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U.S. Army South to increase its Space capabilities for future missions

April 2, 2014
By Sgt. Mahlet Tesfaye

Army South is onboard with that mission and the first step is educating its leaders and Soldiers of the advantages and functions of the latest commercial and military space capabilities available in support of Army South commanding general's mission and objectives.

"Building partner nation capacity is part of Army South's theater security cooperation mission," said Lt. Col. Larry Roberts, Army South's chief of Army Space Support Element and Special Technical Operations. "We see the application of the space capabilities supporting exchanges, along with foreign military interaction exercises and supporting mutual interests between Army South and partnering nations."

The Army South Operations Training Division and the SSE invited members of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Strategic Forces Command and the Joint Operationally Responsive Space Command March 19 -- 20 at its headquarters in order to conduct new equipment training and fielding for Space-based capabilities in support of the U.S. Southern Command's Situational Assessment Team mission led by Army South.

Army South hosted the two-day meeting to discuss and educate leaders how Space Training Kits 1, 2 and 3 and the Commercial Integration of Global Android-based Relay Services for Force Tracking, also called CIGARS, will assist the unit?'s upcoming exercises and operations. The meeting was the first in series of planned training opportunities to educate Army South leaders and Soldiers on space capabilities.

"The space kits are part of the U.S. Army Space Training Strategy to assist in training both U.S. military and partnering nations in employment and use of space-based capabilities in support of normal, enhanced, and contested operational environments," said Lt. Col. Tracy G. Monteith, Operations Support Chief for USASMDC/ARSTRAT. "They reflect the U.S. Army Space priorities of satellite communications, position, navigation and timing and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance."

According to Monteith, Space Kits are comprised of three components.

Space Kit 1, known as space knowledge tablets, are software programs (Android-based iSpace applications) with constantly updated positioning of satellites that Soldiers can use to locate satellites from anywhere in the world. The programs are used to predict GPS accuracy for a location on the Earth, determine ground site visibility for selected satellites, determine angles from ground site to satellite, and use augmented reality to display satellites across the sky.

Space Kit 2 is a space enhancement kit used to enhance situational awareness and force protection, ideally suited to small units operating in remote locations. This kit allows GPS tracking on displayed map, text messaging, and picture uploads between Soldiers, a ground-based weather sensor that provides wind data, humidity, and lightning detection, uses networked solar powered sensors to geolocate threat and report via Wi-Fi/satellite, and also uses a seismic and motion detection sensor kit to distinguish between humans, vehicles and animals.

Space Kit 3, called the Space Degradation Kit, contains a system capable of demonstrating effects of space system degradation such as GPS jamming. The kit will be used as a training tool in preparation for unit deployment.

The CIGARS System is a proof of concept that utilizes commercial, off the shelf, satellite or Wi-Fi-based communication systems that is employable by a vehicle mounted War Operations Planned Response mobile application and mapping server providing a cellular gateway or a mobile five pound backpack kit, providing a cellular gateway.

"Both the vehicle and backpack systems can utilize satellite-based technology in case tower communications are not available and both are expandable by employing up to 25 smart phones that tie into either the vehicle and/or backpack system," Monteith explained.

As Army South's senior space officer, Roberts conveyed that during the two day event Army South had the opportunity to identify space capabilities and advantages that could potentially enhance and contribute to the Army South mission, objectives and partnering nations.

"One of the many benefits of the space capabilities is when Army South's rapid deployed teams that deploy into an area that is either remote with very little ground based communications or into mountainous, rugged and sparse areas with little infrastructure. They can use the space-based part of the systems which is connectivity through communication satellite systems for Internet, data transfer and email while also using the GPS for positioning and land based orientation," said Roberts.

Ultimately, space-based capabilities will assist Army South in its mission to conduct and support multinational operations and security cooperation in order to counter transnational threats and strengthen regional security in defense of the homeland.

"Our goal in the short term is to identify, evaluate and coordinate for Space capabilities that will enable our mission throughout the U.S. Southern Command area of responsibility," said Col. Michael Panko, Army South's chief of Operations Training Division.

"The Space Kits and CIGARS system will help Army South to strengthen partner nation relationships by further assisting each during combined operations," said Roberts. "Army South will continue working with its leaders and Soldiers to train and provide the necessary tools in order to implement the latest space capabilities into its exercises and missions to improve its day-to-day military operations."

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