DOÑA ANA RANGE COMPLEX, N.M. – Hollywood movies make it look so simple. On film, soldiers can pick up a radio receiver and they’re instantly able to talk to any nearby aircraft.
In reality, it can be much more difficult to establish communications with air assets, especially when ground troops have no idea which frequency an aircraft is operating on. Radios can only communicate to other radios on the same frequency, so quite frequently multiple middlemen are involved to either rely messages or connect the two.
A new piece of equipment under evaluation, called Romer Net, proposes to solve this issue and eliminate any middlemen by instantly obtaining the frequency of any aircraft overhead and translating it into a usable signal for all parties involved.
“It may not look like much but, it has a great impact,“ said Sgt. Terrance M. Lane, a signal support systems noncommissioned officer from 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division. “It doesn’t have all the flashy lights, but it does the job it needs to do. It’s a simple, but elegant design.”
All it consists of is a tripod, a couple of disks and some wires, and the entire system fits into a case the approximate size of a golf bag. When it’s set up, it simply sits on a nearby base and goes to work.
Lane, who is trained on the new system, said the antenna uses a combination of already established technology to scan the airspace overhead and pick up a signal. The Romer Net then securely translates messages between all involved parties and does so instantly without anyone having to change frequencies, which allows Soldiers on the battlefield to call for help without delay just like in Hollywood films.
The system is currently under evaluation in a capabilities assessment called the Network Integration Evaluation 13.1, which places prospective equipment under combat-like conditions in the El Paso, Texas, desert and surrounding areas. Feedback from NIE then allows developers to improve equipment and gives the Army an opportunity to see products in action before deciding to buy them.
“With the NIE in El Paso, especially with all this dust, I think if a piece of equipment can prove its capabilities here, that’s a great step in the right direction,” said Capt. Juan C. Gutierrez, a communications officer-in-charge for 2nd BCT.
The Romer Net still has to undergo the rigors of NIE and other evaluations before the Army commits to it, but if nothing else, its existence shows America’s military closing the gap of science fiction and science fact. Perhaps one day, the reality of the present will even surpass the fantasy of film.