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How Industry Can Help Defense Agencies Modernize Wireless Communications

Military Wireless CommunicationsRecently I had the pleasure of attending an Armed Forces communications event hosted by AFCEA (www.afcea.org). I have been to several similar events, and each time I come away feeling simultaneously unsettled and awed: unsettled, because of the intense technological challenges today’s hostile world presents, from both insurgent parties and near-peer major powers; and absolutely awed by the brilliance, dedication and humility of those who are architecting and building our communications and other capabilities to meet these challenges.

Forming alliances with industry is a common and predominant theme in US military circles, particularly around information technologies. The old model of writing a detailed spec and mandating the details of a solution takes years. By the time a capability is defined, bid, built, tested and deployed, it can be years (or even decades) behind where industry is. Compare that to an insurgent who orders a drone online from Amazon. LT General Bruce Crawford is the US Army CIO. He’s got his hands full building information systems and networks for everything from command down to mobile warfighters. At the event, he again emphasized the situation: “We really, really, really need access to [industry’s] talent. There are two pieces to this. It’s the traditional technical talent that we know. It’s [also] data scientists, software developers, engineers,” he said1. In speaking about Cloud, AI and 5G he talks about the shift from a “monolithic, legacy program of record”2 to partnering with industry to bring in and quickly adapt leading-edge commercial solutions.

When it comes to the edge of the network, particularly the tactical edge that is in the hands of our war fighters on the connected battlefield, almost everything is wireless. Military communications systems do have a track record of employing sophisticated technologies to squeeze performance out of radio links. Meanwhile, over here in the cellular world, we’ve been gearing up for 5G. As 5G technologies such as multi-element antenna arrays for beamforming come into widespread use, the issue of testing for reliability and performance has spurred new developments in the cellular industry. In particular, the stalwart RF channel emulator has leapt ahead to become a solution that delivers hardware-in-the-loop real-world test scenarios to accommodate large element counts, high bandwidths, and mmWave frequencies. Not to mention offering intuitive model-creation user interfaces.

At a recent workshop, General Crawford concluded with, “We have to make sure this thing we call network modernization is connected to the entire U.S. Army, so when the Army turns left or right the network goes with it.”3 Spirent is currently collaborating with armed forces and contractors to leverage our leading-edge commercial solutions to meet this vision. Take a look at our new whitepaper Speed Up Radio System Development for Defense Applications or contact us to learn more.

1, 2 - https://www.afcea.org/content/army-cio-envisions-internet-strategic-things
3 - https://www.usar.army.mil/News/News-Display/Article/1850086/us-army-reserve-chief-information-officersignal-workshop-if-the-network-isnt-re/

 

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