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Mobile Ad-Hoc Network (MANET) radios, are critical technology for military tactical battlefield Networks and UAVs Swarms

The vision of Network-centric culture, organizational structure, and doctrine, is based on using information technology to interconnect all the sensors, soldiers, vehicles, and aircraft – the tactical warfighting nodes in addition to C4ISR centers. The resultant shared situational awareness shall achieve information superiority and enable agile employment of a lighter, leaner, more lethal combat enterprise that overwhelms any potential adversary before they respond.

 

The wireless communications network for tomorrow’s warfighter must surmount a number of challenges: it must provide high capacity to support an increasing number of diverse traffic flows; it must be instantly deployable with minimal manual configuration, including spectrum assignment; it must be highly tolerant of mobility, disruption and disconnection; and it needs to be based on affordable hardware.

 

Mobile Ad-Hoc Network (MANET) is an infrastructure less wireless network of autonomous collection of mobile nodes (Smart phones, Laptops, iPads, PDAs etc.) that distribute coordination and control. All the nodes are free to move and organize themselves into a network. These devices collaborate with each other to offer the essential network functions in a distributed manner. In a MANET, a node functions both as a host and as a router to forward the packets in appropriate direction.

 

Since MANETs allow ubiquitous service access, anywhere, anytime without any fixed infrastructure they can be widely used in military battlefields, crisis management services, classrooms and conference halls etc. MANETs offer several significant advantages to a military force; they support radio links in operational areas lacking either a fixed infrastructure or line-of-sight communications. A MANET’s ability to self-form and self-manage eliminates the need for intensive central management of network links, thus reducing support personnel and equipment requirements in forward located areas.

 

Military MANET Applications

Many defense applications require on the fly communications set-up, and ad hoc/sensor networks are excellent candidates for use in battlefield management. Crisis management application: These arise, for example, as a result of natural disasters in which the entire communication infrastructure is in disarray. Restoring communications quickly is essential.

 

The paramedic assisting the victim of a traffic accident in a remote location must access medical records (e.g. X-rays) and may need video conference assistance from a surgeon for an emergency intervention. In fact, the paramedic may need to instantaneously relay back to the hospital the victim’s X-rays and other diagnostic tests from the site of the accident. Tele-geo-processing application: The combination of GPS, GIS (Geographical Information Systems), and high-capacity wireless mobile systems enables a new type of application referred to as tele- geo processing.

 

A remote database contains the graphical representation of building, streets, and physical characteristics of a large metropolis. They may also “virtually” see the internal layout of buildings, including an emergency rescue plan, or find possible points of interest.

 

In the next generation of computing, Mobile ad-hoc network (MANET) will play a very important role in the Internet of Things (IoT). The MANET is a kind of wireless networks that are self-organizing and auto connected in a decentralized system. Every device in MANET can be moved freely from one location to another in any direction. They can create a network with their neighbors smart devices and forward data to another device. The IoT Cloud MANET framework of smart devices is composed of IoT, cloud computing, and MANET.

 

This framework can access and deliver cloud services to the MANET users through their smart devices in the IoT framework where all computations, data handling, and resource management are performed. The smart devices can move from one location to another within the range of the MANET network. Various MANETs can connect to the same cloud, they can use cloud service in a real time. For connecting the smart device of MANET to cloud needs integration with mobile apps.

 

Emerging 5G communications can also assist in deployment of MANET networks. Some prospective applications for the 5G (besides the traditional cellular communications) are the wireless virtual reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), Device to Device (D2D) communications in the network edges, and the autonomous vehicles in the Vehicular Ad-hoc Networks (VANET) which can be part of an infrastructural or infrastructure-less networks. Millimeter wave frequencies (mm Wave) are expected to have a major role in the 5G standards. They have their advantages of huge available bandwidth (several GHz) and reduced delay, while they also have some limitations that are related to the limited transmission range, and the need for transmitting narrow beams to cover larger distances.

 

Traditional routing protocols for ad-hoc networks are usually dependent on the broadcast nature of wireless signals in the sub-6 GHz bandwidth the mm Waves directional antennas and beam forming; this argument about wireless signals is no longer true. To compensate for such a shortage, mm Wave devices use many approaches to scan the entire environment around them like beam sweeping, random beam forming (RBF), et al. and send narrow directional beams towards the intended destination nodes to mitigate the large propagation path loss

Military MANETs requirements

In general characteristics of MANET systems should abilities of fast network formation, highly efficient routing, scalability, quality of service and security. The highly mobile network nodes in military environment from fast jets, to ground vehicles and helicopters that move through urban environments or mountainous terrain, rapidly losing and reestablishing their line of sight with one another demands a MANET with high processing speed.

 

The terrain in ground environments can pose major challenges like mountains, city structures that can create line-of-sight and multi-path issues for MANET transmissions. As a result, waveform designs for MANETs operating in urban environments are necessarily complex. The vision of Network-centric culture, organizational structure, and doctrine, is based on using information technology to interconnect all the sensors, soldiers, vehicles, and aircraft – the tactical warfighting nodes in addition to C4ISR centers. The resultant shared situational awareness shall achieve information superiority and enable agile employment of a lighter, leaner, more lethal combat enterprise that overwhelms any potential adversary before they respond.

 

Achieving this tactical edge connectivity will depend on the development of significantly improved MANET technologies. To deliver the capabilities that NCW enabled forces required at the tactical edge, an objective MANET must possess four general characteristics: strong connectivity, very high bandwidth, effective security, and survivability.

 

Mobile, ad hoc networking (MANET) radios combine mobility (e.g., mounted, dismount, aerial), a flexible architecture (e.g., point-to-point, point-to-multipoint), and range extension via radios acting as repeaters. BCTs rarely integrate their MANET radios for anything other than basic voice functionality. Moreover, many units urgently request approval and funding for cutting-edge MANET radios (e.g., PRC-148c, PRC-163, TSM 900/950, MPU5), despite existing, capable radios.

 

There have been significant technological improvements with newer MANET radios include increased total node count, greater bandwidth, improved network management, and more capable waveforms. The increased data throughput and relay capability of newer MANET radios should be the foundation for the  Brigade Combat Team (BCT) -and-below tactical network.

 

MANET Challenges

Some characteristics of adhoc network are as follows:

  • Dynamic topologies:Nodes are free to move arbitrarily; thus the network topology may be changed randomly and unpredictably and primarily consists of bidirectional links. In some cases where the transmission power of two nodes is different, a unidirectional link may exist.
  • Bandwidth-constrained and variable capacity links: Wireless links continue to have significantly lower capacity than infrastructure networks.
  • Energy-constrained operation: some or all of the MSs in a MANET may rely on batteries or other exhaustible means for their energy. For these nodes or devices, the most important system design optimization criteria may be energy conservation.
  • Limited physical security: MANETs are generally more prone to physical security threats than wire line networks. The increased possibility of eavesdropping, spoofing, and denial of services (DoS) attacks should be considered carefully. To reduce security threats, many existing link security techniques are often applied within wireless networks.

 

These benefits, however, do not come without some disadvantages. In a MANET, the entire network infrastructure is moving along with the user nodes. As the nodes move, point-to-point links may be dropped due to terrain interference or simply because they move beyond range of other nodes. Node mobility also leads to a network topology that is highly dynamic and prone to frequent changes and errors. Due to this dynamicity, routing protocols which work well in fixed networks do not show the same performance in MANETs.

 

Although voice and short text messages are the main applications for tactical networks it is also important to support standard applications used on today’s Internet, to e.g. provide maps or other content. The obvious solution to support standard applications would be to treat MANETs as a general Internet system and use standard TCP/IP. However, TCP was designed as a reliable end-to-end connection-oriented protocol for data delivery over somewhat unreliable wired networks. In a MANET, which have a substantially higher packet loss rate and jitter compared with a wired network, the performance of TCP dramatically degrades.

 

Research have mainly focused on CSMA based MANETs, i.e. using IEEE 802.11 radio cards. However, using a TDMA scheme has several advantages, e.g. QoS, bounded delays and a stable network under heavy traffic loads. Some of the other MANET technologies are DARPA’s Wireless Network after Next, the waveforms developed under the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) program, Soldier Radio Waveform (SRW) and Wideband Networking Waveform (WNW).

 

One of the advantages to legacy voice transmission is that users can use brevity to limit outgoing radio frequency (RF) signatures and reduce the likelihood that an enemy can intercept, jam, or locate friendly forces. However, MANET radios use an always-on network. This creates a constant RF signature that enemy forces can use to locate friendly forces. Currently, users can help reduce the risk of RF or electromagnetic signature detection through terrain masking, lowering radio power levels, using directional antennas or beam forming from multiple omnidirectional antennas, or obfuscation and deception with properly placed decoys or coherent antenna arrays.

 

Army’s Integrated Tactical Networking (ITN)

First, tactical networks must enable synchronous and asynchronous, real-time, and interoperable communications. Synchronized systems rely on network timing, are critical for digitally networked systems (mesh networks), and help mitigate external threats. Asynchronous network attributes allow isolated systems (and units) to rejoin the larger network when timing is lost. Real-time, low-latency links are critical for mission data and a fire mission’s immediate and automated information exchange. Additionally, future conflict will require more than the U.S. Army. Its ability to operate in a joint or coalition environment, no matter the scale, requires interoperable systems. Interaction with anyone, at any time, with little delay, requires technical interoperability.

 

Future tactical communications must increase network mobility; decrease reliance on satellite services; make greater use of terrestrial and aerial relays and transport; and significantly reduce size, weight, and power requirements. This approach demands a simultaneous blending of multiple layers of communication transport and integration of consolidated mission data and network services. Systems should be technically and procedurally interoperable with joint, interagency, intergovernmental, and multinational (JIIM) partners and create a wholly integrated tactical network (ITN). When implemented, the ITN construct must be technically flexible, resilient, and adequately robust for all foreseeable future operations and programmatically sound for future acquisitions. If properly resourced, prioritized, and executed, the new network would mitigate threats and provide excellent expeditionary and on-the-move (OTM) communications.

 

In January 2016, the Army first published Army Techniques Publication (ATP) 6-02.53, Techniques for Tactical Radio Operations. This publication was a major doctrinal shift that indicated future change, but it was unknown to most of the Army. The ATP introduced the concept of the integrated tactical networking environment as the successor network to the lower tactical internet and combat net radio, and it was planned for use down to the lowest tactical level. The plan focused on the integration of MANET radios with existing tactical networks. As updates to doctrine continue, the February 2020 ATP 6-02.53 revises the terms upper tactical internet (Upper TI) and lower tactical internet (Lower TI) with upper tier and lower tier. Additionally, the term “integrated tactical networking environment” is now “tactical networking environment”

 

At the BCT, the ITN seeks to bridge networks into a unified network having three parts: applications, services, and transport. The transport forms the ITN foundation and relies on emerging waveforms and legacy systems from command posts to the tactical edge of the battlefield. The network is then refined across a flattened, lower-tier architecture. Based on the February 2020 ATP 6-02.53, the lower tier is from the individual soldier to brigade and the upper tier consists of multi-channel satellite systems from battalion to corps.

 

The lower tier slants heavily toward LOS-focused MANET radios paired with cellular end user devices (EUDs, e.g., 4G/5G/BT/Wi-Fi) primarily running Tactical Assault Kit software. EUDs are simply cellular phones or tablets paired with special software. While MANET radios can operate independently of the EUD, they gain SA and data tools when paired. The lower tier BLOS capabilities include HF, TACSAT, and future iterations of OTM and at-the-halt SATCOM. Despite long-held notions concerning SATCOM advantages, the most capable equipment for tactical network transport is a terrestrially based MANET mesh. To link air assets, the ITN includes Link-16 and other radios capable of enhanced SA through tactical data link networks. When wideband HF is integrated, BCTs will further benefit from reductions in satellite dependency and improved BLOS redundancy.

 

Early ITN use included small-to-midsize SOF teams with a relatively small number of MANET radios when compared to conventional Army requirements. Currently, the most capable technology only allows for simultaneous operation of approximately 300–350 MANET radios. If too many radios connect to the network, severe degradation or network failure could occur. Based on a conservative estimate of 400–450 MANET radios per BCT, gaining units need to rethink radio allocation, acquire more capable radios, or create properly sized and aligned subnetworks (unit and internet protocol schemes).

 

 

MANETs  for UAVs

With the technological advances, there is an increasing attention on micro-UAVs in the military area as well as in the civilian domain. They are used as swarm (several UAVs) forming a UAS (Unmanned Aircraft System) since they are relatively cheap and offer better performance than one aircraft. The UAVs, in a UAS, have to exchange information with each other and with the control station in order to create a clear vision of the swarm situation and the task performance which can be made possible by the application of an ad hoc network between UAVs  or MANETs.

 

Achieving this tactical edge connectivity will depend on the development of significantly improved MANET technologies. To deliver the capabilities that NCW enabled forces required at the tactical edge, an objective MANET must possess four general characteristics: strong connectivity, very high bandwidth, effective security, and survivability.

 

This development of MANETS for UAVs is a challenging issue because of the node mobility, the network topology change, and the operation communication requirements in term of quality of service (delay, throughput or loss rate for instance).

 

All the constituents of the UAV communication networks pose challenging issues that need resolution. Unlike many other wireless networks, the topology of UAV networks remains fluid with the number of nodes and links changing and also the relative positions of the nodes altering. UAVs may move with varying speeds depending on the application, this would cause the links to be established intermittently.

 

The fluid topology, the vanishing nodes and finicky links would all challenge the designer to go beyond the normal ad hoc mesh networks.  The mobility models, like random walk, that have been used to describe the behavior of nodes in mobile ad hoc networks and street random walk or Manhattan models for vehicular ad hoc networks are not quite suitable for UAV networks. The UAVs could move randomly or in organized swarms not only in two but also in three dimensions with rapid change in position. The vehicular nodes are constrained to travel on roads and only in two dimensions

 

Second, the routing protocol cannot be a simple implementation of a proactive or a reactive scheme. The inter-UAV backbone has to repeatedly reorganize itself when UAVs fail. In some cases the network may get partitioned. The challenge would then be to route the packet from a source to a destination while optimizing the chosen metric. The third challenge would be to maintain users’ sessions by transferring them seamlessly from an out of service UAV to an active UAV. Lastly, there need to be ways of conserving energy of power starved UAVs for increasing the life of the network.

 

Shadow UAS.

The BCT-level Shadow UAS carries payload slots for two common BCT MANET radios. These radios provide aerial voice and data relay from thousands of feet above ground level. When compared with standard ground relay sites, aerial platforms reduce equipment and personnel overhead, lower the risk of compromise, greatly increase coverage area, and improve unit security. Despite the Shadow’s prioritization for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions, relays can be used without impact.

 

MPU5 MANET radio selected for Resolute Eagle UAS integration

Persistent Systems’ MPU5 Wave Relay mobile ad hoc networking (MANET) radio has been selected by unmanned aerial system (UAS) surveillance service provider PAE ISR for integration onto its Resolute Eagle UAS. MPU5 is an advanced, scalable MANET radio that helps create powerful, secure networks anywhere, thereby allowing soldiers to stay connected and share critical information.

 

PAE ISR noted that the MPU5 radio’s small size and weight will free up payload space and increase the endurance of the air vehicle. “The MPU5 enables critical information to quickly be disseminated to mobile teams on the ground and positively impact their mission,” said Persistent Systems chief executive officer Herb Rubens.

 

The radio utilises existing infrastructure to augment the capacity of a wireless network. The radio’s algorithm allows users to incorporate vast numbers of meshed devices into the network in which the devices themselves form the communication infrastructure. It can support live voice-over-internet protocols, video, and other high demand applications.

 

“The MPU5’s unique ability to rapidly change C-, L-, and S-bands by swapping the Interchangeable Frequency Modules paired with the Resolute Eagle’s large multi-intelligence payload capacity makes this a game changing capability,” PAE ISR chief technology officer Jake Jacobs said.

 

“The [radio] and its Wave Relay MANET technology allow the Resolute Eagle to achieve higher data-rates and deliver actionable intelligence from its multi-intelligence sensors in near real-time,” he added. The Resolute Eagle UAS is designed to operate in diverse environments in a compact package, while being able to carry a comparatively large payload for its size.

 

Persistent launches portable ground-to-air antenna for MPU5 radio

Persistent Systems has launched the new auto-tracking antenna system for the MPU5 smart radio to provide a truly networked battlefield environment for the soldiers. The auto-tracking solution is a portable ground-to-air antenna that operates on the self-forming/self-healing Wave Relay mobile ad-hoc network (MANET) technology, which routes the data around obstacles, thereby optimising network performance and mobility.

 

The system can be easily assembled and deployed in less than 15 minutes and incorporates aircraft into the MANET. The antenna’s portable and lightweight design is completely collapsible, with the main 5ft parabolic dish breaking down into eight individual petals.

 

Persistent Systems chief executive officer Herb Rubens said: “The auto-tracking antenna system represents a major step towards achieving the vision of a truly networked battlefield. “The tracking antenna rotates to follow air assets, keeping them connected to the MANET. The air platforms orbit over our users on the ground, extending the MANET bubble and keeping soldiers connected to the enterprise.

 

“High-throughput, low-latency connectivity empowers the warfighter and decreases the dependence on SATCOM, which both reduces cost and increases network availability.” Furthermore, the system features interchangeable S-Band, L-Band, and C-Band multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) feeds that enable it to cover all frequencies where the five radio modules of the company operate.

 

An automatic heading system also allows the tracking antenna to self-calibrate before carrying out operations for greater precision and less than one-degree pointing accuracy.

 

References and Resources also include:

https://www.armyupress.army.mil/Journals/Military-Review/English-Edition-Archives/May-June-2020/Blumberg-Int-Tactical-Network/

https://www.ijert.org/manets-for-5g-communication-networking

 

Cite This Article

 
International Defense Security & Technology (September 29, 2022) Mobile Ad-Hoc Network (MANET) radios, are critical technology for military tactical battlefield Networks and UAVs Swarms. Retrieved from https://idstch.com/military/air/militaries-employing-airborne-mobile-ad-hoc-network-manet-radios-critical-technology-uavs-swarms-networked-battlefield-environment/.
"Mobile Ad-Hoc Network (MANET) radios, are critical technology for military tactical battlefield Networks and UAVs Swarms." International Defense Security & Technology - September 29, 2022, https://idstch.com/military/air/militaries-employing-airborne-mobile-ad-hoc-network-manet-radios-critical-technology-uavs-swarms-networked-battlefield-environment/
International Defense Security & Technology May 1, 2021 Mobile Ad-Hoc Network (MANET) radios, are critical technology for military tactical battlefield Networks and UAVs Swarms., viewed September 29, 2022,<https://idstch.com/military/air/militaries-employing-airborne-mobile-ad-hoc-network-manet-radios-critical-technology-uavs-swarms-networked-battlefield-environment/>
International Defense Security & Technology - Mobile Ad-Hoc Network (MANET) radios, are critical technology for military tactical battlefield Networks and UAVs Swarms. [Internet]. [Accessed September 29, 2022]. Available from: https://idstch.com/military/air/militaries-employing-airborne-mobile-ad-hoc-network-manet-radios-critical-technology-uavs-swarms-networked-battlefield-environment/
"Mobile Ad-Hoc Network (MANET) radios, are critical technology for military tactical battlefield Networks and UAVs Swarms." International Defense Security & Technology - Accessed September 29, 2022. https://idstch.com/military/air/militaries-employing-airborne-mobile-ad-hoc-network-manet-radios-critical-technology-uavs-swarms-networked-battlefield-environment/
"Mobile Ad-Hoc Network (MANET) radios, are critical technology for military tactical battlefield Networks and UAVs Swarms." International Defense Security & Technology [Online]. Available: https://idstch.com/military/air/militaries-employing-airborne-mobile-ad-hoc-network-manet-radios-critical-technology-uavs-swarms-networked-battlefield-environment/. [Accessed: September 29, 2022]

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