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CHIPS Articles: Communications Across the Joint Battlespace

Communications Across the Joint Battlespace
By Dennis Bauman - July-September 2009
In today's warfighting environment, it is essential that we, as Defense leaders, accelerate the delivery of advanced networking capabilities into the hands of our warfighters. The Department of Defense (DoD) has learned from the communications interoperability challenges observed during operations in Grenada, Panama and Desert Storm, and has sought to replace the multitude of non-interoperable, non-networked legacy radios in use throughout the services.

We must seek to not only replace legacy radio functionality, but to enable network-centric warfare across the joint battlespace through the use of advanced mobile, ad hoc network capable devices.

JTRS delivers interoperability to the tactical edge

In order for the U.S. military to be a truly superior fighting force, we must extend the power of the Global Information Grid (GIG) to the tactical edge to provide real-time battlefield awareness and enable timely decision-making. The Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) delivers this capability by building a powerful network of Soldiers, ground vehicles, sensors, ships and airborne platforms, enabling true networking and joint interoperability for the first time between all four DoD services across the tactical edge of the entire battlespace.

Using legacy systems, situational awareness stops at the command center, limiting the amount of information that can flow to or from the actual engagement. This lack of a networked information flow leads to latency in shared data, the inability of ground troops to expand their network vertically to receive cross-service air or maritime support and difficulty in tracking friendly versus enemy forces on the battlefield.

Additionally, capability upgrades have been arduous, as the radio industry paradigm has been a closed, proprietary model in which industry typically retains most software and hardware intellectual property rights. This model requires the services to continuously invest with an individual vendor for each capability upgrade. Furthermore, the services typically chose different radio vendors, diluting DoD's ability to leverage economies of scale.

Utilizing this model, the overall cost to innovate/upgrade and field in mass quantities was inflated, limiting the ability to effectively field new capability and constraining joint interoperability.

JTRS provides mobile, ad hoc networking

In order to combat this traditionally costly and disjointed system, the Joint Program Executive Office (JPEO) was formed in 2005 to provide joint oversight to the JTRS technology. The JPEO portfolio consolidates separate service-led and service-specific radio programs into a single, joint development effort and is comprised of five ACAT ID programs: Ground Mobile Radio (GMR); Airborne, Maritime and Fixed Station (AMF); Handheld Manpack, Small Form Fit (HMS); Multifunctional Information Distribution System-JTRS (MIDS JTRS); and Network Enterprise Domain (NED).

The GMR, AMF, HMS and MIDS JTRS programs leverage the waveform and network management capability provided by NED to develop and field the JTRS sets. The advanced networking capabilities are made possible by incorporating transformational waveforms, such as the Wideband Networking Waveform (WNW) and Soldier Radio Waveform (SRW), as well as legacy waveforms, such as Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System (SINCGARS), Enhanced Position Location Reporting System (EPLRS), Link 16, Ultra High Frequency Satellite Communications (UHF SATCOM) and HF.

The incorporation of legacy waveforms, as well as the development of new waveforms, has allowed continued success across the JPEO enterprise in developing joint technology and furthering the goal of joint warfighting capability. The JPEO vision is focused on enabling network-centric warfare through the use of advanced mobile, ad hoc networking-capable JTRS devices.

JTRS systems are organic to tactical forces and not dependent on fixed infrastructure to move high-bandwidth data, dramatically improving decision superiority and battlespace flexibility. Unlike cellular and other mobile devices that require extensive arrays of fixed-site towers, relay stations or complex satellite constellations in order for users to communicate seamlessly while on the move, JTRS allows for those functions to be done within each radio device. This functionality is far beyond what a regular "radio" has ever had the ability to do and is critical to providing battlefield efficiency of the network as well as a common operational picture for the warfighter.

JTRS continues to make headway and drive forward with systems that are born joint and evolve to encompass changing technology without an unacceptable risk to joint/allied interoperability. As a result of the JTRS program, a joint tactical networking environment is within reach, in which all services can communicate in real time by video, chat, data or voice, in uncharted, uncertain terrain.

For the first time, these communications will encompass for warfighters high-bandwidth information (including sensor information from joint and national assets) over a single network, delivering true, interoperable, network capability at the tactical edge. JTRS connects the ground, air and maritime domains, not only with each other, but also with the GIG.

JTRS employs an innovative acquisition model

Facilitating this interoperable network is a software-defined architecture which enables the porting (or loading) and reuse of a standard suite of software products, including the waveforms used to transmit the data, on a wider variety of hardware configurations.

The ability to port and reuse standard software products allows JTRS sets to provide continued flexible technology insertion and product refresh without risk to interoperability, as well as the ability to expand to include coalition and allied fighting forces on the battlefield, further harnessing the power of the network as a true force multiplier.

Today, JTRS is demonstrating that success both in the testing and in the fielding of JTRS products. For example, the AMF program offers two different form factors [AMF-Maritime-Fixed (M-F) and AMF-Small Airborne (SA)] based on a single common architecture that is designed to meet the airborne and maritime-fixed station requirements for advanced networking capabilities (such as vertically extending the ground network). The Navy is currently planning to procure AMF-Maritime-Fixed radios for multiple platforms such as the CVN, DDG, SSN, SSBN, LHD and LPD, as well as the AMF Small Airborne radio for the E-2 aircraft.

AMF JTRS is currently on contract for the Engineering and Manufacturing Development phase, and development is fully funded and on track to deliver EDMs meeting user need dates. Specifically, AMF offers the Navy a better solution than the DMR radio, providing four full duplex channels with simultaneous combinations of Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) and UHF SATCOM for the AMF-Maritime-Fixed, and two full duplex channels with simultaneous combinations of WNW, SRW, Link 16, MUOS and on the AMF-Small Airborne, offering one design with one waveform port and packaged for platform integration.

Additionally, the MIDS-JTRS program supports the airborne and maritime community by providing secure, jam resistant transmission/ reception of Link 16 messages for joint/allied interoperability and situational awareness.

In demonstrating superior capability, MIDS-JTRS has completed nine successful tactical air navigation (TACAN) flights and three Link 16 flights to date.

Additionally, both HMS and GMR programs afford advanced support to the ground warfighter. HMS is currently developing small-form fit factors that provide tactical networking for soldiercarried handheld and manpack radios, specifically the Rifleman Radio, which is a single-channel, Type 2 encryption set with SRW and commercial GPS, delivering protected voice and situational awareness data.

JTRS Manpack and GMRs are designed to complement the Rifleman Radio, extending networking capability (via WNW and SRW) from the command post/vehicle to the squad leader. GMR supplies secure communications and enables simultaneous multimedia communications over independent channels to ground vehicle platforms like the Standard Integrated Command Post System Carrier, Abrams Tank, Bradley Fighting Vehicle, High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle, Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, and the Light Armored Vehicle. Both GMR and HMS have conducted multiple successful testing and field experimentations.

As JTRS demonstrates success and fielding of capabilities, the JPEO's business model and acquisition process have formed the foundation for affordable capability that can be delivered before the technology reaches commercial obsolescence.

The majority of our IT and networking infrastructure is software-based, which creates opportunities for new ways of thinking. This has afforded DoD the ability to establish open standards/open architecture approaches to create the necessary commonality for our systems.

JTRS promotes competition through a paradigm-busting business model

JTRS is applying several methodologies as part of an innovative Enterprise Business Model (EBM), including negotiation for Government Purpose Rights (GPR) for all JTRS software, promoting competition in production, and establishing a JTRS Information Repository (IR) to maintain and reuse this software for current and future capabilities.

Through this process, JTRS vendors provide GPR for their software and place the code in the IR. JPEO JTRS then controls access to the IR for capability improvement and enhancement.

Using this infrastructure process, JTRS has created a secure, Common Enterprise Architecture, as well as other standards, including application program interfaces (APIs), software architecture and key tags, to ensure that JTRS software is consistently applied across several hardware platforms.

The significance of this approach is in providing a foundation for increased software reuse and portability, which reduces life-cycle cost and maximizes communications/networking interoperability across multiple radio platforms. The Enterprise Business Model is a competitive approach, qualifying at least two sources of production for all JTRS products and competing buys in lots, maximizing competition in production to reduce unit costs. This allows DoD to take advantage of competition when real cost savings can be realized in production.

This model mirrors the U.S. Army's UAV Ground Control Station program and the U.S. Navy's Acoustic Rapid COTS Insertion (ARCI) model, which is leveraged by the submarine community, for open architecture approaches.

Since implementing this approach, JTRS has seen a significant return on investment. For example, the JPEO developed a Consolidated Single-Channel Handheld Radio (CSCHR) contract, a full and open competition for production of JTRSapproved single channel handhelds, and awarded contracts to two vendors.

The result was both an early delivery of JTRS capabilities and a cost savings for DoD of $428 million since contract award in June 2007. Clearly, this type of business approach not only provides competition and cost savings, but also provides a strategy for breaking the proprietary gridlock paradigm noted earlier.

Overall, the JTRS program is nearing completion of the core development activities necessary to field the full JTRS capability. Already there are more than 84,000 single-channel handheld JTRS radios that are either in the field or on order by the services. This is a significant achievement in replacing outdated and/or inferior legacy radios with more secure and higher-capability JTRS sets.

With thousands of units already in the field, and many more only months away, JTRS is delivering a business model that promotes not only efficiency in development, but overall value for the DoD and taxpayers.

JTRS connects the ground, air and maritime domains with each other and with the GIG

With the JTRS capability, the interoperable communications required during conflict engagements no longer stop at the command center, but now extend out to the warfighters on the move at the frontlines. As a result, our warfighters are being equipped with the necessary networking and communications capabilities to ensure their utmost safety and competitive advantage over their adversaries.

The JTRS concept of providing a truly joint, mobile, ad hoc, secure network that extends beyond the command center and to the tactical warfighting edge is a reality. In today's operating environment, with the U.S. military facing new tactical challenges and a more versatile and lethal enemy on the battlefield, it is critical that the DoD deploys cutting-edge technologies that not only begin and remain joint, but also evolve and improve over time.

JTRS reaches across the joint battlespace to enhance the efficacy and security of our warfighters, the United States and its allies.

For more information about the JTRS program, go to the JPEO JTRS Web site at

Dennis Bauman was appointed the Joint Program Executive Officer of the Joint Tactical Radio Program in March 2005 granting him with dual responsibilities as the senior executive for C4I and Space and JTRS. In August 2006, he was assigned full-time duty as JPEO JTRS where he directs all waveform, radio and common ancillary equipment development; performance and design specifications; standards for operation of the system; and JTRS engineering. Additionally, Mr. Bauman oversees the cost, schedule and performance evaluation for all JTRS activities as well as the program at large.

With its ability to deliver 10 to 100 times the bandwidth to the tactical edge, the Rifleman Radio represents an enormous increase in capability, technology and security for the Soldiers in forward operations. U.S. Army photo.
With its ability to deliver 10 to 100 times the bandwidth to the tactical edge, the Rifleman Radio represents an enormous increase in capability, technology and security for the Soldiers in forward operations. U.S. Army photo.
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