U.S. Army Rangers test new software-defined radio

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army’s 75th Ranger Reg­i­ment in Afghanistan recent­ly com­plet­ed an oper­a­tional assess­ment of the soft­ware-pro­gram­ma­ble Joint Tac­ti­cal Radio Sys­tems, or JTRS, Rifle­man Radio. The assess­ment high­light­ed the radio’s abil­i­ty to share com­bat-rel­e­vant infor­ma­tion, voice and data across small units in real time.

A mem­ber of the 75th Ranger Reg­i­ment in Afghanistan wears the JTRS Rifle­man Radio. The Rangers recent­ly com­plet­ed an oper­a­tional assess­ment of the soft­ware-pro­gram­ma­ble Joint Tac­ti­cal Radio Sys­tems.
Click to enlarge

“We have just entered the era of the net­worked Sol­dier,” said Col. John Zavarel­li, pro­gram man­ag­er, Joint Pro­gram Exec­u­tive Office, or JPEO JTRS, Hand­held Man­pack Small. “The indi­vid­ual rifle­man now has a game-chang­ing capability.” 

The Oper­a­tional Assess­ment marked the first for­mal com­bat use of the sin­gle-chan­nel, soft­ware-defined Rifle­man Radio, which uses Sol­dier Radio Wave­form, or SRW, a high band­width wave­form which draws upon a larg­er part of the avail­able spec­trum com­pared to lega­cy radios to share infor­ma­tion and “net­work” forces. 

Rifle­man Radio is part of a fam­i­ly of soft­ware-pro­gram­ma­ble JTRS radios, which make use of NSA-cer­ti­fied encryp­tion to safe­guard and trans­mit infor­ma­tion. The radios are built to send pack­ets of data, voice, video and images via mul­ti­ple wave­forms between sta­t­ic com­mand cen­ters, vehi­cles on-the-move and even dis­mount­ed indi­vid­ual Sol­diers on patrol. 

The oper­a­tional assess­ment of Rifle­man Radio is part of an over­all acqui­si­tion strat­e­gy aimed at rapid­ly and effec­tive­ly har­ness­ing Sol­dier feed­back as a vital ele­ment of pro­cure­ment and tech­nol­o­gy devel­op­ment efforts, said Brig. Gen. Michael Williamson, Joint Pro­gram Exec­u­tive Offi­cer, JTRS

“This is a near per­fect exam­ple of how ear­ly engage­ment by the warfight­er work­ing close­ly with the PM and the acqui­si­tion com­mu­ni­ty can deliv­er capa­bil­i­ty smarter and faster,” said Williamson. “There was a tremen­dous amount of work done by the pro­gram man­ag­er, the Rangers and the acqui­si­tion lead­er­ship with­in the DOD and the Army to achieve this milestone.” 

The gen­er­al said the Rangers spent a lot of time using the radios and “clear­ly had a sig­nif­i­cant lev­el of con­fi­dence” in the sys­tem. Rangers liked the size, weight and pow­er of the Rifle­man Radio, which pro­vid­ed a bat­tery life of up to ten hours and increased the units’ abil­i­ty to com­mu­ni­cate despite obsta­cles such as build­ings and near­by terrain. 

The elite Ranger unit, which out­fit­ted mul­ti­ple pla­toons with the Rifle­man Radio while con­duct­ing var­i­ous tac­ti­cal mis­sions in Afghanistan, indi­cat­ed that the sys­tems great­ly assist­ed their unit’s abil­i­ty to exchange key infor­ma­tion such as posi­tion loca­tion infor­ma­tion faster, fur­ther and more effi­cient­ly across the force, Zavarel­li said. 

“Com­mu­ni­ca­tions were effec­tive and reli­able,” Zavarel­li said. “Team lead­ers and squad lead­ers ben­e­fit­ted from the posi­tion loca­tion infor­ma­tion because of the infor­ma­tion car­ried by the SRW waveform.” 

Rifle­man Radio and SRW allowed the Ranger units to estab­lish a mobile, ad-hoc net­work. Using that net­work, squad lead­ers, com­man­ders and dis­mount­ed infantry shared and viewed mis­sion essen­tial infor­ma­tion using small, hand-held, end-user devices with dis­play screens. The devices dis­played dig­i­tal maps that allowed users to view sur­round­ing ter­rain and to also locate near­by friend­ly forces, Zavarel­li explained. 

“The Rangers felt the radio was very effec­tive for con­duct­ing infantry oper­a­tions, espe­cial­ly at the small unit lev­el,” Zavarel­li said. “Rifle­man Radio allowed them to exe­cute mis­sions very rapid­ly because they had an improved aware­ness of where they were in rela­tion to sur­round­ing troops. Mis­sion Com­mand deci­sions were achieved faster.” 

Using the soft­ware pro­gram­ma­ble Rifle­man Radio and SRW, the Rangers were able to “net­work ” voice, data and infor­ma­tion across deploy­ing units in aus­tere envi­ron­ments, with­out need­ing to rely upon a “fixed” infra­struc­ture or GPS sys­tem to com­mu­ni­cate across the unit while on the move. 

“With the SRW net­work­ing wave­form all you have to do is get to the next node,” Zavarel­li said. “The wave­form that we were using is crit­i­cal to bend­ing around cor­ners. Instead of hav­ing to push through obsta­cles you just have to hop to the next node. They were in a sit­u­a­tion where the net­work­ing func­tion worked well for them.” 

The suc­cess of this Rifle­man Radio Oper­a­tional Assess­ment, which includ­ed 125 radios, is expect­ed to inform ongo­ing JPEO JTRS, Army and U.S. Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Com­mand con­sid­er­a­tions regard­ing planned future deploy­ments of the radio. In fact, fur­ther devel­op­ment of the JTRS Rifle­man Radio is being great­ly assist­ed by feed­back from Army Rangers who used the device in theater. 

Over­all, incor­po­rat­ing feed­back from the Rangers is con­sis­tent with the aims of the Army’s ongo­ing bi-annu­al Net­work Inte­gra­tion Eval­u­a­tions, which are geared toward iden­ti­fy­ing, inte­grat­ing and assess­ing capa­bil­i­ty, sys­tems and tech­nolo­gies for Sol­diers before they are sent to the­ater, Williamson explained. 

Plac­ing a pre­mi­um upon Sol­dier feed­back is a key ele­ment of the Army’s “agile process” approach to acqui­si­tion, which seeks to expe­dite devel­op­ment and deliv­ery of emerg­ing tech­nolo­gies by eval­u­at­ing them in tac­ti­cal­ly-rel­e­vant, com­bat-like sce­nar­ios such as the NIE

Ulti­mate­ly, the Army plans to broad­ly deploy the JTRS Rifle­man Radio across the entire force. 

(Kris Osborn writes for the Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of the Army for Acqui­si­tion, Logis­tics and Technology.) 

U.S. Army 

Face­book and/or on Twit­ter

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist GlobalDefence.net im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. GlobalDefence.net war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →