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Archive for the ‘Comms’ Category

The Digital Message Device Group

Monday, January 7th, 2019

Not long after ET used a modified Speak & Spell to phone home, select units within the US Army were using the OA-8990/P Digital Message Device Group (aka KY-879/P) to communicate.

I used the DMDG from the late 80s up until the mid-90s while assigned to both 3rd ID LRS and in 3rd SFG(A) on a SOT-A.

Manufactured by Racal Communications, it was a burst transmission device. Messages were formatted and encrypted via one-time pad and then entered into the device via the keyboard. The dot matrix screen could be backlit but was used only with caution so as not to give away the user’s location at night. Although, the nylon cover could be configured to partially conceal the screen from three sides, the glow reflecting off of the user’s face was noticeable, especially if he was wearing glasses.

The DMDG sent a digital burst signal when used primarily in conjunction with HF radios. Initially these were the AN-PRC-74 and 70, but I only ever used the device with the AN/PRC-104A and 132. It could also used with SATCOM systems such as the AN/PSC-3, AN/LST-5 and AN/MST-20.

In the photo at the top, you can see the cables used to connect the DMDG to the radio as well as an external battery such as the Magnesium BA-4386 (also used in the AN/PRC-77) which only provided about four hours of power.

The combination of burst transmission and HF comms was intended to thwart threat radio direction finding efforts but the baud rate was so slow (266.6 baud), messages took a really long time to transmit. At that speed, you could only transmit 27 characters a second on HF. For SATCOM shots, you could speed it up to 1200 baud but satellite time wasn’t as prevalent during the 80s and 90s.

During an International (NATO) LRRP exercise in the late 80s, I learned that the Dutch 104th Reconnaissance Co used the MA-4450 Message Entry and Read-Out Device. The MEROD looked like the DMDG, but offered onboard encryption.

By the mid-90s we began to transition to the AN/PRC-137 Special Mission Radio System which was much smaller and lighter than earlier radios and used a palmtop Data Messaging Device to transmit messages via a radio which could be queried by a base station for message traffic. When used for Special Reconnaissance missions this allowed to communicator to leave the radio a safe distance from the element. This combined with much faster data transfer rates greatly lowered the risk of threat direction finding.

The DMDG is now a relic of the Cold War. Today, handheld cellular devices provide more capability than we could carry just two decades ago. Communicators use a variety of multi-band devices which offer onboard encryption as well as data transfer rates high enough to provide live video feeds using waveforms which boast low probability of detection and intercept.

What Do You Bet He’s A Lieutenant?

Saturday, January 5th, 2019

OSS Detachment 202 radio crew with hand-crank generator and hash pipe. China, 1944.

Joint Communications Support Element Provides Support To Global Response Force

Friday, December 21st, 2018

CHITOSE, Japan — Whether on a hill, in a dale or on a dusty trail, battlefield communications are essential to every service member no matter their location. Be it the individual service member in the field to the pilot flying the jet, the ability to communicate clearly and concisely is extremely important during times of conflict.

Not doing so could be the difference between life or death.

IC1 Jonathan Kelly and IC1, 1st Squadron, Joint Communications Support Element check a communications satallite dish on Camp Higashi-Chitose, Japan during exercise Yama Sakura, Dec. 12, 2018

As communication technologies advance and the tools used to intercept these technologies grow more elaborate, the need for proper battlefield-communications techniques becomes evermore important

Established units have specific processes already in place to meet their communications needs, however, when it comes to deploying units to locations lacking an established communication framework, many call upon outside agencies to supplement these needs.

One team commanders call on to do this is the Joint Communications Support Element (JCSE), part of Joint Enabling Capabilities Command (JECC), which falls under the U.S. Transportation Command and provides mission-specific, joint capabilities to combatant commanders needed to facilitate accelerated establishment of joint force headquarters, fulfill Global Response Force execution and bridge joint operational requirements.

“What sets us apart here at the JCSE, is that we provide an essential skill set that allows commands to work efficiently and effectively until they are able to bring up their own capabilities in order to sustain themselves,” said Information Systems Technician 1st Class Jonathan L. Kelly, 1st Joint Communications Squadron Team Chief.

Comprised of both an active and reserve components – of three active duty squadrons, two Air-National Guard squadrons and one Army reserve squadron – the JCSE enables both tactical and strategic communications. This is done by providing rapidly deployable, scalable, en-route and early-entry communications capabilities across the full gamut of operations enabling increased action of the joint force in support of the 10 combatant commands, special operations commands and other agencies, as directed.

“We are the embodiment of the total force and for this reason our units routinely exercise and deploy together, making for an effective team capable of meeting a wide range of mission-critical demands and tasks,” said Kelly.

At the heart of the unit’s core competency is its communications support for contingency operations. Using the latest technologies, JCSE is a tactical unit with the ability to operate at the tactical, operational and strategic levels. In addition, the element has the skill sets needed to support broader Joint Task Force operations ranging anywhere from 40 to 1500 network users.

“Here at the JCSE, we use the latest technologies in order to meet today’s operational requirements while also keeping up with the units’ wide-range mission requirements,” said Kelly. “We ensure our members are well trained communicators ready to deploy at any given moment.”

Today, the element has service members deployed to locations all around the world, covering a wide range of missions, including a team currently deployed to Higashi-Chitose, Japan, supporting exercise Yama Sakura 75.

Yama Sakura is an annual bilateral exercise involving the U.S. Military and the JGSDF with the purpose of enhancing U.S. and Japanese combat readiness and interoperability while strengthening relationships and demonstrating U.S. resolve to support the security interests of allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

Just as in other exercises, the JCSE team at Yama Sakura, used their expertise to provide the real world capability for both NIPR and SIPR communications requirements, to support simulated battlefield communications.

By Petty Officer 1st Class Kiona Miller

ITS 10-4 Radio Pouch

Friday, December 7th, 2018

[ARLINGTON, TX, 12/7/2018] Imminent Threat Solutions is proud to release the 10-4 Radio Pouch™, a lightweight and skeletonized pouch offering rapid acquisition, the ultimate in retention and multiple mounting methods. While designed for Baofeng UV-5R style radios (transceivers) with extended batteries, it may fit other radios. (Please see the ITS product description for specifications.)

This revolutionary pouch features four built-in levels of retention, first using the interior opening webbing base to align the radio into place. Next, the adjustable shock cord locks in the radio, while still allowing easy insertion and removal. Additionally, the integrated hook strip facilitates faster operational access and stowage, providing temporary on-the-go retention. Lastly, the durable slide release buckle provides the final retention strap for ultimate security.

The 10-4 Radio Pouch™ doesn’t impede any functional operation of your Baofeng radio, leaving buttons and ports available for use. ITS’s patent-pending 4-Way Mounting System™ allows you to mount the 10-4 Radio Pouch™ vertically on a duty belt, vertically to MOLLE (PALS webbing), horizontally on a belt or even vertically on a backpack or chest rig strap. The mounting possibilities for this pouch are truly unlimited.

Imminent Threat Solutions provides indispensable skill-sets and products to explore your world and prevail against all threats.

For more information on ITS Nylon products, please visit store.itstactical.com/collections/nylon-gear

Seeing the light: LiFi will revolutionize IT on mission command posts

Wednesday, November 28th, 2018

NATICK, Mass. — When investigating new ways of transmitting and communicating information, sometimes it helps to see the light.

This is the idea behind a new technology being investigated by the Research, Development and Engineering Command Soldier Center’s Expeditionary Maneuver Support Directorate, along with its industry partner, VLNComm of Charlottesville, Va.

A technology revolution that fits in the palm of your hand. The Research, Development and Engineering Command Soldier Center’s Expeditionary Maneuver Support Directorate, or EMSD, has come up with a concept for using LiFi technology as a new way of transmitting and communicating information. The wireless system uses infrared light instead of radio frequencies. Since LiFi does not use radio waves, it cannot be detected outside the confines of the mission command platform. LiFi is un-hackable and untraceable within the command post shelter. EMSD is working with its industry partner, VLNComm of Charlottesville, Va., on adapting the technology to meet enclosed mission command platform needs. The transceiver (pictured here) is simply put into a USB port and will then detect the signal and users will be hooked up to the IT network of their command post. Then a Soldier just needs a light shined overhead to have network access. (Photo is courtesy of the RDECOM Soldier Center Expeditionary Maneuver Support Directorate)

“It’s a wireless system but instead of using radio frequencies it uses infrared light,” said Frank Murphy, an engineer on EMSD’s System Development and Engineering Team. “It is called LiFi, or light fidelity. It has many advantages.”

Murphy has been investigating ways to utilize the emerging commercially available technology in a tactical environment as the physical characteristics appear to solve many issues facing wired and wireless field command post network systems.

The technology will be used in expeditionary mission commands. EMSD has come up with a concept for using LiFi within any enclosed mission command platform. LiFi eliminates the problems associated with the time-consuming task of running data lines in tactical operation centers and command posts. Moreover, since the technology does not use radio waves, it cannot be detected outside the confines of the mission command platform.

“The technology uses light waves to transmit and receive data between the servers and the user’s computer,” said Melvin Jee, the leader of EMSD’s Command Post Platforms Branch. “As light cannot pass through walls, the enemy cannot detect the signal.”

Murphy’s investigation into the technology was inspired in part by Douglas Tamilio, the director of RDECOM Soldier Center, sharing an article about LiFi with RDECOM Soldier Center leadership. Murphy’s investigation was also inspired by the vision of Claudia Quigley, the director of EMSD, and the RDECOM Soldier Center’s ongoing partnership with the 82nd Airborne. The RDECOM Soldier Center and the 82nd Airborne have worked together extensively to find out ways to best meet the needs of warfighters.

Murphy explained that Quigley and other members of the directorate were working with the 82nd Airborne during a field exercise. During the exercise, Murphy noticed that the setup of IT cabling was proving to be a time-consuming and difficult task.

“They had a hard time setting up their IT network, which isn’t usually an NSRDEC area, but we felt that we could address the need,” said Murphy. “Tactical speed is absolutely essential for command post setup. LiFi is potentially faster, easier to install and doesn’t have the security and exposure issues of other technologies. LiFi is un-hackable and untraceable when used within the command post shelter.”

“It’s virtually impossible to find the wavelength the data is being transmitted on, so if LiFi is detected, it’s hard to intercept the data stream,” said Jee.

EMSD is working with industry partners. Murphy explained that the commercially available technology was modified to fit a tactical environment. The technology will affect how Soldiers communicate and, thus, carry out a mission.

“A command post of any size is an information processing center,” said Murphy, “They take information from the field whether it comes in from a drone, Soldier/squad reports, other personnel in the area, satellite information, information from wheeled vehicles, or from behind the front lines — all this information gets fed to the command post staff. They make a decision and then the information goes right back out. Lives depend on this communication.”

“LiFi is part of NSRDEC’s plan to provide a fully integrated platform with all of the necessary infrastructure in order for the warfighter to set up his command post,” said Jee. “Just as a house is fully integrated with power, lights and network cabling — allowing the homeowners to just concentrate on the furnishings — NSRDEC plans to provide a fully functional house, allowing the warfighter and program managers to provide the “furniture.'”

“In a command post, everyone has a job to do and they have their information chain,” said Murphy.

“All these Soldiers need network access. With this, you simply shine the light over their head. After you hook the transceiver into the USB port, the transceiver will detect the signal and you will be hooked up to the IT network of your command post. It’s as simple as that. We also hope to have it integrated into the wiring harness for the lighting so we can just roll up the tent and pack it away during a move.”

Murphy emphasized that the NSRDEC project is really a team effort and that several entities at the Natick Soldier Systems Center were important to the development of the technology. He also received “great guidance” from his branch chief, Melvin Jee, and from his team leader, Connie Miles-Patrick, System Development and Engineering Team, as well as the DREN team and people in the Natick Contracting Division.

He also credited the use of the Base Camp Integration Lab, or BCIL, which was created by and is expertly run by, Product Manager Force Sustainment Systems. A first-generation Li-Fi system prototype was recently set up at the BCIL and successfully demonstrated the capability to send and receive data using the BCIL’s IT network.

“The people at the BCIL were incredible,” said Murphy. “They gave us the perfect platform to showcase the tactical capabilities of this device. This project really showcases what Natick is all about. The Natick team dove in with both feet. Great things happen when people believe in each other and in an idea. We all want to help the Soldier.”

Murphy believes that LiFi is truly the wave of the future.

“The demand for data inside the command post is only going to continue to increase,” said Murphy, “So data quantity and quality need to improve to meet this demand. This technology can be hooked up permanently in rigid wall mission command platforms, but it can be used anywhere. We will be bringing world-class communications, security, speed and capability to the frontline Soldier. Information in the field is a weapon. This technology will help the warfighter make better decisions and be more effective and lethal in the field. This changes everything in the IT network system. It’s a game changer.”

By Ms. Jane Benson (RDECOM)

Dickie’s Reflective Prints

Thursday, November 15th, 2018

Although Dickie’s wasn’t the only brand at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market to feature these reflective prints on their garments, this was the best example I had seen. Think safety and not camouflage.

Now, consider designators printed into fabric which only reflect certain bands of light, only visible with the assistance of night vision or thermal devices.

CPS Puts goTenna’s Pro X & ATAK to the Test, Under Canopy

Tuesday, November 13th, 2018

Achieve Total Team Awareness in Any Situation with goTenna Pro X & ATAK
Complete Parachute Solutions recently put goTenna’s ATAK enabled Pro X to the test for off-grid SA & C2, at their advanced training facility in Coolidge, Arizona.

Battle Sight Technologies – MARC IR

Monday, October 22nd, 2018

The MARC IR (Marking Appliance Reusable Chemiluminescence – Infrared) is a pressure-activated chemiluminescence writing instrument that facilitates written or graphic communication in low-light and no-light conditions with the capability to be invisible to the enemy.