JTRS: A Revolution in Military Affairs

JTRS Program Review & Vision Guide


By Barry Rosenberg-Macaulay

Airborne, Maritime/Fixed Station JTRS is Part of a Revolution in Military Affairs

DSCThe Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) is going to be no less than a Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA), in that the networking capabilities of the various software-defined radios now under development will give warfighters a powerful communications and situational awareness tool for both wartime and peacetime.

“The network centric capability that this will provide is a watershed event,” said Army COL Raymond Jones, Program Manager for the Airborne, Maritime/Fixed Station (AMF) JTRS. “Examples of RMAs are gunpowder, the telegraph and the tank. When you combine a significant technological capability with a changing operational tactical view of how you’re going to fight, you are able to leap past everyone else.

“I believe that the networking capability we are building with JTRS is one of those points in time.”

AMF JTRS is one of five major programs within the Joint Program Executive Office for the JTRS. AMF JTRS consists of a two-channel Small Airborne (SA) Joint Tactical Radio (JTR), and a four-channel Maritime/Fixed (M/F) JTR (that is also capable of eight channels in certain SATCOM frequency ranges).

Increment I AMF-SA will support UHF SATCOM, the Mobile User Objective System (MUOS), Wideband Networking Waveform (WNW), Soldier Radio Waveform (SRW), and Link-16. The Army’s Longbow Apache attack helicopter is the lead platform, and the radio will also go into other Army aviation assets and Air Force tankers and cargo transports like the C-130, KC-135 and KC-10.

Increment 1 AMF-M/F will support the UHF SATCOM and MUOS waveforms, and be integrated into Navy ships like aircraft carriers and destroyers, as well as fixed station platforms, Air Force Command and Control (C2) Centers, and Navy Shore C2 installations.

“One of the valuable elements of the JTRS software-defined radio concept is that we’ve built an architecture that is capable of hosting many types of waveforms, as long as those waveforms are designed and written to a set of standards,” said Jones. “If you write it to those standards, our architecture will be capable of running it. So each of the services have their choice of waveform based on their mission requirements.”

AMF

“One of the valuable elements of the JTRS software-defined radio concept is that we’ve built an architecture that is capable of hosting many types of waveforms, as long as those waveforms are designed and written to a set of standards,”said Army COL Raymond Jones, AMF JTRS Program Manager.

The prime contractor for AMF JTRS is Lockheed Martin, who is teamed with Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, Raytheon and British Aerospace Engineering (BAE). Northrop Grumman and Raytheon are responsible for the small airborne radio, while General Dynamics and BAE are developing the maritime/fixed radio.

The architecture of each radio is the same, as is the non-waveform software. The primary differences between the two radios are the size, weight and power requirements, which are tied to their individual platforms, be it airborne or maritime/fixed.

The two contractors working each radio will compete for the production contract, with the winners receiving 70 percent of the contract value.

Program Update

A Milestone B contract for AMF JTRS was awarded in March 2008, and since then the program has been in the System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase. An integrated baseline review was conducted in September 2008, and there was an air-to-air-to-ground demonstration of the SRW 1.0c waveform this past June.

The waveform test was done on a surrogate radio, and the goal was to better understand waveform functionality in advance of the porting of the waveform to the airborne radio beginning in the fall of 2009.

“You get a lot of misperceptions about interoperability and how the waveform will or won’t perform on the radios,” said Jones. “It was a very successful demonstration of how the airborne node enhances the total network, and we cleared up a lot of the misperceptions. It expands that network significantly in terms of footprint because you get that vertical piece. It also helped us demonstrate the ability to connect different nodes in the battlespace that are obstructed by terrain or distance.”

As of October, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon had already ported Link 16 to actual JTRS hardware, and were running it on their test benches. They are expected to port the SRW 1.0c waveform between now and the end of the year. Critical Design Review is planned for the first quarter of 2010.

In the Spring of 2010, there will be a software/hardware demonstration, which will based around a mission scenario environment in order to provide users with more data on radio functionality, and to give developers direct feedback on the success of their systems.  

Then, in January of 2011, the program is scheduled to deliver an Engineering Design Model for testing in a Longbow Apache. AMF managers, though, are working to get as much hardware, software and waveforms into the hands of the flight-test engineers and platform managers prior to then.

“Building the radio is hard, integrating it into a complex platform is harder,” said Jones. “So we have to start getting hardware and software to those platform owners as soon as we can so they can start the integration process. I’ve been negotiating with the Longbow Apache program office to deliver a pre-engineering model as early as this summer. They’re going to start getting hardware about six months early with Link 16, and we may even give them SRW, or at least an early version of it.”

One of the key goals of bringing technology forward is to identify the unknowns as soon as possible and keep the program on track.

“This program is not going to be a science project; it is going to deliver capability,” said Jones. “Our contractors embrace that, and that’s why they’re excited about delivering pre-engineering models to one of our platforms six months early. They want to demonstrate the capabilities of the technology.

“Clearly there are cost issues that have to be managed because you run into unknowns. But I’m not in the business of carrying Lockheed’s water for them or selling their programs. But because of the emphasis that we put on delivering capability, they have been able to maintain cost within four percent of the baseline of the contract award. That’s pretty significant on an ACAT 1D program, and we’re on schedule.”  

AMF JTRS

AMF
AMF JTRS consists of a two-channel Small Airborne (SA) Joint Tactical Radio, a four-channel Mari-time/Fixed (M/F) JTR, and common ancillaries to support platform integration. Increment I AMF-SA will support the UHF, SATCOM, MUOS, WNW, SRW, and Link-16 waveforms. It will also be integrated into a variety of airborne platforms including Army rotary wing, UAV aircraft, and Air Force C-130s. Increment 1 AMF-M/F will support the UHF SATCOM and MUOS waveforms and be integrated into maritime and fixed station platforms such as Navy ships and submarines, Air Force Command and Control (C2) Centers, and Navy Shore C2 installations.