AMF JTRS proving its technology in recent flight demos

By Barry Rosenberg-Macaulay

 With the goal of fielding the Airborne, Maritime/Fixed Station (AMF) JTRS radio as quickly as possible, program managers recently took the opportunity to complete an additional field test that wasn’t part of the original schedule. It allowed them to demonstrate important JTRS capabilities in the field instead of the lab, and keep the delivery schedule on track.

In that flight demo at White Sands Missile Range in southern New Mexico, the program office and the two primes Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin flew a two-channel small airborne radio in the back of a Huey helicopter, and streamed video down to a ground radio.

“The significance of this airborne demo and ground link was we got a chance to exercise the actual hardware outside the lab,” said Army COL Raymond Jones, program manager for the AMF JTRS program. “We weren’t doing crypto or classified, but it allowed us to work the hardware and software and demonstrate that capability in an open bay in the back of the Huey, with all the vibration and temperature in the desert.

“It allowed me to get an early look at how the development is going. The design, architecture and the software performed the way they were supposed to. We leveraged the opportunity, and it gave us a lot of insight into the program,” he said.

The AMF Radios
AMF JTRS is a software-reprogrammable, multi-band/multi-mode-capable, mobile ad-hoc network that is capable of simultaneous voice, data and video communications. The system is flexible enough to provide point-to-point and netted voice and data between service command centers, shipboard command centers, joint operations centers and functional centers (e.g., intelligence, logistics, etc.). AMF JTRS provides full-duplex, software defined radios integrated into airborne, shipborne and fixed-station platforms, enabling maritime and airborne forces to communicate seamlessly and with greater efficiency through implementation of five initial waveforms – Ultra High Frequency Satellite Communications (UHF SATCOM), Mobile User Objective System (MUOS), Wideband Networking Waveform (WNW), Soldier Radio Waveform (SRW) and Link 16 – that all provide data, voice and networking capabilities.

AMF JTRS is one of the five major programs within the JPEO JTRS Enterprise. 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).

(left) AN/URC-147(), Maritime/Fixed JTR; 4-Channel (Max 8 channel w/MUOS & UHF SATCOM)

(right) AN/ZRC – 2(), Small Airborne JTR; 2-Channel, full duplex; No internal PA; Simultaneous combinations of WNW, SRW, MUOS, & Link 16

The first version of AMF-SA will support UHF SATCOM, MUOS, WNW, 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.

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

Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor for AMF JTRS, and 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 jointly 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.

More Capability
That flight test, combined with a recent lab demonstration of the hardware and software where two AMF small airborne radios connected and another AMF radio communicated to a MIDS-LVT radio over Link 16, shows that the AMF program has already demonstrated capability far beyond today’s radios.

“JTRS is about delivering bandwidth…delivering the pipes,” said Jones. “We bring the opportunity to move data around the battlefield. On the flight test with the Huey, they were able to plug an inexpensive video camera into the Ethernet port on the radio, and I was able to watch video. It wasn’t jerky; it was clean video from this aircraft flying around the desert down to a Humvee.

“The motto of JTRS is networking to the tactical edge. You can’t get more edge than that. You now have the ability for the Soldier in a building or a foxhole to get info that he’s never been able to get before.”

Near-Term Update
The AMF program has two important demonstrations planned for the near term. About 80 engineering design models will be built under the program, and in January the first pre-engineering design model (a hand-built contractor-owned unit) will be delivered to Army Aviation for testing. Before that, though, the AMF program negotiated with the contractor to build another pre-engineering design model for delivery in the fall of 2010 to Boeing so they can start integration work of the radio onto a Longbow Apache helicopter.

“The contract requires us to deliver one in January, which will include Link 16,” said Jones. “Prior to that, we were able to pull into the integration process another piece of hardware with Link 16. I think the integration into the platform is the hardest and most complex part of this program because you have many different organizations involved.”

AMF JTRS will conduct another demonstration in early 2011. It will include multiple aircraft flying at varying altitudes, plus ground nodes and other JTRS products to further evaluate the hardware and software.

“That is the first time I will put actual test equipment on the radio to collect test data,” said Jones. “Now I want to see what happens to the network with the waveforms running. I’m positive in regard to the thickening and size of the network that we can build. The IP enabled network allows you do multiple nodes that go over the horizon. The higher you go in that network, the farther over that horizon you can get. We’ll see how big we can make this network to start reducing our reliance on satellites.”

The airframe that will reduce that reliance on satellites is the Global Hawk high-altitude reconnaissance platform. AMF JTRS is working with the Air Force on testing with the U-2 reconnaissance plane to emulate the Global Hawk.

Waveform Update
Of the various waveforms, the legacy Link 16 has been well demonstrated on the AMF radio. The program is also in the process of porting WNW as its first new-generation waveform. The SRW version was supposed to be ported before WNW, but wasn’t ready.

“We realigned the waveforms to port WNW first because it was further along,” said Jones. The SRW version we were using was not quite as far as long as we wanted it to be. WNW had already passed its full qualified tested point, and was more mature.”

The next waveform to be ported to AMF JTRS will be the legacy VHF/UHF line-of-sight waveform for air traffic control purposes. The program is looking at using the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter version of the VHF/UHF line-of-sight waveform to reduce risk.

Overall, the AMF JTRS program is shooting for a Milestone C date of late 2011/early 2012.