U.S. ARMY ADVANCES TWO AIRBORNE RADIOS
By Nancy Jones-Bonbrest, PEO C3T
08 Feb 13. As the U.S. Army continues to advance its new tactical radio strategy, it is building on lessons-learned from the Joint Tactical Radio System program to drive innovation in radios for service aircraft.
Following the recent Department of Defense decision to disband the Joint Program Executive Office for Joint Tactical Radio System, known as JTRS, and transfer its programs to the services, the Army is now responsible for two software-programmable radios with the technology to connect rotary wing aircraft with ground units, allowing the transmission of data, voice and video over the wireless, secure network.
Project Manager Airborne Maritime/Fixed Station, or PM AMF, assigned to the Army Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications-Tactical, known as PEO C3T, is overseeing the development of the two radios known as the Small Airborne Networking Radio and the Small Airborne Link 16 Terminal, known as SALT.
Both the Small Airborne Networking Radio, or SANR, and SALT are two-channel radios that will meet the National Security Agency’s certification for type one encryption. SALT is being developed for Apache aircraft while the SANR is designed for five aircraft platforms including the Apache, Chinook, Gray Eagle, Black Hawk and Kiowa Warrior.
“With the SALT radio, because the Apache mission is to fly essentially low and by themselves in support of direct operations on the ground, they need to be able to talk to Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance asset platforms,” said Navy Capt. Nigel Nurse, project manager for AMF. “So the situational awareness of not only the information they have, but also being able to determine friend or foe from an Apache out on the forward edge of the battlefield, is critical.”
Army aircraft deliver life-saving support, as well as additional situational awareness, to ground units, so equipping these aircraft with enhanced communications tools will benefit Soldiers on the ground as well as in the sky.
The SANR radio will utilize three waveforms with the goal of having two of the waveforms working simultaneously. This allows Soldiers to exchange more information and communicate with additional platforms and elements of their Brigade Combat Team.
NETWORKED RADIOS OFFER DISTINCT ADVANTAGES
Both the SALT and SANR use new networking technologies capable of connecting the tactical edge through terrestrial and aerial tier communications not reliant on satellite networks or fixed infrastructure. In mountainous terrain, such as Afghanistan, line-of-sight communication is often unavailable.
“It’s the same concept of being able to get the network out to the tactical edge of the battlefield,” said Nurse. “These networking radios do not require any satellite or satellite connectivity. The best way to think of them is sort of like cellular networks without the antenna infrastructure.”
Part of the JTRS transition included designating PM AMF as a Non-Developmental Item, NDI, program, directing it to meet requirements by identifying and integrating technically mature Commercial Off The-Shelf, known as COTS, hardware solutions — driven by existing platform Size Weight and Power requirements, which are able to port waveforms housed in the Joint Tactical Networking Center Information Repository.
By using common waveforms, radio manufacturers who want to develop a system do not have to start from scratch and create their own waveform, ultimately driving down cost.
SALT will use Link 16 and Soldier Radio Waveform, known as SRW, while SANR will use SRW, Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System and a Mid-Tier Waveform that has not yet been determined.
Mid-Tier Waveforms were recently assessed at the Army’s Network Integration Evaluation, or NIE 13.1, where Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, used different versions in realistic operational scen