How About Some Wideband HF Radio?

Air Force wants to tweak single sideband radios.

This is a bit that goes back to my halcyon days as a Marine radio operator. The single sideband radio, first proven by ham radio operators after World War II and then adopted as a global communications system by the now defunct Strategic Air Command in 1957, has great staying power.

The Air Force operates a successor to that 1957 network known as the High Frequency Global Communications System, with 13 stations scattered around the world that provide global coverage to a wide range of military users, including Air Force One.

Compared to satellite or Internet communications, single sideband is cheap -- no circuits to lease and no expensive hardware that has to be shot into the sky. Under the right conditions, you can communicate across thousands of miles.

But, single sideband radio circuits tend to be noisy, which limits them to voice and low data rate communications. The Air Force High Frequency Global Communications System Program Office at Tinker Air Force Base is looking for some folks to help tweak single sideband so it can function as a relatively wide band over the air data transmission system as well as handle voice over IP.

Single sideband will never have the throughput of a fiber optic connection. On the other hand, there’s not a lot of fiber drops in the sky or a forward operating base in Afghanistan, so a 120 kbps connection from a radio looks real good.