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Army upgrades protected communications satellite terminal training suite

February 25, 2013

By Amy Walker, staff writer for PEO C3T

FORT GORDON, Ga. (Feb. 25, 2013) -- The Army recently began schoolhouse computer-based and simulated training upgrades for its advanced Secure Mobile Anti-Jam Reliable Tactical -- Terminal, or SMART-T, to evolve the previous legacy training system to accommodate new system enhancements.

When commanders need protected, secure throughput for worldwide communications, they rely on SMART-T. This system makes it possible for Soldiers to extend the range of their network in such a manner that communications cannot be jammed, detected or intercepted. The Advanced Extremely High Frequency, or AEHF, SMART-Ts provide advanced capability to the force over legacy systems, including a four-fold increase in throughput and enhanced security features.

'Since all of the legacy SMART-T systems are currently being upgraded to the AEHF capability, these training upgrades are a vital step in ensuring that Soldiers and their units are getting the most out of these improved protected communication capabilities, and in the most efficient and cost-effective manner available,' said Lt. Col. Greg Coile, product manager for Satellite Communications (PdM SATCOM), which manages SMART-T. PdM SATCOM is assigned to the Army's Project Manager Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (PM WIN-T).

The United States Army Signal School and Fort Gordon, Ga., training upgrades began in December 2012 after months of planning and scheduling critical events. Major enhancements include the AEHF upgrades to the Satellite Simulator (SATSIM) and Computer Based Training (CBT) system, along with the addition of 12 new AEHF SMART-T systems, with the last of these systems being delivered in February. The updated training began in mid-January with four Army classes and one Marine class, totaling 73 students. Over the next year, the three-week AEHF SMART-T course will be taught to 62 classes with more than 1000 Army students and 100 Air Force, Marines and civilians.

'These training enhancements increase efficiencies for both the Army and Marine Corps,' said Larry Raville, SMART-T project lead. 'If these Soldiers have an AEHF SMART-T fielded to their unit, they will have already had the Advanced EHF training, eliminating the need for delta training had they only been trained on the legacy system.'

With SMART-T, Soldiers at the brigade echelon and above can send text, data, voice and video communications beyond their area of operations without worrying that the information will fall into the hands of enemy forces. SMART-T is part of the WIN-T architecture and is compatible with both WIN-T Increment 1 and Increment 2, which make up the Army's tactical communications network backbone. Similar to a home Internet connection, WIN-T Increment 1 provides high-speed, high-capacity voice, data and video communications to units on the battlefield, at-the-halt or at-the-quick-halt. WIN-T Increment 2 provides this network to maneuver formations down to the company level while on the move. In May WIN-T Increment 2 will undergo its Follow-on Operational Test and Evaluation at Fort Bliss, Texas, and White Sands Missile Range, N.M.

As part of the training improvements at Fort Gordon, the facility's SATSIM was upgraded to accommodate the new AEHF SMART-T training. The SATSIM provides constant simulated satellite access to allow training to be conducted year-round, without interruption or overloading the satellite in real-time. Satellite time is a limited and costly resource. However, the simulator provides the same training benefits and replicates everything that Soldiers would normally see if they were logged onto a real satellite, thus decreasing satellite cost and dependency.

'Simulation is a big focus now because our forces can train in real-time without having to utilize valuable satellite resources,' said Mel Pointer, SMART-T logistics management specialist. 'Now instead of Soldiers logging on to the actual satellite for training, they can use the SATSIM, and that satellite resource can be more appropriately dedicated to an operational unit where it is most needed.'

The SMART-T CBT system was also upgraded to accommodate the AEHF capabilities. The CBT replicates a satellite and AEHF SMART-T working in tandem so Soldiers receive real-time, simulated training as if they were actually utilizing the system. In the past this server-based system was used to provide classroom training on the legacy SMART-T, but in January both the server and CBT classrooms were upgraded to accommodate the upgraded AEHF version of the system. The number of classrooms and student capacity was also increased to four classrooms with 24 students per class, running two or three shifts. Although it is not practical or cost efficient to have enough actual live AEHF SMART-Ts to put every Soldier on a terminal for hands-on experience for the entirety of the course, the SATSIM and CBT upgrades maximize the amount of training that can be conducted by minimizing the amount of hands-on training time needed.

Following the classroom training with the SATSIM and CBT, the SMART-T AEHF terminals themselves provide hands-on training through live practical exercises. Since the Soldiers already had the simulated training, by the time they get to the hands-on training, they know how to operate the system.

'By having this updated SMART-T AEHF training available, Fort Gordon, the Training and Doctrine Command, and the Army are postured to absorb any type of Military Operational Specialty surge that might arise in the future and they will be well prepared to meet any increased training requirements,' Pointer said.

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