Military radio & networking market to embrace commercial tech

News

09 January 2015

John McHale

Editorial Director

Military embedded systems

Military radio and networking market to encompass commercial technology

According to market analysts, shipments of military radio systems will shrink along with troop numbers, but funding for improved C4ISR capabilities should increase as the Department of Defense (DoD) looks to use commercial smartphones and networking technologies to develop multi-purpose communications equipment.

The Department of Defense wants to use not only commercial mobile devices, but also cloud computing and social media, says Brad Curran, senior industry analyst at Frost & Sullivan. “Companies that have these products are going to see a boom.

“US military organizations have woken up to the power of using Amazon’s cloud model, but red tape and acquisition regulations are slowing the process.” They need to figure out the business model and explore the cultural challenges. To see also : Rohde & Schwarz, EID to Supply Portuguese Army With Software-Defined Radios. When the Department of Defense insists on having open standards and using huge commercial enterprise systems, that’s definitely going to be a culture change for the industry.”

Numbers

The Defense Department’s fiscal year 2015 budget calls for about $260 million for programs based on software-defined radio (SDR), such as the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) variants, he says. “On the communications side, there were 26 awards totaling $2.2 billion for special operations. There has been a shift to special operations as the government tries to keep as small a footprint as possible and partner with as many different nations as possible so they can share intelligence and local expertise.”

Key vendors in the military communications sector are General Dynamics, Exelis, BAE Systems, Rockwell Collins and ViaSat. Harris and Thales stand out as the market leaders for intermediate SDR radios, adds Curran.

“Harris is also a leader in radio technology, thanks to their Falcon family of radios (pictured),” notes Curran. “I would say Harris has a lot of momentum right now. For airborne radio applications, Rockwell Collins is the leader, while ViaSat is the leader for data link technology.”

Government-funded development programs like JTRS will become a thing of the past as the DoD accepts Non-Development Item (NDI) procurement. Meanwhile, waveform development continues, and interim solutions are adequate, Curran says.

Network technology

For networking technology, there were 246 awards totaling $17.6 billion in 2013 for enterprise and tactical applications, with General Dynamics as the leading vendor, Curran says. “Tactical networks totaled 96 contracts for $20.8 billion in 2013 with Harris as the leader in tactical and enterprise applications.”

Europe

Countries in Europe are also reducing their forces, but are still improving their C4ISR capabilities, Curran says. “The European market for military networking and communication is about $90 million and Asia is about $30 million. Global leaders are General Dynamics, BAE, Thales and Finnmeccanica-Selex.”

“The main European trend in C4ISR is for interoperability and sharing of C4ISR platforms between NATO countries, but overall costs are decreasing,” he continues. “Poland, Finland, Sweden, Norway and Romania increase C4ISR and missile defense capabilities.”

Future trends

A wireless, networked force is a long-term goal for the US military. “However, network connectivity is still a major challenge as warfighters often do not know if they will have Wi-Fi, cellular or satellite/tactical connections in the field,” says Curran. Broadband coverage is rarely available to dismounted soldiers.

Although the Army and Marine Corps have yet to adopt high-cost wireless capabilities, they are being used by more than Special Operations Command, with regular Army Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) experiments continuing, he continued. “There are some elements included in Capability Set 13 which is being deployed as a Nett Warrior with a combination of ‘program radios’, COTS cellular phones and wireless technology.”

According to Army PEO Soldier, “Nett Warrior (NW) is an integrated dismounted situational awareness and mission management system for use during combat operations.”

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