Humvee-mounted comm system delivers ATM to the battlefield

FORT BRAGG, N.C.--Mount an asynchronous transfer mode switch and a
C-band satellite antenna on a Humvee, and what do you get? Along with fiber-optic
communications to the front lines, you see a glimpse into the future of battlefield
information systems.


The eighth Joint Warrior Interoperability Demonstration (JWID), here last month,
showcased mobile multimedia communications to the front lines. AT&T Corp. and Wheat
International Communications Corp. of Vienna, Va., linked displays here with Fort Gordon,
Ga., and with AT&T's laboratories in Holmdel, N.J., for live voice, data and video
over Integrated Services Digital Network lines to TCP/IP networks.


Switching was handled on the Humvee by a Northern Telecom Inc. Magellan ATM switch,
using a 2.4-meter, very-small-aperture-terminal C-band satellite connection as the gateway
to land networks. The field package, known as the Theater Deployable Multimedia
Communications Server, or TDMCS, can be used anywhere, the vendors said.


Soldiers in the TDMCS demonstration did collaborative planning, held videoconferences,
moved data files and accessed military and civilian networks. They used an AT&T
Definity private branch exchange, a Sun Microsystems Inc. workstation, videoconferencing
equipment from PictureTel Corp., whiteboard software, and Microsoft Windows .BMP and Joint
Photographic Experts Group-compressed images. Wireless access was provided within 10
kilometers of the base station.


The entire field package, according to AT&T and Wheat spokesmen, fits on the back
of a high-mobility, multipurpose wheeled vehicle, or Humvee, for rapid use in a field
situation within 24 to 48 hours. The package will shrink even smaller for next year's JWID
demonstration.


"It's very lightweight and deployable," AT&T assistant vice president Ken
Pedersen said. "It lets you do desktop videoconferencing in a Humvee or at a command
post so you can deliver tactical data to commanders in the field and real-time updates to
troops. All of it runs in a common transmission environment using ATM."


Capt. Mike Shillinger said the package would give battalion commanders and others in
forward locations access to vast amounts of information.


"I work with these commanders who sit and surf the Internet and ask, "Why
can't I do this out here?' " Shillinger said. "They want to be able to see
what's in the trees out in the field. Using this system, we can push satellite pictures
out to them."


Shillinger said the Defense Department is looking at TDMCS as a potential part of the
proposed Warfare Information Network.


Pedersen said the demonstration in support of the Army's Force XXI charter--using
digital information strategically on the battlefield--presented several integration
challenges unique to military situations.


"In a tactical environment, you've got a lot of old radio systems in a very narrow
band--lots of frequencies and jamming. We've done a lot of engineering and integration to
make sure this operates in that environment," Pedersen said.


"ATM is designed for fiber, but with some unique integration, we've got it running
over noisy radio systems, down to 300 bits/sec. This is a demonstration of technology that
is doable now," he said. "We need to make it more rugged and a lot smaller, and
have it consume far less power."


The goal is to make remote communications as easy as on base, so that soldiers could,
for instance, practice battlefield simulations en route to a theater, then communicate
back to their supporting bases after arrival.


Pedersen said AT&T will eye future DOD procurements as vehicles for bidding the
TDMCS technologies. "We have focused on carrier-type services," he said.
"Now we think we have business potential here."


Darrell Hayes of Wheat International said his firm worked with AT&T to integrate
the software and set up equipment at the demonstration sites. He said the cost of the
demonstration was in the "hundreds of thousands" of dollars.


Those not attending the JWID event can find out more about it from the Army World Wide
Web site at http://www.army.mil/jwid96.htm,
  and from AT&T and Wheat International at http://jwid.ncc-1701.com.
 



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