The Joint Tactical Radio System: Lessons Learned And The Way Forward
By: Jacques Gansler, William Lucyshyn, John Paul Rigilano
In 1997 the Department of Defense (DoD) launched the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS; pronounced “jitters”), a transformational communications network that will permit warfighters and support personnel to seamlessly transmit voice, picture, and video via a high-capacity wireless network. Since the program’s inception, however, DoD officials have consistently overestimated the ease with which various components of JTRS could be developed and implemented. This has resulted in a program that has experienced delays, unforeseen technical hurdles, and major cost overruns.
JTRS is a software-defined radio (SDR), although it is more like a computer than a traditional radio. Functions that are traditionally built into a radio’s hardware are, instead, implemented through software. As a result, with the proper software, JTRS can emulate a variety of different physical radios, but also has the ability to download data and imagery. An open systems framework known as the Software Communications Architecture (SCA) is key to the system’s interoperability; it “tells designers how elements of hardware and software are to operate in harmony” (Brown, Sticklan, & Babich, 2005, p. 1) thus enabling users of different JTRS variants (airborne, maritime, ground, fixed, etc.) to load and run the same software applications.