Boeing shows off open software radios

Boeing this week said it confirmed the interoperability of two open software-defined radios that will become the one of the backbone communication technologies for battlefield tactics in the future.

The radios are part of the company’s Family of Advanced Beyond line-of-sight Terminals (FAB-T) and ultimately promise an open architecture that could be used by myriad satellites and ground stations that all use different communications systems to give battlefield commanders high-speed access to all sorts of data or video.  

In this case, the demonstration established a communications link to an Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) and Tactical Relay satellite.

The FAB-T family includes software-defined radios, antennas and user interface hardware that will provide the government with a system capable of hosting a multitude of waveforms that accommodate data rates in excess of 300Mbps Boeing  said.

According to Boeing, The FAB-T program activity will eventually encompass up to 46 airborne platforms with participation from all the armed services. Once operational, the system will provide critical, protected beyond line-of-sight communications capability for military personnel via the AEHF System, a new class of secure satellites that support military forces.

Future versions of FAB-T will be able to interchange with other national satellite communications systems such as Wideband Gapfiller and Global Broadcast Service.

"FAB-T is programmable and reconfigurable in the field, allowing warfighters to customize high-data-rate communications to meet changing mission requirements," said Jim Dodd, Boeing FAB-T program director, in a statement.  

This demonstration marks the completion of the first phase of the development/acquisition program with the Air Force to build a software-defined radio terminal.

 Such satellite communications advances are part of The Department of Defense desire to use cutting-edge wireless research to create a tactical radio networks  that can adapt to keep soldiers linked with each other on the battlefield.  

Project WAND, for Wireless Adaptive Network Development, for instance will exploit commercial radio components, rather than custom ones, and use a variety of software techniques and algorithms, many of them only just now emerging in mature form. These $500 walkie-talkie-size radios will form large-scale, peer-to-peer ad hoc nets, which can shift frequencies, sidestep interference, and handle a range of events that today completely disrupt wireless communications.  WAND is part of a larger project by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to create the Wireless Network after Next, a complete military communications infrastructure. WAND has two teams of contractors and researchers, with BBN Technologies heading the software development and Tyco Electronics heading up the hardware development.  

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