SDR Lightens Packs

By Dean ~ August 31st, 2011. Filed under: SDR & SCA.

Back in prehistoric times, before I started actually getting paid to develop technology, I used to backpack, a lot.  I even spent most of a summer in the Three Sisters Wilderness area in Central Oregon (I was working in the Three Sister’s Biosphere Reserve some of the time).  Believe me, I understand and appreciate the value of a light pack.  I can’t even imagine having to operate in some hot mountainous region with more than 70 pounds of gear.  Unfortunately, according to a recent article in Defense Systems, that’s exactly what we’re asking our troops to do:

Image of a US Army soldier packing all of his gear.

Makes My Back Hurt!
Image credit: US Army

In addition to a Kevlar helmet, water and scopes, personal Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System (SINCGARS) devices can easily help tip the scale to more than 70 pounds in weight. And troops are finding that all that gear is making for a tight squeeze in military vehicles,

Fortunately, the U.S. military is trying to reduce the burden, and SDR has a role to play.  The story continues with Capt. John Pico, Capabilities Integration Officer for Tactical Radios at the Marine Corps Combat Development Command’s Combat Development and Integration Division describing the way that the adoption of SDR systems has lightened the load for Marines.

“Units used to carry multiple radios to talk on [very-high-frequency] command and control nets, [utlra-high-frequency] ground-to-air nets, or long-range satellite communications nets,” Pico said. “Now they carry one radio that can do it all; a multiband radio.”

Multiband radios now have embedded Global Positioning System and wideband networking capability, which can automatically repeat traffic from neighboring radios to extend the communications range, he said.

“Another important advantage of wideband networks is the ability to extend secure data connectivity to dismounted small unit leaders, giving them the ability to reach back to information databases, interactive maps, e-mail and tactical chat programs,” Pico said. The corps’ most recent fielded radio addition — the AN/PRC-117G — has improved the size and weight of older radios by 35 percent, which has left operating forces wanting more of them, Pico said.

Image of a Harris AN/PRC-117G Type-1 Wideband Tactical Radio

Harris AN/PRC-117G Type-1 Wideband Tactical Radio
Image credit: Harris RF Comm.

Congratulations to Harris for their success with the AN/PRC-117G!  If you have time, you really should follow the previous link and watch the video.  Harris reports that the AN/PRC-117G – Falcon III is half the size of the legacy radios that it replaces.  That means a lot to the guy who has to hump it up the mountain!

The article also covers several other programs to reduce the weight of both an individual’s kit and the shared resources that a unit needs to carry (for example, more power dense batteries).  It’s all interesting, but for this audience, the fact that SDR technology gives just that little bit of an extra edge to our soldiers is something that all of us working on making it real should be proud of.

Photo of Husband Lake in the Three Sisters Wilderness

Husband Lake in the Three Sisters Wilderness
Image credit: USFS / Phil Raab

Image of the Three Sisters, taken from the Mt Washington Wilderness

Three Sisters, from Mt. Washington Wilderness
Image credit: USFS / Phil Raab

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