MULTIBAND RADIOS BRIDGE THE GAPS BETWEEN PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE
By Joseph M. Hertline, Product Manager, Harris Corporation
In a densely vegetated jungle, soldiers are faced with harsh conditions—visibility is minimal on the ground, and tall trees with abundant foliage form canopies that force out the light of day. On their backs, they carry manpack radios, allowing them to communicate with one another through the trees and underbrush. By selecting an alternative mode, they can relay mission-critical information back to command through mobile units or request support from nearby aircraft.
While this may sound like a simple scenario, tactical radio technology did not always allow for communication in multiple frequency bands and in several modes. The development of multiband radios has increased effectiveness in communications for militaries around the world by providing this capability to warfighters. Not only can multiband radios utilize VHF, UHF, and upper frequency bands, they also deliver greater power and range—enabling robust voice and data connectivity. Appropriate at the brigade level and below, multiband radios are a standalone solution with capabilities that make them valuable in a variety of applications, including line-of-sight and ground-to-air communications, as well as SATCOM and beyond-line-of-sight scenarios.
In the past, when challenged with complex missions, warfighters would have to carry multiple radios, each dedicated to a single purpose. Dismounted soldiers are already required to carry significant amounts of equipment and supplies, such as weapons, ammunition, MREs, batteries, and more. Add additional radios to that load and the result is a very heavy and bulky rucksack—the weight of which is only exacerbated by the harsh battlefield environments. However, with multiband radios, forces can carry a single radio that can interoperate with all of the others—simply by changing the mode. This substantially lightens the burden on the individual soldier for increased force protection capabilities.
Over the past decade, the evolution of high-quality voice encoding and the introduction of data applications with existing voice communications has further expanded the capability set of the warfighter. Today’s militaries use photos, video, and text messages to determine the best course of action, conduct missions, and establish critical real-time situational awareness. Although new technology is frequently available, many militaries do not have the ability to immediately implement it. Often times, considerable investments—not only financial but also in training and resources—prevent them from being able to upgrade. As a result, legacy radios are still widely deployed around the world.
The combination of new technology and legacy radios on the battlefield presents a challenge to military forces—how can the different technologies be integrated, ensuring interoperability for the warfighter? Fortunately, next-generation multiband radios provide a technological bridge to enable interoperability with legacy radios.
Today’s multiband radios tie together multiband and wideband capabilities. With this integrated technology, warfighters have the ability to interface with legacy radios—providing a means for voice and data interoperability—while also delivering next-generation wideband capabilities for unprecedented access to higher-bandwidth information. In addition, modern multiband radios operate on standardized software-defined architectures that allow new capabilities to be added with reduced development time and cost for military forces.
The addition of wideband capabilities to multiband radios offers significant benefits to military forces on the battlefield. First, it enables adhoc networking so that troops can stay connected while on the move in a battlefield environment that lacks the infrastructure central to commercial communication systems. Further, military systems often require a hi