JTRS airborne radio passes interoperability tests
Waveform extends range, shares data with ground units
- By Henry Kenyon
- Nov 17, 2011
The airborne component of the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) came a bit closer to being deployed after a series of successful interoperability tests at the Army’s Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) event at the White Sands Missile Range, N.M., Defense Department and industry officials said.
The Airborne and Maritime/Fixed Station (AMF) JTRS radio demonstrated the ability to transmit and share voice, data and imagery with troops on the ground. For the exercise, a pre-engineering development version of the AMF JTRS Small Airborne radio was installed in a test bed AH-64 Block III Apache attack helicopter.
The JTRS-equipped Apache was used to conduct a series of operational scenarios to support troops operating on the ground. The AMF radio operated on a single channel and was loaded with the JTRS Soldier Radio Waveform (SRW), which allowed the helicopter to serve as an airborne node for soldiers equipped with JTRS Handheld Manpack Small Form Fit Rifleman Radios. “It really enhances their operational effectiveness,” Mark Norris, vice president of Lockheed Martin’s AMF JTRS program told Defense Systems.
During the NIE held in November, the AMF radio was used in several scenarios based on operational needs in Afghanistan, Norris said. One exercise involved using the Apache as a node to link several units with Rifleman Radios that were out of line of sight with each other. The units were able to exchange voice and data communications over extended ranges using the aircraft as an aerial layer relay, Norris said.
The helicopter was also able to exchange voice, video and data communications with troops on the ground. Another scenario required the Apache to leave the network by flying out of coverage range and then re-entering it. This demonstrated how the AMF could seamlessly leave and rejoin a tactical network with no information loss and regain full situational awareness in seconds, Norris said.
The tests also demonstrated the AMF JTRS radio’s mission applications that allowed ground nodes in a tactical operations center to mark up imagery and redistribute it to users on the JTRS network. During the simulated mission, the Apache pilots were able to seamlessly exchange command and control and situational awareness messages with six different JTRS-equipped ground units.
“The recent aerial demonstration of the JTRS capability in an Apache helicopter represents a significant step forward in maturing the tactical network and providing a significant force multiplier for our warfighters. By continuing to build out the aerial layer of the network, we will be providing enhanced range, over the horizon capability, and situational awareness to our soldiers on the ground,” Army Col. Raymond Jones, JTRS Assistant Joint Program Executive Officer, said in a statement.
If the radio successfully meets the Army’s requirements at this NIE, it will pave the way for testing the radio with the JTRS Wideband Networking Waveform at the next NIE in spring 2012. At that event, the radio will be installed on a U2 reconnaissance aircraft to test the radio’s range and the WNW’s ability to interoperate with other systems, Norris said.
Henry Kenyon is a contributing writer for Defense Systems.