Bridging Radio Communication with Allied Partners
Military communications (MilCom) continuously adopts new technology and techniques to achieve superior performance in varied scenarios. In today’s global conflict zones, troops must communicate with coalition forces. This is both a budget and a technology problem, as the military does not have the funds to provide the necessary amount of “extra” radios and network equipment. Nor can it risk its security by providing access to its tactical network from allied equipment. Despite various solutions being developed to address this problem, it has not been resolved. At the recent Department of Defense (DoD) Lab Day at the Pentagon, however, the US Army Futures Command revealed a capability that could better safeguard communications with partners.
Dubbed the Radio Interoperability Capability – Universal (RIC-U), it is an analog-to-digital voice bridge for tactical radios. According to the Army, it converts voice into digital data and applies filtering. RIC-U then keys up and passes the voice onto the other radio network almost instantly. For these steps to occur, the RIC-U is first incorporated into the voice communications network. After it is connected, soldiers use a computerized user interface to select their own radios and the ones to which they are trying to communicate. Setup then occurs, allowing voice communications to be transmitted and received.
This approach provides four key features desired by the US and its allies:
1. Coalition forces do not need new communications equipment. Incorporating RIC-U into their voice networks allows them to use their own equipment.
2. Security is maintained, as communications occur without providing access to the Army’s tactical network. Similarly, allied partners can maintain their own encryption and frequency-hopping techniques.
3. Soldiers no longer have to leave the conflict zone to act as liaison officers via radio.
4. Because the RIC-U is upgradable, it can satisfy future interoperability requirements between radios used by US forces and coalition partners.
RIC-U complies with National Security Agency requirements for a tactical voice bridge. It was designed to be compatible with the voice networks of numerous US coalition partners. Tests and demonstrations are currently underway in locations such as Korea, Africa, and Europe. According to the Army, the goal is to have RIC-U in production by the end of 2019. Numerous regionalized commands worldwide have expressed interest in it already.
The Combat Capabilities Development Command (CCDC) developed RIC-U. Its Command, Control, Communications, Computer, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C5ISR) Center devised, fabricated, and tested the RIC-U. The C5ISR Center anticipates transitioning RIC-U to a program of record soon.
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