The modern soldier part I--battlefield bytes.
Many new programmes have emerged in recent years that are intended to make today's and tomorrow's soldier more effective, more efficient and better connected to the overall view of the battlefield. A few of these programmes are wrought with a mixture of present and the promise of future technologies, but all are designed along the same lines and with one thing in common: giving the soldier an enhanced situational awareness and providing for that soldier's information to be shared with his team and those in command.
In days long past that meant providing each fighting element with an array of radios and signalling devices. Each patrolling team or squad included one member whose job it was to carry most of the communications gear. But it is a different world today, and technology has all but alleviated that requisite.
This article, the first of two in a series devoted to the Modern Soldier, will explore a selection of the communication systems and equipment available to the soldier to shuttle his or her data, voice and imagery around the battlefield.
Where on the Spectrum?
Morse code aside, almost every type of signal is to be found travelling along the airwaves during any size conflict, and the subsequent clutter and confusion can sometimes be maddening. Fortunately, most signals sent by the soldier today are burst transmitted in small packets either to a network that handles that information automatically or directly to another unit. These burst transmissions send the information too quickly for most direction finders to get a fix on the sender's position, and are encrypted to fail those who do receive them.
One option in sending information is to employ a tactical network. Military tactical communication networks must be robust, capable of sending large amounts of data and voice around to various network members quickly and easily, be secure and, most importantly, support a broad range of end-users and applications. Both landline and wireless networks are available and their use depends on the mission.
But this is nothing new. Military users have been adapting Internet technology to provide adaptable and flexible communication networks for several years now. The further ambition is to be able to connect all the radios in a network to provide the accurate and timely transfer of data. Advanced networking should allow the use of higher-level radio systems as nodes to transfer data up the command chain. Commanders far from the frontlines could then see things from an individual soldier's perspective, although avoiding this kind of micro-management is one of the challenges that those forming doctrine for the new connected battlefield are trying to overcome. This type of functionality for the infantryman will also include a messaging system and locational information.
By aiming to integrate Global Positioning System (GPS) technology the systems will actually negate one of the major communications issues that all soldiers face, since the majority of routine military signal operations are mainly devoted to one function--reporting one's location and receiving information on the location of other friendly and opposing forces. By integrating GPS, the position of each soldier will be automatically reported and that information can be disseminated across the force.
Nothing but Net
Landline networks require dependable equipment that must weather the, well, weather, as well as rodents and chemicals. The Swiss company Brugg Cables, for example, has developed a unique metallic fibre-optic cabling system called the Mille. Designed for fire control, ground control, line-of-sight communication, surveillance and security systems, the cable's metallic protection tube houses one, two or four fibres for single- or multi-mode application. The single-fibre cable weighs less than 20 kg per kilometre, which can be rolled up onto a single reel. Heat resistance to very high temperatures, a high tensile strength and rodent and corrosion resistance add to the cable's effectiveness, along with an integrity test system that prevents eavesdropping.
Off the Ground
Illustrating advances in this field, Israel's Tadiran Communications has developed its Integrated Radio Communication System (IRCS) to connect any unit to every other unit on and off the battlefield and to and from headquarters. The IRCS wireless network software is at the heart of the system and provides for both voice and data over IP (Internet Protocol) and also affords advanced switching for interconnectivity between different communication networks.
This translates to a soldier dialling onto an IP-based network, sending his HF message through this network, where it is routed via the destination IP address through Tadiran's proprietary VRG hardware. The VRG is an inter-network gateway for each radio that allows users to transmit on his own frequency and have that message received by another user through a VRG-equipped network on any other frequency, regardless of where on the electromagnetic spectrum he sits (UHF/VHF/HF/etc). The VRG seamlessly rebroadcasts that signal through one of the twelve radios that can be attached. Each radio has its assigned private IP address and the actual routing is done via the IRCS software.
Harris offers tactical networking solutions through its Falcon II network capable-radios, which are integrated through an internal TCP/IP stack and networking subnet capabilities. These protocols are implemented through the radio's PowerPC microprocessor and provide access to Ethernet-based or wireless networks. Once connected, sending voice, Data Terminal Equipment (DTE) data and IP packet traffic can all be accomplished over the same network. Although both voice and DTE data have transmission priority over IP packet information, the voice (and DTE) break-in feature nondestructively stops and later resumes the passage of any disrupted IP traffic.
As well as voice, communication systems should have the ability to share a large amount of data including positional information, logistical requirements and imagery. To this end, wireless e-mail is another network 'must-have'. Rockwell Collins has, over time, matured its HF Messenger software, which provides an error-free, long-range message capability to mounted, dismounted, at sea or airborne troops and units. The software provides all of the functions required to send and receive digital data between the personal computer and the radio.
HF messenger works (through a user-transparent TCP/IP connection) by the sending unit initiating an e-mail message and transferring it via HF to a relay or ground station. Upon receipt the ground station forwards the message to the recipient over the conventional Internet, a land-based local area network, a wide area network or a closed circuit Internet or Intranet. Stanag 5056 error correction certifies the data during transmission: whereby the receiving modem, upon detecting one or more packets are indecipherable, validates the transmission with the sending station through the Automatic Repeat Request protocol, which retransmits certain packets (for packet positional integrity) until 100 per cent of the information is readable.
Harris also provides wireless e-mail software and hardware through its RF-7650W Wireless Gateway and the RF-6710W Wireless Message Terminal, both of which feature data rates up to 19,200 bps and accept a variety of legacy crypto devices. The Gateway connects networked tactical radio links to wired networks, as well as to the Internet. To go one step further, the Harris Universal Image Transmission Software (Huits) package sends high-resolution images over tactical radio channels and contains a Microsoft Outlook-based interface that permits the operator to capture and manipulate images, compress and send them as an e-mail attachment.
Out of the Office Still in Touch
Once underway, either dismounted or in any other mobile situation, a squad member must remain in contact with his team leader and the rest of his crew. Positional information and IFF (Identify Friend or Foe) applications are paramount to safe movement about the battlefield.
The Adaptative Network Advanced Information System under development by Thales is a real-time information system that supports squad and platoon Intranets and gives each team member his own positional data, as well as those of his team members and his target.
A north-pointing compass provides orientation and a GPS-synchronised timekeeper enables him to remain co-ordinated with other squad members. Movement orders, given from the squad leader through the network, are synthesised in a head-up display and direction information is displayed on the hand-held unit.
Thales' digitised soldier will 'keep in touch' with a PDA that features secure GPS and hybrid positioning, combat identification for IFF and team monitoring. The Octopus plug-in bodynet web system establishes the soldier's information grid, connects the soldier and equipment to the tactical information network and provides hot plug-and-play peripheral connections for radios, GPS and sensors. The company is also developing a fully integrated combat harness, which offers squad Intranet connectivity, simultaneous voice, data and video transmission/reception and carries the battery and control unit for the system.
On the Air
Point-to-point communications without network assistance is still the de facto solution for units operating in forward areas. Software Defined Radio (SDR) systems are designed for one single unit to offer more flexibility in frequency and channel selection, and provide downloadable crypto options for increased security as well as ensuring interoperability with international allies.
Myriad manufacturers supply SDR systems. One choice is the Harris modular Falcon II family of radios. A radio family usually comprises small hand-held units, vehicle-mounted equipment (or a combination of these) and/or ground-based or airborne variants of the same frequency groups. Radio family members are designed around a common digital platform, user interface and a host of modular accessories to breed familiarity and to reduce training costs.
The Falcon II in HF tactical guise was supplied in June of this year to the British Ministry of Defence for the Bowman programme, which was long overdue in its revamping. Harris was contracted for $ 200 million to supply more than 10,000 HF radios for Bowman, and has recently received an order for another $7.3 million for vehicular accessories. The Falcon II family is standard kit used by Nato, Partnership for Peace units and many other national and international defence forces. Another recent delivery of the Falcon II family was to Uzbekistan, with $7.2 million worth of RF-5800H-MP high frequency single side band/VHF-FM manpack, RF-5800V VHF hand-held and -5800V manpack radios delivered.
Manpack radios--as the nomenclature suggests--carried on the back of the soldier, are still all the rage, as the longer antenna, larger battery and overall size continue to offer more capabilities than a hand-held, although that gap is all but closed today. The metamorphosis of these radios (once shoulder-breaking demons), although seemingly stalled for a time, has culminated in a storehouse of mission-specific offerings for today's soldier.
In competition in Switzerland is the HF-6000 from Tadiran Communications. Weighing in at under four kilograms, the -6000 is a Comsec/ECCM HF radio system offered in a variety of configurations covering the 1.5 to 30 MHz bandwidth with 285,000 channels (2,850,00 channels spaced at 10 Hz is optional). Standard features include digital squelch, selective calling, automatic link establishment and adaptive power control.
On the 21st century battlefield, digital communications should be integrated into a single, seamless, secure digital network. ITT Industries' Aerospace/Communications Division (A/CD) produces frequency-hopping combat net radios with the Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System (Sincgars), which allows seamless communications between aircraft, vehicles and dismounted soldiers. Sincgars was actually developed by ITT A/CD and the US Army and, with associated routing equipment, has become the foundation of the US Army Tactical Internet. Originally a voice-only radio with which to broadcast information back and forth the chain of command, Sincgars has evolved into an open architecture SDR system.
To pull networks together, Harris' RF-6010 Falcon II tactical network access hub works by converting voice and data into the RF waveforms that are integrated into Falcon II radios. The RF-6010 provides access from tactical networks to command or commercial local area or wide area networks, tactical phones or commercial PBX or PABX switching systems. Supporting up to four radios, the system has a 10-base-2 or 10-base-T interface to outside networks and a PPP protocol for direct contact to other Falcon II radios.
Wide spectrum coverage is another must for battlefield communications. With two Rohde & Schwarz radio modules the company's M3TR transceiver can cover the complete electromegnetic spectrum from short wave though to the UHF band. These vehicle-mounted systems have high data rates (from 9.6 kbit/s in the HF band to 64 kbit/s in the VHF/UHF bands) for digital voice, real-time video and visual display data.
Handy is Good
A lightweight, hand-held radio is a sine qua non for any mission, and today it must be both Sincgars and JTRS compliant, which will keep the soldier in touch with air, ground mobile and stationary units. The Spearhead secure radio from ITT is a 500-gram hand-held operating between 30 and 88 MHz and the VHF and FM bands that offers 2320 channels, single-channel frequency hopping and over-the-air rekeying and zeroing.
ITT also supplies its ADRP, the portable version of its Advanced Digital Radio (ADR) family. This five-Watt radio provides a high level of protection against interference and jamming, features a remote display and keypad assembly and an integrated GPS receiver.
The long awaited JTRS programme is now warming up to Cluster 5, which was recently put into the hands of the US Army. Cluster 5 will see hand-held, man-pack and vehicle radios integrated with the capability to enter the information network of UAVs, robots and the Terrain Warrior system (and other possible future soldier programme systems). This is where the rubber meets the road; the melding of video, audio, imagery, data packets and audio information--all fused together to provide an overall picture of the battle scene. The technology has existed to provide this information to commanders as well as the individual soldier, but the challenge remains in selecting which information goes to whom. Not an easy task with all the information that is being made available.
General Dynamics Decision Systems (GDDS) is knee-deep in the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) programme with its winning of the Cluster 1 contract. The multi-band radio prototype should have been presented by the time these lines are read. GDDS was awarded a $ 60 million contract in January 2003 for the upgrade of the Thales Communications MBITR squad leader radio for the US Land Warrior programme. The upgrade will include a reduction in weight, vehicle integration, JTRS compliance and combat ID and network capabilities.
With a view to Cluster 5 of the JTRS programme, GDDS has been investigating the ability of radio systems to actually learn from their environment, allowing them to autonomously perform cognitive functions such as identifying and using an empty spectrum to communicate more efficiently. These cognitive radios are thought to have a form of intelligence that comes from their SDR abilities.
Dr. Bruce Fette, General Dynamics Decision Systems' chief scientist, states, "The future of radio communication lies in the ability to use a single device to communicate as a network with other types of devices, maximise the use of limited bandwidth, and harness the power of flexible and adaptive software-based protocols".
Other hardware options include vehicle mounted radios, as well as portable notebook computers. The most recent event in this arena again involves the Bowman programme, for which the lightweight Scorpion from DRS Tactical Systems is in production. This ruggedised Cots-based portable conforms to critical EMI (electromagnetic interference) and MIL-SPEC-810 standards, and features a 12.1-inch SVGA daylight readable display (a prerequisite for outdoor laptops) and a sealed elastomer 88 Qwerty keyboard. MIL-STD parameters have been met for temperature, shock, rain, solar radiation, salt/fog atmosphere, humidity and sandy/dusty environments.
Channel Soldier Update
Much has been written concerning the future soldier programmes worldwide, mostly with regard to the US Army Objective Force Warrior. But both France and Britain are also set to revolutionise their infantry communications by their respective individual soldier technology programmes. The state of communications in the two countries is somewhat different, with the British Army continuing to rely on the antiquated Clansman radio system and the French Army being able to call on the much more up to date Thales Poste de Radio de 4eme Generation (PR4G) combat radio. Nevertheless, in neither army does the full flow of radio communications permeate all the way down the individual infantryman. Sadly, the outcome from situations such as this has been illustrated all too often, despite the advent and application of IFF systems.
However, communications for the individual soldier will change forever when each nation fields its individual soldier technology. France is due to make a decision on which consortium it would like to take forward its Fantassin a Equipements et Liasions Integres (Felin) programme with fielding due to take place in the 2006 timeframe. Britain recently selected Thales to continue assessment work on its Future Integrated Soldier Technology (Fist) project. Fist is at a much earlier stage of development and with a less ambitious timetable--it will not be fully fielded until around 2015.
One of the pillars of the two programmes is command, control, communications, computers and intelligence (C4I). The highly ambitious aim is to plug the individual soldier into the increasingly sophisticated and complex military information system--something that the procurement agencies and doctrinal organisations in both countries are examining carefully. On the technological front both France and Britain are represented on the Nato Army Armaments Group Topical Group 1 on Soldier System Interoperability. The group aims to ensure interoperability between the individual, nationally developed systems. It is looking at various levels of interoperability from standardised messages between individual soldiers data terminals to common couplings for power packs.
As mentioned above, France has already introduced a fairly up-to-date encrypted radio, the PR4G, as the backbone of its tactical network. However, at the squad level French soldiers still rely on bulky and less sophisticated radios and the ordinary infantryman is not issued with a personal radio.
France's Delegation Generale pour 1'Armament is expected to make a decision on whether to go with a system designed by a Thales-or Sagem-led consortium this summer. Both consortia have been undertaking design definition work over the last two years. Following the selection of a winner system development will begin almost immediately, with full production beginning in mid-2005. The first soldiers are set be equipped in 2006 and the initial contract will be for between 14 and 20,000 systems.
Until recently in the British Army individual soldiers were not equipped with their own radios, and communication below section level thus had to rely on how far a soldier could project his voice, a method which, during the heat of battle, has severe limitations. Some elements of the armed forces have now been issued the Personal Role Radio (PRR) and its first recorded operational use by the Royal Marines in Afghanistan is believed to have been a success. However, the PRR is a purely intra-section radio system that cannot link the individual soldier into the higher-level radio network.
The Fist programme is set to change the warfighting experience of the British infantryman. Thales was selected to run the 32-month assessment phase in March and will assess all the technologies to use for the dismounted soldier. In 2006, the British Army will decide whether to go ahead with the programme and a demonstration and production phase will follow. The first soldiers will be equipped with the system in 2009 with incremental rollout and upgrade of Fist packages taking place through to 2020. Britain is expected to purchase 29,000 systems at a cost of around two billion British pounds.
The developers are hoping to be able to employ a small lightweight radio without having to make too many trade-offs in terms of power and performance. At the lower end, the size of the radio will be limited by the need for the soldiers to be able to operate the displays and switches with gloved hands, and at the upper end by the need to keep the weight within an acceptable limit; most personal radios weigh in at less that two kilograms.
In order to represent that information in an easy-to-understand format both programmes envisage using either a head-up display or a hand-held computer to display the information overlaid on a map to give the infantryman unparalleled situational awareness.
In addition to providing communication with other soldiers, radios will have to deal with intra-individual communications, not to mention possible IFF gear. All the various technologies that are employed by the soldier will have to also be able to communicate with each other. Various solutions are being sought. In France, Thales' Felin concept includes a 'wired uniform' that will allow the systems to be connected. However, industry is also looking at some of the wireless solutions that may also be available, such as the commercial off-the-shelf bluetooth.
Lastly ... Getting Home
One last communication product type needs to be mentioned. This is combat search and rescue communications. The US military standard is the General Dynamics Csar (Combat Search and Rescue) system that features the AN/PRC-112G, a two-way voice, direction finding (GPS) and DME (Distance Measuring Equipment) transceiver. A downed pilot or Special Forces member activates the equipment and awaits a query by the extraction vessel. He then sends an encrypted text or voice message (about 25 "canned" text messages are available-otherwise one types the text) in a short burst on a pre-programmed channel. The interrogator provides pick-up information and monitors the extractive's position on the Hook2 radio, which can be carried on board a variety of fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft, a U2 or UAV. The AN/PRC-112G can store up to 250 navigational waypoints, enabling its use as a stand-alone GPS receiver or as a VHF/UHF AM transceiver for ground-to-air communication. The unit's software is upgradeable, with 406 Sarsat, GPRS, Special Dama, Saasm GPS and other formats already on the drawing boards.
Communication Security for Desk Warriors
Alcatel has developed a handy ciphering station for data and top. The 851 SecBox easily integrates with most e-mail programs, instant message services and Internet-based e-mail clients (yahoo, hotmail, ICQ).
A small, tamper-proof box, which sits inconspicuously next to one's laptop or computer, contains the algorithm and sensitive date (keys, access control parameters), which cannot be reached from outside the unit. Unit security ensures that all data is erased in case of tampering detection or in an emergency. Proprietary SeaClip software drives are installed on the Explorer, but the capability to encrypt any sensitive part (paragraph, sentence, word) of any document that is opened with a Windows application. The algorithms and 128 bit access keys are generated and distributed by the security manager. The hardware connects to any PC via the USB interface and does not require an additional power suppl.
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|Date:||Aug 1, 2003|
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