Army refines aerial layer at NIE exercise

Aerostats, Shadow UAS help extend range to 60 kilometers

Aerostat blimps and Shadow unmanned aircraft systems configured with Joint Tactical Radio System devices are being used in the Army’s Network Integration Evaluation exercise as an aerial layer to extend a mobile, line-of-sight network to pass voice, video and data images, the Army said in a July 6 news release.

“The aerial layer is working well,” said Navy Capt. Jeff Hoyle, program manager for JTRS Network Enterprise Domain, in the news release. He added that the layer increases the range of the Wideband Networking and Soldier Radio waveforms “and expands the overall network.”

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The blimps are configured to carry a four-channel, software-programmable JTRS Ground Mobile Radio and two-channel JTRS Handheld, Manpack and Small Form Fit radios, while the Shadows are engineered to carry single-channel JTRS Rifleman radios.

The effort seeks to expand a terrestrial, JTRS-based communications network by adding aerial nodes that extend the ability to relay information across longer distances through line-of-sight connections.

The software-programmable JTRS radios are constructed to send IP packets via multiple waveforms among static command centers, moving vehicles and dismounted soldiers on patrol.

“We’re getting ranges greater than 60 kilometers with the aerial layer,” said Jerry Tyree, deputy for materiel at the Army’s Brigade Modernization Command.

Essentially, the blimps and unmanned aircraft systems are keeping soldiers in contact with one another over great distances without the need for a satellite uplink, reports DOD Buzz. Expanding the breadth of the network will allow far-flung forces participating in a mission to have the same information at their fingertips.

More than 3,800 soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division are participating in the evaluation exercise at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, the Army said.

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