War in Ukraine heightens need for US Army network upgrades, generals say

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PHILADELPHIA — The war in Ukraine validates the U.S. military’s efforts to upgrade communications equipment and strengthen cybersecurity tools, according to the service’s network modernization officials.

“I think the things we observed strengthened the campaign that we were part of and that we need to continue that momentum and that mode of execution,” Army Maj. Gen. Robert Collins told reporters on Tuesday. May 10. on the sidelines from a technical forum.

As the program’s executive officer for command, control, and tactical communications, Collins helps oversee the deployment of what are known as capability sets, hardware and software injections needed by the military. for an intuitive, reinforced and mobile network.

The conflict in Eastern Europe reaffirms the capability set process and its concepts by shining a spotlight on the “grassroots blockade and struggle” of signals and communications security, Collins said.

“Also, when you have a living, breathing threat,” he said, “you have to think about things like a contested and cluttered environment.”

Russian forces in Ukraine have used simpler and less secure communication devices – cell phones, for example – to relay information. They also stumbled upon critical command and control methods.

“We see them using a lot more unclassified communications because their classified communications capability is, well, for some reason, isn’t as strong as it should be,” a senior official said. defense during a Pentagon briefing on March 21.

Failures make Moscow’s war machine vulnerable.

“It’s another one of those logistical support issues that we’ve seen them struggle with,” the senior official said. “They just weren’t fully prepared for operations of this intensity for so long on so many multiple and different lines of attack.”

The United States cannot and will not let the same problems befall its forces in future combat, said Brig. Gen. Jeth Rey, director of the Army Network Cross-Functional Team. So military officials take notes.

“That’s what we learn from this,” Rey said at the May 10 event. “We’re going to be so distributed in the fight, and we see how they are distributed.”

Russia broke Ukrainian lines of communication before its invasion in late February and continues to target them. The United States said last month it would send secure tactical communications equipment to Ukraine after providing the country with improved radios to combat eavesdropping and jamming.

“Now we have to be careful. Are these commercial applications, are they really what we want to use on the battlefield? Rey told reporters. “We want to make sure they have security from the start, so they are not compromised and can put our forces at risk.”

The capability set initiative began in fiscal year 2021. Cumulative improvements, shaped by industry and soldiers, are expected every two years.

Capability Set ’21 focused on infantry brigades, increased connectivity, and made the communications kit smaller, faster, and more resilient. Some seven Brigade Combat Teams have received the upgrades, with two more remaining.

Capability Set ’23 focuses on Stryker brigades and aims to improve data sharing and mobility while taking into account electronic and cyber warfare considerations. The Army completed its critical design review of the Capability Set ’23 technologies in April and will ship the systems to Europe later this year, where continued testing and analysis will influence fielding decisions.

“In previous wars, the difference between a right decision and a wrong decision could be minutes,” Collins said at an April 26 protest in Fort Myer, Virginia. “In the future battlespace, that difference between a good decision and a bad decision can be seconds or milliseconds.”

Colin Demarest is a reporter at C4ISRNET, where he covers networking and computing. Colin previously covered the Department of Energy and its National Nuclear Security Administration — namely nuclear weapons development and Cold War cleanup — for a South Carolina daily.

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