The JTRS Collaborative Enterprise
Laying the Foundation for the Future Through Current Investments
02/12/2011 – In December, Second Line of Defense sat down with Marty Jenkins of Lockheed Martin to discuss the Airborne and Maritime/Fixed Station Joint Tactical Radio System or AMF JTRS. This is a significant program which can help re-shape interactive connectivity. This is the second of a three-part interview.
The video shows how JTRS enables interoperability and connectivity across the deployed force. Credit: Lockheed Martin
SLD: I think one of the key things that’s kind of lost in the current debate about financial restraints and difficulties is that you can invest in the past, which never gets you to the future or you can prudently leverage current requirements but invest towards the future. I’d like to talk about three different aspects of this that we could talk about how JTRS allows a platform for innovation.
But first is the introduction of the F-35, which is a flying combat system. Obviously, what remains on the table is how the F-35 is going to work with other assets.
The second issue is something we call “enduring Littoral presence.” You’re introducing an LCS, we’ll introduce robotics into the environment, we’ll back fit to the amphib, and with the F-35, and the Osprey on it; how do you enable these assets to work effectively over a network in a cluttered environment?
And then the third is just a question of the Army. The FCS was canceled and now we see a very platform-centric look about vehicles; and the Army is doing great innovations at Huntsville with Rotorcraft and UAVs. We should be in a position where those innovations can relate to the future vehicles that we buy and how we link those things together. Obviously, the Army needs to create the bubble that allows these things to be linked together.
Those are the three examples of where innovation is either going to be driven by new platform or the need to connect them, and all of this requires leveraging our investments if we put new platforms into play. But the MRAP myopia is dominant whereby DOD is taking the old stove pipe approach to connectivity. How can JTRS help move beyond the stovepipe and re-introduce cross cutting innovation associated with enhanced connectivity?
Marty Jenkins: The JTRS Enterprise is designed for the future, the present, and again bringing in the legacy of past. Why would you invest in hardwired infrastructure that has a single function and a time-defined life cycle of usefulness? Why not invest in infrastructure with the upside agility to grow into the future?
For example, F-15 pilots currently do communications by monitoring normally three voice frequencies; in priority they tune one all the way up; the second priority they’ll tune up the volume about the middle, and the low priority will tune it all the way down. And that’s how we’re monitoring communications in the air. We can invest in old or legacy radio hardware that will perhaps enable more range, greater fidelity, but we’re still in the past approach
SLD: You’re still limited in terms of the infrastructure.
Jenkins: You’re limited in the infrastructure. If we invest in JTRS infrastructure, then users will be able to use voice, chat, data, streaming video, and have the ability to find in real time how they want to interact with those systems. But it’s more than that; we have a defined series of waveforms that are part of the program; Link-16 is one of the waveforms, part of the program; we have a broadband IP, a narrowband IP. But the devices are agile enough that we have networking capability or new waveforms that are not yet defined that could ride on this infrastructure.
With the JTRS infrastructure today, you could enable IP connectivity to your choice of end user device…desktop, hand held, iPhone; or, looking ahead, what’s the next thing coming down? Is it 5G waveforms with higher data rates? Is it virtual holograph technology? This infrastructure, because it is looking ahead, has the agility to enable that kind of network connectivity as part of the design.
SLD: So it has a lot of modularity that facilitates communications growth over a variety of new platforms and platforms that do not yet exist?
Jenkins: Huge upside growth. Now the CONOPS, we’re just scratching the surface, and we’re working with Air, Surface and Space platform programs very closely as well as looking at operational scenarios that we work hand in glove with the Army, the Navy, Air Force, and Marines. We’re working with people just back from theater and going back into the theater; looking at a world beyond Afghanistan, we’re looking very closely at the air- sea battle concept that the Air Force and the Navy are working, and how can this kind of infrastructure alter the CONOPS.
And we need to adapt to the new communications culture of the young as we evolve the approach. Let me give a sort of vignette; if you and I are going to have a drink tonight, I’ll call you and I’ll say, “I’ll meet you at 7 o’clock at Applebee’s and we’ll have a drink. The younger people today that are brought up in this environment don’t do that. They text and they say, “I’m out on the street, where are you? I’m here. Let’s meet over there.” And they’re in the community of interest on their device and they’re talking to all their friends out there whether it’s a Facebook kind of application or a Twitter, it’s a community of interest and it’s sort of ad hoc but self-forming.
We think that when you enable combat troops and operational forces with a JTRS-like capability, operations are going to move the same way. Currently, a scenario might be “I have a medevac helo, I’m going to this point.” When you get to that point, the people that you needed a medevac may not be there anymore; they may have moved and now you’re going to have to go to another point. With AMF JTRS capability, we see people working in an operational community of interest and flexing in real time so that you actually get to where you’re needed, not to where you’re told to go to begin with.
The Contributions of JTRS to Integrating a Deployed Force as Discussed in the Video Credit: Lockheed Martin
SLD: This is obviously part of the evolving shift in con-ops to distributed operations.
Jenkins: I think that’s exactly right. What IP infrastructure enables more than anything is peer-to-peer networking and information sharing. And we think that’s going to happen; it happens today.
It’s the same as the kids out on the street texting and tweeting. If you translate that to low end or Littoral operations where you could have Marines, Navy, Army, perhaps an Air Force; we think peer-to-peer networking will happen and it won’t necessarily respect chain of command or service nor should it.
So Army and Air Force will be chatting, Navy and Air Force will be chatting Navy and Army will be chatting. Sharing information and what that really enables is better visibility, higher level of fidelity on who is around us, across services, across COCOMs. AMF JTRS can provide situational awareness that can result in two, three, four orders of magnitude increase in speed of command.
Video Credit: JTRS At Sea, Lockeed Martin, 2011