January 25, 2012

Raytheon gears up for next NIE 12.2

News Report

An interesting entry on Shepard's Digital Battlespace reports that Raytheon is focused on proceeding a step further in demonstrating the capabilities of its Mobile Ad hoc Interoperability Network Gateway (MAINGATE) radio system.

According to Jeff Miller, director of Raytheon Network Centric Systems' Tactical Communication Systems, the system ‘outperformed competitors’ during the last NIE 12.1 and the last U.S. Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiment (AEWE). During the testing, MAINGATE simultaneously provided multiple channels of real-time video, situational awareness, chat and other applications.
Soldiers at the squad level reliably received multiple unmanned aerial vehicle video feeds and other high-bandwidth data services from the battalion to the tactical edge. MAINGATE provided needed capacity for reliable connectivity among cellular networks, hand-held radios and the Warfighter Information Network - Tactical (WIN-T) system. It also allowed soldiers to integrate information across battle command systems and sensors.

"During the entire AEWE event, Raytheon's network provided the Experimental Force soldiers with a very reliable high-speed backbone that did not require any soldier or field representative intervention," said Harry Lubin, chief of the Experimentation Branch at Fort Benning's Maneuver Battle Lab. "It just worked the whole time, allowing us to focus on the soldier technologies," he added.

Raytheon is doing its own testing to demonstrate 30-50 nodes and in turn a more robust network, and ‘one of the objectives for us in NIE 12.2 is to demonstrate up to 50 nodes operating together, Miller said.

The Technology

U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) contracted Raytheon in 2009 to build  the MAINGATE, i.e. a new mobile network that both military and civilian organizations could use to communicate using any radio or wireless device. Since its beginning, the technology development for the MAINGATE program was expected to permit tactical, real-time, high-fidelity video, data, and voice services to support tactical operations in either maneuver or dismounted operations.

DARPA has two goals with the Maingate program: to demonstrate new technology and capabilities to the military and to create a means to integrate legacy equipment easily in operations. Because the services take as long as two decades to cycle through equipment, it is imperative for older radios to communicate with the network and with new systems such the Joint Tactical Radio System and the Warfighter Information System-Tactical. MAINGATE serves as a gateway to translate different radios’ signals into Internet protocol (IP) message packets, which will permit linking different systems together.

Raytheon conceived the MAINGATE as a connection point that allows users employing a heterogeneous set of radio technologies (both proprietary and non-proprietary) to communicate through an IP network. The Wireless IP-capable Network provides the high bandwidth connectivity among air and ground mobility platforms. The network includes the integration of adaptive communications architecture, flexible routing architecture, and heterogeneous application services. A unique characteristic of the MAINGATE program is the integration of a “default” IP radio network as part of the gateway.

Raytheon's MAINGATE is currently comprised of a high-throughput radio that uses the Next Generation Mobile Ad Hoc Networking Waveform and a gateway that enables seamless battlefield connectivity. The architecture of the MAINGATE system allows for many more users to join the network at the same time and it has been verified to enable more than 30 different military and civil radios to communicate with one another while concurrently providing a high-capacity, mobile network. The system has been successfully tested among a large number of low and high bandwidth users, including video, along with voice and data. MAINGATE was installed and tested in configurations using aerostats, unmanned aerial vehicles and Stryker vehicles, to provide networking among several tactical forces performing various simulated missions.

Today, MAINGATE is a mature, off-the-shelf system, with more than 100 units currently deployed in theater. As already discussed in this blog, SAIC was recently awarded a 8 M$ contract to further enhance the MAINGATE by providing the integration of content-based Mobile Edge Networking technology, that will result in the possibility to extend the MAINGATE functionalities to smart phones' ad-hoc networks.

The Context

Raytheon is defining, shaping and delivering battlefield networks through net-enabled combat, communications, and command and control systems. The company has demonstrated the power of the network at the tactical edge through cost-effective solutions at various Army exercises, most recently at the U.S. Army's Network Integration Evaluation.

The NIE process was born of the U.S. Army’s recognition that its requirements, testing and acquisition processes were too slow, expensive and complicated. Moreover, it did not include the operator’s perspective. The next event, known as NIE 12.2, will take place in the next spring and will further solidify the Capability Set 13 network.

Refences: Shepard (1), Raytheon (2,3), ReadWrite (4), DefenseIndustryDaily (5), SIGNAL (6)

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