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FASIT: low bandwidth RF solutions in a hardwired world.

Probably the single most important technical challenge facing the future of live-fire target systems is associated with the operations within a wireless environment, whether as the primary infrastructure or as ad hoc add-on devices to an existing range. The restrictions in bandwidth, loss of very high frequency (VHF), and the desire for better real-time management has resulted in an incompatibility of requirements.

The Army has made significant strides in standardizing to the Future Army System of Integrated Targets (FASIT). While this will result in saving opportunities, the challenges associated with the inclusion of low bandwidth radio frequency (RF) targets within the FASIT standards has remained elusive.

This article will discuss the past and future solutions for operating FASIT protocols within a restricted low bandwidth RF environment.

Background

How can a range manager provide new and interesting live-fire training opportunities to our Soldiers using existing ranges and target standards?

As battle tactics evolve, so must the training that prepares the Soldiers. Finding ways to utilize existing training areas for new types of training becomes important during this evolution. It is often necessary to change certain aspects of an existing training range in order to make it suitable for use in these new training scenarios. This becomes a challenge for range managers who must make do with their existing range facilities and limited budgets. Large-scale construction projects involving trenching and laying cable for new target positions are often too costly and time consuming.

Historically, range managers have turned to RF-controlled target systems and battery power in order to provide additional/new target positions to augment their existing facilities. Due to the difficulties inherent in obtaining frequency spectrum approval, the RF target systems must often operate at frequencies that offer only extremely low bit-rates. This condition severely limits the number of RF targets that can be used and the amount of information that can be exchanged.

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FASIT

The FASIT standard is based on the use of modern computer networks and standard IP-based (Internet protocol) communications, specifically the transport control protocol (TCP). The FASIT standard is also supported by the targetry range automated control and recording (TRACR) range control software currently in use at more than 100 U.S. Army live-fire ranges around the world. Due to the higher data rates required by FASIT and TCP/IP, especially when the target count increases, the low bit-rates provided by data radios operating in the lower VHF/UHF frequency bands become insufficient.

Low Bandwidth Challenge

In order to reap the benefits that RF target systems provide, Program Executive Officer for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation (PEO-STRI) has embarked on the design and development of a new communications interface standard. There are a few usage scenarios that come immediately to mind when considering how to best utilize this new communications interface standard.

FASIT RF targets--In this scenario, target vendors would provide native support for the communication standard in the targets that they build. There are some difficulties with this case, as it requires significant investment by the target vendors to implement. It will also likely require that a specific brand of radio be chosen.

Interface modules--This would involve the development of hardware to be located at each target pit which would communicate with current FASIT targets and translate between the existing FASIT TCP network interface and the new FASIT low bit-rate interface transmitting over RE This option is attractive in that it leverages existing FASIT target assets while not requiring additional research and development efforts by target vendors.

Handheld target control--The streamlined FASIT messages used in conjunction with multicast (one sender, many receivers) network communications, allows status data for large numbers of targets to be sent from the central control system over standard wireless networks using only a small portion of the available bandwidth. Target and scenario commanding can then be achieved using standard web interfaces, resulting in a highly decoupled system capable of being implemented on a wide variety of handhelds, including tablet-based devices. Prototyping efforts in this area have yielded encouraging results.

Overall, the new FASIT low bit-rate communications standard that is being developed will open up a number of exciting possibilities for live-fire ranges. It will allow for greater flexibility in expanding the capabilities of existing ranges, while keeping costs down and leveraging existing range assets.

(Joe Smith works for Riptide Software, and James Todd works for Project Manager Training Devices.)
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Title Annotation:TRAINING NOTES
Author:Smith, Joe; Todd, James
Publication:Infantry Magazine
Date:Jan 1, 2012
Words:728
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