Concerns are growing about warfighters’ ability to communicate mission-critical information beyond line-of-sight in conflicts with peer and near-peer adversaries. Just in time, a new generation of highly capable high frequency radios is emerging as a viable solution when satellite communications are denied or unavailable. Fourth-generation wideband high frequency radios can satisfy military needs with the century-old wireless technology that is experiencing a resurgence of interest from warfighters worldwide.
high frequency communications
As cyber threats continue to grow, so does the reality that digital satellite communications can be degraded and denied either through digital or electromagnetic means. If these capabilities are compromised, however, high frequency radio provides a means to continue communicating even beyond the line of sight by leveraging the ionosphere to refract radio signals back to earth.
The International Communication Union Telecommunication Standardization Sector designates the high frequency (HF) range as between 3 megahertz and 30 megahertz. While this method of communication was utilized extensively up through the 1990s, it began to lose traction in the military when the availability of satellite communications (SATCOM) increased.
Advanced long-distance communication solutions are needed for the military of the future, especially for operations in contested environments. Innovative high frequency solutions offer communication over long distances in real time and provide an alternative to satellite communications. The U.S. military and industry are working to harness wideband high frequency technologies, which can offer higher data rates on a single high frequency communications channel.
With the development and fielding of satellite communications throughout the U.S. military, today’s warfighters rarely use high frequency communications within and between units. International events have increased interest in high frequency communications as an alternative to connecting via satellites on current and future battlefields. U.S. military units already own a large amount of the radio equipment suitable for employment at various levels of the battlefield and for humanitarian relief as a redundant means of beyond-line-of-sight communications.
The Russian military has been using a clever—and lethal—propaganda technique against Ukrainian soldiers. They spam the soldiers’ cellphones with demoralizing messages and then take advantage of the resulting confusion to geolocate the soldiers’ cellphone signals and launch an attack.
Gen. Baker: You're never going to be able to emulate [in training] the gut-wrenching emotions of Russian-style messaging.#AFCEATechNet
— George Seffers (@gseffers) August 9, 2017
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has created a robotic arm that is being used to measure the properties of antennas rapidly and accurately. The robot, formally named the Configurable Robotic Millimeter-Wave Antenna facility, may be the ultimate innovation, extending measurements to higher frequencies while characterizing antennas faster and more easily than previous NIST facilities.