Thursday, April 14, 2011

Future Battlefield Communications- American Perspective

A satellite-based communications systems for combat vehicles
Lighter, smaller, mobile and more efficient are the waves of future battlefield communications. A satellite-based communications systems for combat vehicles is essential. The technology of tomorrow's battlefield should form basis of aquistion activities. Evaluation of satellite- based Mounted Battle Command on-the-move systems that will provide broadband communications to a battlefield commander using lighter, smaller, and less expensive vehicle- mounted technologies should engage the Communication Commanders commencing from top down to Unit Commnders. The task is to link several of these vehicles using satellites, so that distance and physical obstacles are no longer issues between two points. In this environment, commanders will be able to create multiple communication links between the commander, subordinate commanders and staff elements anywhere in the theatre of operations. The electronics are more technically complex because the miniaturized components must be crafted to withstand the severities of a harsh combat environment.

Recent lessons learned in the Global War on Terrorism heightened the significance of Mobile communications. This is important because we learned during Operation Iraqi Freedom that modern battlefield movements quickly outpace the reach of current communications capabilities. This posed a significant command and control challenge between units that were up in front and those that were in the rear, as well as units that were to the left and the right in a vastly dispersed battlespace. Added to this in this desert environment, there were either terrain obstacles or immense distance that precluded line-of-sight communication. What we learned is that to compensate for that inability you have to be able to hit a satellite so that it can relay your signal to a distant location. Of course satellite communications has limitations like rain, foliage, urban buildup as well as the normal laws of physics that must be addressed. These are areas of concern. What is needed is modeling and simulation capabilities. This allows to experiment, test and analyze communications traffic at a reduced cost to the Army. Additional capabilities include spectrum analysis, software programming, and code and model validation and verification. Introduction of new technology may result in a reduction in manpower but a corresponding increased dependency on automation.
The future experimentation evolves out of the fact that reliance on automation may require changes in organizations, doctrine, and procedures.
For example, how are the ways to interact with 20 to 30 miles away. Earlier a courier was sent or resort to telephone conversation after dropping a cable and establishing relay stations from sender to receiver.

Enemy will disrupt comms
Today, given continuous clandestine enemy activities, suicide bombers and those kinds of things, a physical cable creates a target; the enemy is just going to cut the line to disrupt our comms. Also, to guard it, you must have force protection which requires you to take Soldiers from the fight to guard the cable. However, today, signal units can establish radio communications in the form of WiFi, WiMax, laser, satellite, and normal line-of-sight signal waves. These technologies affect the manning of organizations to include required skill sets. While improvements and enhancements to systems often result in increased capabilities, there is always a need for new procedures to accommodate the new technologies. These are the kinds of issues to be considered for the future.

Network Operations Security Center and Simulation Environment
Another mission area is the Network Operations Security Center and Simulation Environment. This network allows for the conduct of force-on-force simulations across a distributed environment. Four or five major simulation exercises are conducted each year over the network. Also operating is a group orchestrating information assurance and network security. These individuals travel throughout the country to insure that every point that connects to the classified network- the equipment and personnel- are well versed in the security of the network. The final aspect addresses live experimentation. This group evaluates commercially-available technology for possible insertion into the force to satisfy an operational needs statement.

The technology is proven and in the market
The technology is proven and in the market. Testing comparable products of multiple vendors so as to provide the acquisition agency the data needed to compare a technology or a vendor so that an informed decision can be made. The evaluation team acquires prototypes and sample hardware such as new antennae and modem systems from industry partners. They are evaluated to determine whether the specifications described in advertisements can really be met by the hardware when placed in an operational environment. Provide feedback to the vendors who have been extremely receptive to making changes to software and subtle changes to hardware to improve the performance. Design and test regimes will examine the performance of the components and the complete systems under a number of different operational scenarios.

Testing the system on a Humvee in urban and rural areas where the signal could be blocked by buildings or trees is valuable. By testing new systems and modifications to encryption and existing systems, will provide the acquisition directorate information that will help them make decisions about the future technology to be delivered. The goal is to deliver a broadband satellite communication system that can be used in a highly mobile mode to give situational awareness to a commander.
Extracts Courtesy: Future Battlefield Communications

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