The Army goes wireless on the battlefield to give logistics support

A wireless logistics application means that supply chains need not lag miles behind soldiers fighting on the front lines in northern Iraq.

For the first time during an armed conflict, the Army's combat support specialists have immediate links to supply commands via the Combat Service Support Automated Information Systems Interface (CAISI), a secure wireless LAN that supplies last-mile connectivity.

CAISI extends tactical connectivity from the commanders in the theater to the brigade support units, said Maj. Sal Fiorella, assistant project manager for CAISI. The system supports 11-Mbps wireless line-of-sight transmission, encrypts all wireless LAN communications and has a 2-Mbps Digital Subscriber Line backup.

The program gives logistic officers at remote ammunition outposts a connection to their battlefield bases, which are often several miles away. CAISI supports basic Internet access for ordering supplies and ammunition.

The Army in December began fielding CAISI to regions in Kuwait and completed the deployment to Iraq-bound units by mid-March, Fiorella said.

Before CAISI, combat support personnel had to rely on sneakernet to get their supply orders from remote locations to bases, said Jose Ilarraza, who works in logistics management at the Combined Arms Support Command at Fort Lee, Va.

Ilarraza is currently in southwest Asia with the Automated Logistics Assistance Team.

'CAISI is a tremendous value, in terms of less labor, reduced environmental impact of digging in wire and cost of lost wire,' said Maj. Forrest Burke, chief of logistics automation for the Coalition Forces Land Component Command in Kuwait. 'Plus, CAISI is allowing us to be much more flexible in where we position units, both in tactical and garrison facilities.'

CAISI supports about 85,000 users via 11,000 wireless access points and bridges from Cisco Systems Inc. of San Jose, Calif. For security, the wireless LAN has more than 6,000 AirFortress Wireless Security Gateways from Fortress Technologies Inc. of Tampa, Fla.

AirFortress gateways, which are certified compliant with FIPS-140-1, use the Triple Data Encryption Standard or the Advanced Encryption Standard to secure data sent over wireless links at Layer 2.

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