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Chapter 2

How to Fight with MSE

This chapter gives an architectural overview of the MSE system, and covers the doctrinal and technical impacts it creates. It also covers the techniques and procedures for tactical MSE employment which establish its use as a combat multiplier. Success during the full range of military operations, including smaller-scale contingencies (SSCs)military operations other than war (MOOTW), requires synchronization to support the requirements of all automated information systems (AISs). MSE provides a flexible, secure, and reliable means for the warfighter to synchronize the activities of his force.



2-1. As the corps commander maneuvers combat units, the MSE network deploys to support these elements. The direction of maneuver and the location of combat, combat support (CS), and combat service support (CSS) units dictate the placement of communications units. MSE supports force subscribers at echelons from corps through battalion CPs. However, as the mission dictates, MSE will provide air defense artillery (ADA) support to elements lower than battalion echelons.

2-2. The MSE network is a nodal switched voice and data communications system that is extended by a radiotelephone to provide area coverage. MSE is part of a three-tier communications network. It ties into the Tri-Service Tactical Communications (TRI-TAC) tier supporting the EAC network at selected NCs. MSE also provides CNR users with an interface to the ACUS via SDNRIU. This capability links Single-Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System (SINCGARS) users with telephone subscribers which provides an added method of communication for maneuver units. FM 11-32 covers the planning and operation of the SDNRI capability. Figure 2-1 shows the architecture of the MSE network.

2-3. NCSs are arrayed from the corps rear boundary forward to the maneuver brigade based on geographic and subscriber density factors. NCSs provide the entire corps with connectivity and switching capability. NCs are somewhat independent of the existing command structures. Normally, not all NCs are committed at any given time. This gives SYSCON the flexibility to change MSE to meet the operational mission. The corps signal brigade can deploy 22 NCs, and each division signal battalion can deploy 4 to 6 NCs. Each NC must connect to at least 3 other NCs to provide route path survivability. This forms the backbone grid network.

Figure 2-1. MSE System Architecture


2-4. The standard five-division corps MSE network can serve up to 26,100 subscribers from battalion through corps. This includes

  • 8,200 DNVT subscribers.
  • 1,900 MSRT subscribers.
  • 16,000 data subscribers.

2-5. Figure 2-2 shows the MSE architecture divided into three layers. The upper layer is backbone structure that consists of interconnected NCs. The middle layer consists of LENs and SENs that provide CPs with network access. The bottom layer consists of static (wire line) and mobile subscribers. Up to 264 SENs and 9 LENs can deploy to support the corps. Typically, a SEN serves a brigade headquarters, separate battalion, or CP. Each of the 112 RAUs (13 in each division and 47 in the corps) support from 20 to 25 mobile subscribers.

Figure 2-2. MSE Architecture Layers


2-6. The NCs serve as hubs for the entire nodal system. The LENs and SENs are extension nodes that branch off these NCs. The extension nodes provide voice, data, and facsimile communications to corps, division, and brigade CPs. LOS UHF radio links provide connectivity among NCs and from NCs to LENs and SENs. This architecture furnishes all MSE subscribers with automatic switching. Each NCS platoon has net radio interface (NRI) capabilities.

2-7. A five-division corps MSE network has seven SCC-2s, two at the corps signal brigade headquarters and one each in the division signal battalions. The SCC-2 determines, with input from unit deputy G6/S6, where the NRI can best serve the subscriber. A LEN or SEN can have the NRI installed. The SCC-2 is an integral element of SYSCON. The SCC-2 directs network management and connects to host NCs by cable.

2-8. Mobile subscribers with MSRTs can access the MSE network via a RAU. Any subscriber in the network can be called by simply dialing the subscribers' number regardless of location. The mobile subscriber can talk while on the move, as long as one of the corps deployed RAUs is providing radio coverage. While moving from one RAU's range to another, the MSRT in the users vehicle automatically searches for the nearest RAU's beacon signal to maintain affiliation. This does not require operator intervention.



2-9. MSE supports the corps and divisions' communications requirements on the battlefield. MSE also provides links with the theater communications system and to EAC elements, as required. MSE furnishes CP communications to maneuver brigades and mobile subscriber radiotelephone service to maneuver battalions well forward into the maneuver area. It provides continuous and in-depth communications during force and CP movement. MSE small wire and cable requirements reduce CP setup and tear down times. Flood search ensures network survivability in spite of damage, overload, and changes in subscriber locations. The RAU provides MSRT connectivity for mobile subscribers when extension nodes and CPs move.

2-10. MSE provides improved network access for units due to the increase of node entry points over the previous ACUS. Units no longer need to cluster together for system service as before. The essential user bypass (EUB) allows continued subscriber services for critical users if their parent NCS cannot provide call processing. Centralized network management helps the corps signal brigade commander maintain technical control (TECHCON) over all corps assets. Uniform technical operating standards for the corps network must be developed through effective standing operating procedures (SOPs). A solid working relationship among corps, division, and maneuver brigade signal planning staffs is crucial for success.

2-11. MSE provides a seamless network between corps and divisions. Common equipment and team structure allow corps elements to reinforce division units. Signal planners must deploy MSE assets to best support the intent of the corps and division commanders. The corps often operates in division areas, proving the need for uniform SOPs throughout the corps. Subscriber equipment is user owned and operated. The signal battalion or brigade is not responsible for customer education; however, signal officers should be prepared to advise on how to accomplish customer education.

2-12. The maneuver brigade/battalion S6 performs critical functions for signal network managers. These functions include-

  • Training users.
  • Defining customer needs.
  • Coordinating detailed unit communications and data requirements.
  • Distributing COMSEC keys and frequencies.
  • Identifying subscriber problems accurately.
  • Ensuring troubleshooting is a coordinated effort.
  • Ensuring subscribers install WF-16 field wire properly.
  • Coordinating all jump locations

2-13. The NPT provides automation support for many signal planning and engineering functions. These include profiling, producing annexes for operation orders (OPORDs) and fragmentary orders (FRAGOs), frequency management, some network functions, some equipment/team status functions, and some COMSEC functions. The SCC-2 further enhances the NPE capability and provides for MPM. Effective MPM depends on exchanging information between all signal staffs. Signal support platoon leaders and the S6 customers must maintain a close working relationship to provide efficient communications service.



2-14. In the MSE system, the hardware and software determine call routing, switch trunk capacity, and signaling characteristics. This allows signal planners to manage more assets. Only in special cases (such as non-MSE gateways) do signal planners make these decisions.

2-15. Flood search routing will automatically route calls over the most optimum path on a call-by-call basis between any two end points within the area of coverage. This omits the need for switch routing tables. When a call request is not on the switch's directory list, a call initiate search message for that number is sent out to each adjacent NCS and LENS. Thus, the procedures discussed below are implemented.

2-16. Each NCS/LEN receiving a search message checks its subscriber affiliation table for the called directory number. If the called party is not affiliated at that switch, the search message is automatically forwarded to all other connected NCSs.

2-17. Then, the NCS marks the path (but does not reserve it) for possible routing. However, the LEN does not forward search messages received from NCSs. This prevents tandem traffic through the LEN. At the terminating switch, where the called party is affiliated, a return message is sent back toward the originating switch over the marked routing path. The originating switch then broadcasts end-of-routing messages to all connected nodes. In turn, the uninvolved switches in the marked path can clear their routing registers of the call attempt.

2-18. Imposed restrictions on the broadcast of search messages regulate networkwide traffic and provide call precedence. A threshold level is periodically determined for each interswitch link. Search messages are sent only if the precedence level is equal to or higher than the current threshold level for that link. Search messages are sent to connected switches in a most-idle or preemptable-trunk order that automatically selects the route. This reduces network congestion. A search message is never sent over a link in which trunks are not available.

2-19. Common-user switching uses a fixed numbering plan; however, units must maintain and publish directories.

2-20. The MSE network has a packet switch network overlay called the TPN. It provides needed data communications in the tactical environment at ECB. The TPN is fully compliant with the US Army's packet switch network. The TPN is overlaid on the voice network without competing for access needed to maintain MSE voice traffic.

2-21. MSE meets the requirements to interface with other communications systems See Appendix B for a detailed discussion of MSE interoperability. These systems include-

  • The Improved Army Tactical Communications System (IATACS).
  • The TRI-TAC system.
  • The Tactical Internet (TI).
  • Joint services.
  • Data communications systems.
  • NATO systems.
  • Allied military systems.
  • Host-nation commercial telephone systems.
  • The Defense Information System Network (DISN).

2-22. Signal network planners and managers must have a clear understanding of MSE capabilities and limitations. TM 11-5800-216-10 volumes 1 through 4 contain technical information on MSE for planners and managers. MSE assemblages meet the roll-on/roll-off requirement for air movement. Existing aircraft can transport HMMWV mounted shelters without structure or weight changes.



2-23. Signal assets should organize early in the planning process and should deploy with their supported organization when appropriate. This ensures an understanding of en route mission planning changes and provides immediate communications to the supported unit. All units will have their SEN teams linked before deploying. Selected CPs that depart ahead of all other assets should link with their SEN teams before leaving their home station. The maturity of the theater of operations will assist in determining the best course of action for supporting the supported unit's communications needs. Corps signal assets attached to division units should link as soon as possible. However, signal planners must still consider the immature-theater and early entry at EAC and ECB. Task organizing too early may limit flexibility if the main effort shifts from one maneuver unit to another. Pre-task organized units IAW their SOP will minimize any risks. A solid understanding of the corps' contingency plans (CONPLANs) is imperative to ensure all prospects are considered before attaching significant numbers of communications assets to any single division.



2-24. The main attack must be weighted and can be done in many ways. Weighting can be obtained by the direct support (DS) of additional NCs from corps to division, DS of medium- and long-haul communications assets, placement of additional assets in certain areas, and increasing network connectivity. The theory is that it is easier to move a pre-positioned NC than to jump one currently in use. However, an NC from another division can be attached under the direction of the G3, if required. Then, the intent is to leapfrog NCs to keep up with the tempo of the battle as shown in Figure 2-3.

Figure 2-3. Maneuver (Weighting the Main Attack)


2-25. Tropo and multichannel satellite terminals can terminate or extend special circuits. They also can terminate long locals or dial and hold circuits from EAC or joint service switches. These circuits include-

  • Tactical Data Information Link (TADIL) to support ADA data transfer.
  • Contingency Tactical Air Control Planning System (CTAPS).
  • Secure Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNET).
  • Nonsecure Internet Protocol Router Network (NIPRNET).
  • Joint Worldwide Intelligence Community System (JWICS).
  • Automatic Digital Network (AUTODIN).
  • DISN.
  • Defense Messaging System (DMS), when fielded.
  • Global Command and Control System-Army (GCCS-A).


  2-26. Signal units must clearly understand the doctrinal terminology for command relationships. FM 101-5-1 provides the Army definition for these important terms. In most cases, the Army definition applies directly to signal units. The terms attached and operational control (OPCON) are standard Army terms. TECHCON is a new term that describes the situation unique to signal operations. The terms are defined below.

2-27. In signal operations, a signal company from a corps signal battalion may attach to a division signal battalion. The gaining commander exercises the same degree of command and control (C2) and the responsibility for the attached unit, as he does over units organic to his command. Attachment orders must clearly state additional responsibilities, such as the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and administrative and support responsibilities. When medium- or long-haul communications assets are attached to division signal battalions from corps signal units, the gaining commander maintains authority for their employment. While attachment is usually temporary, careful consideration must be used in determining when to attach signal assets. Once employed on the battlefield and integrated into the network, it is not easy to shift control of previously attached units immediately upon the revocation of attachment orders.


2-28. This is the authority delegated to a commander to direct forces assigned so the commander may accomplish specific missions or tasks that are usually limited by function, time, or location; to deploy units concerned, and to retain or assign tactical control of those units. Signal units primarily use OPCON for movement. From both a division and corps perspective, NCs are OPCONed to maneuver brigades, armored cavalry regiments (ACRs), or other units for movement only. This occurs when these units are responsible for movement along designated routes or corridors and must control all units in their area for movement. Once NCs move forward and position in their designated locations, the OPCON relationship terminates. Usually, OPCON is not used for any other purposes.


2-29. In signal operations, TECHCON provides the authority to control the technical aspects of the engineering and operation of the assigned portion of a communications network. There are several applications of TECHCON. NCs have control over all links coming from their extension nodes and remote RAUs. The link designator establishes control of internodal links. For example, if the link designator for an internodal link is 0712, then NC 07 is the controlling end of the link and has master control over the link. NCs can be placed under battalion control (BATCON) of a signal battalion that is not its parent. For instance, an NC from a corps signal battalion is placed under the control of a different battalion and is considered TECHCONed to that battalion. TECHCON gives the controlling battalion the authority over all technical aspects of the NC operation. The term BATCON applies to the S3 staff operations of the battalions making up the corps signal brigade. The controlling battalion under the area support concept normally provides logistical support.


  2-30. Signal units must clearly understand doctrinal terminology for support relationships. Effective support relationships are critical to the sustainment of an effective communications network. FM 101-5-1 provides the Army definition for these important terms. DS and general support (GS) are defined below.
  2-31. In managing all communications networks, DS relationships are frequently established. The doctrinal definition applies. Communications assets can be placed in DS of other signal units. SENs are provided logistical support by the supporting unit, but remain under the TECHCON of their unit. Logistical support from the supported unit is typically coordinated on a case by case basis
  2-32. All NCs, remote RAUs, and their associated transmission media are in GS of the corps or division. By definition, signal units who employ assets in the network provide support to the total force and not to any particular subdivision of the supported unit. Subordinate units of the corps and division do not control signal assets that are in GS of the corps or division.


  2-33. All operations are generally phased, and communications support for each phase depends on many considerations. Different types of offensive operations will dictate certain levels and types of support as shown below.
  2-34. In preparing for offensive operations, division signal units should maintain uploaded NCs ready for rapid movement behind the lead attack elements. When possible, nodes and remote RAUs are positioned behind the forward line of own troops (FLOT) far enough to protect them from threat tube artillery. S2 staffs focus on threat artillery to minimize the threat to assets. Remote RAUs are positioned forward to provide MSRT coverage to maneuver battalion CPs. Maximum use of corps nodes in division areas provides the springboard for the attack division to employ its MSE assets for the offensive operation.
  2-35. During the attack, NCs follow advancing maneuver brigades with known locations for emplacement. Several possible locations should be identified to cover contingencies. Frequency modulated (FM) radios or single-channel satellites will be the primary means of communications on-the-move. In certain cases, remote RAUs will provide some MSRT coverage if connectivity to a node can be established. Each node and extension team should have various sets of team packet planning information to ensure options exist if communications with the BATCON or SYSCON are not possible. Using medium- and long-haul assets for range extension should be planned to ensure division networks remain connected to the corps network at all times. Usually, the division main and rear CPs will not move during the initial phases of the attack and will remain connected to the network. This is not true with the corps tactical CP. Communications links between commanders are always essential. Planning involves multichannel satellites linking the SEN, supporting the division tactical CP, to the corps network to ensure this critical connectivity. SENs supporting maneuver brigades will not install their links until the initial objectives are secured because tactical operations centers (TOCs) move too fast. MSRT coverage in the division rear areas is sacrificed to support forward operations.


  2-36. Defensive operations are phased, and communications support for each phase depends on several considerations. The defensive role described here may not apply to all situations, but it will prove useful for most. The elements of the defensive role are shown below.



2-37. Placement of nodes and remote RAUs must ensure MSRT coverage to at least the forward deployed maneuver battalion CPs. They should be out of the range of threat tube artillery. Additional locations for forward deployed nodes and remote RAUs are required for survivability purposes, and several locations should be identified for short-notice jumps. These contingency locations should be within 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) of their deployed locations, and all personnel should know the routes to each. Some nodes should be uploaded and prepared to move forward with the counterattack. Assistance from the corps is important when placing corps nodes in the division rear areas. Close coordination with the G3 regarding penetrations, creating salients, and the locations of engagement areas is important for the survivability of communications assets. Plans must be made for synchronizing the movement of nodes and RAUs that fall into these areas. Some medium- and long-haul assets should be held in reserve and remain uploaded for movement with the counterattack.

  2-38. During the defense, signal commanders must be on the alert for rapid changes in division or corps plans. Nodes that are in danger must move to other locations when possible. RAU markers can be turned off in various sequences to reduce the static electronic signature that emanates from blanket RAU coverage. Maneuvers may dictate rapid jumps of RAUs. During movements out of salient or engagement areas, assets taken out of the system should remain uploaded and prepared to support the counterattack. MSRT coverage in the division rear area should be sacrificed to support the forward areas. Corps nodes and RAUs can again be placed in the division rear area to help support division requirements.


  2-39. The corps signal brigade will support the communications requirements of the separate maneuver brigade, regiment, and separate EAC theater missile defense (TMD) elements. These units have no organic MSE equipment other than subscriber devices. To support this type of operation, the supporting unit may have to dedicate almost one entire company (two NCs, three to five SENs, and four RAUs). Units, such as the ACR, are usually in a screening mission forward of or to the flank of the division. The ACR is often the first unit in the theater and deploys great distances to conduct its screening mission. Close coordination with division signal units is imperative, as division boundaries are established behind or to the flank of the ACR. Coordination is not only for network connectivity but also for logistical and electronic maintenance support. It is necessary to dedicate long-haul assets to the company supporting the separate brigade and regiment. These assets sometimes provide internodal connectivity and, in rarer cases, provide long-haul connectivity for a SEN at the regimental TOC. The overriding consideration is to ensure effective communications to and from the separate brigade, the regiment commander, and the corps commander.


  2-40. While area support is simple in theory, it can be complicated in execution. Division and corps units must operate under the same rules. The concept calls for geographical boundaries between the corps signal battalions being jointly drawn by the brigade S3 and S4. Boundaries with the division signal battalion usually follow the division rear boundaries unless otherwise negotiated. Placement of corps nodes in division rear areas occurs often and requires close coordination with division signal units and division movement control activities. Control of corps assets in a division signal battalion AO must be coordinated between the corps and division signal unit. Corps assets can also be used as springboard platforms. When possible, division signal units can remain uploaded to facilitate rapid movement to support offensive operations. During early phases of operations, signal units must provide communications support to assembly areas and ports. MSRT coverage should be maximized along movement corridors, main supply routes (MSRs), and other critical areas. Signal battalions are then responsible for all logistical support for GS signal assets and electronic maintenance support for all signal assets within the geographical boundary. Exceptions occur but must be negotiated between responsible units. Battalions providing support must take the lead in negotiating alternative solutions, when necessary. There is a relationship between TECHCON and logistical support, but they may not always be the same.



2-41. Split-based operations place unique demands on the tactical communications network. Split basing is downsizing the traditional management elements like intelligence, logistics, and planning to the bare bone requirements for forces in the forward deployed area. The intent is to move data from the home base instead of deploying all C2 structure and supporting personnel and facilities. Split basing saves lift assets, without disrupting operations, by current communications capabilities. Communications planning must be carefully accomplished because normal organic communications and logistics support may not be adequate. Signal planners must analyze the mission to ensure that all the needs of forward-deployed force's, TMD assets, especially logistics, intelligence, and planning functions, are adequately supported with communications. The communications support package must contain its own logistical support to ensure initial sustained system operation. To support the initial assault CP into the forward deployed area, a robust communications package must be identified and prepared to deploy with the division or corps staff. As a minimum, a multichannel satellite link is required to provide long-local service from an existing NC at home base using low-rate multiplexers (LRMs) or remote multiplex combiners (RMCs). Alternatively, the satellite link could provide connectivity for a SEN in the forward-deployed area for larger contingency operations, as required. Connectivity to DISN systems and support for possible special circuits must be considered in planning the appropriate communications support package both within and between the split bases.


  2-42. Signal doctrine focuses on fighting with a five-division corps that demands grid employment of MSE throughout the AO (see Figure 2-1). While the military situation in some theaters of operations still justify such an employment of MSE, many scenarios dictate an AO consisting of enclaves that are linked and require a modified grid for communications support. This is true when considering joint and/or combined operations including MOOTW. Figure 2-4 shows MSE enclave network deployment.

Figure 2-4. An MSE Enclave Network


2-43. FM 100-5 explains revised Army doctrinal approaches to fighting from forward deployed forces to force projection forces with sanctuary CPs remaining at home bases. Enclave networks frequently demand maximizing medium- and long-range range extension communications assets and flexibility in NPE. Planning should include using commercial and host nation systems. Connectivity to the DISN and the digital NATO interface (DNI) system is necessary, if appropriate. When using an enclave network, one must consider:

  • Command relationship.
  • Control.
  • Logistics (parent unit provides the technical assistance).
  • Switch group (which SCC-2 controls which nodes).
  • Internet protocol (IP) addresses.

2-44. The corps and division G3s must decide and coordinate these actions before deployment. This information should be explained in the OPORD.


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