By Shannon Lawlor
Perfect conditions for communication on the battlefield are highly unlikely. Buildings, difficult terrain, and mountains can prohibit air signals essential to communication between soldiers. But at the fourth annual Network Modernization Experiment (NetModX), testing for the aerial tier network was conducted. This technology would help improve connectivity among troops' communication lines, regardless of the terrain. Massive progress was made with the testing of this aerial network technology at JBMDL, and we’re finally learning about the results.

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Network Modernization Experiment (NetModX)

NetModX is hosted annually at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. It’s a field-based experimentation event that gives engineers the opportunity to test their developing technologies in an operationally relevant environment. The event is part of a greater Army mission to focus on modernization efforts. A solution to communication issues on the battlefield is solved with aerial tier network communications. This technology was tested at JBMDL for the fourth annual NetModX. The difficult terrain on the base allowed for proper field experimentation of the technology. Communication performance, detectability, and resilience when attacked electronically were all tested at NetModX. The technology was tested with and without the use of directional antennas.

But what exactly is an aerial tier network?

The aerial network focuses on connectivity for troops. It helps relay important information and minimizes reaction time. It uses airborne devices (such as drones) to overcome obstacles that impede the signal. Such obstacles can include mountains, large buildings, or any other kind of difficult terrain. The technology stands out because it can be deployed quickly and efficiently.

Why is aerial tier network technology important now?

The investment in this kind of technology helps the Army prepare for war or conflict with other large world powers. It opens up communication efforts for successful missions regardless of the terrain troops are in. Losing signal or communication increases the possible risk of being ambushed or isolated. Giving troops a technology that ensures signal regardless of the conditions allows for greater cohesion in battle. The two main focus points for research and experimentation were as follows:
  1. How to extend communication to the ground.
  2. How to speed up the time of air-to-air and air-to-ground communication.
Officials wanted to ensure quick communication times to help with warnings of incoming threats. This was a major factor taken into consideration when improving upon the technology. The technology will be experimented with over the next two years. The field-based experiments at NetModX and Project Convergence will evaluate the aerial technology using radios, antenna solutions, Integrated Tactical Network (ITN), and waveforms. The aerial network could extend the existing networks for Army troops. It would benefit anyone on a mission in an area with less-than-ideal conditions. The experimentation done on the aerial network showed promising results for the modernization technology.

The Army Network Cross-Functional Team

The development and testing of different projects and technologies are essential to modernization efforts in the Army. The Army Network Cross-Functional team assisted with the aerial tier network technology at JBMDL. The field experiments conducted prove how beneficial the technology would be. They plan to introduce it into Project Convergence 22. The Project Convergence 22 experiment includes over 100 technologies and focuses on assessing and preparing to incorporate warfighting concepts and technologies on the modern battlefield. It brings together international partners and the military to strengthen important modernization efforts. The modernization efforts are a major focus in the Army. Experimentation and technical demonstrations conducted by the Army Network Cross-Functional team will help push forward these efforts for strengthened military forces. NetModX allowed for field testing of the innovative aerial tier network, which would greatly enhance connectivity among Soldiers in action in the near future, giving American troops a leg-up in battle. The realistic data being collected now allows for the developing technology to be advanced so it can become an asset to future missions.

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