The Buzz

This Is How the U.S. Army Will Fight If American Satellites are Smashed

The Army is evaluating a new vehicle-mounted radio technology that enables Strykers, tactical trucks, HMMWVs and Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles to share real-time, combat-relevant information across the force.

The new radios, called the Mid-tier Networking Vehicular Radio, was recently assessed in various combat scenarios to include rugged, mountainous terrain, woodland areas and dense vegetation to assess its ability to relay IP packets of info through various high-bandwidth waveforms, service officials told Scout Warrior.

A concept behind this technology, referred to as software programmable radio, is to enable mission command tactical information sharing across the force in a combat environment in the event that satellite systems are disabled due to an enemy attack.

 “The mid-tier network assessment utilized approximately 85 MNVR radios to provide voice, data and retrains communications and connectivity from one operational battalion to brigade. The assessments were conducted in various terrain including wooded areas,” Paul Mehney, Communication Director for Program Executive Office Command, Control and Communications.

The MNVR, made by the Harris Corp., uses NSA certified encryption for additional safety and protection. It integrates into vehicles on-the-move in combat to transmit voice, pictures and data, he explained. 

With software programmable radio, each device functions as both a radio and router able to wirelessly transmit information through several government-owned high-bandwidth radios. Some of these waveforms include Soldier Radio Waveform and Wideband Networking Waveform engineered to wirelessly send IP packets, pictures and data across the force without needing a fixed infrastructure such as a cell tower or satellite.

(This piece first appeared in Scout Warrior here.)

For instance, if anti-satellite weapons were used to destroy or disable a U.S. satellite, SatCom communication could be compromised or destroyed. In this circumstance, operational forces in combat would still need to communicate location, tactical information and various command and control details while on-the-move in a fast-moving battlefield.

A key part of the rationale for this emerging technology is an ability to rapidly relay important data while on-the-move from the company level up to battalion and brigade authorities.

Potential rivals, such as China, are known to be developing what is called ASAT, or anti-satellite, weapons designed for that purpose. As a result, Army engineers, scientists and experts have been working vigorously on developing technologies able to function in what’s called a “SatCom denied” environment.

This is particularly significant because the well-known and widely used force-tracking technology, called Blue Force Tracker, relies upon satellites to provide icons on a digital map displaying combat, terrain and force-tracking information.

The high-bandwidth radios are able to operate in what’s called a “beyond-line-of-sight” environment where mountains, weather or terrain might otherwise obscure communications.

“The WNW waveform brings the ability to transmit voice, data and video in worse terrain or where there is a lack of SatCom. It provides you a more robust capability. It provides you a mobile cell tower but through radio waveforms instead of satellite if you are in a SatCom denied environment, offering beyond line of sight capability to transmit data,” Mehney added.

The combat scenarios were executing during a regular Army event called the Network Integration Evaluation at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.

 The Network Integration Evaluation, or NIE, included approximately 2,000 Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division performing Combined Arms Maneuver missions over more than 1,062 square miles.

“Army used the NIE to assess the mid-tier of our network. During the NIE we observed that the mid-tier network provided an important link enabling communications and connectivity at the platoon and company level with higher echelons such as battalion and brigade,” Mehney said.

The MNVR is slated to field with Soldiers by 2018 and 2019, he added. 

Kris Osborn became the Managing Editor of Scout Warrior in August of 2015. His role with Scout.com includes managing content on the Scout Warrior site and generating independently sourced original material. Scout Warrior is aimed at providing engaging, substantial military-specific content covering a range of key areas such as weapons, emerging or next-generation technologies and issues of relevance to the military. Just prior to coming to Scout Warrior, Osborn served as an Associate Editor at the Military.com. This story originally appeared in Scout Warrior. 

Image: U.S. Army/Flickr.