Army opts for ATM in upgrade of its battlefield comm systems

Army opts for ATM in upgrade of its battlefield comm systems

By William Jackson

GCN Staff

The Army has accepted the first tactical communications systems upgrade that combines voice with multimedia asynchronous transfer mode transmission.

Mobile Subscriber Equipment, the Army's primary tactical communications system, is primarily for voice, although MSE vendor GTE Government Systems Corp. of Needham Heights, Mass., did overlay a 16-Kbps data channel on top.

'We long since outgrew that,' said Lt. Col. John Blaine, commander of the 4th Infantry Division's 124th Signal Battalion at Fort Hood, Texas, which is the first unit to receive the upgraded equipment. 'The commanders in the field now want their video.'

Quite capable

They will get it through the Army Common User System's ATM capability, which combines standard MSE voice traffic with multimedia data at rates up to 100 Mbps. The 124th Signal Battalion will use ACUS ATM for field communications with the 1st Division.

The upgrade program, dubbed the First Digital Division, is an interim step on the way to all-ATM battlefield communications using line-of-sight radios as wireless backbones to connect nodes to ACUS ATM's center switch.

'The radios that come out next year will allow this,' Blaine said.

The ACUS ATM control center can be mounted on a truck. It has adapters to convert MSE traffic for commercial ATM networks, and conversely to transform traffic from those networks for the low-bandwidth, high-bit-error-rate tactical equipment.

The ATM switch is a ForeRunner ASX-200BX from Fore Systems Inc. of Warrendale, Pa. A 7505 ATM router from Cisco Systems Inc. of San Jose, Calif., provides LAN access.

The whole package connects the brigade level and below officers to divisional communications and the Defense Department's tactical Internet.

Blaine likened the shift to moving an eight-story office building's entire information infrastructure into another building. 'And while we're moving it, it remains operational,' he said.

The advanced communications links are essential to give warfighters the information they need to carry out missions, Blaine said. 'We are in an information environment, and the information must travel at the speed of light,' he said.


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