Raytheon Touts Internet-Wired Strykers

As the U.S. Army decides how many new radios to buy for its ground vehicles, Raytheon Co. wants the service to know that its existing system in Strykers already offers Internet-like connectivity.

The Waltham, Mass.-based company has given a decades-old battlefield communications network a digital makeover by upgrading the hardware and software that support roughly 20,000 radios in ground vehicles, from Humvee utility trucks to Stryker armored troop carriers to M1 Abrams tanks.

The latest version of the so-called Enhanced Position Location Reporting System increases connectivity to more than 2 megabits per second, up from what was once as little as 57 kilobits per second, company officials said. Now, troops can use a Toughbook laptop computer tethered to an AN/TSQ-158 radio to access the military’s classified network to chat, pass intelligence or browse secure websites, they said.

“It’s 40 times faster than it was,” Timothy Strobel, an engineer at Raytheon, said in a telephone interview with Military.com. “When you’re dealing with that kind of capability, you don’t have to send packetized, fixed-formatted messages. You can send standard, Internet-style messaging.”

The system, known in military parlance as EPLRS (pronounced “e-plars”), can also connect to the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network, or SIPRNet, to run newer force-tracking software programs such as the Tactical Ground Reporting System, or TIGR, and the Command Post of the Future, or CPOF, in addition to the older program Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below, or FBCB2.

Raytheon wants to dispel the notion that the system is only good for low-bandwidth applications, such as the latter.

“Lots of people had the impression that EPLRS could only be used for FBCB2,” Strobel said. “We’ve been modernizing the software on an annual basis, even though the Army hasn’t been taking advantage of the new capabilities.”

All a soldier needs to unleash the faster connectivity is an Ethernet cord.

“It’s like hooking up a laptop to a home network,” Strobel said. “All that’s required is an additional cable.”

Earlier this year, Raytheon demonstrated the technology with an Army unit in Afghanistan. Now, the company is trying to highlight the system’s potential while making the case that the service would be better off spending its limited funding for new radios on other brigades.

“The grassroots effort that we’ve been running is just to inform the user of the capability they already have in their vehicles,” Patrick Gibson, who manages the EPLRS program at Raytheon, said during the interview. “There’s a value proposition to be made and we’re out there trying to make it.”

Meanwhile, the Army is moving forward with plans to buy two-channel digital radios for combat vehicles despite the prospect of another round of automatic budget cuts, known as sequestration, after Jan. 1.

The service in September awarded Melbourne, Fla.-based Harris Corp. a potential $140 million contract for at least 232 new radios as part of the Mid-Tier Networking Vehicular Radio, or MNVR, program.

About the Author

Brendan McGarry
Brendan McGarry is the managing editor of Military.com. He can be reached at brendan.mcgarry@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.
  • elmondohummus

    Insert Skynet joke here.

    But hey, I for one welcome our new Terminator overlords. I mean, do I have any choice?

  • elmondohummus

    Ok, jokes aside: This really does help solve problems inherent in widespread operations. Having good realtime communications that go beyond voice can really help people be completely current, nearly to the minute, of where a unit is, what it’s doing, etc. The only problem is information overload, and while that’s indeed a real problem, I’d argue that at least that can be dealt with via filtering, delegation of tasks, etc., whereas information scarcity by its very nature cannot be dealt with as effectively. You can divide up data consumption, but you can’t divide what’s not there.

    This is a good development. Aside from being a harbinger of Terminator Judgement Day, that is. :(

  • Hector Q.

    Will the system come with a porn filer, because without one, you know that there will be some who will use it for that-even in the field! ;-)

  • hibeam

    Leave the Strykers at home. Pound the enemy into dust with drones.

  • tmb2

    This is old news. We took the upgraded EPLRS network to Afghanistan back in 2010 and used it to push classified data down to individual COPs and checkpoints.

  • Mitch S.

    Hope there’s good security to go with it.
    Problem is today’s secure software is tomorrow’s vulnerable software.
    In the commercial world there are many players that expose weaknesses and alert vendors.
    For these classified mil systems, it seems to me a serious “Red Team” should be operating to find vulnerabilities because the opposition isn’t going to tell us when they find them. (Hopefully that exists already)

  • TonyC.

    The Chinese were seeing everything in real time?

    • Big-B

      Yes they are the “Red Team” Mitch mentioned

  • Vitsing

    Deja Vous circa 1997 when PM EPLRS came to Army Digitization Office (ADO) to tell us about the new 57 Kbs Capability. Left unsaid was that this was a single user Point-to-Point capability.

    Now their back with a 2 Mbs Capability, without revealing the fact that the Ethernet Protocol requires 50% of the bandwidth just for it’s overhead. What other caveats are they not mentioning??? in their Sales Pitch to obtain more funding.

    • kaisersoze

      Maybe with a small Ethernet frame (<100 bytes), the overhead could be considered to be 50%, but realistically, that is amazingly inefficient regardless of the data link. Chances are, if using standard implementations of TCP/IP, you're looking at varying frame lengths which allow for more payload.

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