C2/Comms

A wave of waveforms

Sophisticated waveforms boost tactical radios' performance, flexibility and securing.

The Defense Department has spent most of the last decade developing a series of software-defined multiband programmable radios and waveforms designed to transfer voice, data and video with the goal of connecting small tactical units with larger battlefield networks.

By drawing on available spectrum, waveforms provide secure wireless networking services for mobile and stationary forces to transmit and receive information, including voice, data, images and video. While there are many waveforms, three in particular—Soldier Radio Waveform (SRW), Wideband Networking Waveform (WNW) and Mobile User Objective System (MUOS)—are playing critical roles in tactical radio operation and performance.

Soldier Radio Waveform (SRW)

SRW is an open-standard voice and data waveform that's used to extend wideband battlefield networks to the tactical edge. Designed as a mobile ad hoc waveform, SRW functions as a node or router within a wireless network to transmit vital information across long distances and over elevated terrain, including mountains and other natural or manmade obstructions.

SRW is used by individual soldiers, small units and very small sensors such as unattended ground or air vehicles. The waveform allow communication without a fixed infrastructure, such a cell tower or satellite network. "SRW ... is really used down at the squad and platoon level," said Maj. Gen. Dennis Moran (ret.), vice president of government business development for Harris Corp. in Rochester, New York.

SRW has been fielded as part of the Army's Capability Set (CS) 13 in the Rifleman and Manpack Radios. Both radios use SRW to transmit real-time information that was previously only available in vehicles or command posts down to the dismounted soldier.

Wideband Networking Waveform (WNW)

WNW is designed to provide network connectivity between aircraft and ground vehicles. The waveform re-routes and re-transmits communications whenever terrain or structures challenge users attempting to communicate beyond line-of-sight. Moran noted that compared to SRW, WNW "is a little bit of a heftier waveform, a little bit more capable waveform." He added that the "waveform is used to provide connectivity to command posts at the platoon, company and battalion level."

With its mobile ad-hoc networking capabilities, WNW is designed to work well in an urban landscape or a terrain-constrained environment, since it can locate specific network nodes and determine the best path for transmitting information.

As part of the Army's new Mid-tier Networking Vehicular Radios (MNVRs), WNW is on track for fielding with Capability Set 17. The waveform's most recent version increases the throughput and number of nodes supported simultaneously in a single network. Soldiers will also be able to send and receive Internet Protocol information from any source while on the move.

Mobile User Objective System (MUOS)

A next-generation narrowband tactical satellite communications system, MUOS provides improved and secure communications capabilities, including simultaneous voice, video and data, for mobile and remote users. Using the MUOS waveform, a Manpack Radio, can for example, transmit voice and data to an orbiting MUOS satellite, through a MUOS ground station and back to another Manpack Radio.

"By partnering with the Navy, which manages MUOS, we extend the reach for soldiers to transmit and receive voice, data and (provide) network connectivity," said COL James Ross project manager for tactical radios for the Army's Program Executive Office Command Control Communications-Tactical (PEO C3T) in Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. "MUOS is a powerful waveform that works well with the Manpack Radio to connect soldiers in the most disadvantaged locations."

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