New Army Lab Troubleshoots Radios Before Field Tests

By Eric Beidel
A recent version of the Army’s Joint Tactical Radio System failed so often during tests last year that troops had to relay messages on foot.

The Army hasn’t done that since World War II, the Pentagon’s operational test and evaluation chief, J. Michael Gilmore, told lawmakers this spring.

The service’s Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center recently established a laboratory at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., to work out kinks in new radio systems before they are sent out for field tests. The Radio Evaluation and Analysis Lab, or REAL, will serve as the main location for vendors and programs of record to send devices for a preemptive scientific review.

Army officials said the goal of REAL is to allow for repeatable, controlled study in an environment that avoids time-consuming and costly delays that occur when things go wrong during field tests.

The lab features a set-up that allows researchers to run more than 60 radios at once. They could be all one type or different devices, said Scott Newman, a systems engineer who is overseeing REAL operations. The lab also can simulate weather conditions during tests.

Industry products can be examined at the facility through two different channels. Companies can respond to specific requests for information or they can form a cooperative research and development agreement with the Army to perform a detailed study of their technology. The most promising radios could be sent on to Fort Bliss, Texas, where troops are conducting field tests with a variety of communication technologies.

Topics: C4ISR, Tactical Communications

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