A telecommunications system that connects military and commercial radios and telephones into a single encrypted network is enabling warfighters and first responders to communicate securely with each other. Based on commercial technologies, the compact, portable solution establishes a cellular network that can support both military and disaster recovery operations.
More rapidly deployable, reliable, secure and capable communications systems are defining the next generation of communications gear for both the U.S. Defense Department and industry. One improved capability, which supports military contingencies as well as national emergencies, is based on a command and control package that incorporates everything over Internet protocol.
Technology initially deployed to help protect Iraq's citizens during the referendum of the country's first constitution is now increasing security for U.S. troop convoys traversing the dangerous roads of Southwest Asia. By expanding the use of Internet protocol technology, the U.S. Air Force has extended the range of line-of-sight radios, enlarging the view of the battlefield and giving commanders more real-time information. The capability not only is making troops safer on the road but also is moving some warfighters out of dangerous areas while freeing up assets that can now be used for the missions they were designed to support.
Binoculars may become the U.S. Navy's next tactical communications system. A prototype technology allows optical viewing systems to transmit voice, video and data communications on a beam of non-laser light. The equipment can be easily fitted to any commercially available binoculars and provides warfighters with a way to coordinate operations without relying on radios.
A deployable cell-phone-based system will allow coalition warfighters to communicate on the move without relying on vulnerable links to satellite groundstations. Designed for portability, the equipment can form self-healing tactical networks that connect automatically to other nodes and to satellite or landline systems. It relies on third-generation cellular waveforms that transmit live streaming video, provide reduced latency and increase bandwidth and security.
A new high-power commercial X-band communications satellite, designed to meet growing bandwidth demands, will help satiate the U.S. military's voracious appetite for space-based connections. Rapidly increasing satellite communications requirements are expected to continue outstripping government-owned satellite capacity for the foreseeable future.
An advanced microelectronics technology may allow future communications equipment to receive and process multiple high frequency waveforms easily. Relying on superconducting processors in a sealed refrigerated container, the system translates analog radio signals directly to digital information, preventing the data and efficiency losses found in semiconductor-based applications. Unconstrained by performance-limiting issues such as thermal interference, the frigid superconducting chips permit prototype devices to receive, sample and transmit gigahertz-range signals across much of the military's spectrum.
The Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite is designed for point-on-demand instant communications, providing protected worldwide command and control access within fractions of a second to U.S. and allied warfighters. This spacecraft is taking shape with substantial technical improvements-new phased array antennas, advanced integrated circuits, more efficient waveforms and novel space-based thrusters.
Technology advances have transformed a longstanding U.S. Army radio system into a new device that barely resembles its progenitor. Features such as position location and tactical internet access promise to change the way Army forces operate on the battlefield, and other improvements in the pipeline may change the nature of the communication system.
By Capt. James Lowery, USMC, and Capt. Jillian Klug, USA
Members of the joint community are moving forward on proving that voice over Internet protocol can be a force multiplier. Although voice over Internet protocol is still in relative infancy, the Joint Communications Support Element, U.S. Joint Forces Command, has demonstrated through a series of exercises that this approach can increase both technological advances and bandwidth efficiency provided to the joint warfighter. It also decreases airlift requirements, reduces the number of needed personnel and cuts the cost of communications systems by moving from circuit-based to Internet-based networks.