JTRS puts networking waveforms to the test

Capt. Jeff Hoyle, Joint Tactical Radio System’s Network Enterprise Domain program manager, spoke recently with Defense Systems about the challenges of developing and managing networks, upcoming tests and demonstrations, and efforts to meet user needs.

The Joint Tactical Radio System Network Enterprise Domain office is responsible for the three primary networking waveforms — the Wideband Networking Waveform (WNW), Soldier Radio Waveform (SRW) and Multi-user Objective System (MUOS) waveform — in addition to 14 different older waveforms, including ultra-high-frequency satellite communications, the Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System, Link 16 and the Enhanced Position Location Reporting System.

Navy Capt. Jeff Hoyle, JTRS’ NED program manager, spoke with Defense Systems contributing editor Barry Rosenberg about the challenges of developing and managing networks, upcoming tests and demonstrations, and efforts to meet user needs.

DS: Everyone talks about the waveforms, but your main priority at the moment is the network management aspect of the program. Tell us about that.

Hoyle: In conjunction with developing the networking waveforms with industry, we’re also delivering network managers that allow soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines to plan, instantiate, monitor and, in some cases, reconfigure those networking waveforms over the air.

I like to refer to the network management capability as the face of JTRS because that is how the users will actually plan for instantiation of these networks, so it needs to be a very user-friendly capability that allows the Brigade S-6, [the communications/network manager], to understand how to align his network to accomplish his mission.

It is a very important capability that is not as well understood, perhaps, as the waveforms. So we have just recently [in late April] awarded the JTRS Enterprise Network Manager contract to take the currently independent network managers that are aligned with each of the waveforms — the WNW Network Manager and the SRW Network Manager — and integrate those into a single capability to help the Army Brigade S-6, for example, plan and manage his WNW and SRW networks on all the JTRS radios: Ground Mobile Radios (GMR), Handheld, Manpack and Small Form Fit, and Airborne, Maritime/Fixed.

DS: Your office has a number of tests and demonstrations planned for the rest of this year. Tell us about them.

Hoyle: The GMR system functional verification test is presently under way at the Electronic Proving Ground at Fort Huachuca. At that particular test, the entire GMR Engineering Development Model system, to include WNW, SRW and all of the legacy waveforms that GMR supports, is being tested. We’re getting a lot of good feedback of performance of the waveforms.

DS: Can you give me an example?

Hoyle: This is the first time we’ve taken the GMR EDM hardware, which is a significant upgrade form previous versions of the hardware. It has a more powerful power amplifier, and it has the capability to run four channels simultaneously, including WNW and SRW.

We’ve also made some modifications to the waveform algorithms that were based on testing and demonstrations that were done last year both by PEO Integration and by ourselves during a 30-node demonstration in Charleston, S.C. The results of those events were fed back into the development program, and we made some modification in the WNW algorithms to make them more efficient and enhance the message completion rate in both unicast and multicast types of message traffic.

[Because of this], we’re seeing some significantly extended ranges out to 40-plus kilometers with WNW.

We’ll see that again in the GMR System Integration test, which will commence in the July/August timeframe. That will be a significant event in that we will have a large number of nodes, 35 EDM GMR radios with WNW, in the field at the Electronic Proving Ground. This will be our first opportunity to have 30-plus nodes since last year and to make sure that we validate in a larger network the better performance that we expect to get from the hardware and the algorithm improvements that have been made.

DS: And then comes another major demonstration, the GMR limited user test. Tell us about that.

Hoyle: Yes, that will occur in November. All those same nodes from the system integration test will now be put in the hands of the users and will be evaluated from an operational perspective by the Army Test and Evaluation Command as to how well it meets mission needs. This will be the first actual operational test event for the GMR and also for WNW.

PEO Integration is also included. In addition to having the GMR, PEO Integration also has some of the HMS small forms, primarily the small form factor A radios, integrated into all their technical testing this year. They are focused primarily on SRW support of video and data capabilities.

Also, the HMS program will be testing their specific products that are not embedded in another system, specifically the Rifleman radio and the Manpack radio, at field test events as well as at the limited user test later this winter. Those events will give us better feedback on how the current version of SRW is operating. You may remember that HMS completed one limited user test on a Rifleman radio platform last year. That was a very early version of the SRW waveform, so we’re expecting significantly improved performance in the waveform because SRW1.0C, which is the version that is intended to be fielded, has a lot more capability than SRW 0.5, which was what was actually tested by the HMS program in their previous limited user test.

DS: What are you doing now to prepare for all these tests and demonstrations?

Hoyle: Making sure we bring the right network management capabilities to each of these events is important for us. We are confident that the networking waveforms will provide the capability that they are intended to provide. But they have to be properly set up and managed in order to provide that capability. So we need to make sure the network managers we deliver allow the soldiers to properly plan and manage the networks.

Importantly, we’ve got to train the soldiers in each of these events, particularly the [limited user test] with PEO Integration to make sure they understand how to use those network managers to set up the network to accomplish their mission. That will be a very important assessment that the operational testers are making because it is not enough for the very smart network engineers to be able to set these networks up and demonstrate that capability. We have to be able to demonstrate that we can train a soldier how to set up his network without sending him to years of school.

It’s important for us in the NED to make sure that our network managers can be used effectively by the intended users, the Brigade S-6, who has some knowledge of how he wants his network set up but certainly doesn’t have a network engineering degree. So we have to make sure we support his needs in order to be successful.

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