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Guard Tackles Challenges Volatile Situations Create

August 2000
By James Stiefvater

Flexible yet robust radio system’s capability keeps the lines of communication open.

Weapons-of-mass-destruction civil support teams, organized and trained to respond to domestic terrorist threats, will employ a leading-edge technology package that enables members to communicate under extremely unpredictable conditions. The groups are part of the U.S. Army National Guard and currently are in place in 10 states with 17 additional teams scheduled to form later this fiscal year.

Although many state and local governments have hazardous materials teams that are prepared to handle chemical and biological threats, the specially trained 22-member National Guard units are a full-time dedicated resource to assist when requested by local, state and federal authorities.

The 10 initial weapons-of-mass-destruction civil support teams (CSTs), formerly called rapid assessment and initial detection, are in Washington, California, Colorado, Texas, Illinois, Missouri, Georgia, Pennsylvania, New York and Massachusetts. Each location is within a defined Federal Emergency Management Administration region, and each unit’s primary responsibility is within the state in which it is located but can be called upon to assist in nearby states.

The unified command suite (UCS) is the primary means of communication for the teams. Upon arriving at an incident scene, the group has two power supply options for the UCS. The system is designed and equipped to accept standard commercial power. However, if commercial power is not available, the system also is equipped to operate indefinitely using the onboard 15-kilowatt generator.

The reach-back capability of the UCS consists of a Trojan Lite superhigh frequency (SHF) terminal and associated baseband equipment. The terminal provides a transportable state-of-the-art 2.4-meter earth station antenna system. It is designed primarily as a fly-away transmit/receive system for multiband operation in government digital communication services. The communications suite can be deployed and operate in winds of up to 80 miles per hour and temperatures ranging from minus 40 to 60 degrees Celsius (minus 40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit).

The Trojan Lite can perform at speeds of up to 2.048 megabits per second, but when deployed as part of the UCS, it operates at 512 kilobits per second.

The Trojan Switch, located at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, provides the entire SHF downlink support capability for the UCS. In addition to sustaining the primary mode of communications, the system can support both integrated services digital network and a dedicated T-1 connection. These capabilities would be used during periods of extended deployment.

The information technology portion of the UCS provides a flexible yet robust communications capability to an environment that would normally be restricted to standard dial-up communications at data rates of 56 kilobits per second or less.

All signals entering the system are bulk encrypted using KIV-7HS, a U.S. Defense Department-approved encryption device that is capable of encryption speeds of up to 1.544 megabits per second.

An FCC-100(v)9 manages the signal entering the UCS. Once the signal has been decrypted, it is passed to the FCC-100(v)9 where it is split off into four separate data paths. These paths supply secure local area network (LAN) connectivity, nonsecure LAN connectivity, plain old telephone service, and secure telephone equipment capabilities to the subscribers of the UCS. Secure and nonsecure telephone communications offer tactical and nontactical UCS support.

In addition to the two separate hard-line telephone capabilities, the UCS is equipped with a Motorola 2950 mobile telephone as well as a Qualcomm portable digital telephone. These furnish on-the-move communications and emergency backup.

The system also is equipped with an INMARSAT-B terminal, which provides the subscribers with an emergency backup to all communications in case of a catastrophic system failure.

The radio frequency communications portion supplies team members with as near to blanket coverage of all radio frequencies as possible. The system includes an ultrahigh frequency (UHF)/very high frequency (VHF) base station, an AN/PRC-117F, a VHF intrasquad radio, and two UHF intrasquad radios (UHF-1 and UHF-2).

The AN/PRC-117F is an advanced multiband, multimission manpack radio (SIGNAL, August 1999, page 45) that offers reliable tactical communications in a small, lightweight package and maximizes user mobility. It features reliable operation with embedded communications security satellite communications (SATCOM) and electronic counter countermeasures (ECCM) capabilities. The frequency range of the PRC-117F is 30 to 512 megahertz, and it provides amplitude modulation, frequency modulation and various data waveforms. It is line-of-sight, SATCOM or ECCM frequency hopping capable and compatible with all tactical VHF/UHF radios.

Three subsystems provide intrasquad communications. The VHF intrasquad handheld transceiver subsystem operates within the 136- to 174-megahertz frequency range with an output power rating of 1 to 5 watts. It is commercial secure-voice capable utilizing Securenet voice communication mode and is interoperable with the VHF base station subsystem.

The UHF-1 intrasquad handheld transceiver subsystem operates within the 403- to 470-megahertz frequency range with an output power rating of 1 to 4 watts. The UHF-2 intrasquad handheld transceiver subsystem operates within the 450- to 520-megahertz frequency range with an output power rating of 1 to 4 watts. Both also are commercial secure-voice capable utilizing Securenet voice communication mode and are interoperable with the UHF base-station subsystem.

A General Motors 6500 low-profile truck is the primary transport vehicle for the UCS. The vehicle is equipped with a 210 horsepower diesel engine, four-speed automatic transmission, and a custom body enclosure. Additionally, the UCS has an onboard 15-kilowatt diesel generator and dual environmental control units. The entire package is C-130, C-141, C-5 and C-17 transportable, weighs less than 23,900 pounds, and resembles a standard emergency vehicle.

The program director of the Army Consequence Management Program Integration Office, working on the concept of how the communications and information technology portion of the team needed to function, tasked the special communications requirements branch (SCRB) of the Naval Air Warfare Center, aircraft division, St. Inigoes, Maryland, with developing a detailed design and schedule for fielding the first 10 vehicles. The task would have to be completed in less than 12 months. Presidential decision directives and congressional mandates were the impetus behind fielding the units on such an aggressive schedule.

The SCRB has met aggressive schedules in the past. In late 1994, the Pentagon tasked the organization with designing and developing two joint worldwide intelligence communications, or JWICS, system mobile integrated communications systems (JMICSs). The SCRB was given 13 months to complete a program that would normally have required approximately 30 months. The two JMICSs were delivered to the Army in September of 1995. In November of 1995, SCRB personnel deployed with the systems to Germany. The Joint Chiefs of Staff, J-2, later deployed the two systems to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The initial kick-off meeting for the UCS took place in January 1999. Later that month, the SCRB briefed the teams about the proposed design of the UCS, and by the end of January, the SCRB placed the first orders for the equipment.

James Stiefvater is a senior project engineer for the Naval Air Warfare Center, aircraft division, St. Inigoes, Maryland.