Digital comms let Army take bigger bite of battlefield

FORT MONMOUTH, N.J. - The U.S. Army`s first digitized division in 2000 will control an area 600 times larger than the conventional division of 1984, thanks to enhanced digital communications capabilities.

By John Rhea

FORT MONMOUTH, N.J. - The U.S. Army`s first digitized division in 2000 will control an area 600 times larger than the conventional division of 1984, thanks to enhanced digital communications capabilities.

The typical Army division of 1984 controlled a battlefield of nearly 25 square miles. But new communications systems will enable the first digitized division, the 4th Mechanized Infantry based at Fort Carson, Colo., to control an area of 14,880 square miles, says Maj. Gen. Gerard Brohm, who leads the Army Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM) at Fort Monmouth, N.J.

Speaking at the command`s Advanced Planning Briefing for Industry (APBI) at Fort Monmouth last month, Brohm attributed this trend to an evolving digital communications-based architecture that embraces sensors, intelligence, command and control, and weapons. Digital communications is the enabling technology for operating units to expand the reach of their command and control.

Col. William Rodakowski, director of combat developments at the U.S. Army Signal Center at Fort Gordon, Ga., divulged comparable numbers at the APBI: 62 by 31 miles in the past and 124 by 75 miles for the digitized battlefield of the future. The first digitized division is to become operational in the year 2000.

Rodakowski warned, however, that the increased complexity of the command and control infrastructure will also require more technical skills and therefore more supporting personnel than divisions do today. A driving factor is the increased attention to situational awareness, Rodakowski says.

Members of the 4th Mechanized Infantry Division are already receiving equipment that is bringing them close to their total bandwidth requirements, Rodakowski says. The next divisions to be digitized after the 4th will be 1st Cavalry at Fort Hood, Texas, the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg, N.C., and the 101st Airborne (Air Assault) at Fort Campbell, Ky.

A brigade-level tactical operations center (TOC) now has a peak load of 1.6 megabytes per second, Rodakowski notes.

Army leaders are trying to phase out their present Mobile Subscriber Equipment (MSE) and its Tri-Tac communications systems, which represent 1970s tech- nology. They want to replace MSE and Tri-Tac with the Warfighter Information Network 21 to achieve economies from a single, newer-technology system, but the transition did not make the cut in this year`s Army budget.

Army leaders also are trying to trim the size of each of their divisions from 18,500 to 15,000, beginning with the 4th Mechanized Infantry, by reducing the requirements for combat service support personnel.

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