MILCOM 2008 coverage

DARPA shows leading-edge networking advances

True to its bleeding-edge reputation, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency came to MILCOM 2008 with a display of networking technologies aimed at dramatically expanding the warfighter’s ability to collect and reliably share all manner of voice, video and text data.

The aim of the Optical RF Communications Adjunct program, for example, is to build prototypes of a tactical reach-back system that will create a high-speed network for both mobile and stationary communications for ground-based forces that will also be able to integrate airborne assets, at rates between 274 Mbits per second and 5 Gbits per second.

Some of the technologies on display are close to being fielded. DARPA’s Wireless Network after Next will provide a way for building sophisticated, adaptive networks in areas that don’t already have the infrastructure for that using high numbers of fairly simple and low-cost devices. That technology is expected to transition over to the Army in 2010.

Other technologies have already moved out of the DARPA fold and into the field. The Network Centric Radio System, which is the newer name for the Future Combat Systems Communications, allows the construction of mobile, self-healing ad hoc networks for both ground vehicles and unmanned aerial vehicles and it began transitioning over to special forces last year.

But NCRS is also the basis for future system. The next-generation version is called the Mobile Ad hoc Interoperability Network GATEway program is already under way, for example, that will provide a radio Internet Protocol backbone as well as a gateway to link legacy analog and digital communications. That solicitation was published in May.

Other DARPA technologies on display included Disruption Tolerant Networking, Connectionless Networks for surveillance and precision targeting, Remote Detection of Activities for both urban and non-urban operations, and WolfPack system that provide unattended RF surveillance for tactical forces.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a special contributor to Defense Systems.

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