General Dynamics and WIN-T: Pursuing the GIGStory
August 14, 2009
Based on an exclusive interview with General Dynamics, editor Sharon Schnakenburg tells how the U.S. Army's WIN-T program enables mobile comms via the DoD's Global Information Grid (GIG).
Much like the constantly on-the-move soldiers it aims to inform and protect, the Global Information Grid (GIG) and its technological components never seem to stand still. One example is the U.S. Army's GIG-enabling Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) communications/networking program, with its always-moving, ever-evolving technologies.
WIN-T forms the network infrastructure of the U.S. Army's section of the GIG. "It's the equivalent of what you would have in, say, your data closet in an office building," explains Bill Weiss, vice president tactical networks for General Dynamics C4 Systems. WIN-T networking gear can be embedded into combat vehicles and installed in tactical communication assemblages, and provides broadband Internet, information services, and telephone services to command posts from theater through company levels.
Meanwhile, WIN-T's ever-evolving "increments" (see Sidebar 1), hardware and software components, and ties to the Army's new FCS transition depot – the Brigade Combat Team (BCT) Modernization Strategy – are what make it intriguing.
Sidebar 1: WIN-T’s fourfold increments
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Hardware and software composites
Weiss says Increment 2 features specialized network radios optimized for mobile use with their logical counterparts – omnidirectional beamforming antennas – to facilitate line-of-sight communications established on an ad hoc, as-needed basis. A built-in navigation system and satellite pointing mechanism are key.
Networking gear additionally consists of oft-ruggedized, off-the-shelf switches and routers. Prime contractor General Dynamics – whose WIN-T team members include Lockheed Martin and Program Executive Office Command, Control, and Communications Tactical, among others – sometimes partners with commercial vendors Cisco and Juniper Networks to create smaller routers when space is limited. (See Table 1 for a list of additional WIN-T suppliers.)
Table 1: These are just some of the companies providing their wares to one or more WIN-T increments.
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Meanwhile, WIN-T's software blends off-the-shelf and custom programs. Commercial software is used for network services, commercial routing, and commercial network management. Proprietary software is created for the specialized waveforms and automation necessary for supporting the mobile network.
Ties into FCS and BCT modernization strategy
WIN-T Increment 3 is the first WIN-T increment associated with FCS – which is now transitioning into what the Army calls its Brigade Combat Team Modernization Strategy – utilizing JC4ISR embedded radios and designed to meet FCS vehicle SWaP requirements. Though SECDEF Gates has put all except the initial FCS increment on the proposed chopping block, General Dynamics continues with its various WIN-T increments – undaunted.
1 The government classifies one mobile node of WIN-T Increment 2 possessing a TCN, POP, and SNE.