The Army Test and Evaluation Command is crunching data generated by the Spiral G assessment during this year’s Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiment.
Military analysts and exercise force leadership hope to gain more insight into how 4G smartphone technology can benefit the Soldier and small unit, said Lt. Col. Stephen Kneeland, the AEWE Spiral G analysis team leader. The 2011 session revolves around empowering the squad and platoon by identifying and assessing voice and data alternatives, with focus on cellular networks and digital applications.
Fort Benning’s Maneuver Battle Lab is conducting the experiment, which began Oct. 17 and ends Friday. Major players include the Army Capabilities Integration Center and experts from ATEC, the Maneuver Center of Excellence, Army Material Systems Analysis Activity, Booz-Allen Hamilton, the Army Research Lab-Human Research and Engineering Directorate and Man-Machine Systems Assessment Inc.
Kneeland said the ATEC team, which consists of more than 20 individuals ranging from active-duty officers and NCOs to government civilians and contractors, is gathering all data. It will provide technology reviews — reports detailing capabilities and limitations — back to the Maneuver Battle Lab on each of the 45 technologies represented at Spiral G.
The data collectors have provided daily observations back to team analysts, he said. The feedback also is based on individual learning demand identified metrics, force-effectiveness thread lines, doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership and education, personnel and facilities.
“Analysis will explore the potential relationships between emerging technologies, information made available to decision-makers over time and the actions of the (exercise force) unit,” he said. “It will also examine in detail the level of system knowledge available to unit leaders over time and associated influencing factors, like (opposing force) actions and emerging technology capabilities. Analysis will focus on how available information influenced key decisions of leaders and ultimately force effectiveness.”
For some time, the Army has believed smartphones will play an important part in missions, but it’s unclear how large that role might be. Officials said AEWE’s use of 4G as the vehicle to support tactical operations may provide insight into how an unprecedented amount of information available to Soldiers on the battlefield can help shape the fight.
The types of information delivered to experimentation force Soldiers over a closed 4G network during AEWE included video and data from the different technologies in Spiral G as well as mission command.
The Maneuver Battle Lab’s identified several objectives, or “learning demands,” to be addressed in the experiment, Kneeland said. They primarily fall under Soldier load, power, resupply and robotics since most systems used in the Spiral G assessments are not on the network.
Through various sources of feedback, he said the ATEC team will review all recorded observations, develop insights and emerging trends, and ultimately develop a coherent, professional analysis with regard to the MCoE’s “Squad: Foundation of the Decisive Force” initiative.
“This synthesis process will look for defined trends and patterns, as well as outliers and anomalies — providing insight into the actions and reactions of the EXFOR unit in light of the prevailing tactical conditions,” he said. As with any emerging technology, there are successes and challenges within development and experimentation, said Kneeland, also a senior evaluator for ATEC and the Army Evaluation Center at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.
He said it’s too early to determine when or if the technology will reach squads and Soldiers on the battlefield, but the reviews coming out of the AEWE Spiral G experiment will allow Army and Training and Doctrine Command leaders to make educated decisions on future rapid fielding initiatives and acquisition programs.
“In doing so, this experiment and the results of this assessment look to ultimately support bridging the tactical small unit gaps and fortifying the premise that the squad truly is the foundation of the decisive force,” Kneeland said.