'Aerial layer' expands Army network during evaluation

By Kris OsbornJuly 7, 2011

Shadow UAS at NIE
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – The Army has outfitted Shadow Unmanned Aerial Systtems with Joint Tactical Radio Systems' Rifleman's Radio as part of an overall effort to expand ranges of a line-of-sight mobile, ad-hoc network during the Network Integration Exercise at White Sands ... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
Aerostat in Afghanistan
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – A new Persistent Surveillance System begins its assent above Camp Julien Sept. 14, 2010, to provide the Afghan National Security Forces and International Security Assistance Force officials with an extra level of surveillance capability for security ... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, N.M., July 5, 2011 -- Aerostat blimps and Shadow Unmanned Aircraft Systems configured with Joint Tactical Radio Systems, or JTRS, have been flying above the desert terrain at White Sands Missile Range, N.M, during the Army's Network Integration Evaluation.

The Unmanned Aircraft Systems, or UAS, are being used to extend a mobile, ad-hoc line-of-sight network able to pass voice, video, data and images across the force in real time, service officials said.

"The aerial layer is working well. It increases the range of the WNW [Wideband Networking Waveform] and SRW [Soldier Radio Waveform] waveforms and expands the overall network," said Navy Capt. Jeff Hoyle, program manager for JTRS Network Enterprise Domain.

The Aerostat blimps being used in the NIE are carrying a four-channel, software-programmable JTRS Ground Mobile Radio as well as two-channel JTRS Handheld Manpack Small radios. The Shadow UAS are engineered to carry single-channel JTRS Rifleman Radios.

The idea is to expand a terrestrial, JTRS-based communications network by adding aerial nodes designed to extend the ability to relay information across further distances through line-of-sight connections. The software-programmable JTRS radios, which can make use of encryption to safeguard information, are built to send IP packets of data, voice, video and images via multiple waveforms between static command centers, vehicles on-the-move and even dismounted individual Soldiers on patrol.

"The aerial layer allows RF [radio frequencies] to travel further and more freely. It gets you line-of-sight connections to additional nodes on the network," said Jerry Tyree, deputy for material at Brigade Modernization Command. "We're getting ranges greater than 60 kilometers with the aerial layer."

Part of the rationale for JTRS technology is to afford battlefield communications in an austere environment where satellite technology might not always be available.

Non-proprietary wideband networking waveforms such as Soldier Radio Waveform, or SRW, and Wideband Networking Waveform, known as WNW -- which use a larger portion of the available spectrum than legacy waveforms to transmit information -- are key to the development of JTRS technology.

The GMR radio can transmit information using the high bandwidth waveforms such as WNW and SRW as well as numerous legacy waveforms such as Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System, or SINCGARS; UHF, VHF and Enhanced Position Location Reporting Systems.

Two-channel HMS radios can also transmit via multiple waveforms such as SINCGARS and SRW, among others.

Both SRW and WNW have the ability to seamlessly route and retransmit information, Hoyle explained. SRW is targeted for the individual Soldier, individual small units and sensors; WNW can move information longer distances and is designed for technologies such as Aerostat blimps and mobile command posts.

SRW is designed to efficiently use spectrum in 1.2 Megahertz bandwidth allotments, Hoyle said.

WNW can also support 1.2 Megahertz allotments, but it operates more efficiently and effectively at 3 or 5-Megahertz bandwidth allotments (up to 30 Megahertz when available) to deliver even higher network capacity, he added.

Related Links:

Network integration tests aim to reduce 'fog of war'

Army builds, tests future network during NIE exercise

Army conducts large-scale network exercise at White Sands

Army.mil: Science and Technology News

STAND-TO!: Network Integration Evaluations

Network Integration Evaluation

Army Modernization Plan 2012 (PDF download)