Spectrum on the battlefield

Managing electromagnetic spectrum will become increasingly important as the Army pushes for large-scale operations across domains.

wireless spectrum (Creations/Shutterstock.com)

Managing electromagnetic spectrum will become increasingly important as the Army pushes for large-scale operations across domains.

"We've had to get back to the basics of looking at the electromagnetic spectrum in electronic warfare in general," Brig. Gen. Robert Collins, the program executive officer for Command, Control and Communications-Tactical told reporters Oct. 14 during a briefing on the Army's six-week Project Convergence experiment at Yuma Proving Ground that ended in September.

"One of the things we're absolutely focused on is the resiliency and survivability of communications," Collins said, which includes "lower our probability of intercept, lower our probability of detect, and certainly lower our probability" of being spotted by adversaries.

That need will become increasingly important as the Army moves to increase the scale of its multi-domain operations, which includes interacting and coordinating with the joint force. coalition partners, and their many devices and platforms that emit electronic signatures.

"We understand we're going to fight on the contested battlefield," said Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, director of the Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross Functional Team. "We want the right amount of bandwidth at the right location on the battlefield. No more, no less. And then we need to share that so that we can maximize the spectrum."

Exploring options that protect devices and soldiers' locations will become especially important with regard to large scale combat operations. Collins said the Army aims to tailor commercial products through cooperative agreements with industry "and allow them to be exposed to the type of threat environments that we will face" to better tune them for battlefield use.

Solutions include using directional radio antennas versus omni-directional, "looking at technologies that only output sufficient power to get the message through and throttle it back [to] minimize your signature," as well as using EMS sensing technologies and multi-tiered architecture to enhance resiliency, Collins said.

Beyond EMS capabilities, the Army's network has to also be resilient. Project Convergence tested prototypical capabilities expected to be fielded next year as part of Capability Set 21 for the Army's tactical mesh network, which experienced hits and misses during the demonstrations especially when transmitting data from ground systems to aerial platforms.

"I think the areas that we stretched the envelope were when we started to add in aerial components," such as drones, Collins said, adding that data links become an issue when you move from ground to air, air to air, and introduce a combination of manned and unmanned systems. Capability Set 21 was set as a ground-based network for the experiment.