Military set to advance bulletproof wireless IP network

The military’s advanced technology researchers will next week hold a one-day meeting to discuss features and go over the requirements for its next generation wireless IP network.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is looking to bolster the proposals for its Mobile Ad hoc Interoperability Network GATEway (MAINGATE) program. MAINGATE is what the agency calls the next generation of its Network Centric Radio System (NCRS) (formerly Future Combat Systems-Communications) program to connect different tactical ground, airborne and satellite communications terminals together.

Wireless IP Network development has been underway throughout the Department of Defense for about 10 years but  MAINGATE’s goals are to take that research up a notch by letting heterogeneous groups of radios be integrated into a heterogeneous network tolerant to high latency and packet loss, DARPA said.

The technologies developed for the program will permit affordable, tactical, real-time, high fidelity video, data, and voice services to be deployed in a networked environment to support tactical operations in either maneuver or dismounted operations. As a result of this effort, DARPA expects a clear demonstration of advanced mobile ad hoc network (MANET) gateway technology that will incorporate a Wireless IP-capable Network, which provides interconnectivity between nodes bridging heterogeneous mixtures of radio networks. A unique characteristic of the MAINGATE program is the integration of a “default” IP radio network as part of the gateway, DARPA said.  

The system has myriad requirements as you might imagine.  For example, it must support a minimum of 20 simultaneous 384 kbps video streams, as well as voice and data applications, peer-to-peer applications, such as CHAT),  and network management for aggregate per link data rates ranging from 6.5 Mbps up to 100 Mbps, DARPA said. DARPA said MAINGATE will consist of a WAN port, a LAN port, and six legacy radio ports. One or more of the six module slots can be used for a LAN extension kit to enable the interconnection of multiple LANs.Each LAN will support a 10/100 RJ45 connection.

The gateway must be able to bridge across  multiple LANs such as  SATCOM and 802.11g and associated addressing and transport capacities, DARPA said.  Protocol translation and encapsulation will be necessary to make attached device data streams compatible with the LAN architecture. Each WAN will support a 10/100/1000 RJ45 connection or any specific connection necessary for accessing the Global Information Grid (GIG).

Similar to the LAN, protocol translation and encapsulation will be necessary to make WAN attached device data streams compatible with the WAN architecture, such as Border Gateway Protocol.

Aside from the technical specs, the goal for the cost of the MAINGATE node is $60,000 (FY08$) per unit for a volume purchase of 1,000 units. A MAINGATE node consists of the gateway, MANET IP radio, WAN port, LAN port, and operator console. This does not include the cost of the individual external radios or the cost of legacy radio kits.

It is believed that the cost of the legacy radio kits should be low since the majority of the functions are addressed by the gateway, DARPA said.Solicitations to build MAINGATE are open and DAPRA said it expects to select as many as 12  vendors for trial projects after the August closing date.  For successful participants, host institutions will receive grants or other assistance instruments, up to $100,000, DARPA said.  

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