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TACP-Modernization

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

This Air Force News Service story offers a good update on the Tactical Air Control Party – Modernization effort.

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(Photo: Tactical air control party specialists with the 169th Air Support Operations Squadron survey an enemy-controlled landing zone before calling in close-air support Aug. 14, 2014, at Operation Northern Strike in Grayling Air Gunnery Range, Grayling, Mich. Northern Strike was a 3-week exercise that demonstrated the combined power of joint and multinational air and ground forces. TACPs with the Air National Guard’s 169th ASOS from Peoria, Ill., and more than 5,000 other armed forces members from 12 states and two coalition nations participated in the combat training. SSgt Lealan Buehrer, Air National Guard)

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. (AFNS) — Embedded deep within an Army maneuver unit lies an Airman. Charged with orchestrating critical close-air support, it’s often the effort of this combat maestro that means the difference between life and death on the battlefield – this specialist is known as a tactical air control party, or TACP for short.

However, the success of close air support doesn’t depend on these Airmen alone, but also the equipment and communication tools they use.

TACP-Modernization, an Air Force Life Cycle Management Center-owned program, is the driving force responsible for acquiring and equipping battlefield Airmen with such tools. This technology has the capability to interface with ground forces, CAS aircraft, UHF satellites, remotely piloted aircraft and command and control intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms.

To meet the needs of a modern day ground and cyber battlefield, the 46-member TACP-M team focuses on reducing reliance on voice transmission and replacing analog equipment with the latest data link and streaming video technology. They do this by addressing three main areas — mounted, dismounted equipment and communication software.

Mounted and mobile

“Mounted mobile communication is a top requirements priority for us,” said Rob Bubello, the Battlespace Communications Branch chief and TACP-M program manager.

TACPs, who advise ground commanders on employing airpower and control aircraft to put bombs on target, utilize two different types of mounted equipment: fixed and mobile.

The mounted, fixed element integrates computer and communications equipment into re-locatable vehicle, rack or transit case-mounted systems for use in tactical operation centers and air support operation centers. This includes the Humvee-mounted ASOC Gateway, Gateway Lite, as well as Dismounted Communication Packages known as DCPs.

Today, TACP-M’s sights are set on producing the next generation of on-the-move technology — Mobile Communication Systems or MCSs.

“The MCS offers a much more robust C2 capability since it provides four channels of voice or data as well as video streaming,” said Maj. Jason Huff, MCS program manager. “In addition, the system is tailored to the vehicle and allows for more room within, which provides easy access to the equipment and more importantly, it offers easier egress access allowing members to exit the vehicle in an emergency.”

The mounted, mobile element, which is very similar to its fixed counterpart, integrates hardware into mobile tactical vehicles employed by the Army and provides on-the-move voice and data capabilities. To date, the program office has fielded 45 communication pallets, which are integrated onto Stryker vehicles that operate within the U.S.’s area of responsibility.

“Another large requirement for us includes DCPs,” Bubello said. “It’s essentially a docking kit, which allows you to combine your existing equipment.”

DCPs, considered part of the mounted equipment component, are comprised of existing hardware such as computers, keypad displays, headsets and antennas. Those items are then coupled with equipment found in air support and tactical operation centers.

Since 2007, TACP-M has managed to acquire and equip 224 Humvees and 45 Strykers with TACP communication systems and plans on integrating 400 more systems into vehicles over the next five to 10 years. They have also fielded 17 operation center Gateways, four Gateway Lights and procured 144 DCPs to date.

Essentially, all these components help modernize digital voice and data communications, allowing for machine-to-machine interface and ultimately reducing what is commonly known to warfighters as “the kill chain.”

Dismounted operations

However, it isn’t solely mounted equipment that TACPs use in the field; therefore, the program team also focuses on acquiring state-of-the-art dismounted technology as well.

For example, multiband man-pack radios began fielding in late 2010, followed by small wearable computers in 2011. Within the same year, pocket laser range finders, handheld laser markers and mini thermal monoculars also entered field testing. Later in 2013, equipment such as full motion video receivers and TOC light/heavy computers found their way onto the battlefield.

Master Sgt. Jeff Kennedy, a battlefield Airman who’s currently assigned to the Hanscom AFB program office, is one of approximately 2,000 TACPs in the Air Force; he and others like him know all too well the importance of having the latest technology.

“It is crucial to have the most up-to-date tools,” said Kennedy, looking back on a recent tour in Afghanistan. “Being able to quickly and efficiently communicate out there is a life or death situation.”

According to the TACP, it’s not only the efficiency of the equipment that has an impact, but also the size and weight. “We have a saying … things should be smaller, lighter, faster,” Kennedy said. “Ounces equal pounds, pounds equal pain. It’s something the program team takes into consideration when procuring new equipment.”

With this in mind, TACP-M moves toward acquiring more efficient pieces of dismounted equipment.

To instance, the team recently introduced 202 additional Soldier ISR Receivers, or SIRs, that will help bring full motion video capability to dismounted TACPs like Kennedy.

In addition, small wearable computers are being replaced by TACP computer kits, which are comprised of an integrated computer, vest and cable systems.

“We’re building cheaper, more specialized kits,” Bubello said. “In this case, a larger, ruggedized, tactical body-worn computer system with simpler message-focused software is the direction we’re headed. It will ultimately provide the operator the means to accomplish their task at a much faster and efficient pace.”

Staying connected

The final piece of the puzzle, and the team’s third area of focus, is close air support system software, commonly referred to as CASS.

The purpose of CASS is simple – to develop and sustain a common software application, one that establishes a baseline across all TACP systems.

“What’s the point of having high-tech gear if we have outdated software?” Kennedy said.

The Air Force currently uses CASS version 1.4.4, but Rockwell Collins, acting on a recently awarded contract will produce version 1.4.5 by October. It was a selection that led to a 60 percent savings for the service from the previous contract.

With CASS playing a substantial role in TACP-Modernization, the Air Force is optimistic that the new version will be fielded in fiscal year 2015.

So what’s to be expected? A software version that improves TACP mission effectiveness via Human Machine Interface, data that can be exchanged between dissimilar air and ground platforms and a dismounted simplified interface environment for battlefield Airmen. The 1.4.5 version will also focus on software applications for the dismounted operator as well as a more complex scale software capability found in air operation centers.

On the ground, TACPs are a safety net for Soldiers, their frontline mission is essential. Through the use of CASS, mounted and dismounted equipment, TACP-M ties it all together by balancing the operators’ present day needs with tomorrow’s modernization.

MDM – Ameripack – Rack Mount Solutions

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

In addition to their other injection molded transit cases, Ameripack also offers the Excalibur series of transit shock rack mounted solutions which are shock tested to 200 lbs.

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Most of this work is OEM production to spec, such as this installation for Themis. These rotational molded cases open at both ends and are built to Mil-Spec. For example, they offer pressure relief valves, humidity indicators, rack mid rails, and optional lid chillers.

Available in Black, tan and OD Green.

www.ameripack.com

MDM – Owl Computing Technologies

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

Owl Computing Technologies was created in 1998 to offer One-Way Transfer Links (OWL). Their latest implementation is their dual diode technology.

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They use a hardened security infrastructure (card) to share data one-way, across domains, for example, low-side to high-side. It takes the old, copy to external disc, air gap, out of the equation, lowering risk to unauthorized disclosure of data via errant USB thumb drives. It also makes for faster access to data from different networks for analysis and fusion.

At the Soldier level, it ensures only certain information to be shared via a network such as heart rate monitor telemetry, GPS data or video. Other data streams could be shared via other networks.

www.owlcti.com

John “Shrek” McPhee Introduces Gunfighter University

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

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John McPhee aka Shrek aka Sheriff of Baghdad is a top-tier firearms trainer. Now, he’s launched an entirely new way of providing feedback to shooters. Gunfighter University utilizes analysis of video of the shooter combined with online feedback. McPhee has been using the Coach’s Eye software for several years now and has even been recognized by Coach’s Eye for his innovative methods.

But, Gunfighter U takes the whole thing to a different level. McPhee offers an affordable option for those who can’t make it to a formal class by offering individualized coaching based on the videos you provide. He’ll take a look at the mechanics of your shot (stance, presentation and grip) and recommend changes. Additionally, he continues to offer class enrollment for those so inclined.

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His methodology is straight forward. It’s a three-strep process that can be accomplished virtually anywhere you can shoot your firearm and record yourself.

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For more information, visit www.gunfighteru.com

OR Summer Market – goTenna

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

Probably the coolest thing I ran across at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market was goTenna.

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Even if there is no wireless infrastructure where you’re headed, goTennna pairs with your smartphone enabling you to text and share your location with other devices. Or, maybe you want your own secure network. GoTenna will even work while your device is in airplane mode. Like, if you don’t want “the man” listening in on your messages. At least not without some serious work.

The device connects via Bluetooth so it must be within 20 feet of the goTenna, which retransmits messages in the 151-154 MHz band.

With location share and ping, think of it as a poor man’s Blue Force Tracker. Granted, range may be an issue due to the 2watt radio but looking at the advantages (location and secure txt), it’s definitely worth a look. They predict varying ranges but line of sight will have a lot to play in any results.

City street to city street: 0.5-1 mile
Forest to forest: 2-3 miles
Water to water: 4-6 miles
Desert to desert: 4-6 miles

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In addition to subscriber to subscriber texting, you can also text to messenger groups. There is also auto message retry if the receiver is out of range. Compatible with Android and iOS, the goTenna offers RSA-1024 encryption and self-destruct messages. Conversely, you can store thousands of messages in the flash memory.

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The rechargeable lithium battery offers a 3-day life. Weighing in at 2 oz, it attaches via strap to your pack or elsewhere. You could even mount inside a bag if need be.

So, think about it. Low power, Bluetooth connection, encryption, self-destruct txt, and all FCC approved. At less than $150 a pair, everyone should have a set just to keep track of loved ones at Disney.

gotenna.com

HawgView – CAS Planning Tool

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

Referred to as an “Attack Pilot’s alternative to FalconView”, HawgView is an open source CAS planning tool created by NEO. Who is NEO? Well, that’s best answered in his own words:

Who am I? I am an A-10 driver first and only a software developer by hobby. Over the past decade, I’ve been flying CAS missions, trying to provide the best support possible to our heroes on the ground. I am still flying in the Air National Guard and plan to for as long as possible, but you will have to forgive me for not giving out my real name. Many of you know me, and I would be glad to talk with any of you over email if you have any questions. I just want to keep my personally identifiable information safe, for obvious reasons. In other words, I am one of you.

Below is a screen capture that will give those of you familiar with FV an idea of what is going on. Head on over and check it out.

HAWG-VIEW

At one time there was someone else using the source code to run another site that is similar but as of now, it seems to be down.

www.hawg-view.com

Thanks to TYR Group for find.

ADS C4ISR Vehicle Concept Demonstrator – Part III – C4ISR Technology

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

ADS took a look at one of the issues that continues to face deployed troops; access to C4ISR feeds. They assembled a team of industry partners including Granite Tactical Vehicles, FLIR, Harris and SYNEXXUS to create a C4ISR Vehicle Concept Demonstrator.

Using COTS items, this team has been able to streamline the way Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and and Reconnaissance data is delivered and displayed to the personnel in the vehicle. It’s now easier to see, interpret and share.

FLIR offers these enhancements to the Demonstrator:

FLIR Systems DV/SA provides Driver Visual Enhancement and Situational Awareness has been used on both wheeled and tracked platforms. It offers the following suite of options:

• Dual Sensor with both thermal and day cameras (enabling blending)
• Single Sensor with thermal camera.
• Cameras with motorized protective lid and cleaning brush.
• 55 degree field of view for increased performance.
• 90 degree field of view for wide angle situational awareness.

FLIR Systems TALON:
• High-performance multi-sensor thermal imaging system in a compact, lightweight 9” package.
• This system offers up to six simultaneous payloads including: IR, Color, CCD, EMCCD, Laser Pointer or Laser Illuminator, LRF and IMU.
• The FLIR Systems TALON offers operators a continuous zoom 640 x 480 infrared IR camera and 2 EO options (color and color/ EMCCD combination) which permit high resolution imagery both day and night

Harris is well known for providing communications systems and the C4ISR Vehicle Concept Demonstrator is no different with the integration of the AN/PRC-117G.
• JTRS Certified, NSA Type-1 Certified, JITC Certified for Narrowband Interoperability Assessment and compliance with DAMA standards
• Includes SINCGARS, Havequick II, VHF/UHF AM and FM, High Performance Waveform (HPW), MIL-STD-188-181B SATCOM.
• Uses the Harris Adaptive Networking Wideband Waveform (ANW2) for high bandwidth data operation and is designed for future upgrade to the Soldier Radio Waveform (SRW)

If FLIR is the eyes of the system and Harris the ears, SYNEXXUS provides the central nervous system.

The ELECTRONIC KEEL® V5.3 is a modular, data/video distribution architecture, designed for rugged reliability with open standard industry inputs. The EKEEL’s open operating system and open published API and GUI software provide the operator with access to platform sensors, radios, applications and other government furnished equipment (GFE) or customer furnished equipment (CFE) with single button actuation and intuitive interface. All platform sub-systems are able to be viewed, controlled and shared from a single interface through one or more independently controlled and simultaneously viewed resistive-touch, multi-function displays. Any government provided software and applications can be used in conjunction with or as an alternative to the system’s software suite.
• Combat-Proven, TRL-9 Rated Digital Backbone
• Operationally Deployed in Theater Since 2009
• Modular, Open Hardware and Software Interfaces
• Access, Control and Network All Platform GFE, Apps and Systems
• Increased Situational Awareness, Decreased SWaP

In this ADStv video, representatives from each of the vendors discuss the capabilities they bring to this project.

With the integration of these different, yet complimentary, capabilities into an upgraded, armored vehicle platform, the ADS C4ISR Vehicle Concept Demonstrator has shown a system that doesn’t suffer from the band-aid fixes that have plagued the legacy HMMWV program over the years. The interior is streamlined and future capabilities can more easily be integrated into the architecture. This is certainly a viable path forward to refit the existing HMMWV fleet with new capabilities.

For more information visit www.ADSinc.com.

ADS C4ISR Vehicle Concept Demonstrator – Part II – The Vehicle

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

During Warrior Expo, ADS Inc exhibited a new concept demonstrator that integrates C4ISR technologies directly into a lightly armored vehicle based on the legacy HMMWV. While the demonstrator is packed with a variety of Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and and Reconnaissance capabilities, it would mean nothing if you couldn’t protect the men and women inside the vehicle. That’s where project partner Granite Tactical Vehicles steps in. They’ve developed a set of five upgrade packages for the HMMWV. The High Mobility, Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle has been with us for over 30 years. Over this time, they’ve applied a variety of fixes to the vehicle, but fundamentally there 25 deficiencies in the design.

Over time, the HMMWV evolved from this simple replacement for the Jeep to an armored battle taxi. Along the way, it became overweight and underpowered.

HMMWV comparison

Engineers at Granite Tactical Vehicles have created five kits to enhance the vehicle’s capabilities:

1) GTV’s proprietary up-armored crew capsule offers 360 degree blast / ballistic protection with underbody armor and a V-Hull. That V-Hull is one of the most effective features to mitigate the effects of IEDs.
2) Upgraded brake calipers and larger rotors, upgraded shocks, spring mounts, lift kit (centered front differential allowing 4 identical half-shafts), frame enhancements and suspension to support up-armored capsule and return vehicle to expected mobility.
3) Upgraded turbo-charged 6.5 liter diesel engine.
4) Upgraded 4L85 transmission, which is critical to overcoming torque deficiency of standard Humvee.
5) Upgraded cooling / radiator system to ensure larger engine is efficiently and effectively cooled during operation.

In fact, application of these five kits, not only enhanced the capabilities of the HMMWV (of which we have thousands still in service) but also weighs in at 200 lbs below the current UpArmored variant. As funding for programs like the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle are reprogrammed for other needs, upgrades such as this, to existing equipment are a great way to extend their lifecycle as well as enhance capabilities.

Justin Boyle of ADS goes over the five upgrade kits for the HMMWV in this short video from ADStv.

For more information visit www.ADSinc.com.

ADS C4ISR Vehicle Concept Demonstrator – Part I – Overview

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

During Warrior Expo, ADS Inc exhibited a new concept demonstrator that integrates C4ISR technologies directly into a lightly armored vehicle based on the legacy uparmored HMMWV. For those unfamiliar, C4ISR includes Command, Control, Communications, Computers as well as Intelligence, Surveillance and and Reconnaissance capabilities. It’s not that this is a dedicated command and control vehicle or even a scout vehicle but rather, ADS recognizes that over the last 10 years, there has been a boom in the deployment of new C4ISR technologies. The real hurdle is delivering this disparate information to the end user and then, making sense of all of it.

ADS teamed with Granite Tactical Vehicles, FLIR, Harris and SYNEXXUS. Everything here is Commercial-Off-The-Shelf. It’s just been configured in such a way that the whole is greater than the sum of its individual components.

If you were at Warrior East, I hope you had a chance to check out this vehicle. If not, ADStv created three video segments that we will use to show what it’s all about. Below, John Fristachi from ADS of ADS discusses the project.

To learn more contact ADS Inc.

Warrior East – Juggernaut Defense Introduces Case for Galaxy Tab

Friday, July 11th, 2014

The Juggernaut.Case for the Galaxy Tab is here!

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It features a new one-piece housing, a new depot level replaceable common connector module so you don’t have to trash the case of you break the cable and a new two-piece door design for audio ports. The point of these upgrades is to comply with IP-68 which offers 2 meter immersion.

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www.juggernautDefense.com