning a radio system or stationary at a command post.

'We're trading armor for knowledge,' Cole said. 'It will give the warfighter more of an edge. We're enabling the movement of that information so it can be integrated, so it can be consolidated.' The intention is to provide better information to warfighters faster, he said.

To a crawl

'Right now, we have to stop, put a stake in the ground and put an antenna up, which slows our capability to act,' Cole said. 'This is significantly more advanced than what we have today.'

The Army will award contracts to two of the three bidders'General Dynamics Corp., Lockheed Martin Corp. and TRW Inc.'to develop architecture specifications.

In 2006, production will begin on WIN-T, and the service will hire one of the two contractors to finish the work, Cole said.

Some users will have wireless handheld computers to connect to WIN-T using radio and satellite links. Others will use wired voice terminals, which Cole compared to the communications infrastructure that carries a person's voice over a phone line.

Cole noted that WIN-T will not provide intelligence capabilities. The Army will use sensors from outside the network to collect data. WIN-T will transport the data to the right person, Cole said.
Officials at the three companies said they anticipate that the large-scale systems integration work of WIN-T will be challenging.

WIN-T will require interfaces with other Defense combat systems as well as the Army's Future Combat Systems, Joint Tactical Radio System and ultimately the equipment for the Objective Force Warrior, the Army's high-tech vision for 21st-century combat forces.

'WIN-T is the complete network for the battlefield, from space to dirt,' said Hershie Krich, director of business development for TRW's tactical systems division.

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