Army, Korean engineers find a way for allies to share spectrum

The system, which would replace what is still a paper process, would give coalition partners a clear view of available spectrum, allowing them to better work together.

The Pentagon has been developing a number of ways to better share the limited resources of the electromagnetic spectrum, both with other U.S. military services and civilian agencies. But considering the number of future missions that are expected to be conducted with coalition partners, sharing spectrum with other countries also is important.

Researchers from the Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center, or CERDEC, and the Korea’s Agency for Defense Development, or ADD, have found one way to make it work: a digital system that gives spectrum managers a clear view of available spectrum, allowing them to manage the resources more efficiently and make sure everyone using them is heard.

Going digital might sounds old-hat these days, but even now, U.S. spectrum manager have to resort to pencil and paper to fill out a long form requesting spectrum assignments from a host country, because of interoperability between the spectrum management software of U.S. and host countries, CERDEC said in a release. In addition to taking up a lot of time, that process gives them a very limited view of the spectrum requirements of other nations.

CERDEC compared one thing the system achieves to modulating a conversation in which whispers compete with shouts. Better spectrum management can ensure that everyone communicating can be heard.

The U.S. and Korean researchers, working together for the past six years, came up with a two-phase plan for getting coalition partners on the same page: the first phase tacked the technical aspects of exchanging the data between systems. The second including implementing the data exchange capability to coalition partners.

The result is a NATO-compliant system that generates mapping displays, adds import/export functions for each nation’s spectrum management tool and employs a modular data translation interface. It has the ability to implement operational scenarios and the ability to import operational scenarios between nations. It’s a long way from the paper-and-pencil system.

“The project is good for us to develop and enhance our spectrum management,” said Jaehyun Ham, ADD’s Coalition Spectrum Management technical project manager. The technology we developed during this effort could be applied to a tactical communications network.”

CERDEC recently hosted a visitors’ day to demonstrate the system to other coalition partners. “We go into countries and have to coordinate with the host nation, and planning can be complicated,” said German Foreign Liaison Officer Roland Sheffer. “The future amount of data that we will need to coordinate frequencies is large, and the collaborative effort we saw today is useful and will help.”

Officials also noted the benefits of collaboration in developing any kind of system that involves organizations such as coalition partners. “One of the big advantages of international collaboration is we can work on similar problems, solve them in a common way with less resources and more elegant solutions that we would have otherwise working separately,” said David Waring, technology outreach manager for CERDEC’s Space and Terrestrial Communications Directorate.