Back to Basics May Be the Best Path for Tactical Networking

As the U.S. military designs the next generation of tactical communications, it may find that the range of battlefield networks exceeds its capabilities. Plans for future military tactical communication networks may be more ambitious than is actually possible, even with the expected technological advances. And these more complex networks are threatened by increasingly sophisticated adversaries who seek to deny American forces their network centrism.

The solution is to avoid the latest mobile technology in favor of providing a minimum data rate under any battlefield conditions facing the military, said Larry Gauler, a research staff member at the Institute for Analytics. defense (IDA). Goeller emphasizes that his views do not necessarily represent those of the IDA. He says much of his perspective is derived from the feedback received from staff attending courses he has taught at AFCEA. Combined with his own experience, this gives him a full-spectrum perspective.

Goeller describes the repeal of Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) as huge and he denies the possibilities of Mobile Consumer Lens System (MUOS) satellite constellation. Engineers have had problems with its waveform, which has not yet been declared operational and its future is uncertain, he said. Other technological advances have not proven their value and may in fact hinder the connectivity provided.

“The software-defined radio idea is a dead end,” he said. “It’s time to stop and try something else.” Many existing radios support multiple waveforms that avoid silos. But this waveform support is done through hardware, instead of using a software-defined solution. Another dead end is the mobile ad hoc network, as in MANET, he added.

Problems with technical implementation are the biggest obstacle to communications and networks on the battlefield, he said. “The army tried to take the Internet and deploy it on the battlefield,” he said. “The problem with this is that the way the Internet has grown is completely dependent on fiber optics.” from time. Optical optics offer almost infinite capacity and it participates in commercial applications such as cellular telephony, where it serves to transfer traffic from cell towers into the infostructure.

But the deployed tactical combat forces do not have an optical backbone to use. MANET proposed all to be cell towers, but the lack of fiber reduced the effectiveness of this concept. “The problem with having any HUMVEE or military relay stuff is that you don’t have optical connectivity – you may have megahertz bandwidth,” he said.

The commercial world, on the other hand, could increase the wireless bandwidth because there are optical fibers that archive the network, he said. This is exactly what is missing on the battlefield.

“The physical layer associated with tactical communications has no optical optics,” says Geller. “You have to start there. The tactical network must live in a world without fiber, and this has huge implications for everything else. “

Increasing tactical data speed also requires trade-offs, he continued. Congestion resistance decreases with increasing data rate as well as low probability of detection. “If you broadcast all the time, people can find you,” Geller said. Size, weight and power also increase with higher data rates, which in turn increases the logistical footprint. “If a soldier tries to transmit and act as a relay tower more than 10 miles away, he must carry batteries to support him on his back, instead of ammunition or water,” he said.

And network orientation is traded with network security. “The more people you want to be able to connect and exchange information, the less you want to be. This is traded to keep your network safe by not allowing bad guys. “

The answer to the future challenge of the network may be to look back, Goeller suggests. The military must approach its tactical communication needs as if it were in the 1970s, when optical optics were not available. “If you want survival and networking, reduce your capacity,” he suggests.

The key to tackling the challenge of tactical communication may lie in lower data rates. Instead of planning the highest potential data rates, the military should create a ceiling for the lowest required data rates and build from there. This minimum data rate should focus on the minimum capacity – what a soldier needs to do his job. “What’s the minimum you really need?” Goler asks.

Using lower frequencies such as VHF will also work better, he added. They travel better because consumers can use large dipole antennas with a range of 10 miles with a reasonable amount of power.

For some features, such as voice, compression may reduce the need for higher data rates. Or maybe a vote won’t be needed, he suggests. “Can soldiers write during a battle?” Is this an unreasonable expectation? Can you have a device that translates voice into text – ASCII or UNICODE – and then just sends a message? What could these soldiers actually be talking about on the radio they really need the radio for? He suggests.

And despite the shortcomings of MUOS, satellites can offer a solution. “If you’re on the battlefield and all you have is RF, then what are you doing?” The good thing about satellites is that they are up instead of sideways, ”he says. Satellites are difficult to attack, he suggests, and attempts to silence them make the silencer a target. Expensive high-energy equipment is removed from the soldier’s back and placed into orbit.

A new satellite constellation will likely have to be in geosynchronous orbit, Geller said. Four orbital devices will last 15 years, and even delay problems will not override the advantage they would give their low-orbit counterparts. The ground stations will control each satellite and allocate the satellite capacity directly to the areas below them, where necessary.

Gohler says many young people in the military today are losing sight of what really matters when it comes to tactical communication. “Don’t focus so much on how cool the equipment is,” he advises. “Instead, [focus on] what do you need The technology is wonderful, but it is a means to an end. Keep an eye on the end. “