HMS Helps Remove Fog of War

JTRS Program Review & Vision Guide

JTRS HMS Addresses Size, Weight & Power to Bring Networked Communications to the First Tactical Echelon

By Barry Rosenberg-Macaulay

zavarelliIndividual soldiers and marines on the ground in Iraq or Afghanistan don’t want to hear about science projects back home that might help them prosecute those wars at some distant point in the future. They want communications tools that they can see and touch and use now or in the near term.

COL John Zavarelli
JTRS HMS Program Manager
The Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS)  Handheld, Manpack and Small Form Fit (HMS) radio program is about to complete the Rifleman Radio Milestone C, which means the radio will soon begin production and be deployed to soldiers in Army Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs) operating at the tactical edge. 

“The capability of having every soldier networked has never been fielded in the Army before,” said COL John Zavarelli, JTRS HMS Program Manager. “This is not a replacement or a modernization effort for a radio they currently have. This is a new radio deployed to an echelon that has never had this capability."

“The Rifleman Radio not only gives them voice communication and position location; it also gives them a networking capability - that’s exciting, because they’ve never had this networking capability before. We think this will save lives. It will help a unit become more versatile, more lethal and more survivable.”

That’s due to the enhanced situational awareness that JTRS HMS provides to the dismounted soldier. It mitigates the problem of operating in an urban or mountainous environment where there is no line of sight between radios, and, as a result, being temporarily out of touch and potentially lacking in the information they need to conduct full spectrum operations.

“JTRS HMS will help speed decision making because the networking capability helps to remove the fog of war,” Zavarelli said. “It certainly aids in the lowest tactical levels being able to communicate with each other, even without visual line of sight. This radio doesn’t need line of sight because of IP networking through the waveform.

“It will allow units to fire and maneuver, and makes them more lethal. It also provides position location information, and will make them more survivable. We’ve had situations in the past when soldiers were lost – for whatever reason, The Rifleman Radio that we’ll be fielding will provide them position location information that currently does not exist.”

The HMS Radios & Status Report

JTRS HMS is one of five major programs within the Joint Program Executive Office for JTRS. As mentioned, the program includes three types of radios.

The handheld radio (Rifleman) is a single-channel radio that will use Type 2 cryptography and operate using the Soldier Radio Waveform (SRW). It will initially be fielded to individual riflemen within Infantry Brigade Combat Teams, and has the potential to be fielded to infantry soldiers in Heavy and Stryker BCTs if the Army chooses.

The Rifleman Radio is preparing for Milestone C authorization to enter production in first quarter fiscal year 2010, followed immediately by Limited Low-Rate Initial Production award and Initial Operational Test and Evaluation in fourth quarter fiscal year 2010. Initial Operational Capability (IOC) is scheduled for first quarter fiscal 2011.


“It certainly aids in the lowest tactical levels being able to communicate with each other, even without visual line of sight. This radio doesn’t need line of sight because of IP networking through the waveform,” said COL John Zavarelli, JRTS HMS Program Manager

The Rifleman Radio can either be embedded or non-embedded for the individual soldier. The first version will be non-embedded, meaning that it will be completely handheld. Should there be a requirement for an embedded version, the JTRS Joint Program Executive Office will move forward on a version that is included in the soldier’s vest, powered by a battery and wired to an antenna. The radio itself remains unchanged for both non-embedded and embedded versions.

The Manpack Radio is a more powerful two-channel radio that will provide better performance and better range for use at the lowest echelon, and can be carried on the back or mounted in a vehicle. In addition to operating using the SRW, it is also designed to operate using the Mobile Objective User Waveform (MUOS), as well as software versions of legacy waveforms that include Single Channel Ground-Air Radio (SINCGARS); Enhanced Position Location Reporting System (EPLRS); Ultra High Frequency (UHF) Satellite Communication (SATCOM); and High Frequency (HF).

In addition, the Manpack Radio is both a National Security Agency Type 1- and Type 2-certified radio, which means the encryption is stronger than that on the Rifleman Radio so it can operate over a classified network.

Milestone C for the Manpack Radio is planned for fiscal 2011, with IOC scheduled for the third quarter of fiscal 2012.

“Even though initial operational capability is not out there for a little while, the design work is done,” said Victor Popik, JTRS HMS deputy Program Manager. “Recently, we watched a demonstration of a Manpack Radio communicating to a SINCGARS Radio over a SINCGARS waveform on one channel, and simultaneously communicating to another Manpack over the SRW waveform using the second channel.”

The third element of the program is the Small Form Fit Radio. This part of JTRS HMS is actually four different small form factor radios designed for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs). These are smaller than the other radios within the program because they are intended to be embedded in small Army Class I UAVs and UGVs, particularly those that are being developed as technology spinouts from the Future Combat Systems program and used at the platoon and squad levels.

Unlike the Rifleman and Manpack Radios, the Small Form Fit Radios do not have a separate Milestone C.  However, they do support the Milestone Cs for those systems for which they are embedded.

Power Up

All three non-embedded radio types within JTRS HMS have similar engineering and technical challenges: size, weight and power (SWaP).

“Trying to meet any of the criteria alone wouldn’t be difficult, but when you have to combine all three of them and add in the cost constraints then you start getting into a challenging engineering problem,” Zavarelli said. “We feel we’re close to meeting size and weight.

“The challenge is in the power required to run the processing and multi-cast messaging when a user sends a message to everybody on the network or to a significant number of people on the network. What we’ve done is optimize performance to meet what the warfighter needs in terms of range performance, automated positioning location and functionality.”

Because the radios are intended for individual soldiers and marines at the lowest echelons, the JTRS HMS radios are being designed specifically for their mission and do not include extraneous functions that won’t be employed, take up unnecessary space or use up valuable battery power.

“What we’re trying to do is network the warfighter at the first tactical echelon,” Zavarelli said. “What we don’t want to do is over-engineer our product and give them enormous capability that they can’t use or need to use. We want to give them what they need and what they want.” 


The future of tactical radio communications is being defined by the need for smaller, light-weight and more powerful devices that are interoperable and flexible. HMS is developing small form fit factors that provide tactical networking for soldier carried hand-held and manpack radios, unmanned ground vehicles, munitions and sensors, and UAVs. These radios will enable cost-effective net-centric warfare to move beyond the command center to battlefield locations previously unreachable by legacy radios.