Ra­dio Gate­way con­nects US and Al­lied troops to a com­mon mo­bile net­work


Multi­na­tional forces, US Gov­ern­ment agen­cies and US troops op­er­at­ing to­gether in for­ward-de­ployed lo­ca­tions gen­er­ally have prob­lems com­mu­ni­cat­ing—and not just due to lan­guage dif­fer­ences. Tech­ni­cal in­com­pat­i­bil­ity be­tween com­mu­ni­ca­tions sys­tems can hin­der in­for­ma­tion shar­ing and timely com­mand and con­trol de­ci­sions. The De­fense Ad­vanced Re­search Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Mo­bile Ad hoc In­ter­op­er­abil­ity Net­work Gate­way (MAIN­GATE) pro­gramme is help­ing over­come this tech­nol­ogy bar­rier. The pro­gramme is near­ing com­ple­tion and plans to trans­fer the lat­est ver­sion of the sys­tem to Army warfight­ers still en­gaged in Afghanistan, but who are now fo­cused more on Force Pro­tec­tion as US forces draw down. The MAIN­GATE sys­tem is pro­vid­ing in­sights into tac­ti­cal net­work­ing of the fu­ture, where sys­tems will need more adapt­abil­ity and ca­pa­bil­ity. The sys­tem is pack­aged in a way that pro­vides real-world ca­pa­bil­i­ties like no other ex­ist­ing sys­tem.

The MAIN­GATE sys­tem com­bines two ad­vanced tech­nolo­gies to pro­vide a re­li­able, in­ter­op­er­a­ble net­work for con­nect­ing cur­rent and fu­ture forces from the tac­ti­cal edge. The first tech­nol­ogy is MAIN­GATE’s high ca­pac­ity Wire­less IP Net­work (WIPN) ra­dio, which pro­vides a ter­res­trial “Ev­ery­thing over IP” back­bone with am­ple ca­pac­ity to sup­port mul­ti­ple chan­nels of voice, video and data. The sec­ond tech­nol­ogy is MAIN­GATE’s In­ter­op­er­abil­ity Gate­way, which pro­vides in­ter­con­nec­tiv­ity for users with in­com­pat­i­ble com­mu­ni­ca­tions equip­ment. The MAIN­GATE sys­tem pro­vides a tac­ti­cal mid-tier com­mu­ni­ca­tions ca­pa­bil­ity be­tween front-line troops and or­gan­i­sa­tions, and the higher-level sys­tems like the Army’s Warfighter In­for­ma­tion Net­work – Tac­ti­cal (WIN-T) in­fra­struc­ture.

“MAIN­GATE is de­signed to be a po­tent com­mu­ni­ca­tions force mul­ti­plier for joint and com­bined forces,” said Keith Grem­ban, DARPA Pro­gram Man­ager. “From a ra­dio per­spec­tive, MAIN­GATE al­lows coali­tion forces to plug in their own ra­dio sys­tems and MAIN­GATE takes the nec­es­sary steps so ev­ery­one can com­mu­ni­cate in real time.”

DARPA has been de­vel­op­ing MAIN­GATE since 2008, and var­i­ous el­e­ments of the tech­nol­ogy have al­ready made their way into ex­ist­ing US Army sys­tems. Army brigade-level ex­er­cises have tested a num­ber of MAIN­GATE units, as have op­er­a­tional tri­als with US and coali­tion forces in Afghanistan. The sys­tem has al­ready proven its worth; dur­ing a re­cent op­er­a­tional de­ploy­ment in Afghanistan, MAIN­GATE en­abled shar­ing of data be­tween dif­fer­ent coali­tion part­ners’ sys­tems so a com­man­der in the base de­fence op­er­a­tions center could view a video feed of an at­tempted base in­tru­sion as it oc­curred. That sort of real-time co­or­di­na­tion wasn’t pos­si­ble be­fore.

A key fea­ture of MAIN­GATE is that it is de­signed to be up­grade­able to fu­ture tech­nolo­gies, so the sys­tem stays cur­rent with the lat­est com­mer­cial IP-based com­mu­ni­ca­tions tech re­fresh. This de­sign flex­i­bil­ity al­lows ad­vances in mil­i­tary and com­mer­cial sys­tems to quickly in­te­grate state-ofthe-art ca­pa­bil­i­ties to the front-line troops, some­thing that is tremen­dously chal­leng­ing for cur­rent tac­ti­cal sys­tems. Be­yond sup­port­ing US and coali­tion forces, MAIN­GATE has the po­ten­tial to sup­port civil­ian first re­spon­ders in cri­sis sit­u­a­tions where mul­ti­ple agen­cies and or­gan­i­sa­tions con­verge with of­ten in­com­pat­i­ble com­mu­ni­ca­tions sys­tems. With MAIN­GATE, they could all plug in and com­mu­ni­cate on a com­mon net­work.

“We’re tran­si­tion­ing a proven ca­pa­bil­ity that can be kept up to date with the lat­est IP tech­nol­ogy stan­dards,” Grem­ban said. “Just as a smart­phone of­fers the ca­pa­bil­ity to do more than make phone calls, MAIN­GATE is much more than a ra­dio—it’s a back­bone ar­chi­tec­ture en­abling video, data and voice shar­ing among a diver­sity of net­works and de­vices.”

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