Army-Navy collaboration hints at next-gen joint force communications
- By Mark Pomerleau
- Nov 19, 2015
“Because funding’s going down... joint collaboration is going up,” Lt. Gen. Alan Lynn, director of the Defense Information Systems Agency, said at a breakfast hosted by AFCEA’s Washington chapter recently.
In one example of such collaboration, forces are using the Army’s Joint Enterprise Network Manager, or JENM, to support the operational test of the Navy’s Mobile User Objective System, the next-generation satellite communication system that provides smartphone-like services over MUOS-capable, software-defined radios from almost anywhere in the world.
While MUOS provides the satellite capability, JENM handles the planning, configuration and monitoring functions for all MUOS-compatible radios in the joint tactical environment.
“JENM is the connective tissue of the mid- and lower-tier tactical network; it ties the radio capability and waveforms together,” said Maj. Nathan Rozea, assistant product manager for the Army’s Warfighter Information Network-Tactical. “Today's joint military has thousands of software-defined radios that enable advanced communications, voice and data sharing, so the managing software behind those radios is critical.”
For the Army, the upgraded JENM v3 will be used in the MUOS Multi-Service Operational Test and Evaluation – a month-long exercise from mid-October to mid-November. JENM v3 capability for MUOS is expected to become operational next fiscal year pending successful trials.
The latest version of JENM gives users the ability to more easily make and manage configuration changes, and it provides more advanced troubleshooting. It also reduces errors, since soldiers don’t have to load mission plans into each radio by hand, said Spc. Lewis Solomon, a signal support systems specialist with Combat Network Radio. “It is getting real simple. …All you have to do is plug, load and use the radio. It saves a lot of time.”
For the next phase, leaders are envisioning more agility and portability. Currently, JENM is a software application on a laptop in a command post environment. However, the Army is working to develop a tactical version that can be loaded on the communications devices themselves, so soldiers can load and reconfigure capabilities in the field without returning to a command post.
“This is an exceptional team effort between the Navy and the Army that will keep geographically dispersed troops connected and extend the operational reach of our entire joint force,” Col. Greg Coile, project manager for the Army's Warfighter Information Network-Tactical, said.
MUOS is replacing ultra-high frequency satellite constellations currently in use and will provide ten times more capacity. A Navy team recently conducted tests in the Arctic transferring large files over MUOS, which provided nearly 150 hours of secure data connections.
Mark Pomerleau is a former editorial fellow with GCN and Defense Systems.