Consider how the JTRS system differs from that of your cellphone or laptop. There are more than 200,000 cellphone towers in the U.S., which route communications through an elaborate network of cables and computers. Wireless Internet is only wireless in the limited distance between your laptop and the base station. Even the satellite-Internet services used by people in remote areas eventually tie back to a hardwired network. Since a battlefield environment typically has none of this infrastructure, JTRS radios must pick up all of the slack for moving data around. It's as if each device were both cellphone and tower.
Current Army radios are used primarily in the conventional, walkie-talkie way, and only minimally for data, because they transmit just 2.4 kilobits of information per second. The JTRS units are being designed to manage up to two megabits per second. That's still far slower than a basic home cable-Internet connection. But it will allow the units to handle voice, text and photos. Chris Brady, a vice president at General Dynamics C4 Systems, which is developing the most compact and portable versions of the new radios, calls JTRS "the glue that holds the whole lower tier of FCS together."
When you talk to people about FCS, few bits of military jargon get more airplay than "situational awareness" -- soldier-speak for "knowing what the hell is going on." Knowing the battlefield locations of friends and enemies. That a resupply vehicle is a mile behind you. That insurgents are launching attacks from an abandoned apartment, or that the location is in fact a mosque occupied by civilians. If the JTRS radios are the primary means by which this information will be moved around the battlefield, the purpose of many of the other FCS components is to collect more and better information to feed into the network.single page
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.