BUTLERVILLE, Ind. - Cellphone technology is used every day by people of all ages to keep in constant communication. Now the military is testing the same technology for use in battle space communications.
During Bold Quest 13.2, a joint technology demonstration and test going on at the Atterbury-Muscatatuck Complex in southern Indiana, a system called Jolted Tactics is being fielded which uses a 4G LTE cellular signal to connect military personnel with each other and their command using handheld devices that an entire generation of young people have grown up with.
Alfred Knight is the lead system engineer for the Jolted Tactics program for the Joint Staff J6. He says that he wants communication on the full-spectrum battlefield to catch up to what is expected in the modern world with instant photos and video as well as radio.
"We're not trying to replace radio," says Knight. "We're trying to give the [military personnel] something additional they can take to the battlefield. Radios were designed for the voice network world, but we're trying to bring us up to date."
At their headquarters on Muscatatuck Urban Training Center, testers watch a live video feed from a camera mounted on the helmet of a Canadian infantry soldier, one of the 12 coalition partners taking part in Bold Quest 13.2 while an electronic map of the facility shows where everybody is at all times.
Unlike the Wi-Fi and wireless systems which civilians use every day, the Jolted Tactics program establishes its own network. Two mobile cell towers in the form of Ford F-250s fitted with cellular systems aboard and a Pilatus PC-12 aircraft, which can disperse a secure cellular network for more than 40 miles while flying at several thousand feet, create an insular, secure cellular network which is not dependent on any civilian system.
"We don't create anything inside of our lab back in C4 [Command, Control, Communications and Computers] Assessments Division, Joint Staff J6," said Lt. Col. Scott Brooks, project lead and joint capability technology demonstration manager for the Joint Staff J6. "We work with commercial, off-the-shelf technology and partner with industry. We're an integrator that brings everything together for our warfighters."
Using off-the-shelf technology greatly decreases the amount of time it takes to get technology into the hands of the warfighter. From design to deployment, it used to take five years or more to field a piece of equipment. On Aug. 23, Jolted Tactics became a Joint Capability Technology Demonstration through the Office of the Secretary of Defense, which means Brooks has less than 24 months to field the program.
"Transition from testing to a program within the Army and Navy is actually scheduled for the next 12 to 18 months," Brooks continues. "They're excited to get the technology in their hands and start using it."
Jolted Tactics is proving that off-the-shelf technology can be used to quickly get modern communications gear into the hands of personnel who can use it without hours of complicated training, because it's what they have been using for years according to Knight.
"We have a lot riding on our shoulders, but it's an exciting time," Brooks concludes. "We will deliver a capability to our warfighters regardless of the battle space ... in the palm of their hands."
Bold Quest 13.2 is a combined demonstration going on at Camp Atterbury, Muscatatuck Urban Training Center, the 122nd Fighter Wing at Fort Wayne, Ind., Grissom Joint Air Reserve Base, and Jefferson Proving Ground in southern Indiana with Bold Quest coalition partners to assess the integration of joint fires, maneuver and cyber in a live/virtual environment and to help enhance combat effectiveness, reduce fratricide and improve situational awareness.