Army exercises display future of battlefield communications

White Sands demos model upcoming radio technologies

To illustrate its vision for battlefield communications in 2017, the Army demonstrated its up-and-coming future tactical network technologies July 12-16 at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., reports Kate Brannen at Defense News.

The informal exercise modeled progress for the Army Brigade Combat Team in advanced communications such as the development of an aerial network layer that extends the range in which soldiers can talk and share data via radio, as well as smaller, handheld devices such as the Rifleman Radio, part of the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) Handheld, Manpack, Small Form Fit program under development.

Also demonstrated were portions and capabilities of the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical, the One System Remote Video Terminal, the WideBand Networking Waveform and the Land Warrior system.

The latter three showed how a streaming video feed could come from the Shadow unmanned aerial vehicle to a company command post, then be passed on as a clip to higher network commands and later, as a still image from the video feed, be shared down to the dismounted solider, according to the report.

The White Sands proof-of-concept exercises were the result of three months’ worth of efforts requiring the participation of six program executive offices, Army testing community, Army Training and Doctrine Command and the staffs of White Sands and Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maj. Gen. John Bartley, Army Brigade Combat Team modernization program executive officer, told reporters via telephone on July 16.

The Army decided to demonstrate the network capabilities after Ashton Carter, the Defense Department's acquisition chief, requested a report of what the service’s network would look like in 2011 and 2017 following a December 2009 Defense Acquisition Board review.

Gen. Peter Chiarelli, Army vice chief of staff, visited the site July 13, and two days later in Washington discussed his impressions. He called the Rifleman Radio “absolutely amazing,” particularly the radio’s Soldier Radio Waveform that extends communication range to between 35 and 50 kilometers. “And that’s not just talking, that’s passing data,” he said.

The efforts are part of the continuing Army Brigade Combat Team modernization program, the follow-on to the canceled Future Combat Systems program.

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a former staff writer for FCW and Defense Systems.

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