Continually improving test tool ensures top performance of Army radios

June 13, 2013

Story Highlights

  • CEWIS allows analysts to assess the robustness of a communication link. For example, two radios may be brought into the lab, and CEWIS used to inject a jamming signal to disrupt their communications.
  • ARL SLAD has recently used CEWIS to test both vehicle-mounted and man-pack radios.
  • With a resource as valuable as CEWIS, ARL/SLAD's experts in communications EW are not only improving the performance of Army radios, but also enhancing the effectiveness and rigor of the testing that ensures those radios are the world's most capable.

To keep Soldiers safe and the lines of communication open, frequent testing of radios used on the battlefield is imperative. That testing is becoming more automated and efficient with updates to the Communications Electronic Warfare Instrumentation System, or CEWIS, a suite of test equipment developed by the Communications Electronic Warfare Branch of the U.S. Army Research Laboratory's Survivability/Lethality Analysis Directorate.

ARL/SLAD first brought the CEWIS capability online in the mid-1990s and has continually evolved the technology to keep up with the times, explained Jim Lurski, electrical engineer with ARL SLAD. "The newer test equipment is more automated and more capable."

In CEWIS, a variety of test equipment like spectrum analyzers, signal generators and oscilloscopes is combined into a single system. It allows analysts to assess the robustness of a communication link. For example, two radios may be brought into the lab and CEWIS used to inject a jamming signal to disrupt their communications. The jamming signal starts low and is increased until the communication fails. ARL informs the customer (e.g., a program manager or the Army Evaluation Center) of results such as the radios' ability to maintain their link up to a specific level of jamming.

To achieve precision in the testing process, CEWIS transmits several hundred messages at each level of jamming signal. With that many messages, it is important that the process be automated.

"Prior to this we would have to hand set the equipment, and the messaging software would send the messages. After that we would have to go by hand to change up everything from the jammer side, and take the data from each run and store to the side and go through the next run," Lurski explained.

CEWIS is now the main control point for such tests. All of its jamming capabilities are controlled through a workstation, so the characteristics of the signal can be changed easily to accommodate a changing threat.

"The nice thing about CEWIS is that it provides a controlled, repeatable environment," said Lurski. "We can do a test now and compare it to test results from years ago."

Lurski noted that the waveforms used in CEWIS have to evolve to keep pace with the evolution of threat systems. To know which threats must be tested, ARL reviews documentation from intelligence organizations and also applies their own technical expertise to foresee how adversaries' capabilities could evolve.

ARL SLAD has recently used CEWIS to test both vehicle-mounted and man-pack radios. They have performed electronic-warfare testing for the Joint Tactical Radio Systems, or JTRS Rifleman Radio, JTRS Ground Mobile Radio, the Single Channel Ground Air Radio System, or SINCGARS, and the Enhanced Position Location Reporting System, or EPLRS.

Involved with JTRS since its early development, ARL has tested it and provided feedback so problems can be fixed in follow-on development.

Another system for which CEWIS has been invaluable is Nett Warrior, which provides situational awareness and mission command for dismounted Soldiers on the battlefield. ARL pre-tested the Nett Warrior system for the most recent previous Network Integration Evaluation, or NIE, in November 2012, providing useful data for the test planners. Because this approach allowed the Army to track down and eliminate problems encountered in earlier NIEs, it's now being generalized.

As Lurski explained, "The plan is to pretest before each NIE the systems that will be undergoing testing, to ensure that the threat planned for the NIE makes sense."

With a resource as valuable as CEWIS, ARL/SLAD's experts in communications EW are not only improving the performance of Army radios, but also enhancing the effectiveness and rigor of the testing that ensures those radios are the world's most capable.

 

Last Update / Reviewed: June 13, 2013