Industry Perspective

Soldier Radio Waveform ushers in new era in tactical communications

Unifying technology has met requirements for secure transmissions under battlefield conditions

After the military fields a piece of equipment, it usually remains operational for many years. That’s especially true with radios and communications systems, which must be able to upgrade so they can evolve to support changing mission environments and concepts of operation.

For example, the Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System (SINCGARS) radio is now in its sixth generation. The Army expects to operate SINCGARS through 2030 and has already fielded more than 440,000 of the ITT-built radios, with contracts in place for 580,000 radios.

The latest version of the radio has reduced size, weight and power requirements and costs less than previous generations. SINCGARS was primarily a voice radio, but now it includes an internetwork controller and router that creates the basic framework for the tactical Internet, an embedded Global Positioning System receiver, improved security and Radio Based Combat Identification capability. ITT SINCGARS has enabled the concept-of-operations, situational awareness philosophy for current command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance used today in the United States and United Kingdom, which operates 45,000 ITT radios under the Bowman program.

However, the ultimate evolution in radio communications is occurring in the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS), a series of five software-defined radios designed for the dismounted soldier along with vehicles, aircraft and ships. The key to JTRS is mobile ad hoc networking that provides networked voice and data capability to the warfighter. ITT provides the lead networking waveform, Soldier Radio Waveform (SRW), which has performed well in field trials and been available for JTRS radio porting throughout 2009. 

SRW has continued to evolve, and has been validated in networking situations and different operational situations. The first National Security Agency-certifiable version of the waveform is SRW 1.0C, which was qualified and delivered into the JTRS information repository in January. Under guidance from NSA, the security function of the waveform was enhanced to enable it to be used on high-security platforms. That version, SRW 1.01C, was qualified and delivered to the JTRS information repository in June.

That version of the waveform is the first of the JTRS networking waveforms released to the repository and available for use.

One problem for the SRW program was developing a networking waveform that could perform in a complex military environment in the presence of adversarial threats while providing a secure high-bandwidth communications link specifically designed for platforms that are small, light and don’t consume much power and use low-profile antennas.

We didn’t have the flexibility to create a waveform that required a lot of horsepower and a lot of hardware. The challenge was beyond that.

In addition to the SRW development we’re doing as part of the JTRS program, we are implementing the SRW full-up waveform in a wearable soldier radio with our Highly Integrated Transceiver. This is something outside the program of record, but it is a leap-ahead technology in terms of size, weight and power because of an integration of both digital and radio-frequency technologies onto a single integrated circuit.

We’ve also developed an SRW-equipped second-channel JTRS-compliant radio named SideHat that is designed to plug into existing SINCGARS radios inside vehicles. That gives the Army an avenue to implement the next-generation JTRS SRW waveform or other waveforms by taking advantage of its installed base of radios that it recognizes will be in the field for decades to come.

Reader Comments

Fri, Apr 20, 2012 David Glasscock Oregon

I would like to go on record and say a few things about these new systems that are coming on line now. They are to much for the average Joe to use, I am a 25U30 for a combat arms brigade and I want to say we need something simple to use. I have the Harris radio system's Singars and Satellite systems and they are all to hard for the average Joe that doesn't use a radio system everday on the job. If you are a 11B on active duty outside a combat zone you will usualy look at your radio systems once a monthy to do PMCS on them or take them out to the field, thats if you are not co-located with your S6 element you will never see them until you actualy sign for them to use them. Now the Guard will look at those radio systems maybe once every 3 months depending on training schedule. Those are not good hands on time that is needed to keep one fresh on how to use my equipment. Even I have to go back to my Manuals to refresh myself on the how to's. We need something that resembles current everyday items that Joe uses everday. The easiest items that my guys used in Iraq while on convoy was the Iridium Radio system. Granted its a Satellite system but it was small PTT easy to program and no loading of Incription on the device it was downloaded when you brought the device on line with the satellite. Dont get me wrong I love my Singars and Harris radio equipment I just went thru a year of having to walk a company size element all most daily on how to run their equipment. Please make some thing simple for Joe to use so he will like useing it and want to take care of it.

Sat, Dec 5, 2009 Edmond Hennessy United States

Interesting article - clear that perpetuating and providing coninuous upgrades to legacy technology that has field-proven experience is the right step (all factors considered).Would also like to see a clear outline of the strategy to introduce and adopt breakthrough communications technologies that are gaining momentum and acceptance from the various development programs that have been spawned by groups like DARPA and others, Advancements in MIMO Multi-Antenna Systems, Ad Hoc Networking Systems, New Wave Radio Platforms and others must have their day in the future plans.The threat will continue to change - so must the technology evolve to keep pace and provide advantage/security to the Warfighter.

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