Army Communicator
United States Army Signal Center, Fort Gordon, GA
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Joint tactical radio system revolutionizing the ways and means of future battlefield communications

by CPT Steven Wall

"Red 5, this is Red 6."

The lieutenant powered his computer display and his commander’s image came up. "Red 6, this is Red 5."

"Red 5, take your platoon to establish a checkpoint along the highway, grid GL34519283, no later than 182300 June 1, provide real-time intelligence video and situation awareness of forces withdrawing along Route Yellow."

On the screen next to his commander, the digital-map display popped open, showing his sector and the adjacent units in the operations area. The electronic whiteboard showed units he was to coordinate with. Another list showed the intelligence requirements the commander wrote down during the battalion order.

"Red 6, roger."

"Red 5, operations order and communications package sent."

The file-transfer protocol icon came up. It showed that the order, communications-waveform software and map files had been received. The lieutenant clicked "save" and moved the map and text icons into his new mission folder and saved the communications files onto his computer.

"Red 6, message received."

"Red 5, good luck. Red 6 out."

This notional radio transmission is ready to happen. Our Kosovo-forces units are required to communicate with joint, multinational, foreign-national and civil authorities. We have the capability to send orders electronically. We can interoperate with joint and multinational forces. Civilian networks can be tapped. We have real-time video capability. The problem is we can’t do it all from one communications system.

Currently the Army relies on single-channel ground and airborne radio, enhanced position-location reporting system, near-term digital radio, mobile-subscriber equipment and satellite-communications systems. What we want is a wideband, multifunction digital radio capable of meeting our needs. This is where the joint tactical radio system will satisfy the user’s need for a wideband digital radio capable of simultaneous voice, video and data.

Joint vision

The road to JTRS is paved by Joint Vision 2010, which serves as the armed forces’ premier warfighting concept. Published in July 1996, the Joint Chiefs of Staff provided their best estimate on how the armed forces should fight in the 21st century. The joint doctrine and philosophy contained within JV 2010 have provided an indispensable, overarching framework for conducting future joint operations.

The four central pillars of JV 2010 are its key operational concepts: dominant maneuver, precision engagement, focused logistics and full-dimensional protection. Also, there are two "enablers": technological advances and information superiority.

Information superiority illustration Joint Vision 2010 illustration.

Information superiority and technological innovation are common to each operational concept. If we can provide our joint-task-force commanders with a mobile, dynamically reconfigurable, theater-wide information grid with enough reliability, capacity, interoperability and security – allowing tailoring of support networks for time-critical missions – it’s possible to achieve the necessary information flow to support each JV 2010 operational concept. To provide a communications infrastructure that doesn’t support these information-superiority goals would limit access to information and create a lack of interoperability among command, control and support systems, preventing optimum integration of operations, planning and logistics.

How each of these operational concepts and enablers relate to expected force capabilities greatly defines the qualities JTRS must provide the armed forces. Thus JTRS must be the centerpiece of the JTF information grid. It must span the requirements of each service while providing a common open-system architecture that will ensure total-force interoperability regardless of domain or application.

Army operational concept

JTRS will meet emerging needs for secure, multiband/multimode digital radios for Force XXI. The JTR family will be scaled for use in all environmental domains (airborne, ground, mobile, handheld, fixed-station, maritime, civilian and personal communication) and will be based on common communications-system architecture. The JTRS family will be an open-system architecture, interoperable with legacy communications systems, and capable of future technology insertion. It will provide a networked data waveform in addition to operation with current legacy waveforms.

When JTRS is ready for fielding, the Army will field it initially to battlefield functional areas where multiple radios are in use. Selected users needing multiple paths for voice and/or data information exchange will be served by JTRs that are configurable and programmable to simultaneously operate on multiple bands and modes across multiple networks while automatically routing data within and between applicable networks.

Characteristics desired in JTR are:

Plug-and-play versatility;
Field-configurable modular hardware;
Field-programmable waveform software;
Embedded position location, plus automatic SA feed to network;
Secure data network;
Three or more other networks/modes (voice, video and data);
Automatic local and internet routing;
Dynamic networking, addressing and bandwidth allocation, plus power-consumption control;
Emulation of selected legacy radios;
On-the-move operations;
Open-architecture design;
Compliant with joint technical architecture and supports operational architectures; and
Self and "ad hoc" organization and mobility within the infrastructure.

User community

To get JTRS into the user’s hands, the joint program office took an aggressive approach for JTRS’ development and acquisition. JPO announced June 28 that the Modular Software Radio Consortium (Raytheon) system-architecture proposal had been selected as the system architecture for JTRS. The next phase, Step 2a, requires the consortium to develop prototypes and to demonstrate the architecture and its interoperability. In Step 2b, a second consortium will build to the same architecture and can develop some or all of the optional waveforms.

The two consortiums must then swap waveforms and related technologies with each other. Doing so will validate the compatibility and openness of the selected architecture.

Current waveforms Step 2 requires the consortiums to provide are:

High-frequency automatic-link establishment;
Very-high-frequency frequency modulation;
VHF FM public service;
Ultra-high-frequency demand-assigned multiple access/demand-assigned single access;
VHF for air-traffic control (8.22/25 kilohertz channels);
UHF Have Quick I/II; and
Vendor-proposed wideband.

Optional waveforms that Step 2 asks of the consortiums:

SINCGARS;
EPLRS;
Link 16;
NTDR; and
Internet controller (to be emulated as a software capability, not a waveform).

The consortiums are to provide prototypes of JTR, one of which must be capable of running all eight waveforms. Solicitations were made in July, with the agreement award announced at the end of August.

Wideband waveform

The Army requirements for JTRS focus on the wideband waveform. This waveform, set forth in JTRS’ operations-requirements document dated March 23, 1998, is a vendor-proposed waveform. This unique requirement will help realize answers to many current challenges, which include the increase in data requirements for larger throughput as well as for faster and more reliable links. JTRS is a wireless, self-organizing and (more importantly) self-healing network. The wideband waveform holds the key to solve many obstacles.

The current Army waveforms and years required in the ORD are:

SINCGARS system-improvement plan/advanced SIP, fiscal year 2002;
EPLRS, FY02;
UHF DAMA/SATCOM, FY00;
Wideband, FY02; and
Mobile-subscriber radio terminal, FY02.

The Army continues to focus on the user’s needs. Training and Doctrine Command’s system manager for tactical radios recently sponsored its second Army users’ conference. Proponent schools provided TSM-TR a hard look at the ORD and developed a list of priority waveforms to help guide development of JTRS waveforms.

TSM-TR also is working as part of the JTRS network integrated-product team in developing the network drivers, requirements and related technical features of the JTRS network. This portion of the radio capability will be a great asset to the user. It will provide dynamic, wireless routing and links for the services. The future battlespace will require creating seamless, mobile, ad hoc networks to pass survival and planning data; will give real-time and near-real-time voice, video and data; and will provide sensor-to-control-node-to-shooter data.

TSM-TR is working to best represent users and the requirements they bring to the battlefield. TSM-TR’s goal is to bring JTRS to the Army to capitalize on this technological capability and to maximize the information and communications transfer for 21st-century warfighters.

JTRS is designed to provide the warfighter the best communications possible. Its ability to reach back to legacy systems currently in the inventory will help reduce fielding costs and digitize the Army. JTRS has the ability to meet users’ needs and future joint requirements.

Information on JTRS can be obtained by linking to the JTRS JPO homepage at www.jtrs.sarda.army.mil or to TSM-TR’s homepage at www.gordon.army.mil/tsmtr. For more information, contact Jack Keever at keeverj@emh.gordon.army.mil or me at walls@emh.gordon.army.mil.

CPT Wall is assistant TSM-TR at Fort Gordon, Ga. His other assignments have included assistant professor of military science at University of South Dakota; adjutant and company commander for 442d Signal Battalion at Fort Gordon; assistant operations officer and platoon leader with 125th Signal Battalion, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii; and battalion Signal officer with 4th Battalion, 22d Infantry at Schofield Barracks. Formerly an infantry officer, he holds a bachelor’s degree from Western Illinois University in law-enforcement administration and a master’s degree for University of South Dakota in administrative studies.

Acronym QuickScan
DAMA – demand-assigned multiple access
EPLRS – enhanced position-location reporting system
FM – frequency modulation
FY – fiscal year
JPO – joint program office
JTF – joint task force
JTR – joint tactical radio
JTRS – joint tactical radio system
JV – Joint Vision (2010)
NTDR – near-term digital radio
ORD – operations-requirements document
SA – situation awareness
SATCOM – satellite communications
SINCGARS – single-channel ground and airborne radio system
SIP – system-improvement plan
TSM-TR – Training and Doctrine Command systems manager for tactical radios
UHF – ultra-high frequency
VHF – very-high frequency

Last modified on:
April 04, 2012

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