Net-Centric Operations Supplement: Beginning JTRS

By Barry Rosenberg | November 1, 2008
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After more than a decade in development, the Pentagon’s software-defined Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) has never been closer to reality. Major contracts have been awarded, and the program’s Airborne, Maritime and Fixed Site (AMF) radios are six-plus months into their first increment.

The AMF radio is one of five JTRS product lines that collectively make up a suite of software defined, multifunction radios. Besides AMF, the other formal acquisition programs are Network Enterprise Domain (NED), Ground Mobile Radio (GMR), Handheld Manpack and Small Form Fit (HMS) and Multifunctional Information Distribution System (MIDS-JTRS).

"In today’s environment we have a very rigid communications system that is single threaded, has limited functionality and can communicate from UHF to UHF only and from VHF to VHF only," said Domenic Costa, vice president of Joint Tactical Network Systems for Lockheed Martin Information Systems and Global Services. "The software defined radio is a universal approach to eliminating those stovepipes."

Lockheed Martin in March was awarded a $766 million contract from the U.S. Air Force as the AMF JTRS prime contractor, besting a Boeing-led team. The Lockheed Martin team, including BAE Systems, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon, will proceed with the design and development of tactical radio systems for aircraft, ships and fixed site installations.

Under the contract, Lockheed Martin will develop 42 engineering development models of the small airborne configured system. The contract includes an option for low-rate initial production (LRIP) of 104 small airborne sets and 45 maritime/fixed station sets. The initial engineering development models for the airborne sets will be generically configured, and the maritime sets will be configured for destroyers. There are also options for additional sets configured for a number of different waveforms and weapons system platforms.

The Critical Design Review for AMF JTRS is scheduled for 2009, with Lockheed Martin expected to deliver engineering development models in 2010. Low-rate initial production will take place between 2010 and 2014, followed by full rate production.

The Waveforms

The ultimate goal of JTRS is to develop an open architecture of radio waveform technology that allows multiple radio types (e.g., handheld, aircraft, maritime) to communicate with each other, and to produce a family of interoperable, modular software-defined radios that operate as nodes in a network to ensure secure wireless communication and networking services for mobile and fixed forces. These goals extend to U.S. allies, coalition partners and, in time, disaster response personnel.

The Joint Program Executive Office for the Joint Tactical Radio System (JPEO JTRS), based in San Diego, defines a waveform as the entire set of radio and/or communications functions that occur from the user input to the radio frequency output. JTRS waveform implementation consists of a Waveform Application Code, Radio Set Devices and Radio System Applications.

"JTRS is designed to provide network enabling and interoperable communications to everything in the theater through software-defined radios, and to interoperate with each other and legacy equipment over a broad range of network capable waveforms and legacy waveforms," said Costa.

The AMF radio will provide advanced airborne networking capabilities that will be enabled by emerging satcom capabilities such as the Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) and other advanced networking waveforms such as the Wideband Network Waveform (WNW).

AMF is envisioned to support multiple platforms, with four lead platforms — the CH-47 Chinook and AH-64 Apache helicopters, the C-130J transport and the DDG 1000 destroyer.

Other potential platforms on the airborne side include service support aircraft such as the C-5 and C-17; ground/close air support aircraft and Army helicopters like the AV-8 and CV-22; as well as UAVs like Global Hawk and Predator.

On the maritime/fixed side, AMF will provide advanced satcom capabilities to the core of the Navy’s surface fleet, including aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers and several amphibious platforms.

In support of the JTRS Increment 1 capability, the AMF program will have two radio or form factor types: AMF-Maritime (AMF-M) and AMF-Small Airborne (AMF-SA). AMF-M is the large, four-to-six channel form factor to support MUOS and ultra-high-frequency satcom requirements. AMF-SA is the small two-channel form factor, and will support MUOS, WNW, Link 16 and Soldier Radio Waveform (SRW).

Additionally, DoD will have the ability to exercise contract options to add additional legacy waveforms such as HF, air traffic control and waveforms directly supporting close air support missions.

Of the Increment 1 wave forms Link 16 will operate in the 960 to 1215 MHZ frequency range, and will support voice mode of operation at 2.4 and 16 Kbps and data with Forward Error Correction at rates of 28.8 Kbps to 1.137 Mbps. MUOS is a next-generation narrowband tactical satcom system designed to significantly improve ground communications for U.S. forces on the move. SRW will operate in the 1.755-1.850 GHz frequency range, and will support digital 16 Kbps voice and data at 1 Mbps. WNW is expected to operate in the 2 MHZ to 2 GHz range at up to 5 Mbps networked throughput.

What’s interesting about the large and small form factor radios, from a business perspective, is that Lockheed Martin will hold an internal competition among its partners to see who will build each radio. Northrop Grumman and Raytheon will square off on the small airborne radio, while General Dynamics and BAE Systems will compete for the big fixed-base/maritime radio.

"The challenge is to get away from multiple form factors per platform, and come up with two form factors for all of them," said Costa. "AMF JTRS is not just a radio, it is a system. We’re giving the customer two form factors to replace a couple dozen boxes."

Costa says the radios ultimately will be designed to handle as many as 31 different waveforms that will run the gamut from the soldier on the ground, to the airman on base, to the satellite in space. "Lockheed Martin and the team will not build the waveforms," he explained. "The government will provide them and we will port them."

Waveforms scheduled for Increment 2 (including those for the other four JTRS radio programs) are: Link 11 (TADIL-A), HF ATC datalink, VHF AM ATC, VHF AM ATC (Extended), VHF/UHF FM LMR, VHF ATC datalink (NEXCOM), Link 4A, Link 11B, SATURN, IFF/ADS/TCAS, Digital Wideband Transmission System, Cobra, Cellular Radio, Link 22, Mobile Satellite Service, Integrated Broadcast Service-Module, and Bowman.

Boeing Involved

Though Boeing lost the competition to build the two radios, it is still involved in AMF JTRS in that it is developing the WNW for the airborne radio. (Link 16 is being handled by BAE, while ITT is responsible for the SRW.)

"We have a mixture of legacy waveforms and radios like SINCGARS, and we have new waveforms like the Wideband Networking Waveform," said Ralph Moslener, Boeing program manager for ground-mobile (GMR) JTRS. "The challenge has been bringing them all together. It’s quite an integration challenge."

Earlier this year, Boeing demonstrated for the first time during a test at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., the ability to communicate between radios that operate legacy waveforms like SINCGARS and handheld and manpack radios employing the next-generation waveforms.

"This is a new capability when you can communicate with units using waveforms in ways not done before," said Moslener. "We can move huge amounts of information, and are able to communicate information from Army UAVs. The WNW waveform will go into airborne, but not the handheld radios."

The Future

In late June, the JPEO JTRS and the Software Defined Radio Forum, based in Phoenix, agreed to team and give commercial industry greater visibility into DoD requirements, processes, and science and technology needs for JTRS programs. In addition, the two organizations agreed to provide a vehicle for forming partnerships among JPEO JTRS and SDR Forum members to explore new technologies and processes currently at the forefront of the commercial wireless communications industry.

The groundwork for the partnership came after JPEO JTRS sponsored the first JTRS Science and Technology Forum (JSTeF) in February at the University of California-San Diego. To publicize the basic need for communication and collaboration in the wireless communications industry, the SDR Forum and the JPEO JTRS will sponsor a joint SDR Forum technical meeting and JSTeF next January.

The JSTeF will focus on the DoD-specific aspects of wireless network systems by discussing JTRS processes and emerging science and technology opportunities and requirements, specifically in the areas of network security, secure radio architecture and software development standards. Additionally, the JSTeF will introduce numerous small businesses engaged in the wireless communications industry to the SDR Forum.

The SDR Forum technical meeting will continue to focus on meeting the needs of its members by supporting the development and deployment of software-defined and cognitive radio technologies that enable flexible and adaptable architectures in advanced wireless systems.

MIDS-JTRS On Path To Certification

The replacement of legacy Link-16 datalink terminals with software-defined Multifunctional Information Distribution System-Joint Tactical Radio Systems (MIDS-JTRS) is expected to begin next year, once the production of current terminals ends.

The MIDS-JTRS terminals will be the first multi-channel radios coming out of the JTRS Joint Program Executive Office, according to BAE Systems.

BAE, in partnership with Rockwell Collins, is one of three suppliers of the current MIDS Low Volume Terminals (MIDS-LVT) used by NATO forces for Link-16 communications. As Data Link Solutions, the two companies are under contract for MIDS-LVT terminals through Production Lot 10, which ends next March, said John Byrnes, BAE Systems director of business development for Communication & Tactical Networks.

Byrnes said the next procurement round will likely be for modular, 4-channel MIDS JTRS radios, providing Link-16 and Tactical Air Navigation System (TACAN) functionality along with new networking waveforms.

"We expect the U.S. government will be flipping the switch, will be making the decision" to procure MIDS-JTRS terminals at that time, said Byrnes, in a Sept. 10 videoconference.

Data Link Solutions, ViaSat and EuroMIDS (Thales, Selex, EADS Deutschland, INDRA Sistemas) provide MIDS-LVT terminals used on ships and aircraft.

In the United States, Data Link Solutions and ViaSat are working together to develop MIDS-JTRS, which will be a form, fit replacement for MIDS-LVT terminals. Byrnes said the expected market for MIDS terminal replacements is about 3,500 aircraft.

At the time of the briefing, MIDS-JTRS was in qualification and "on the path to certification," Byrnes said.

Four airworthiness terminals had been delivered for installation on the F/A-18 lead platform, and several flight tests had been conducted demonstrating TACAN. Initial operating capability on the F/A-18E/F was planned for next March. — Bill Carey

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