ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (Aug. 11, 2020) – Army Futures Command (AFC) engineers are evaluating technologies that protect Soldier-to-Soldier communications from outside interference during this year’s Network Modernization Experiment (NetModX 20), taking place at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, from July 20 through Oct. 2.
The capabilities are part of the Army’s non-traditional waveforms effort, which is dedicated to improving communications capabilities in electronic warfare operating environments. This effort includes the Dismounted Distributed Tactical Beamforming System (D2TBS) and Squad Area Network (SQAN) projects.
Dr. Michael Brownfield, Future Capabilities chief of the Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C5ISR) Center – a component of AFC’s Combat Capabilities Development Command – said assessing the capabilities in NetModX 20’s fail-safe environment will ensure the technologies are properly aligned with the Army’s requirements before they are placed in Soldiers’ hands for operational testing.
“The systems are still in the development phase, so this is not a Soldier hands-on event,” he said. “It’s better for ‘white-coat’ engineers to go out, figure out how their systems work together and optimize them before putting Soldiers on them because Soldier time is precious.”
The Dismounted Distributed Tactical Beamforming System provides dismounted Soldiers with reach-back to the platoon level and higher by incorporating affordable technologies for voice and data communications with low probability of intercept, low probability of detection and anti-jamming capabilities.
Jeremy Scott, the C5ISR Center engineer leading the effort, described current handheld tactical radios as being “the size of a slim brick,” and said they typically weigh around two or three pounds.
“D2TBS enables communications to be sent at a lower power than radios currently used in tactical environments, which means radios can be smaller and lighter,” Scott said. “The ability to transmit at a lower power also makes communications more difficult for adversaries to detect because the transmitted signal is intended to be coherent at the location of the intended receiver instead of at other locations.”
The Squad Area Network delivers an intra-squad radio communications network that operates in the presence of electronic interference in challenged environments.
“SQAN radios are small in size and weight, low in battery usage, and low in cost. This enables the Army to bring communications capabilities that were previously unaffordable to every Soldier in the squad formation, while minimizing the burden of carrying extra equipment,” Scott said. “This also allows for more effective operations by increasing situational awareness and coordination within squads.”
The C5ISR Center’s main objective is to use NetModX 20’s field environment to collect performance data and validate the non-traditional waveform systems’ abilities to meet key performance parameters. Brownfield emphasized the importance of analyzing this data “as early in the process as possible,” to ensure technology developers are meeting the Army’s operational needs.
“We’re pushing real mission command data through the systems to make sure they meet the needs of the network,” he said. “We have to make sure that throughout this process, discovery-based learning informs the requirements, and that outcomes are shared with the requirements’ writers and used by industry capability developers to ensure they are postured to deliver.”
For more information regarding non-traditional waveforms, contact the C5ISR Center Public Affairs Office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Army senior leaders and industry partners interested in receiving reports generated as a result of this and other experiments at NetModX 20 should contact the C5ISR Center's Future Capabilities Office at email@example.com.