Fig. 1Communications technologies are vital to any military operation, whether on land, sea, or in the air, and often communications techniques rely on equipment that is found on land, at sea, and even in outer space. Many different technologies are used for military communications applications, whether for handheld battlefield reports or for space-based links using satellite-communications (satcom) equipment. Many different approaches are employed, including single frequencies, broad frequency bands, frequency hopping, and even power-line communications, and no one technology will ever dominate the armed forces in their quests for secure and reliable communications.

Projects in the Works

Raytheon Co., for example, recently completed a number of milestones for a secure communications project for the U.S. Air Force. The system is part of a $134 million contract to provide communications between the President of the United States, senior military leaders, and the U.S. Air Force bomber fleet. The firm had received this contract to develop the Global Aircrew Strategic Network Terminal in December 2013, with expansions due by the end of 2016. The upgrade will mark the first time that the bomber fleet air bases have access to the Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellites, which will provide secure, protected communications. As the only provider of high-bandwidth AEHF terminals, Raytheon was able to help the Air Force drive down program costs, giving the service greater buying power and new capabilities.

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Lockheed Martin is working with the U.S. Army on the new Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) communications network (Fig. 1). It will use a layered, managed network architecture to deliver secure connectivity, automatically switching to airborne nodes as needed or to satellite-communications (satcom) links if airborne nodes are not available. With such a self-managed communications network, a war fighter will not need to be concerned about security, since the system will do the switching and maintain the security under all conditions.

The WIN-T network is designed for flexibility and interoperability, automatically connecting airborne, naval, and ground-based networks. These networks are capable of adapting to a new device, such as a new handheld computer. To respond to threats, users will need access to intelligence from a variety of sources, with different classification levels. The new WIN-T technologies will expand the capabilities of secure intelligence sharing, keeping sensitive data safe and trusted while providing access to all authorized users.

Of course, available bandwidth is a concern with any communications network, whether for commercial or military users, and Lockheed Martin is working to ensure that bandwidth will be available for military users. The system will allow communications officers to shift bandwidth wherever the needs are the greatest, allowing military users to manage available bandwidth much more efficiently. The third increment of the WIN-T program went through modifications last year, to focus on the enhancement and simplification of Network Operations (NetOps) and look forward to advanced communications capabilities for 2025. These efforts are meant to simplify and reduce the number of network management tools needed for the system, to make the communications systems easier to install, operate, maintain, and defend.

One of the latest U.S. Army radios for the field is the JTRS Handheld, Manpack, and Small Form Fit AN/PRC-154 Rifleman developed by General Dynamics C4 Systems. This lightweight, body-worn radio was tested in a variety of scenarios, including reconnaissance, counterinsurgency, and convoy operations in preparation for field use. The tactical radio is even capable of interfacing with commercial smart phones.

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