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.

About the Author

Ken Peterman is president of ITT Communications Systems.

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