Reassessing Air-to-Ground Communication Options with Next-Gen Waveforms


There is a constant need to improve the communication abilities for warfighters. As technologies become more sophisticated, especially in the civilian world, the warfighter must also have access to the latest communications devices. This is particularly true for today’s air-to-ground communication options in the battlespace.

It’s easy to ask why military radios are so expensive and large when today’s warfighter is so used to operating a smartphone that can communicate in just about any manner. But the answer to that is more complicated than simply just replacing a military communications device with a smartphone; it comes down to infrastructure and the ability of a system to provide secure and reliable comms, even in the face of active threats.

Handheld devices like smartphones are predicated on billions of dollars of infrastructure that has been in place for decades. For security and reliability reasons, military radios need to be independent of an infrastructure like that, so the answer is not as simple and putting a smartphone in place of a heavy-duty, complex military radio. It’s also important to keep in mind that air-to-ground and ground-to-ground communications are entirely different animals when looking at data transfer. This is where the benefits of more reliable and affordable wideband communication come to light.

To address this demand for more accessible wideband air-to-ground communication with dependence on costly infrastructure, industry leaders like Collins Aerospace and TrellisWare are partnering to harness the power of new generation waveforms that allow for more direct communication across all domains. New waveform applications like TrellisWare’s approach to the MANET waveform, known as barrage relay networking (BRN), enable more secure message transmission for warfighters in contested environments.

“By taking TrellisWare’s existing, proven, and extensible BRN technology and augmenting its features that enhance secure and networking capabilities that simplify planning and tasking, we are creating a state-of-the-art, but user-friendly, common baseline for air-to-air, air-to-ground, and ground-to-ground communications,” explained Joseph Graf, a Fellow at Collins Aerospace.

This cross-domain availability enables more mobility for the warfighter, offers ease of use and deployment, it’s more affordable than other options like SATCOM, and makes scalability a priority.

“When tackling the need for more reliable and affordable wideband communication, the ability to scale is huge,” noted Jake Williams, Director, C4ISR at Harris Corporation.

The need to refresh the communications infrastructure in the battlespace is imperative if true improvements are going to be made with regards to wideband air-to-ground communication. Exploring new waveform options and making that cross-domain communication more seamless for the warfighter is a big step in the right direction.