Army's software-defined radios to test new waveforms

AN/PRC-117G will serve as backbone system during trials

One of the key aspects of the Army’s Network Integration Evaluation taking place this month at the White Sands Missile Range, N.M., is the testing of new and existing technologies for operational suitability before they are shipped out to troops in the field.

Among the various prototype systems being evaluated is a new but battle-tested radio. The AN/PRC-117G, manufactured by Harris Corp., is playing an important role in the NIE by serving as the communication backbone system for new communications waveforms.

The AN/PRC-117G is a multiband radio capable of running all of the Army’s multiband waveforms such as the Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System and UHF Tactical Satellite (TACSAT) communications system. For the NIE, the radio is running the Harris-developed Advanced Networking Wideband Waveform (ANW2), said Dennis Moran, vice president of government business development for Harris’ RF Communications division. The goal of the network evaluation is to validate that the AN/PRC-117G can scale up the ANW2 waveform to support the Army’s future communications needs, he said.

More than 50 of the radios are at White Sands Missile Range. Of those, most are being used in a 30-node configuration supporting a battalion’s communications network. One of the capabilities of the latest release of the ANW2 waveform is the ability to support a 30-node network, which provides commanders with more flexibility in the field. The remaining radios allow the network to scale up to the brigade level, Moran said.

One of the key waveforms being tested at the NIE is the Wideband Networking Waveform, which is run on Joint Tactical Radio Systems Ground Mobile Radio systems, Moran said. Harris is scheduled to run the WNW on the AN/PRC-117G in about 18 months, which tracks closely with the Army’s plan to have a GMR alternative for the 2013-2014 Capability Set.

The Harris radios have been installed in Abrams tanks, mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles and Bradley fighting vehicles being used in the exercise. Although they are vehicle-mounted, the radios are in a “pull-and-go” configuration that allows troops to remove the radio, attach a battery and antenna, and go into the field. This is often done by U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan where the radios are mounted in MRAPs, Moran said. When a company or platoon dismounts to patrol an Afghan village, they pull the radio so that they will have all of the applications with them. “That’s the beauty of the 117G in its vehicular configuration,” he said.

Harris also is weeks away from National Security Agency certification of the Soldier Radio Waveform running in the AN/PRC-117G. The waveform is likely to be certified in early July, Moran said. The next software release from Harris, scheduled for mid-July, will include the SRW as an integral part of the software waveforms in the radio, he said.

About the Author

Henry Kenyon is a contributing writer for Defense Systems.

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