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by Scott R. Gourley

Although not currently participating in the present “Cluster One” phase of the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS), communications powerhouse ITT is deeply involved in a range of parallel and complimentary program activities designed to keep them firmly established at the forward edge of the tactical battlespace.

BATTLESPACE recently had the opportunity to discuss a number of these ongoing efforts with Mr. Lou Dollive, President and General Manager of ITT Aerospace.

“We’ve spent the last decade or more in the tactical communications area, building off a very, very strong base with SINCGARS and the Bowman program” Dollive explained. “And I do believe that we are the largest tactical communications equipment supplier, certainly in the VHF area, in the world.”

“From a technology standpoint, over the last five years or so, we have been working with DARPA [Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency] and investing quite a bit of money on this so-called ‘SUO’ [SUOSAS] program – Special Unit Operations Situational Awareness,” he continued,”that to us is our key to the future. The division itself has a strong base and strong backlog as a result of the work that we’ve had with the Army, the work that we have ongoing with Bowman, and a large job that we won with the FAA [U.S. Federal Aviation Administration] last year. And, looking ahead to the future, we see ourselves as being a major player in the tactical communications area, primarily driven by the SUO technology that we’re maturing.”

As described by Dollive, SUO technology incorporates four “Golden Nuggets” or technology components. Emphasizing that “SUO is a system in the sense that it has drawn together diverse technologies,” he identified the “nuggets” as an extremely robust communications waveform; networking; position geo-location; and situational awareness.

He noted that the extremely agile waveform and radio capability – operating in a range from 20 MHz to 2.5 GHz – is in a small package that is able to change frequencies, codings and power “literally on a packet by packet basis.” This capability allows the system to begin to adapt faster than the operational environments themselves can change.

The second “Golden Nugget” involves the system’s networking capabilities, which Dollive described as self-forming, self-organizing, self-healing, and
self-maintaining. The design is intended to allow users to turn the system on and become part of the network without the requirement for extensive and constraining pre-planning. The networking is also described as “highly scalable up to many thousands of nodes, which is a big departure from current technologies.” The system is also interoperable and able to maintain various waveforms to simultaneously communicate within the net and also operate with external legacy systems.

The SUO system’s geo-location abilities are derived from acombination of sensing systems that include GPS (when available) and radio ranging capabilities that allow relative location tracking and retention of situational awareness even when GPS signals are not available.

The final “nugget” involves the ability to conduct what Dollive describes as “truly distributed command and control processes – where we literally generate our own situation information – we are able to create fusion of
external information.” The update and presentation of the resulting data is presented in a non-obtrusive manner such that, based on user thresholds, the system identifies when a user needs to be interrupted by the presentation of new information.

“There has been quite a bit of money invested [in SUOSAS] by DARPA and by ITT,” he said, “the technology for SUO is now at a point where it has been demonstrated. We’ve been to Lakehurst, New Jersey, several times over the last three or four months and we’re going back again [in mid-September] to demonstrate all of these capabilities. We

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