PROGRESS IN TACTICAL WIDEBAND WAVEFORM DEVELOPMENT
By Christopher G. Martin
Military forces’ transition to wideband communications has led to an increased use of collaborative wireless applications such as video feeds, imagery, tactical chat, and file transfer.
Wideband systems provide enhanced command and control and situational awareness through the utilization of ad-hoc networking technologies, which enable voice and data to travel around geographical obstructions via automatic relay. When operating over a wideband network, deployed forces are able to communicate in new and different ways to stay connected and retain the upper hand on the enemy.
For military personnel looking to implement new wideband technologies, the benefits exceed the challenges. However, the latter do exist, including a lack of infrastructure, security, and channel conditions. That’s why companies at the forefront of wideband development like Harris Corporation continue to dedicate resources to help meet the growing networking needs of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines.
Understanding the evolution of networking
For years, networking has been deployed on the battlefield at the division, brigade, and battalion levels. However, networking at the battalion level and below has proven more difficult due to the mobile nature of those forces and to the limited data capabilities of traditional narrowband tactical radios, such as the inability to support voice and data on a single channel.
Starting in the late 1990s, first-generation wideband networking solutions overcame some of these issues by integrating the data network inside the radio and providing increased channel bandwidth. These single-purpose data radios provided improved performance but were not yet a “perfect” solution, with shortcomings that included lack of integrated security and integrated voice, limited frequency support, and a pre-configured hierarchy.
The latest wideband waveforms, such as the Adaptive Networking Wideband Waveform (ANW2) from Harris Corporation, are providing effective and field-tested solutions to the challenges of wireless tactical networking. ANW2, operating on the Harris Falcon III® AN/PRC-117G, is widely deployed by U.S. forces in Afghanistan, providing transformational high-bandwidth communication capabilities. Harris is also developing a wideband version of its AN/PRC-152(C) radio using ANW2.
Wideband waveforms: the role of ANW2
Harris’ development of ANW2 was driven by the need to deliver many different types of information across an often asymmetric, non-linear battlespace in which enemy engagements take on varying forms. At the time, the military had not yet completed its planned standard waveforms for mobile, flexible, and secure networked voice and wideband data communications at the battalion level and below.
ANW2 uses robust and adaptive modem technology to provide connectivity in challenging combat scenarios. Mobile ad-hoc networking seamlessly provides soldiers with a common operational picture of the battlespace. This includes voice and data connectivity around geographical obstructions such as buildings or mountains. This capability is enabled by automatic relay, which, in essence, means that all radios in an ANW2 network act as relay stations, delivering signals to all other members on a network.
Harris’ AN/PRC-117G is a single channel manpack radio in use by all branches of the United States military. The radio provides legacy narrowband interoperability and mobile wideband networking in a radio platform that is significantly smaller and lighter than previous units. The radio provides up to 20 watts of output power as a dismount system and 50 watts when connected to a vehicular amplifier, which further extends its reach across the battlefield.
The radio covers an extended frequency range from 30 MHz to 2 GHz, with narrowband interoperability with manpack radios in the 30-512 MHz band and wideband waveform suppo