ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (March 19 ,2014) -- By pairing the U.S. Army's Manpack Radio with the U.S. Navy's Mobile User Objective System (MUOS), Soldiers will be able to have voice, data and network connectivity from almost any point on Earth.
The MUOS utilizes satellites that have geostationary positions above the Earth, acting like cell phone towers in space and transmitting data via a software waveform. With an updated software package and a specialized MUOS High Power Amplifier (MHPA), the Manpack Radio is now compatible with the MUOS system, extending the reach for voice and data communications.
The software-programmable Manpack Radio is an important tool for Soldiers, since it helps provide connectivity to the tactical network to everyone from the command center to the Soldier on the edge of the battlefield. By supporting advanced and current force waveforms, the radio serves as an important "bridge" in the network between higher and lower echelons. The radio was recently fielded to the 2nd and 3rd Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs) of the 101st Airborne Division for use in Afghanistan, and additional BCTs are scheduled to receive the Manpack in the near future.
"There's a huge increase in capability for the Manpack by using the MUOS waveform," said Air Force Lt. Col. Brian Kozola, assistant product manager for the MUOS High Power Amplifier. "MUOS provides the vital link between Soldiers in advanced positions or remote areas and the rest of the Network."
Kozola and his team are responsible for ensuring interoperability between the MUOS Waveform and the Manpack Radio. Both the Manpack Radio and MUOS capability on the Manpack radio are assigned to the Army Product Manager for Handheld, Manpack and Small-form Fit (PdM HMS).
The PdM HMS MUOS team works closely with the Joint Tactical Networking Center (JTNC), the Joint Tactical Networks Program Manager (PM JTN) and the Navy Communications Satellite Program Office (PMW-146), which is responsible for the Satellites and Radio Access Facilities.
The JTNC maintains a Department of Defense data repository of secure networking waveforms and applications for use across the joint services. The PM JTN provides the MUOS waveform and the network manager, which provisions the radios and displays network information on the radios, including information such as phone numbers and call groups. The Navy's PMW-146 program office has overall responsibility to deliver MUOS end-to-end capability.
The program office has developed a new piece of hardware to enable the MUOS to work with the Manpack Radio. The new MUOS High Power Amplifier (MHPA) is an accessory that replaces one of the Manpack's standard High Power Amplifiers. The MHPA includes special circuit boards and a full duplex modem that allow the complex MUOS waveform to run on the standard Manpack Radio.
The Army has tested the interoperability of the MUOS and Manpack Radio, including Security Verification Tests (SVTs). SVTs are used to ensure the systems are National Security Agency (NSA) certified, which is the certification used for classified government information.
In March 2013, the program office performed additional evaluations, as part of a scheduled MUOS end-to-end system test. This was the first time that the Manpack Radio completed secure radio-to-radio voice and data communications tests through the MUOS satellite network.
"Since the MUOS system has so many moving parts, we needed to complete an end-to-end test to ensure that all of the components of the system work together," Kozola said. "Before the end-to-end effort, each program had to meet its own requirements, but we didn't know if the whole system could work together."
An even more challenging test was performed at the Arctic Circle in October 2013, where very high latitudes pose a challenge because the satellite is in geo-stationary orbit above the equator, and therefore harder to see. With latitudes up to 89.5 degrees north, the MUOS team tested the ability of the Manpack Radio to reach the MUOS satellite communications network.
"The Arctic demo was a resounding success," Kozola said. "This was the first demonstration ever of the Manpack radio making MUOS calls at high altitude, high latitude and on an airborne platform, and we were able to successfully complete both voice and data calls."
The demonstration included both fixed-site locations around Anchorage and Barrow, Alaska and aboard an aircraft flying around the Arctic Circle. The Manpack Radio successfully completed the multiple point-to-point voice data calls, as well as group calls connecting more than five people.
As part of the Army's testing plan, the MUOS will be evaluated at the Army's Network Integration Evaluation (NIE). NIEs are semi-annual field exercises that use Soldier feedback to improve network systems, including radios. Kozola anticipates that the MUOS will be demonstrated and tested at an NIE as soon as possible.
While the Manpack Radio is the program of record and the first radio to be used with MUOS, there are several vendors adding MUOS capability to their radios. PM JTN is working with interested industry partners to facilitate their integration of the MUOS waveform in their radios and test for compatibility with Satellite and Radio Access Facility simulators.
"The full potential of MUOS will eventually support thousands of radios all over the globe, and support operations of all Services using it," said Kozola.