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Joint-Range Extension Linking Global Network

Joint-Range Extension Linking Global Network

By Daryl Mayer, Electronic Systems Center Public Affairs.

Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts -- (AFPN)  March 16, 2004 -- An Electronic Systems Center-developed product, now deployed in operational theaters worldwide, is linking information cells together into a global network to give warfighters broader communication ability.

Joint-Range Extension is a hardware and software system that receives information transmitted on a tactical data link in a particular area of operations and forwards that information to another tactical data link terminal beyond the line of sight.

With JRE in the field, the impact on access to situational awareness data and time-critical targeting is dramatic, said 1st Lt. Jim Horne, JRE program manager for the tactical data links, gateways and network management system program office here.

He said a B-2 Spirit bomber taking off from Missouri can receive real-time data from the battlefield half way around the world. Throughout its approach, the B-2 crew can receive updates on weather information, location of friendly forces and other data that would otherwise be available only after the aircraft arrived in the target area.

"You can update the mission, even change its target, all while it is en route to the theater," Lieutenant Horne said.

As tactical data link technology evolved throughout the 1990s, increasing information was available to warfighters both in the air and on the ground, Lieutenant Horne said. But that information was only accessible within the tactical data link transmitters' roughly 300-mile range, and none of the various data links were interoperable with the others -- negating much of the information's value.

"Our main task in the gateway vision is to solve that problem," he said. "We had huge communications bogs out there. Forces couldn't communicate across the battlefield because the systems were ‘proprietary).’"

JRE was developed to function in this situation much like a router commonly used in home and business computer networks, he said. JRE gathers information between the various air, ground and sea forces operating in a given area and routes that information across the different data links, effectively creating a wide-area network. It also takes information and transmits it to other routers, linking together other networks much in the same way the Internet links the entire globe.

"JRE uses a variety of secure media, including satellite communications, telephones and Internet protocols to essentially extend the coverage area beyond the line of sight," Lieutenant Horne said.

In the future, the ground-based JRE will work in concert with the Roll-on Beyond Line of Sight Enhancement system, or ROBE, which provides tactical data link information to and from KC-135 Stratotankers acting as aerial relays.

ROBE is known as a "kick-down-the-door" system, meaning it can bring this capability into inaccessible areas or terrain that friendly forces do not own, whereas JRE offers the continuity of a permanent ground station, Lieutenant Horne said.

"They complement each other and, in the end, offer much more flexibility," he said.

JRE systems were used during operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. Lieutenant Horne said there are currently 25 systems still supporting that theater, as well as three systems Marine Corps units are using and four Missile Defense Agency experts are using.

Now in its third phase of development and with data from the interim fielding in hand, the next evolution is in the wings. In its current version the actual JRE hardware that deploys into the field is a rugged server roughly the size of a typical desktop computer, Lieutenant Horne said. Future versions will reduce this size substantially.

The vision is to work toward a software-only package that is also operating system-independent, meaning it could run on a Macintosh, Windows, or Unix-based computer, Lieutenant Horne said.

"We are migrating the code to Java, and then it can be hosted on any platform," he said.

This version is slated for the field in 2006.

"The goal for JRE as well as all the other gateways, like ROBE, gateway manager and air defense systems integrator, is the objective gateway, where all these systems will be able to do the same jobs in the same way, leading to a completely interoperable network," Lieutenant Horne said.

  • Courtesy of Air Force Materiel Command News Service

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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).