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Sweden Seeks Military Communications Flexibility

May 2006
By Adam Baddeley

 
Initially focused on ground operations, Sweden’s network-based defense approach and software-defined radio (SDR) program will embrace and integrate land, sea and air, including the Gripen, within a joint network concept. Where available, space platforms also will support networking.
Transnational effort focuses on international interoperability to contribute in coalition environments.

Sweden’s military is embracing multinational cooperation and procurement in its software-defined radio activities that may lead to the melding of two powerful radio systems. The Scandinavian country is striving to attain the fast, flexible and high-capacity family of Software Communications Architecture-compliant radios envisaged in its Common Tactical Radio System program. Demonstrator vehicular radios for armored battalion trials have been ordered, and additional procurements of platform-based and soldier radios are scheduled to begin later this year.

The country’s aspirations for software-defined radios (SDRs) are not limited to hardware procurement, however. A series of planned projects will deepen waveform expertise on the terrestrial trunked radio (TETRA) waveform demonstrator project through a unique joint effort with the United States’ Joint Tactical Radio System Joint Program Executive Office (JTRS JPEO).

Lt. Col. Sigvard Wiss, Swedish army, head of the Joint Telecom Branch, Swedish Armed Forces Headquarters, places Sweden’s Common Tactical Radio System, or GTRS, and TETRA work into a strategic and policy context. “To be able to understand some of our urgent needs for a new system and why SDR is, we hope, the answer to many of our questions, you have to understand our situation,” he explains. “We are in the middle of transforming our armed forces from a large defense force—built up, trained and equipped to be able to meet an invasion—into a more modern, flexible force. Most of all, we need a force structure that is easier and quicker to adopt and adapt to current missions, current environments and current cooperation partners,” he says.

As an example, for the past 10 years, Sweden has formed, trained and placed units into the force catalog of NATO Partnership for Peace, the European Union and the United Nations, but it has never deployed any of those units. “Instead, we had to rush to form a new force using units other than we had expected. These have always been quick, urgent and early solutions. What we have to do now is get away from this and adopt a building-block principle to be able to get more flexible forces,” the colonel explains.

To meet these new requirements, Sweden has developed its network-based defense (NBD) concept. “The development of the future systems for this is, of course, a challenge. Our ambition is to build a CIS [combat information systems] system-of-systems concept for NBD that we have to integrate. Once again a flexible force requires a flexible CIS system, and one of the biggest challenges is to meet the demand for high-capacity, wideband communications on the battlefield,” he states.

The second thrust of the NBD transformation is the ongoing internationalization of the Swedish forces. Nonaligned during the Cold War, the country’s only international operations were peacekeeping missions under the United Nations flag. Consequently, coalition interoperability was not a priority. “Our defense force now has international missions as the main focus, and we will adopt international and NATO standards. The force must be able to conduct different operations under different flags. No matter how good, if the systems are not interoperable and cannot communicate with our coalition partners, then they are just not good enough,” Col. Wiss adds.

In outlining Sweden’s multilateral approach to SDR adoption, Maj. Kjell Lantto, Swedish army, staff officer, mobile telecom, Joint Telecom Branch, Swedish Armed Forces Headquarters, agrees that international cooperation is real and very important to Sweden. “In our cooperation with the JTRS JPEO, our aim is to get the know-how. We have, up until today, had 10 meetings under an information exchange agreement,” he explains.

Bilateral work also is important, and one of the countries Sweden is working with is the United Kingdom. This relationship is important particularly in developing lessons learned from experience in working with the JTRS team on waveform development with TETRA and the Bowman very high frequency waveform.

In addition, Sweden takes part within the Common Requirement Team Number 6 (CRT 6) framework agreement, which comprises France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The countries are the signatories to a letter of intent to write a common staff target on SDRs to harmonize military requirements from a European perspective. These six nations represent approximately 85 percent of Europe’s military industry.

Sweden also participates in the European Defence Agency’s Project Team SDR. The agency’s work is similar to that of the letter of intent nations but has a broader European perspective. Maj. Lantto explains that the agency’s work is sympathetic to the idea that commercial SDR evolution is going to meet the demand of the military; however, he believes many with experience in the field do not agree.

The similarity between the terms GTRS and JTRS is not coincidental. “We were inspired by JTRS for our GTRS, which in many ways follows the JTRS program,” the major says. Indeed many of the same goals are shared: reducing soldiers’ burden by decreasing the number of radios and lessening logistics as a result of common modules and parts across the GTRS family. Adopting a single streamlined family of radios also would benefit procurement, he adds.

Ralph Persson, strategic specialist and chief engineer, Swedish Defense Materiel Administration (FMV), outlines the broad vision for SDRs in Sweden. “Very early on we decided that the way to do this was to develop a standardized SDR. I use the term ‘standardized’ because I think it is important to call it that. What we want to achieve in the future is the flexibility of plug-and-play functionality that you have with PCs now. That is not possible today, but we would like to be able to buy software and hardware from different manufacturers so that we are not dependent on any one manufacturer,” Persson states.

Sweden has adopted an incremental approach to achieving this goal. “A new, more dynamic military environment requires a modular design and flexible components to be able to handle those new requirements. To be able to get the know-how, it is important to be in a position to test, evaluate and understand these new techniques,” he says.

One of the first examples of this approach has been the $16.7 million contract awarded to Rockwell Collins Incorporated, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in 2005 for the first 76 GTRS single channel demonstrator radios. Persson expects the first deliveries to begin in the second quarter of 2007 but adds, “In the long term, there will be deliveries of two waveforms that will be Software Communications Architecture [SCA]-compliant, but it is the networking that is really important for us.”

In 2003, with support from the U.S. Army Communications–Electronics Research Development and Engineering Center, or CERDEC, Rockwell Collins was contracted to demonstrate ad hoc networking in Sweden using radios from its Multifunctional On-the-Move Secure Adaptive Integrated Communications (MOSAIC) program. Persson explains that the radios ordered are based on existing hardware platforms, but the modules for security will be developed specifically for Sweden. He describes throughput as “fairly wideband” and estimates it at between 500 kilobits per second and 1 megabit per second.

The GTRS demonstrator requirement, initially dubbed the Tactical Data Radio System, emerged from the need for a future battle management system for an armored battalion, namely the Stridsledningssystem Bataljon, or SLB. “Over the years, additional requirements emerged. It also became important for us to use this system to build knowledge, to improve our technical capabilities in terms of understanding how we handle waveforms, to develop our tactical abilities and to study how we can use this to specify requirements for ad hoc networking so that industry knows what we mean and we get what we ask for. So, besides the SLB, these radios will be used for trials with the aim of building knowledge,” Persson explains.

“We have urgent needs, but our strategy is that we are not going to be a large customer in the world market for SDRs; we are going to buy a couple of hundred at one time. This is not enough to encourage Swedish industry to begin development, so we are hoping to be able to buy from the international market. Frankly, we are counting on that,” he adds.

Persson refutes the view that this acquisition links future GTRS purchases to Rockwell Collins. “I want to say this very clearly: Our vision is to buy hardware and software independently.” He adds a proviso, however. “Today, if you have an aggressive time schedule and want to buy SDR software and hardware, it is probably quite difficult to compete with U.S. companies.”

Using this experience, the FMV is planning for further acquisitions. It is scheduled to begin the procurement process on handheld and manpack SDRs in early 2007 for delivery in 2009 followed by the purchase of a larger joint multichannel platform radio.

 
Rockwell Collins Incorporated will be delivering the first SDRs to the Swedish military next year. The radios will be used to conduct trials of the Stridsledningssystem Bataljon command and control system.
While much of Sweden’s SDR strategy currently requires overseas participation, certain areas of knowledge will be maintained within the country. Persson stresses that one of these areas is waveform development. “On the waveform side, we intend to use our national expertise. We will have national capabilities in waveform development, waveform application and for all that comes with waveform architectures like porting and certification in-country,” he states.

Contracts awarded in 2005 to build the knowledge for developing waveform applications will help Swedish industry assess the road ahead. “We have an assessment now going on at Ericsson to try to evaluate the amount of work needed to develop the waveform for our national needs,” Persson explains. He anticipates that the current RA180 or combat net radio waveform will be one of the national waveforms. “It may be strange that we are beginning by developing an old waveform, but the GTRS demo system that we are buying from Rockwell Collins [already] has a waveform, and the radio will also support national waveforms. Even if [the GTRS demonstrator radio waveform] is based on a lot of U.S. Army MOSAIC-developed functionality, they have been certified as Swedish waveforms in that contract.” Other national Swedish waveforms exist, but Sweden has not yet decided which ones to use in areas such as high frequency.

In terms of international cooperation and commitment, Sweden is a strong advocate of the development and circulation of a waveform for coalition operations. “We think that a coalition waveform will be a kind of networking waveform that will have to have some form of ad hoc functionality, and I strongly support the idea of having a multinational concept of operations between those nations expecting to be in coalitions in the future to be able to start that work,” Persson says.

“This is a project to develop a demonstrator waveform,” he explains. “I want to stress that it is a demonstrator waveform—it is not a production waveform—and consists of a subset of the TETRA mobile waveform. It is not going to be the full TETRA functionality,” he adds.

Persson states that the effort consists of three main activities. The first is to demonstrate SCA compliance with a mobile station waveform, implement a subset and port this to a radio then demonstrate interoperability with a real TETRA system. Second, it will be necessary to conduct a partial SCA certification. Finally, a cross-banding demonstration will be set up.

He cites two reasons that the TETRA waveform was selected as the basis for a joint U.S.-Swedish project. “One is that it should be readily available and used internationally, preferably by international civil organizations and by rescue organizations. The second issue, particularly for the U.S., was that it should not be classified in any way. TETRA met both these requirements,” he says.

Al Emondi, chief scientist, communications department, U.S. Navy Space and NavalWarfareSystemsCenter, outlines the U.S. perspective on the program. “We decided that rather than parcel this out to just one country we [would] split it. The United States [does not have a majority of] TETRA experts, and we know that the Swedes have expertise in that area. Under our agreement, we decided that we would undertake layer one functionality and that they would work on layers two and three,” he says.

“We are developing the TETRA waveform between the United States and Sweden, and we had initially thought we would work on both TETRA’s direct mode capability and its trunk mode capability,” he adds. However, these initial expectations were cut back at the formal planning stage because of funding. “In the end what we really want to try to focus on are trunk mode operational concepts because that is more interesting, and direct mode operation is not nearly as technically challenging,” Emondi says.

The joint effort between the two countries is structured so that the United States will be delivering layer one of the TETRA waveform, a representative SCA-compliant hardware platform—not a JTRS Cluster radio, and the software and support personnel to perform SCA compliance testing on the jointly developed waveform. Sweden’s development team will provide layers two and three and the control user plane client. Initial work has concentrated on the interface between layers one and two so that each party can then work more effectively on their portion of the project.

Work on TETRA has spawned a new term: initial SCA compliance. “We are developing a waveform that was not meant to be in the U.S. waveform repository. It didn’t make a lot of sense to put the waveform through the whole JTeL [JTRS Technology Laboratory] stress and to spend a lot of money doing so at this stage of the program,” Emondi states.

The initial testing will look at the potentiality of porting but will not actually attempt it. “We wanted to make sure that we had good solid code in order to take the program onto subsequent phases. We are going to run the code on a U.S. box, which to some is considered a first port, but we are not going to port it to a second box, which would be the case under the normal JTeL schema,” he explains.

At this stage, information assurance is not being addressed other than to explore whether the addition of encryption is possible. However, he cautions, with many countries using TETRA, the challenge that multiple encryption algorithms would pose for interoperability would be considerable.

In cross-banding terms, both countries are still discussing final details. Emondi explains that use of a Project 25 public safety waveform was originally envisaged, but the failure to develop an SCA-compliant version meant this was impossible. A plain ‘‘vanilla’’ FM waveform operating in a U.S. public safety band is now targeted as the cross-banding waveform.

The United States is eyeing the potential utility of working with TETRA users internationally for public safety, disaster relief and peacekeeping roles using SCA-compliant JTRS radios. Emondi says that the U.S. Department of Justice also is interested in the program as part of its involvement in promoting the SCA and SDRs for domestic public safety. The representative hardware the U.S.-Swedish team is using also is being used by the U.S. Justice Department to aid in the evaluation of the SCA.

Interim SCA compliance testing is scheduled for completion by January 2007. To secure funding for the next phase, a series of demonstrations has been planned throughout this year to show the health of the project.

Progress in SDR development comes with an undoubted enthusiasm for the potential operational advantage it provides. However, this enthusiasm has been tempered with realism. “SDR is not a silver bullet that will solve all the problems, but it will solve many of them and the challenges that we are facing right now,” Col. Wiss says. “It is a big project. It is not something we can do ourselves. We are looking for international partners, and we believe that this will be done in close cooperation with many other nations.”

Adam Baddeley is a freelance technical writer based in the United Kingdom. He specializes in the area of command, control, communications, intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance.

 

Web Resources
Swedish Armed Forces Headquarters: www.hkv.mil.se/?lang=E
Swedish Defense Materiel Administration: www.fmv.se
Joint Tactical Radio System: http://jtrs.army.mil/index.html
European Defence Agency: www.eda.eu.int