ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (August 12, 2020) - Just like conducting a dress rehearsal for an upcoming show, technical developmental test events aid Army program offices in assessing what is ready, and what still needs improvement.
Project Manager Tactical Radios (PM TR) recently met a critical milestone using commercial waveform technology as it prepares for the Product Manager (PdM) Handheld, Manpack and Small Form Fit (HMS) Integrated Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E), planned for early 2021 with the 1st Brigade, 82nd Division.
During this capstone event, engineers successfully ported the Warrior Robust Enhanced Network (WREN) TSM waveform into both Manpack radio variants, and conducted a 93 node network test consisting of commercial and program of record radios.
“We plan to connect just over 100 nodes in the IOT&E, so we have already nearly duplicated our final objectives,” said Col. Garth Winterle, project manager for TR, assigned to Program Executive Office for Command, Control, Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T). “We were also able to address risk reduction from a system-of-system perspective.”
With results like this, PEO C3T leaders say the show is just about ready to hit the road.
“This developmental test helped inform tactical network design decisions and most important, helped the program office and the Network-Cross Functional Team assess its readiness to execute the HMS IOT&E in January 2021,” Winterle said.
The IOT&E will determine the effectiveness, suitability, and survivability of both the Manpack and Leader radio product lines, and will influence an Army decision to proceed to full rate production of both radios, followed by radio buys in Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 and large scale fielding scheduled for FY 2021, he said.
Incorporating the WREN TSM commercial waveform into the Army’s tactical radios provides Soldiers at the tactical edge with the option to run both Sensitive But Unclassified (SBU), and Secret and Below, using NSA type-1 crypto on different channels or one at a time.
"Operating at the SBU level using WREN TSM can take less time to set up and be more compatible with other devices,” said Derek Harberts, PdM HMS deputy product manager. “This provides flexibility for when Secret-level communications are not needed and allows for options when conducting collaborative planning, including communications with joint and coalition partners. When necessary, WREN can still be operated at Secret and permit NSA-encrypted traffic over the same network."
In addition to providing waveform flexibility, porting the WREN TSM significantly extended the range of communications. Engineers formed these networks using a mixture of all the program of record key systems and radio sets, including the AN/PRC-158 and AN/PRC-162 Manpack radios, the AN/PRC-148C and AN/PRC-163 leader radios and the TW950 single channel and TW875 data radios, all of which will be part of the IOT&E.
“We formed two independent networks, Network A and Network C, which were completely obstructed from one another by mountainous terrain,” said Herald Beljour, WREN program lead. “We then formed a third network, Network B, which connected Network A to Network C, also known as multi-hop topology.”
The configuration covered a distance of 11 kilometers from A to B, and seven kilometers from B to C, Beljour said.
As part of the overall integration risk-reduction effort for the IOT&E engineers also demonstrated the waveform's ability to transport critical Position Location Information (PLI), situational awareness, voice and free text voice by integrating all of the Manpack and Leader radio nodes with Nett Warrior and Android Tactical Assault Kit (ATAK) end-user devices. One node was integrated with a Joint Battle Command-Platform (JBC-P), which rendered a COP [common operating picture] accounting for the PLI of all 93 nodes in the network, he said.
“The COP rendered by Nett Warrior ATAK at the Manpack and Leader Radio nodes also matched the COP rendered by the JBC-P node," Beljour said. “This demonstrated and verified that the network was fully connected, and that data interoperability was maintained throughout the TSM network of mixed radio platforms. This is significant from an operational perspective, as this is how these networks will be deployed.”
Using the TSM multi-hop network, the command platform achieved the range required to have complete visibility of all the nodes in the area of operation, he said.
The capstone event also demonstrated simultaneous data and voice over the network, more specifically support for 32 voice groups, with multiple voice calls being placed and received across the mixed network successfully, he said.
During the upcoming January IOT&E, only the Manpacks will use WREN TSM. The Army will upgrade the Leader Radios with WREN TSM during the full-rate production phase, Harberts said.
Porting the WREN commercial waveform and linking multiple tactical radio variants together resulted in leap-ahead strides towards meeting the objectives of the IOT&E.
“Our program of record radio sets met all KPP’s [key performance parameters] for range, scalability, networking performance, net-readiness and net-management,” Winterle said. “We now move to the next phase of waveform development knowing that we have demonstrated all the key systems expected for the upcoming IOT&E.”
The U.S. Army Program Executive Office Command, Control and Communications-Tactical develops, acquires, fields and supports the Army's mission command network to ensure force readiness. This critical Army modernization priority delivers tactical communications so commanders and Soldiers can stay connected and informed at all times, even in the most austere and hostile environments. PEO C3T is delivering the network to regions around the globe, enabling high-speed, high-capacity voice, data and video communications to a user base that includes the Army's joint, coalition and other mission partners.