Print 61 comment(s) - last by rcc.. on Apr 1 at 4:26 PM

The B2 Bomber's radar frequency was recently sold to a Russian entrepeneur on accident. The incident emphasized the military's increasing spectrum woes.  (Source: U.S. Air Force)

The F22 Raptor's AWACS targeting probably won't work outside the U.S. This is just one of the many costly spectrum issues the Air Force and armed forces are having in the U.S. as civilian spectrum use increases.  (Source: Wikimedia)
Costly blunders and redesigns all part of military networking growth pains

The U.S. military originally had a virtual monopoly of certain communications channels.  It was one of the few entities to be using internet, and it used many areas of the spectrum untouched by civilian communications.  However, with the digital revolution and the expansion of civilians onto the internet and increasing using of the digital spectrum, the military is finding adapting to the deprivation of these bands difficult.

Last year during the bandwidth auction, the portion of the spectrum used by the B-2 bomber's Raytheon APQ-181 radar was accidentally sold to an obscure multinational organization according to  As a result, U.S. taxpayers will be footing the over $1B USD bill to replace the radar in the 20 remaining jets.

With users demanding video-ready smartphones, high-speed mobile internet, and other emerging applications, the military is finding that the spectrum is quickly disappearing, and it’s having trouble finding areas for its own sensitive technologies.

Other expensive losses abound.  The Joint Tactical Information Distribution System, a costly system used to get AWACS targeting data to F-22 fighter jets has "limited supportability outside the continental U.S."

Another key issue is the steady creep of civilian communications into the spectrum used for flight-test telemetry.  While there are workarounds to gather some additional information, telemetry data remains essential to testing both manned and unmanned aircraft and protecting pilots from failures.

Ultimately, more data takes more bandwidth -- an unalterable fact -- and to achieve higher frequencies more power is required.  This places inherent limitations to the amount of data capable of being communicated over the spectrum.

Military designers are in a sticky situation as they can't compress their data, in many cases, like civilian applications.  "This is not a cell phone,” said Darrell Ernst. "You can't ask the pilot to wait while you redial."

Ernst works for the Mitre Corp., a member of a U.S.-European delegation trying to raise international awareness of bandwidth issues, and estimates that by 2020 the Air Force will need 600 MHz of spectrum for telemetry data.  Currently the only vacant spot suggested to them is the 5091 and 5150 MHz band.  The Air Force is eager to occupy even this meager 59 MHz offer.  States Mr. Ernst, "If [the flight-test community] can get in there and start using it, we can be established as the primary user and it will be hard for them to throw us out."

When it comes to the spectrum issues, there are few good answers, just more fears and doubts.  As a final example of the industry problems, when the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) test program is flying two missions no other combat aircraft will be able to fly in the Western U.S.  States Mr. Ernst, "They're the 600-lb. gorilla. They don't see that they have any reason to move, and they don't have the radios to do it."

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

Get Holistic
By KristopherKubicki on 3/23/2009 12:28:07 PM , Rating: 2
It's the military -- 59 MHz for communication seems like exactly the 59 MHz I'd jam if I was up against something like this.

What the military should be doing is make their hardware work on any available frequency and optimize on the fly. But that's just me. And others have said, this is the military, you just change the rules in the FCC if there's an issue not vice versa.

RE: Get Holistic
By MozeeToby on 3/23/2009 12:44:36 PM , Rating: 4
It's called software-defined radios. Specifically, int he US it is known as JTRS and we've spent a lot of money on it over the last decade or so.

There's a lot of electrical and antenna engineering that needed to go into creating a system that is capable of receiving signals from such a wide range of frequencies; when the project was first started there were a lot of people that claimed it was physically impossible to do (they were wrong, radios are in use already which fit the spec).

More importantly, the article seams to be mixing two slightly different subjects. One is the B-2 radar spectrum being sold. The second is flight test telemetry radios (radios used to send position and instrument information to the ground for the monitoring of flight tests). The 59 MHz chunk is for flight testing telemetry, it isn't for combat operations.

RE: Get Holistic
By rudy on 3/23/2009 12:47:01 PM , Rating: 2
Exactly these air craft have no chance if they cannot deal with massive interference since that is exactly what ever enemey already does and will keep doing.

RE: Get Holistic
By Mojo the Monkey on 3/23/2009 3:06:07 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, I am not inspired with confidence if civilian companies buying parts of a spectrum make their targeting systems worthless.... wtf? in any real threat where these high end fighters would be truly needed, one can almost guarantee a sophisticated enemy with the capability to throw up some interference on all of these frequencies!

please tell me there are redundant systems that we just dont know about...

RE: Get Holistic
By rcc on 3/23/2009 4:06:06 PM , Rating: 2
It may well be that the Military won't have a problem with the link if a civilian entity is using the frequency. After all, it is designed for jamming scenarios. However, the civilian entity especting to use that spectrum would likely not appreciate being dumped off the air every time the appropriate aircraft cruises through.

RE: Get Holistic
By RagingDragon on 3/28/2009 1:13:22 PM , Rating: 2
Military combat systems would have ECCM (Electronic Counter Counter Measures), but would these affect just the one problematic frequency, or would they disrupt a wide range of civilian frequencies? I'm not certain it would be possible to use these systems domestically, or during peace time.

The telemetry systems for test flights are not intended for use in combat; therefore, they wouldn't be built with jamming in mind.

RE: Get Holistic
By rcc on 4/1/2009 4:26:12 PM , Rating: 2
I doubt that commercial traffic is going to impact a B2s radar (not that they use it much). OTOH, if the B2 fires up the radar while the civilian channel is in use......

As far as telemetry channels go, some are pretty vanilla. Some are encrypted and have strong error correction capabilities. But no, they aren't generally configured with jamming in mind.

"Let's face it, we're not changing the world. We're building a product that helps people buy more crap - and watch porn." -- Seagate CEO Bill Watkins
Related Articles

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki