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Military electronics is a broad term encompassing thousands of different technologies, from secure communications to x-ray systems. Microwave and RF components and subsystems have played key roles in military electronic designs since the birth of radar systems during World War II. As modern military electronics extend from unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and directed-energy weapons to ground-based radio systems and communications satellites in space, microwave and RF technologies expand with them in many shapes and sizes.

Communications is still one of the most critical sectors of military electronics, and a great deal of battlefield communications still relies on traditional tactical radios. While their physical appearances have not changed much over the past two decades, these radios have evolved a great deal in terms of modulation, encryption, and security. As with wireless communications in other applications, a trend in the design of these tactical radios has been towards increased bandwidth operation and the use of multiple bands within a single unit.

For example, Harris Corp. has enhanced its Falcon III® tactical radios over the years, constantly improving performance and usefulness. The company’s Falcon III AN/PRC-152A multiband handheld radio recently earned Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) certification from the Joint Tactical Networking Center, a certifying agent of software-defined-radio (SDR) knowledge for the United States Department of Defense (DoD). This is the second Harris Falcon III wideband radio to receive this designation, following the AN/PRC-117G multiband manpack radio.

JTRS is a DoD program to develop SDRs for sending and receiving voice, data, and video tactical communications on the battlefield. The JTRS certification for the Falcon III AN/PRC-152A is a sign that the radio is approved and ready for battlefield networking. It has been designated as a low-risk option and highly interoperable with other approved tactical radios. The radio was certified using Soldier Radio Waveform software version 1.01.1C. According to George Helm, President of the DoD business unit for Harris RF Communications, “JTRS certification means our radios meet the stringent DoD requirements for wideband tactical communications, and perform to common government standards for interoperability, security, and software re-use.”

As in the commercial world, the demand for more data and communications systems capable of providing faster data rates also continues to grow on the battlefield. To meet that demand, Harris has developed what it is calling its “next-generation” Falcon III RF-7800W-OU-500 High Capacity Line-of-Sight (HCLOS) tactical radio (Fig. 1). It is building on the firm’s current RF-7800W-OU440 HCLOS radio's technology. The new radio, which uses multiple-input, multiple-output (MIMO) technology, can run 64-state quadrature-amplitude modulation (64QAM) and provide better than 180 Mb/s Ethernet throughput speeds. The radio is designed for secure, reliable long-range connectivity at distances beyond 160 km. It operates over an extended frequency range (4.40 to 5.875 GHz) and operates in point-to-point (PTP) and point-to-multipoint (PTM) modes.

Military Fights For Better Com Links, Fig. 1

The secure Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS) 140-2 Level 2 compliant design includes 256-b Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) protection. In addition, the radio incorporates Harris’s proprietary Traffic Flow Security (TFS) encryption, Enhanced Interference Mitigation (EIM), and data smoothing. The lightweight radio weighs only 5.5 lbs and can be deployed in minutes, with seamless integration of video, voice, and sensor systems. 

Harris has also developed lower-cost radio technology for the warfighter in the form of its RF-330E-TR Wideband Team Radio (Fig. 2). Suitable for communication of secret-level information, the wideband radio represents the first fielding of the company’s Embedded Modular Radio (EMR) technology. It allows users to share and access Type-1 secret information while maintaining the logistical benefits of a non-controlled-cryptographic-item (non-CCI) radio. The battery life is estimated at 20 h, ideal for long missions. The light-weight radios can provide simultaneous voice, high-speed data, and up-to-date position location information (with built-in GPS receiver), with the ease of use of a dashboard display that shows battery life and network status at the push of a button.

Military Fights For Better Com Links, Fig. 2

Military Fights For Better Com Links, Fig. 3

Motorola has developed its SRX 2200 Combat Radio to meet military performance requirements (even operating while submerged under water) while providing secure, encrypted communications (Fig. 3). It also offers a variety of “convenience” features, including radio-to-radio text messaging, tactical radio inhibit and night-vision goggle compatibility, and Individual Location Information (ILI) to provide details on a radio’s location. The radio is compliant with DoD standards for APCO waveforms and encryption and meets Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) 140-2 Level 3 security for secure voice and data communications.