No Strings

Advancements in Short Range Wireless Communications


Clear, reliable communication is always a primary concern for soldiers during various missions. The ability for soldiers to communicate with each other easily and effectively is key to performing successful operations, and has proven to be a challenging problem to overcome in military field operations.

It's hard to imagine in a "world gone wireless" that soldiers still rely on hand signals and interphone cords for communication while performing complex and often times dangerous tasks.

Communication Needs

When a CH-47 Chinook flies into an area carrying a multi-ton load harnessed to the bottom of the helicopter, the loadmaster on board has no verbal communication with the ground troops waiting for the cargo. They rely strictly on visual signals to direct the loadmaster (who in turn relays to the pilot) how far to lower the cargo and the aircraft. Imagine what a dangerous position the ground troops are in to be visible to the loadmaster and yet remain a safe distance from the cargo being dropped.

When a HH-60 Pave Hawk performs a search and rescue operation, the rescue crewman is lowered down from the aircraft on a harness; he/she is also limited to hand signals to the pilot and crew on board the aircraft. This proves to be extremely dangerous when lowered into violent seas and/or in dangerous combat conditions.

Short-range communications are virtually non-existent when Air Force crewmen perform critical cargo drops; when US Coast Guard response boats are sent into unstable waters; when a US Marine squad is deployed into the battlefield or when a US Army crew disembarks from an armored vehicle. Even fundamental operations such as aircraft towing and pushback for commercial airlines require one operator to be connected to the aircraft through a long interphone cord with no communication to the wing walkers or tug driver.

Developing a Solution

In the summer of 2000, the US Army Aircrew Integrated Systems Project Office contracted Telephonics to perform a study of wireless intercommunication technology under a program called AWIS (Aircraft Wireless Intercom System). The goal of the program was to identify the best method of facilitating wireless communication between crewmembers during hot refueling, loading, off-loading and rearming. Telephonics successfully conducted the study and was subsequently contracted for the design and development stage of the program. In 2003, final tests and qualification were completed, and AWIS was added to the Air Warrior program (http://peosoldier.army.mil/). The Air Warrior system integrates all aviation life-support and mission equipment into an aircrew ensemble. AWIS will be included in the ensemble and be outfitted on every CH-47 and UH-60 in the Army fleet.

AWIS was the first stepping-stone to a wider military utilization of wireless intercommunications. Realizing that similar communication deficiencies existed across multiple applications, Telephonics initiated a research effort to understand the scope of the problem and create a solution for all DOD agencies.

In 2004 Telephonics launched its latest product line — TruLink®. This system has all the functionality of AWIS with the added flexibility to work across multiple applications in various environments.

TruLink Overview

TruLink is a full duplex, frequency hopping spread spectrum system, operating within the 2.4 GHz band. The system provides 50 independent channels. On any one of those channels, 31 operators can monitor a single channel. On any single channel, six operators can speak simultaneously providing true intercom capability.

TruLink has three configurations: first, a stand-alone intercom system where an access point can interface to up to three long-range radios. The wireless users in this configuration can transmit and receive over the radios and maintain private intercom capability among each other.

The second configuration acts as a soldier's short-range tactical radio. Here, each soldier's wireless radio networks together to allow squad level intercommunications.

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