As the capabilities of commercial wireless systems and technology is advancing exponentially, the technology gap between them and the military tactical communications systems is widening. Huge product-oriented investments and standardization efforts by the commercial telecommunications industry has enabled 4G wireless along with the global standard, Long Term Evolution (LTE) to achieve peak data rate capabilities approximately ten times greater than third Generation Wireless Systems.
4G LTE also achieves low latencies of less than 20 ms for real time services. The diverse family of cost effective end-user terminals with high processing capacity like Smartphones and tablets with reduced size, weight, and power are also becoming available. The latest security features are being incorporated in this standard. US DOD The DoD has been actively exploring how to securely leverage these commercial systems, technologies, innovations and applications more effectively in its missions.
The Army is introducing 4G to the battlefield as part of a new collection of advanced commercial technologies, including first responder capabilities and Wi-Fi for command posts, the Army said in an announcement in 2014. “Soldiers and commanders in tactical operations centers need more bandwidth for data-intensive tasks like sending large PowerPoint files, maps and full motion video,” said Lt. Col. Joel Babbitt, product manager for Warfighter Information Network-Tactical, which is responsible for fielding the new equipment.
Navy already has made it clear it wants to bring high-speed connectivity to sea. As early as 2012 it was running afloat trials of 4G LTE. More recently, in 2016 a $16 million demonstration put LTE on a pair of vessels operating in the Persian Gulf: the amphibious assault ship Kearsarge and the transport dock San Antonio.
An acronym for Long Term Evolution, LTE is a 4G wireless communications standard developed by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) that’s designed to provide up to 10x the speeds of 3G networks for mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets, netbooks, notebooks and wireless hotspots. 4G technologies are designed to provide IP-based voice, data and multimedia streaming at speeds of at least 100 Mbit per second and up to as fast as 1 GBit per second.
LTE Advanced technology allows for increase in TD-LTE cells’ peak data rate exponentially using “Carrier aggregation(CA)” technique, that combines streams of data from as many as five different frequencies and MIMO technology that allows it to transmit and receive from as many as eight antennas. Actual wireless bandwidth changes constantly depending on the location and the number of devices connecting to a base station at any given moment.
The leading cellular providers have started to deploy 4G technologies, with Verizon and AT&T launching 4G LTE networks and Sprint utilizing its new 4G WiMax network.
Perspecta labs demonstrates long-distance, high-bandwidth ground-to-aircraft data communications over commercial LTE cellular network
Perspecta Inc. (NYSE: PRSP), announced in Jan 2019 that its innovative applied research arm, Perspecta Labs, has successfully demonstrated long-distance, high-bandwidth data streaming between a test aircraft and a fourth generation (4G) long-term evolution (LTE) ground network. The test was conducted at Edwards Air Force Base as part of the Department of Defense (DOD) Cellular Range Telemetry Network (CeRTN) program in collaboration with the DOD Test Resource Management Center.
Perspecta Labs, then Vencore Labs, was awarded the CeRTN contract in October 2016. Under the program, Perspecta Labs was tasked with developing a system that leverages commercial cellular technology for aeronautical mobile telemetry (AMT) applications at DOD Major Range and Test Facility Bases.
Perspecta Labs’ Velocite is a novel solution that enables use of low-cost commercial off-the-shelf LTE cellular technology to deliver high-bandwidth data communications at supersonic aircraft speeds. Velocite is vendor agnostic, operates without the need for per-flight frequency coordination and provides bi-directional high-speed data connectivity to aircraft. Velocite combines an intelligent LTE network design with groundbreaking innovations to reliably deliver high-bandwidth data communications for aircraft at speeds of 1,000 kph and above.
“Perspecta Labs’ Velocite solution offers considerable savings in cost, time and resources for critical applications in flight testing, training and operations,” said Petros Mouchtaris, Ph.D., president of Perspecta Labs. “We are excited to mature this technology from laboratory testing through successful field demonstrations and to deliver these substantial benefits to our customers.”
Velocite’s proprietary transceiver applique provides state-of-the-art Doppler compensation and easily integrates with any standard LTE user equipment to maintain a robust data link. Perspecta Labs is developing, hardening and transitioning Velocite to support a range of use cases for AMT in performance evaluation, testing, training and operations for manned and unmanned aircraft.
Army tests 4G commercial networking tech for the battlefield
The Army has adapted commercial 4G in the battlefield for providing soldiers operating in forward operating bass to access mission information from their smartphones, not their desks. The 4G service is part of the Tactical Network Transmissions, or TNT, tools intended to boost mobile network performance for coalition forces and first responders, provide Wi-Fi coverage at command posts, and do it while reducing size, weight and power requirements, the Army said. As part of the TNT effort, the Army enhanced the encryption of its 4G LTE/Wi-Fi system with a National Security Agency encryption solution: ‘Commercial Solutions for Classified’. TNT is the first DoD program to utilize Commercial Solutions for Classified for military utility.
TNT includes a smaller, transportable line-of-sight radio system, called “TRILOS,” which significantly increases throughput 12 times over legacy radios. “Having more throughput means faster and more reliable services, and in wartime it is critical for a commander to send his message quickly,” said Capt. Levelle Moore, B Company commander, 86th Expeditionary Signal Battalion.
Commanders can just pick up their cell phones and directly call or text anyone they need to within the radius. It’s a much faster line of communication,” said Cpl. Michael Bullis, B Company, 86th Expeditionary Signal Battalion. “Medics can use the 4G phones in forward operations, with apps like ‘patient tickets,'” Bullis said. “They put the information directly into their phone while they are right there on the scene, instead of having to come back, or give the information to someone over a radio to type it in.”TNT equipment is scheduled to be fielded to National Guard units for improved communications during civil support such as natural disasters.
The Army’s TNT equipment is providing significantly increased network capability and throughput while reducing size, weight and power, to help army units to become leaner, more versatile and rapidly deployable. “Soldiers and commanders in tactical operations centers need more bandwidth for data intensive tasks like sending large PowerPoint files, maps, and full motion video,” said Lt. Col. Joel Babbitt, product manager for Warfighter Information Network-Tactical, or PdM WIN-T, Increment 1, which is responsible for fielding this new equipment. “The transformational nature of these technologies is increasing situational awareness and effectiveness for Soldiers at all echelons.”
The TNT technologies also include the Tropo Lite terminal, nick-named “Tropo in a can” by Soldiers, because of its transit-cased deployability. Tropo Lite bounces microwaves off the atmosphere for high-speed transfer of large volumes of data between sites and over mountains — providing an alternative to expensive satellite communications.
Tropospheric scatter (also known as troposcatter) is a method of communicating with microwave radio signals over considerable distances – often up to 300 km, and further depending on terrain and climate factors. This method of propagation uses the tropospheric scatter phenomenon, where radio waves at UHF and SHF frequencies are randomly scattered as they pass through the upper layers of the troposphere. As the signals pass through the troposphere, some of the energy is scattered back toward the Earth, allowing the receiver station to pick up the signal.
Military adopting 4G LTE-enabled telecom environment
The U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development Engineering Center or CERDEC for short, has issued a request for information inviting fourth-generation, Long Term Evolution cellular technology vendors or 4G LTE for evaluation of their systems.
The 4G LTE can provide soldiers at the tactical edge with extended secure wireless communications across the battlefield and enhanced Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities. It allows for the dissemination of mission command data, imagery, streaming video and voice between dismounted Soldiers and fixed command posts through a mounted/hand-held computing environment. It has potential to provide quick, efficient deployment of secure, reliable wireless broadband networks during critical situations and in the most remote and demanding environments.
“The driver for 4G LTE comes down to bandwidth,” said Thomas Sepka, Jr., chief of the Army Commercial Technology Evaluation & Integration Branch, within the Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC)’s Space and Terrestrial Communications Directorate. “It’s about bringing more bandwidth down to the soldier so they have access to more information.”
US Navy’s sea trails of 4G LTE
Shipboard LTE faces geometric problems. Space on board is limited, and yet successful LTE can require the deployment of dozens of antennas. Moreover, structural issues arise: A closed steel door between two antennas can cut off signal. It may not be a perfect fix, said Jan Kwiatkowski, vice president of consulting at global telecom consultancy P3 Communications, Inc. “It is a lot of effort, a lot of cable to use,” he said.
Rethinking satellite configurations
At the Trident Warrior 2015 event in June, the Navy’s 7th Fleet got a look at an emerging approach to satellite deployment that could help bring LTE to ships at sea. Integrator Oceus Networks joined with TrustComm and O3b Networks to demonstrate what O3b calls a more efficient satellite configuration.
Unlike legacy geostationary satellites, Medium Earth orbit (MEO) satellites can deliver LTE at higher broadband and with less latency, said Nat Gough, vice president of business development at O3b. Orbiting four times closer than legacy satellites, the MEOs can deliver very high speeds in a single 700km/450NM wide beam, Gough said.
The advantage to an MEO solution may be one of infrastructure: By achieving LTE simply through a modified satellite configuration, Navy might sidestep questions of antenna configuration and other hardware-related concerns.
Connecting ship to ship
Bringing LTE to a ship and distributing it throughout the vessel are just a part of the overall high-speed equation. The Navy also is challenged to maintain LTE in ship-to-ship communications. “LTE was ever only meant as a platform for a single ship,” said Jeramey Franklin, marketing manager at Bats Wireless, which has been working with the Navy on LTE projects since 2012 with Cambium and Oceus Networks.
US Navy carried out $16 million LTE demonstration on a pair of vessels operating in the Persian Gulf: the amphibious assault ship Kearsarge and the transport dock San Antonio. The ships were equipped with a microwave-based wireless wide-area network (WWAN) that gave sailors access to voice, text and video communications between ships and to real-time streaming video produced by helicopter-based systems up to 20 nautical miles away.
The ships were equipped with a microwave-based wireless wide-area network (WWAN) that gave sailors access to voice, text and video communications between ships and to real-time streaming video produced by helicopter-based systems up to 20 nautical miles away.
That pilot program showed that LTE is possible at sea, but it’s a complicated affair. Ships are structurally unsuited for LTE: too many antennas in not enough space. Ocean conditions can drive signal instability in ship-to-ship communications, and crowded spectrum make portside 4G a dicey proposition.
One possible fix comes in the form of the stabilized microwave, a technique for maintaining a direct radio line between ships moving at sea. “This eliminates the need for satellites for inter-fleet communications, and allows for the ships to be more than a half mile away from one another. Depending on environment, they can be as far as 20 miles away,” Franklin said.
An alternative to this would be to combine a high-frequency advanced millimeter wave with advanced optics to create a single narrow beam that could maintain a steady high-speed connection between two unstable points, such as ships at sea. Such a setup might help to overcome the effects of weather and other destabilizing elements, said Christina Richards, vice president at wireless solutions developer AOptix.
Earlier U.S. Navy had also conducted sea trials of 4G LTE wireless network aboard some of its ships. The network achieved an aggregate throughput of 300Mb while working up to distances of 20 nautical miles. This is useful for connecting a naval task force, a Marine expeditionary team, or an aircraft carrier battle group. It can complement Navy’s satellite communication, while freeing up scarce satellite bandwidth.
Shipboard antennas can create a logistical problem, with limited space and complex configurations, while the sheer volume of equipment needed also creates telecommunications hurdles. “When you have 20 different antennas co-located, you are going to have some bleed-over effect,” said Andrew McCandless, president of Bascom Hunter, a wireless telecommunications firm that has worked with the Navy on anti-jamming technologies for littoral combat ships.
One typical solution to this kind of interference is to skip signal over to another channel. On a ship where there’s already a logjam, the next channel will likely hit the same problem. One option may be to look instead at cleaning up the interference as it arises. “You basically have to remove the interference that is in your channel. That is a key part of getting more capacity and having a more robust network,” McCandless said.
The commercial world has a number of interference cancellation technologies in various stages of maturity. Successive interference cancellation, for example, can detect and remove noise from the signal. It’s also possible to minimize interference through strategic placement of antennas
Spectrum crowding is a problem that reaches across all of telecommunications, but it may have special implications for the Navy. A possible solution may lie in frequency management technologies, while another would involve passive surveillance systems. These can monitor very large portions of the wireless spectrum simultaneously with the goal of identifying areas that may be unused.
A possible solution may lie in frequency management technologies, while another would involve passive surveillance systems. These can monitor very large portions of the wireless spectrum simultaneously with the goal of identifying areas that may be unused.
Security and Disaster Response
Under Jolted Tactics program, Ford F-250 and Pilatus PC-12 aircraft were converted to act as 4G LTE mobile cell tower to establish secure cellular network independent of the civilian cellular system. The system was tested in Bold Quest, an annual NATO multifaceted capability assessment program.
4G LTE shall also be useful for security and disaster response applications by supporting command, control, and field efforts during emergencies, access to central databases (e.g. fingerprints, facial databases, digital maps), automatic vehicle location, video cameras in emergency vehicles and mobile voice over IP networks (Mobile VoiP).
One of the most profound challenges may be described as structural, arising from the very nature of cellular networks. In the commercial world a wireless network is architecturally fixed: towers placed at points. But the military is highly mobile and decentralized a structure that would seem to be at odds with more conventional arrangements.
The real challenge for commercial systems is to be able to operate in a challenging radio-frequency environment of the battlefield and also secured by providing information assurance and policy-based security.
Tecore Networks develops Enhanced Military Mobile Communications Platform – LYNX-D
Tecore Networks has introduced LYNX-D™, a 4G LTE – Advanced (LTE-A) carrier aggregation man-packable solution. Capable of operating private 4G LTE and Wi-Fi networks simultaneously, the LYNX-D provides secure commercial-grade 4G LTE-A voice, text, video and packet data services.
Tecore’s easy-to-use, rapidly deployable 4G LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) carrier aggregation LYNX-D platform provides seamless integration for mission critical, turnkey network coverage in the field. Fortified with features to satisfy military requirements, the LYNX-D platform includes an integrated EPC, eNodeB(s), dual radios, and a processor capable of delivering high-speed voice, text and packet data to users. Additionally the unit supports up to 256 Simultaneous Active Users (SAU) and has a maximum throughout of 250 Mbps (TCP) downlink and 45 Mbps (TCP) uplink. The communications platform optimizes network awareness, situational visibility and more efficiently delivers on the demand for mobility.