The U.S. Defense Department has spent the last decade developing a family of multiband programmable radios and waveforms designed to move voice, data and video with the goal of connecting small tactical units with larger battlefield networks. Much of this work has focused on supporting warfighters on the ground through vehicle and man-portable radios. But the services now are looking at other ways to connect troops by installing the new radios in aircraft.
This Joint Aerial Layer Network consists of a variety of aerial platforms such as jets, helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles and aerostats serving as nodes in a larger network. The aerial nodes would help extend the range of ground-based tactical radios and allow for better communications between troops on the ground and the aircraft supporting them. There are a number of Defense Department efforts now under way, primarily directed by the Army, that are seeking to further develop and build out the aerial layer.
Whether on the ground or in the air, the Defense Department’s goal is getting information to the warfighter, Maj. Gen. Dennis Moran, USA (Ret.), vice president for government business development with Harris RF Communications, says. He notes that what is emerging out of the ashes of the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) program is an architecture that connects forces from the brigade level down to tactical command posts and small units at the very edge of the network. The next goal for the Defense Department is to integrate aircraft into this architecture.
To better fit into airborne applications, the Army is developing its Small Airborne Networking Radio (SANR) and the Small Airborne Link 16 Terminal (SALT). Both radios are outgrowths from the former JTRS program. All of these various radios will take advantage of existing Defense Department communications and networking standards to weld the airborne architecture into place, Gen. Moran says.