SOFIC NEWS: Industry Team Debuts Consolidated Communications for Dismounted Forces

By Mikayla Easley

Persistent Systems image

TAMPA, Florida — An industry team is pitching a new communications system that combines a mobile ad hoc network and tactical radios for special operators — a long-sought capability for warfighters.

Persistent Systems and Thales recently unveiled an integrated communications system that brings advanced tactical radios to the digital network by leveraging a mobile ad hoc network — known as a MANET — a decentralized type of wireless network that does not rely on pre-existing infrastructure. The system takes Thales’ AN/PRC-148E Spear — a handheld multiband, tactical radio widely used by militaries around the world — and using a specifically designed cable, connects it to the MPU5 MANET device made by Persistent Systems.

When integrated, warfighters are able to use the MPU5 to access and switch between various frequencies and channels used on the Spear radio, said Brian McDonald, the vice president of field technical services and support at Persistent Systems.

The MPU5 from Persistent System is a MANET device that provides access to the company’s “Wave Relay” communications network. Already contracted by the Army for its Bradley Fighting Vehicle replacement, the device unites a warfighter’s critical data sources — from videos to audio communications — and displays it on an Android computer tablet.

“The idea is that an operator that is carrying the MPU5 can access full motion video that’s coming from a fixed-wing aircraft, or they can drive a robot, or in this case … we can put those legacy tactical radios of the world and put that on the network as an asset,” McDonald explained May 18 on the sidelines of the Special Operation Forces Industry Conference in Tampa.

The current tactical radios used by U.S. Army Special Operations Command and other units are using legacy radios that operate on various frequencies for things like satellite communications, fire support, medical evacuation and more, McDonald said.

“All of those frequencies and those channels reside in these tactical radios, but we still want to access them on the mobile ad hoc network” he said. “What I can do is go into an app residing on the MPU5 and change the preset of the radio to a different frequency so that it can communicate to a different set of user.”

The Persistent Systems and Thales team debuted the integrated communications system during SOFIC. McDonald said the government and defense community has tried to pair MANET technology with the legacy tactical radios currently used by soldiers, but there have been issues on both the network and radio side.

Army Special Operations command will be putting up a requirements document soon, asking for an integrated communications system like that of the Spear-MPU5, McDonald said. The industry team plans to approach all the components of SOCOM and pitch the system for special operators, he added.


Topics: Special Operations

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