Printer Friendly

Consolidating intelligence radios no easy task: joint tactical terminal used by U.S. commandos in Afghanistan for red-force tracking.

A Pentagon program designed to replace 26 intelligence-broadcast receivers with a single radio appears to have overcome serious setbacks that had threatened to derail the project.

According to Army Lt. Col. Warren O. Greene, the development of the Joint Tactical Terminal illustrates the perils of underestimating technical challenges in a military program. But the project was worthwhile, he said, because this technology is needed in the battlefield. A case in point is that U.S. commanders running the war in Afghanistan requested that JTT radios be installed in their headquarters.

Army commandos in Afghanistan also received six portable terminals. "They were very pleased," Greene said in a recent interview.

Greene is the program manager for JTT, a family of software-programmable intelligence radios that receive broadcasts of tactical, theater and global threat data. Despite a 20-month slip in the schedule, he was relieved to see his program contribute to the war effort.

The broadcasts that JTT receives typically come from classified operations centers--located in the rear area of the theater of war or in the United States. The threat-reporting data is uploaded on a satellite link, which is what JTT listens to. The terminals can be installed in ground vehicles, aircraft, ships or fixed sites. A stand-alone 37-pound version--designed fix autonomous operation in the field--is caller JTT briefcase. Equipped with a built-in laprop computer, the briefcase was the preferred system by Army special operations forces in Afghanistan.

Most users of JTT only receive data. But then are variants of JTT that also can transmit. The terminal can help a commander, for example, track enemy and friendly forces emitting any kind of electronic signal in a particular area.

This technology "visualizes for the commander what's happening in the battlefield," said Col. Ronald Nelson, project manager for the Army's Common Ground Station. The CGS--a ground station for intelligence processing--is one of the host platforms for JTT.

The system has a "fairly robust set of filters, so the commander--at whatever level of the battle--can tailor his view of what's relevant," Nelson said in an interview "Sometimes, the amount of data can be overwhelming."

The JIT radio picks up several intelligence broadcast networks used today by national command authorities, the military services and the National Security Agency. These include the TDDS (tactical related applications data dissemination system), the TADIXS-B (tactical data information exchange system), the TIBS (tactical information broadcast system), the TIBS (tactical reconnaissance intelligence exchange system) and the NRTD (near real-time dissemination).

These broadcast waveforms eventually will be phased out and replaced by the so-called Integrated Broadcast System. While JTT aims to standardize the hardware, the IBS will be the common waveform for all intelligence broadcasts.

BTG Inc. received a $60 million, seven-year contract to develop LBS. The program is managed by the Air Force Electronic Systems Center.

Industry Competition

The agency in charge of JTT is the Army program executive office for intelligence and electronic warfare systems. The Army awarded a contract in 1996 for the development and production of JTT to an industry team led by Hughes Corp., a company subsequently bought by the Raytheon Co. One of the losing competitors, Allied Signal, protested the award and won. So the Army started the competition all over. A company called E-Systems got the award this time-and also ended up being acquired by Raytheon. In an ironic turn of events, the Allied Signal division that protested the JTT subsequently became part of Raytheon as well.

The $110 million contract was a fixed-price development and production agreement for 411 terminals. That includes 59 of the briefcase variant. The Army budgeted $18 million in fiscal 2002 for JTT procurement and $4.5 million in 2003.

Even though JTT still is in development and has yet to be approved for full-rare production, the program office fielded 80 systems so far, to help the users integrate JTT with their various platforms.

Operational tests of JTT are scheduled this summer for the Marine Corps, the Navy and the Special Operations Command. A full-rate production decision could come as early as September. Program officials hope that the Defense Department will buy up to 1,700 terminals. "That number is fluid," Greene said. "It's driven by requirements and funding."

Raytheon officials estimated that the potential market for JTT is worth about $500 million. Frank Brzezinski, the company's business development manager, said the JTT program has resulted in a significant financial loss for Raytheon, because it was bid as a fixed-price contract. Both the contractor and the government program officials under-estimated the technical complexity, so Raytheon had to spend its own funds to keep JTT alive.

"Initially, we thought JTT was going to have 220,000 lines of code," said Greene. It turned out that it needed nearly twice as many. Program officials also had anticipated they could re-use some of the legacy technology from the Army's commander's tactical terminal (CTT), but "We found out that it was nor the case," he said. "We basically had to start all over again."

Another technical hurdle was the development of the computer-processing boards, said Brzezin-ski. "The technology is a combination of off-the-shelf, but also customized boards," he said. "The major challenge is to get state-of-the-art boards, shrink them down and still get the same functionality."

For the most part, Greene said, "It's been a rough road, because we [the government and the contractor] did not understand how difficult this task was." But he said that he is satisfied with the results so far. "We basically had to build a Cadillac of a radio.... This radio does a heck of a lot."

The price tag for JTT varies, depending on the features, said Greene. A radio that receives eight channels and transmits one channel is about $150,000 each. A more expensive variant can receive 12 channels and transmit four.

The 12-channel transmit-and-receive JTT typically is used on large surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft such as the Air Force Rivet Joint, Joint STARS and the AWACS radar plane.

Raytheon is investing its own funds to develop a handheld JTT-the size of a Palm Pilot-but the government has yet to make any commitment to buying it.

The briefcase JTT, at 37 pounds, is the smallest version available today. It can receive four channels of data but cannot transmit. It requires 28 volts of direct current to operate, which means it has to be connected to a Humvee or another type of vehicle that can generate electric power.

Users of JTT require security clearances, given the sensitivity of the information. To ensure that only legitimate operators have access to the data, there are encryption software programs, called "crypto keys," that must be updated daily, said Michael Chester, business development manager at Raytheon.

"If anyone tampers with the box, it will dump all the crypto key materials," he said. Only the briefcase JTT comes with a battery backup for the crypto key.

As is the case with many defense technologies, JTT is not without critics. One industry expert who did not want to be quoted by name said that this program is "sort of strange," because the hardware and the software are being developed separately-on different timelines-by the Army and the Air Force, respectively. "JTT/IBS begs for a holistic approach," he said. The program was broken up that way, he said, "for political reasons.

Digital Radio

In the years ahead, Raytheon officials expect that there will be a "migration path" from JTT to the Joint Tactical Radio System, the Defense Department s next-generation software-based radio. "JTT could be the intelligence link for JTRS," said Pat Luna, Raytheon's program manager. "To migrate to JTRS compliance, we want to stay in lockstep with the IBS waveform," he said during a roundtable with reporters. It will take several years, however, for the IBS technology to be ready for JTRS integration, he said. "Intelligence waveforms are part of JTRS in the our-years.

According to Col. Nelson, "JTRS will use components from the JTT program to flesh out the intelligence structure within the JTRS program. However, he said, "The exact acquisition strategy hasn't been clarified."

Meanwhile, there are other, more pressing, challenges that the JTT program will confront in the foreseeable future, such as how to co-exist with a potentially competing technology, the Embedded National Tactical Receiver, on ENTR.

ENTR is a miniature receiver that can be installed in a PC and pick up classified intelligence data over the Tactical Data Dissemination System and the Tactical Information Broadcast System.

The ENTR technology was developed by the Navy's Space Warfare Systems Command and L-3 Communications.

Luna said that Raytheon does not yet view ENTR as a competitor to JTT because ENTR- a receive-only PC card-does not have access to every portion of the IBS, only parts of it. But for those military units that do not require every waveform, the ENTR replaces the need for the full-up JTT terminal.

Some JTT users, for example, are considering acquiring ENTR as an additional receiver capability, because it can be installed in a PC, thus saving the soldiers or Marines from having to bring an additional terminal to the field.

The card has four UHF-SATCOM (secure satellite link) receivers and has a crypto key to decode the IBS broadcast. At 5 inches long and 3 inches high, it plugs into a computer just like a modem card.

The tactical communications division of Raytheon currently is working on a miniaturized version of ENTR, said Richard E. Hitt, business development director.

"We have a project in Raytheon that takes the PC card and goes even smaller," he said. The program is called the PENTR-or PC ENTR card. "ENTR replaced a whole box with a board. PENTR replaces the board with a much smaller board," Hitt explained.

Some JTT customers, such as the Marines, want to receive certain parts of the IBS broadcast, he added. "They can do that with JTT or with ENTR. JTT has more modes. But ENTR for many people is perfectly OK."

Hitt said it makes sense for Raytheon to invest in this technology, because it could be fielded much sooner than the handheld JTT "A handheld would be a wonderful thing, but it's going to take a while," he said. "If you look at the PC ENTR project, you could easily make that into a handheld unit.

Raytheon has been working on the PC ENTR for two years, Hitt said. "We probably have another year before it's ready for prime time.

Another system that can perform JTT-like functions is the Joint Combat Information Terminal (JCIT), a digital radio developed by the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) for the U.S. Army's airborne command and control system.

The Special Operations Command has expressed interest in the intelligence broadcast capabilities of the JCIT, said C. Chris Herndon, head of tactical technologies development at NRL. "The functionality of JTT is embedded in this radio. ... It does the JTT function."
COPYRIGHT 2002 National Defense Industrial Association
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2002, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Erwin, Sandra I.
Publication:National Defense
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2002
Previous Article:Unmanned bomber prepares for crucial tests: Air Force UCAV development accelerated, but some technical challenges remain.
Next Article:Military wireless systems require sturdier defenses. (Industry Viewpoint).

Related Articles
Down in the dirt: how and when might the war in Afghanistan end? Here's an inside look from a Special Forces expert.
Pentagon to invest in PC-style radios: Defense Dept. hopes to save millions of dollars in future upgrade costs.
Honoring the Air Force's Special Operators.
Integrating space into joint warfighting: continuing the march.
Contractor selection near for navy satellites.
Personnel locator system helps rescue downed pilots.
Rethinking the network: defense engineers ponder 'modest adjustments' for connecting forces.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2022 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |