By Argie Sarantinos-Perrin, PM Tactical Radios Staff WriterJune 4, 2014
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, MD. (June 5, 2014) -- In the mountainous terrain of Afghanistan, it's critical for each Soldier to keep in touch with the rest of the platoon. While a Soldier relies on his radio to communicate, the radio won't help without the waveforms that provide the link.
The Army's goal to create a "radio marketplace" is becoming a reality as the Project Manager for Tactical Radios (PM TR) moves forward to procure next-generation radio hardware from multiple vendors. At the same time, the Army continues to advance the software so that each product can interoperate as part of a holistic, integrated network.
The Army is using a competitive and innovative Non-Developmental Item (NDI) acquisition strategy to lay the foundation to secure several models of new radios. Using the NDI strategy, industry partners will fill the hardware requirements and leverage existing government waveforms that are housed in the Joint Tactical Networking Center (JTNC) managed, Department of Defense Waveform Information Repository (IR).
By drawing on available spectrum, waveforms provide secure wireless networking services for mobile and stationary forces to transmit information, including voice, data, images and video. As a clearing house that develops and evolves the standards for waveform products, the JTNC certifies which products meet the standards and makes the waveforms available to both government and industry developers. The JTNC continues to make steady progress in establishing its role to provide the means for waveform reuse across the DoD.
"Using existing waveforms will lead to cost savings for the Services and our industry partners and will facilitate interoperability and security," said Jeff Mercer, acting director of the JTNC. "The common waveforms also ensure the radios are interoperable, even when they come from different vendors."
While the JTNC oversees the waveforms and makes them available to industry, the Program Manager Joint Tactical Networking (PM JTN) is responsible for developing the waveforms. Providing "clean" waveforms that have minimal vulnerabilities and a clean base code allows vendors to port the software onto their hardware platforms more easily. This strategy fosters the goal of a competitive and fair environment where multiple vendors can access government baseline waveforms to port onto their current and new hardware platforms.
Among the capabilities to recently achieve key milestones are the Soldier Radio Waveform (SRW), Wideband Networking Waveform (WNW), Link 16 and the Joint Enterprise Network Manager (JENM).
Soldier Radio Waveform
The SRW provides networked wideband communications that enable simultaneous, integrated combat net radio voice, data and video capabilities. Designed as a mobile ad hoc waveform, the SRW functions as a "node" or "router" within a radio network and transmits vital information across large distances and over elevated terrain, such as mountains. The SRW is used by individual Soldiers, small units and very small sensors such as unattended ground or air vehicles, and it enables communication without a "fixed" infrastructure such a cell tower or satellite network.
The SRW has been fielded as part of the Army's Capability Set (CS) 13 in the Rifleman and Manpack Radios. Both radios use the SRW to transmit real-time information that was previously only available in vehicles or command posts down to the dismounted Soldier. Capability Sets are an integrated communications package for the Brigade Combat Team (BCT) team, which provides voice and data at all echelons from the command post to the commander-on-the-move to the dismounted Soldier.
Version 1.2 of the SRW was recently released to the JTNC IR. The latest version has Combat Net Radio (CNR) voice pre-emption, which allows commanders and other leaders with higher authority to actively pre-empt an active talker with lower authority on the same group call. This feature enables critical information to be conveyed more quickly.
Another feature -- the duplicate node detection Identification (ID) -- warns users when a duplicate ID has been configured in the network, decreasing network planning-related issues.
Wideband Networking Waveform
The WNW provides network connectivity between aircraft and ground vehicles, and re-routes and re-transmits communications when elevated terrain presents challenges for users attempting to communicate beyond line-of-sight. With its mobile ad-hoc networking capabilities, the WNW is designed to work well in an urban landscape such as Iraq or a terrain-constrained environment like Afghanistan, since it can locate network nodes and determine the best path for transmitting information. As part of the Army's new Mid-tier Networking Vehicular Radios, the WNW is on track for fielding with CS 17.
The latest version of the waveform, WNW 4.0.8, will increase the throughput and number of nodes supported simultaneously in a single network. This effort will not only improve the usefulness and flexibility of the waveform across all echelons, but it will also allow for better command and control at any WNW-equipped force at the brigade level and below.
With the latest version, Soldiers will be able to send and receive Internet Protocol (IP) information from any source, while on-the-move. PM JTN is also working on developing version 4.1, which will have additional capabilities to simplify network planning and make the network more flexible for use in a wider variety of tactical situations.
Link 16 waveform
The Link 16 is a legacy waveform that provides real-time tactical data distribution, as well as precise participant location and identification. An update to the JTRS/JTN version of Link 16 includes cryptographic modernization, which updates the terminal to maintain the capability to securely transmit and receive encrypted information. The new version also includes a shipboard navigation feature that supports shipboard navigation inputs used in Link 16 navigation processing for Precise Participant Location and Identification (PPLI), synchronization and tracking data. This feature is similar to one that currently exists on aircraft.
The Link 16 JTRS/JTN also added Dynamic Network Management (DNM). The DNM controls the number of participants on the Link 16 network based on user needs, with the ability to handle overloads without operator intervention.
Joint Enterprise Network Manager
The JENM is not a waveform, but rather a single network management software solution that provides consolidated support for tactical radios that use SRW and WNW. The recently released JENM version 18.104.22.168 provides network configuration and management support to new NDI radios, as well as enhancements for the currently fielded Handheld, Manpack, Small-form Fit (HMS) Manpack and Rifleman Radios.
JENM version 22.214.171.124 provides upgrades for the HMS radios, including a software update for the Manpack Radio to support the radio's recent Follow-On Operational Test and Evaluation (FOT&E) at the Army's Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) 14.2.
In future releases, a simplified JENM user interface will allow Soldiers to execute network management more quickly and decrease the risk of errors, while also reducing the amount of user training that is required. One of the changes is the Position Location Information (change frequency) that currently requires 14 or 15 mouse clicks on three different screens, which will be reduced to three to five clicks on one screen. A new grouping and filtering feature will enable users to complete a task across units or networks, reducing the time spent to complete the task.
Planned for later this year is a new release to the Software Communications Architecture (SCA). The SCA provides the framework and parameters that enable the radios to load waveforms, run applications and be networked into an integrated system. The open architecture allows a waveform written for one radio to be ported to another.
"As the Army works toward fielding new radio technologies to BCTs, continuing to advance the waveforms is a critical part of the challenge and underscores the overall goal to create a radio marketplace," said Col. Russ Wygal, project manager for Tactical Radios.