Radio-based combat ID may be available within a year
August 23, 2011
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - The U.S. Army announced it has completed assessments for radio-based combat identification capabilities that may be used to further leverage pervasive legacy radio systems in theater.
Product Director Tactical Radio Communications Systems leveraged the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command's communications-electronics center's annual integrated capabilities event, C4ISR & Network Modernization Event 2011, May 1 - July 29, Fort Dix, N.J. to assess a software update embedded in the Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System, or SINCGARS.
Universal Network Situational Awareness, or UNSA, runs on multiple frequencies, which will provide more flexibility. With embedded GPS, it's able to send situational awareness data to Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below, or FBCB2, and any other mounted or dismounted SINCGARS within radio frequency range, regardless of the voice net being used.
Designed to work on the Air SINCGARS Improvement Program and the Advanced System Improvement Program platforms, UNSA will be an important component in RBCI efforts to reduce air-to-ground fratricide, said Dax Cadet, activity lead for the UNSA effort for Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance Reconnaissance & Network Modernization.
"UNSA came out of a requirement from FBCB2 to have an SA beacon on the universal network that is totally independent of the voice network. With that said, you can have SINCGARS on different voice nets, but they could still receive the SA beacon via the UNSA net," Cadet said.
"Let's say a commander decides to bomb a certain area, but there are Soldiers operating on the ground. As aircraft are flying over, pilots would use AIRSIP to send an 'interrogation' signal to see if there are any 'friendlies' present within the target area. If there are, then the ASIP radios on the ground would automatically respond with a beacon signal, even if the Warfighters were engaged in other operations," Cadet said.
UNSA allows radios to communicate with each other directly, regardless of voice net or platoon, thus reducing latency on SA reports when compared to FBCB2 Blue Force Tracker or other non-line-of-sight network means, said John Wentworth, PD TRCS lead engineer for radio-based combat identification.
"We tested this in a joint forces command exercise and it prevented 44 fratricides within four weeks. If there's a convoy rolling through your area and you didn't know about it, these guys would be able to send you their position automatically before you tried to engage them. Some convoys don't even have the ability to beacon now, but all of them have radios. So once this software goes out there, they will have this ability," Wentworth said.
The price tag to field just a quarter of these assets would be at least $2 billion, Wentworth said. However, the software upgrade is free and takes no extra space, weight and power.
"There are more than 400,000 SINGARS fielded, which means you'll be able to field 400,000 beacons. And because it's a software upgrade only, you'll save $10,000 with each radio upgrade. You don't have to install new hardware or train folks how to operate it; you don't have to take eight pounds of ammo off a vehicle or make a dismount with a 110 pound pack have to carry 150 pounds. You get this for free in both cost and weight. It really helps us get this capability to the Warfighter as fast as we can," Wentworth said.
Additional SINCGARS work performed during the assessment included enhancements to the embedded router known as the INC, or internet controller, which will increase speed, processing power and memory.
PD TRCS and C4ISR & Network Modernization engineers also tested an automatic routing information protocol function that will eliminate the need for users to pre-plan the network or manually add routes.
These enhancements, plus the INC's capability to run Internet Protocol Version 4 and 6, will aid in the router's ability to handle Future Force capabilities without having to add hardware to vehicles, Cadet said.
PD TRCS presented its work to senior leaders from across the DoD during C4ISR & Network Modernization's Event 2011 Presentation Days, Aug. 9-11.
PD TRCS has been performing RBSA at C4ISR & Network Modernization's annual integrated events since 2009. The Current Force technical assessment was one of approximately 12 critical activities that directly supported E11 campaign goals, Cadet said.
The result of an eight year Army Science and Technology capital investment, C4ISR & Network Modernization is RDECOM's premier Live, Virtual, and Constructive C4ISR Integrated Capabilities venue for assessing, evaluating, integrating, and transitioning emerging C4ISR capabilities in support of Army Modernization.
With a focus on an integrated network test strategy, events such as C4ISR & Net Mod E11 provide the Army with a relevant venue to evaluate technical progress, assess the next generation of technologies, facilitate technology transition, and perform risk mitigation and candidate assessment/selection for future Network Integration Rehearsal/Exercise events in support of the Army's agile acquisition process.
While the RIP functionality is still being assessed, the UNSA software was delivered by PD TRCS to Project Manager Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below in July and is scheduled to be sent to Fort Bliss in August for Joint Battle Command Platform certification testing. If certified and approved by the National Security Agency, the software upgrade would be available for all SINCGARS radios within a year.
"I don't know what the future holds for UNSA or any of the other Current Force enhancements, but our job is to let the community know what's ready so they could potentially leverage it," Cadet said.
Findings and insights from all assessments conducted during E11 will be captured and presented in a final report, which is a formal deliverable to senior leadership and key stakeholders, and is readily available to interested parties from across the Army and DoD enterprise.