January 11, 2012

Tapping into the network while on the move

Here in this blog we've been extensively covering the key programs and initiatives aimed at developing a single radio design capable to handle all the military's different communications tasks and improve interoperability on the battlefield (1,2,3,4).

An interesting report on Military.com provides a valuable review of the efforts that have been carried out in the U.S. on this isssue, with a special focus on the JTRS initiative. Below we report a few excerpts.
As several dozen soldiers from the U.S. Army's Task Force Rock drove into Afghanistan's Chowkay Valley one morning in March 2010, Taliban fighters immediately began moving into ambush positions along a higher ridge. The force's mission was to protect a U.S. reconstruction team as it met with village leaders, but it was stuck in place as the Taliban reached their fighting posts. What tied the soldiers down were their radios: a forest of plastic and metal cubes sprouting antennae of different lengths and sizes. They had short-range models for talking with the reconstruction team, longer-range versions for reaching headquarters 25 miles away and a backup satellite radio in case the mountains blocked the transmission. An Air Force controller carried his own radio for talking to jet fighters overhead and a separate radio for downloading streaming video from the aircraft. Some of these radios worked only while the troopers were stationary; others were simply too cumbersome to operate on the move. "Not good," Spc. Geoff Pearman said as he watched farmers scurry indoors from their wheat fields, a sure sign that fighting was imminent. Task Force Rock's vulnerability that morning is routine for U.S. forces in Afghanistan. But it was never supposed to happen.
JTRS' history is one of grand but naive technological ambition colliding with the unbending laws of physics and the unforgiving exigencies of modern warfare. After years of work, the Army discovered for itself what experts had been warning all along: It's impossible for a single radio design to handle all the military's different communications tasks. The more capabilities that the Army and prime contractor Boeing packed into JTRS, the bigger, more complex and more expensive it became, until it was too bulky and unreliable for combat. In its relentless drive for conceptual simplicity, the Army found itself mired in mechanical complexity.

Aspects of the overall JTRS program survive. The two main JTRS waveforms are still in development. So are the air-, sea- and space-based versions of the radio, plus some of the smaller Army models; in particular, the soldiers' hand-held version. "We don't want more monolithic programs," said Col. John Morrison, who oversees the Army's network-based battle-command efforts. Under the best of circumstances, the GAO estimates, the radios will cost another $12 billion to complete.
Read the Full Story

No comments:

Post a Comment