Large scale radio technology demonstration at the Army’s Electronic Proving Ground

By Ray K. Ragan

 

FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz. (Jan. 30, 2014) – The Army’s Electronic Proving Ground (EPG) recently conducted a large scale technology demonstration of a new radio waveform here.

“We wanted to conduct a full scale, by that I mean an Army brigade’s worth, [demonstration] of radios exercising [and] characterizing the performance of the wideband networking waveform,” said, Joe Sweeney, test engineer for the Army’s Product Manager, Mid-Tier Networking Vehicular Radios (PdM MNVR).

MNVR is a radio system that provides a robust, large-scale networking capability within a large unit, like an Army brigade, from the Soldier to the senior leaders. During the demonstration, a new radio waveform was shown capable of both data capacity and the ability to handle many network users. The demonstration showed the waveform was able to communicate between a smaller unit, like a company, and a much larger unit, like a brigade.

“This amounted to 88 radios in ground platforms and one radio in a UH60 Blackhawk helicopter,” explained Sweeney.

To support a demonstration of this scale, EPG was selected because it offers 1.6 million acres of testing space through the Buffalo Electronic Test Range and its accessibility to radio spectrum. EPG is a favorite among testers in defense and commercial industry because of its access to radio spectrum in a very quiet radio spectrum environment.

“We needed an area with the ability to deploy vehicle assets in a large representative geographic area with a lot of allowable bandwidth. We also needed a site with established test capabilities—by that I mean testing networking capabilities,” said Sweeney. “EPG provided all of that.”

EPG, celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, is the developmental testing ground for the Army’s communication and network technology. Among test management, planning and reporting, EPG offers other rarer test requirements like radio spectrum and a varied geography, including mountains, valleys and plains.

“We [EPG] have a clear [radio] spectrum, so we provide a real fidelity in testing; there are no other [radio spectrum] factors that can negatively influence our testing,” explained Mark Butler, the test officer at EPG for the demonstration.

“Once you have a clean spectrum, you can add things [interference] to it, or degrade it, but you can’t take a noisy spectrum and clean it up, so that makes EPG unique in that aspect.”

According to Butler, EPG worked with PdM MNVR on other projects and tested for PdM MNVR as early as 2005. This creates the advantage of understanding the program and any unique requirements that a PM may have.

“I’m in a fortunate position, because the PdM [MNVR] brings me into their integrated product team meetings, and EPG was part of the planning staff from concept initiation,” said Butler.

We looked at the requirements between the different PMs [PdMs]. We came up with some of the things we thought the PMs wanted to see, figured how we could put that into a relevant environment to see how it [the waveform] works.”

To date, this demonstration was one of the largest that EPG conducted at Fort Huachuca. In addition to 89 ground and air-based radios, the demonstration also used 104 channels of the wideband networking waveform to show that the waveform was capable of handling a large unit communicating.

“It [demonstration] was a semi-realistic scenario,” said Butler, “we actually came up with a scheme of maneuver that made sense, from staging areas, moving out, your recon people going out, we had all the movements in place to what you’d expect across the range.”

According to Sweeney, EPG demonstrating the waveform was an important enabler for advancing the radio program.

“This was a real teaming effort with a lot of cooperation from the Army ground and aviation community,” he added.