USA — Rifleman Radio completes key operational test at NIE

WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, N.M. — An advanced light­weight radio that will con­nect troops on the front lines to the Army’s tac­ti­cal com­mu­ni­ca­tions net­work has com­plet­ed its oper­a­tional test.

A 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Divi­sion Sol­dier demon­strates a Joint Bat­tle Com­mand-Plat­form Hand­held and a Joint Tac­ti­cal Radio Sys­tem Rifle­man Radio.
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The Joint Tac­ti­cal Radio Sys­tem, or JTRS, Rifle­man Radio and its Sol­dier Radio Wave­form, known as SRW, Net­work Man­ag­er com­po­nent were the only sys­tems under a for­mal pro­gram of record test at the recent­ly con­clud­ed Net­work Inte­gra­tion Eval­u­a­tion 12.1 here. While Sol­diers from the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Divi­sion, also infor­mal­ly eval­u­at­ed more than 45 oth­er tac­ti­cal com­mu­ni­ca­tions sys­tems, the Rifle­man Radio test rep­re­sents a key step toward field­ing the Army’s future network. 

The two-pound radio, which is car­ried by pla­toon, squad and team-lev­el Sol­diers for voice com­mu­ni­ca­tions, can con­nect with hand­held devices to trans­mit text mes­sages, GPS loca­tions and oth­er data. Through SRW, it con­nects low­er ech­e­lon Sol­diers to one anoth­er and back to their lead­ers at the com­pa­ny lev­el so they can rapid­ly exchange information. 

“I use it for over­all com­mand and con­trol because it builds a net­work that allows me to talk to my sub­or­di­nate ele­ments,” said Capt. Ryan McNal­ly, a com­pa­ny com­man­der with­in 2/1 AD who eval­u­at­ed the Rifle­man Radio at Net­work Inte­gra­tion Eval­u­a­tion, or NIE, 12.1. “It’s the first time I’ve actu­al­ly had radios down at the squad lev­el. So my dis­mount­ed rifle­men, they all have the radio as well. It allows them to talk to their team lead­ers when they’re spread out, and also allows them to talk to the squad leader.” 

McNal­ly said the abil­i­ty to com­mu­ni­cate with the radios instead of shout­ing or using hand-and-arm sig­nals had altered his Sol­diers’ tac­ti­cal approach to their missions. 

“We have to fac­tor in being able to talk to each oth­er over a dis­tance, rather than every­body being essen­tial­ly co-locat­ed with a lim­it­ed amount of space and dis­tance between them,” McNal­ly said. “Now we can expand that space and dis­tance. We can cov­er a larg­er area.” 

McNally’s com­pa­ny used the radios in con­junc­tion with hand­held devices run­ning Joint Bat­tle Com­mand-Plat­form soft­ware. JBC‑P is the future ver­sion of the Army’s friend­ly force track­ing and mes­sag­ing sys­tem, known as Force XXI Bat­tle Com­mand Brigade and Below/Blue Force Track­ing, known as FBCB2/BFT, which also allows users to plot haz­ards and ene­my loca­tions on a dig­i­tal map. Plugged into the Rifle­man Radio, these devices pro­vid­ed mis­sion com­mand and sit­u­a­tion­al aware­ness infor­ma­tion down to Sol­diers at the tac­ti­cal edge. 

“They can get their grid (posi­tion) off of it, and they can see any­body else who has a Rifle­man Radio,” McNal­ly said. “You can send mes­sages, cre­ate routes, drop a chem light (to show a build­ing has been cleared), and send reports.” 

Dur­ing the test, the Army cap­tured data on the radio’s per­for­mance in two ways: through instru­men­ta­tion on the sys­tems them­selves, and through human data col­lec­tors who accom­pa­nied Sol­diers through­out their missions. 

“When they have a radio and they’re talk­ing on it, I have a guy there that’s writ­ing down infor­ma­tion and talk­ing to them, with spe­cif­ic ques­tions that we’ve giv­en them,” said test direc­tor Mike Nott. 

He said the com­pa­ny for­mal­ly test­ing the Rifle­man Radio was phys­i­cal­ly iso­lat­ed from the rest of 2/1 AD to ensure the integri­ty of the test, despite the com­plex NIE environment. 

“Although they’re still part of the over­all exer­cise and still in the scheme of maneu­ver, we phys­i­cal­ly sep­a­rat­ed them on the ground, and we did that on pur­pose,” Nott said. “We want­ed to be able to con­trol that bat­tle space.” 

The Army will eval­u­ate those test results dur­ing the com­ing months, as it final­izes the make­up of its net­work Capa­bil­i­ty Set 13, which will begin field­ing to up to eight brigade com­bat teams in fis­cal year 2013. 

The Rifle­man Radio is part of the JTRS Hand­held, Man­pack, Small Form Fit, or HMS, fam­i­ly of radios. In June the HMS pro­gram achieved Mile­stone C, autho­riz­ing the Army to pro­cure a low-rate ini­tial pro­duc­tion lot of up to 6,250 Rifle­man Radios and up to 100 Man­pack Radios. NIE results will help inform fur­ther pur­chas­ing deci­sions for the equipment. 

The soft­ware-pro­gram­ma­ble JTRS radios, which can use encryp­tion to safe­guard infor­ma­tion, are built to send Inter­net Pro­to­col pack­ets of data, voice, video and images via mul­ti­ple wave­forms between sta­t­ic com­mand cen­ters, vehi­cles on the move, and dis­mount­ed indi­vid­ual Sol­diers on patrol. The JTRS wave­forms, SRW and the Wide­band Net­work­ing Wave­form, known as WNW, are inte­grat­ed with the satel­lite com­mu­ni­ca­tions back­bone of the Army net­work, Warfight­er Infor­ma­tion Net­work-Tac­ti­cal, or WIN‑T, to trans­mit that infor­ma­tion on the upper tac­ti­cal internet. 

The Rifle­man Radio is a key com­po­nent to build­ing the ground-lev­el low­er tac­ti­cal net­work, bring­ing the most com­mu­ni­ca­tion dis­ad­van­taged users — the small unit down to the indi­vid­ual user — into the network. 

Dur­ing NIE 12.1, Sol­diers used the radios and hand­held devices in a vari­ety of real­is­tic sce­nar­ios, includ­ing con­voy oper­a­tions, med­ical evac­u­a­tion, recon­nais­sance and coun­terin­sur­gency. One 2/1 AD pla­toon leader, 2nd Lt. Travis V. Mount, said the tech­nol­o­gy show­ing the posi­tions of his troops allowed him to save time by imme­di­ate­ly adapt­ing and exe­cut­ing his plans rather than track­ing down per­son­nel first. 

“No mat­ter what kind of orga­ni­za­tion you’re run­ning, if you have dis­mounts who are going to be on the ground you like to be able to see where your per­son­nel are,” Mount said. “If all I need is infor­ma­tion on their posi­tion, I don’t have to go through an inter­me­di­ary. I can on the spot adapt my plan.” 

He said the Tac­ti­cal Ground Report­ing, known as TIGR, soft­ware appli­ca­tion run­ning on the hand­helds was also valu­able for shar­ing patrol infor­ma­tion such as routes, places and peo­ple of interest. 

“Instead of hav­ing to go to the Tac­ti­cal Oper­a­tions Cen­ter at the end of the day to down­load the infor­ma­tion on the events and obser­va­tions, I can either (do it in) real time or when I have a lull in the mis­sion,” Mount said. “I can just plug it in right there.” 

(Ash­ley Blu­men­feld, JPEO JTRS, con­tributed to this report.) 

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