A Hummer truck equipped with state-of-the-art communications technology
served as a command and control hub for U.S. government agencies
responsible for security operations at the 2002 Winter Olympics
in Salt Lake City.
Although many vehicles in the marketplace today advertise high-tech
communications features, this particular truck is touted as the
only one that “integrates” all the technologies needed
for local first-responders to remain connected to state and federal
agencies when the conventional communications infrastructure is
destroyed in a terrorist attack.
The vehicle, called the InfraLynx, was designed by engineers at
the Naval Research Laboratory, in Washington, D.C. There are currently
only two InfraLynx trucks, but NRL expects to receive funding from
federal agencies to build up to 12 vehicles, said C. Chris Herndon,
head of the tactical technology development office at NRL.
The truck has a rigid shelter, with a satellite dish mounted on
top. The idea is to be able to “land the satellite signal
right into the hot zone,” Herndon said.
“We can provide 96 phone lines, multiple simultaneous cellular
calls, radio channels from high-frequency (2 Mhz) through 800 Mhz,”
he said. “We typically put one radio operator in the vehicle
and the first responders in tents or temporary shelters.”
Multiple vehicles can be linked to expand the capacity, he added.
The main satellite link supplies global coverage. Radio communications
are limited by the line of sight—approximately five to 10
miles around the vehicle, depending on the frequency. “First
responders can have telephone, fax, land mobile radios, within 100
feet [of the scene], as opposed to blocks or miles away, as it’s
done today,” said Herndon. There is also a video-teleconferencing
The InfraLynx program was kicked off after September 11, he said.
Its original purpose was to provide a communications unit so police,
firefighters, medical technicians and other authorities—which
typically talk on multiple radio frequencies—could have a
consolidated command and control center. According to NRL briefing
charts, six vehicles would cost about $10 million.
The funds for the first two vehicles came from a supplemental appropriation
Congress approved for Defense Department antiterrorism programs.
Herndon recognized that many companies today are offering similar
“homeland security” vehicles. “We don’t
want to look like we are competing with industry,” he said.
In his opinion, the NRL system stands apart from others, because
so many different technologies are integrated into the vehicle.
“The NRL niche is ‘integration,’ which makes the
InfraLynx unique, compared to other vehicles now marketed by private
“If you took certain portions of the vehicle, I could tell
you that there are about 10 guys who are doing that,” Herndon
said. However, “We have not found anyone across the entire
spectrum that is doing the whole package.”
At the Olympics, InfraLynx was used to augment the existing communications
Immediately after the Olympics, the vehicles were dispatched to
participate in the Defense Department’s Homeland Security
Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD). One went to a
fire station in Chesapeake, Va., and one to a HAZMAT facility in
During the ACTD last April, the vehicles were “doing the
same thing as we did at the Olympics,” Herndon said. But some
new features were added, such as wireless video cameras linked to
several sites around the country. The InfraLynx also was equipped
with new vehicle/personnel location monitoring services.
The Homeland Security ACTD is one of 15 projects selected in fiscal
year 2002 by the Defense Department. The budget for this particular
ACTD is $53.8 million, including nearly $4 million from the Defense
Department. Eleven of the 15 ACTDs focus on counter-terrorism.
The purpose of the Homeland Security ACTD is to test a coordinated
response to a terrorist attack by city, county, state and federal
governments. “We need to neutralize these threats and we need
to recover from attacks rapidly,” said Sue Payton, deputy
undersecretary of defense for advanced systems and concepts. For
that reason, she said, “We need to have a command and control
system, if you will, so that all parties and first responders can
talk to each other.”
Payton noted that after the 9/11 attacks, “When you bring
together your city firefighters and your county and state police
and then the Defense Department, they can’t all communicate
on the same frequencies with their radios.
“As you know, cell phones didn’t work very well after
the attack on September 11. So we are developing for our first responders
capabilities to be able to communicate. ... It’s a matter
of getting the networks together, the data, and then software to
allow people to understand what’s really going on.”