Troops test new tech at Fort Gordon's Cyber Quest

By DAMON CLINE | The Augusta Chronicle, Ga. | Published: June 23, 2018

AUGUSTA, Ga. (Tribune News Service) — Cyber and electronic warfare technologies are being developed across America at national research facilities, in academic laboratories and in the offices of the nation's largest defense contractors.

But some of the most useful R&D is being done by soldiers inside a tent at Fort Gordon.

That's where front-line warriors are putting next-generation battle technologies through their paces as part of the Army Cyber Center of Excellence's annual Cyber Quest assessment.

More than 22 late-stage product prototypes from 20 vendors – ranging from software to satellite dishes – are being evaluated to ensure soldiers have the best weapons on an increasingly high-tech battlefield.

"We are able to make informed decisions based off of leader and soldier feedback," Maj. Gen. John B. Morrison Jr. said during a media event Friday. "It is direct, it is candid and, quite frankly, it allows us to establish relationships with our industry partners that will help us to move at pace that is much, much faster in a world that is constantly changing."

How fast? Try real-time.

"This year we have a technology this is purely a software-based technology," said Col. John Grant, the director of the post's Cyber Battle Lab. "From the day they showed up to after a week of being integrated, they actually made 25 changes to their baseline technology based on feedback they got directly based on putting it in the hands of soldiers."

Col. Steven Rehn, the cyber capability manager for the Training and Doctrine Command, said some of this year's most exciting applications involved machine learning, also known as "artificial intelligence," and distributed analytics, technology that processes large amounts of information without time-consuming data imports and exports.

Getting companies that develop such technologies in the commercial world into a "tactical environment" opens their eyes to the military's unique needs.

"(Our) network itself is relatively small to what they're used to in the commercial space," he said. "However, the volume, velocity and variety of the data that we use ... is exponentially larger."

Rehn's counterpart on the electronic warfare side, Col. Mark Dotson, said particular attention was being paid to technologies designed to remotely reprogram sensors from different vendors, which he said is "the first step" in being able to operate a wide variety of new and legacy equipment.

He referenced a small "camping tent"-sized array of antennas with a global reach.

"From that area we've been able to direction-find from high-frequency radios out to Japan and Germany in just the past couple of days," he said. "That's really important to us, especially as we look for longer range targeting."

The exercise runs through Wednesday.

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