DOD taps Harris for crypto work

Defense Department officials soon will get their hands on the first advanced cryptographic software prototypes developed by Harris Corp. in support of the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS).

JTRS uses software-centric radios that can be programmed to patch users into various radio frequencies. Radios in use today were designed to work in a specific frequency range, and each of the military services has used its own frequency. Joint tactical radios can be programmed for any waveform.

The cryptographic software prototypes are part of a contract awarded last month by the JTRS Joint Program Office, Arlington, Va. The contract requires Harris to develop, test and deliver cryptographic software products for the Sierra II cryptographic module and associated peripheral processors.

Sierra II is a miniaturized programmable module that can be integrated into radios and other voice and data communication devices to encrypt classified information prior to transmission and storage. The product is based on the Sierra I module, which was certified by the National Security Agency (NSA) in June 2002

The new software will replace legacy external encryption hardware functionality and support JTRS legacy and newly defined waveforms, said Dick Rzepkowski, vice president of government systems in Harris' RF Communications Division. He added that the company would deliver the first prototype Sierra II modules with cryptographic modes this fall.

"The software being developed under this contract has two major focuses," Rzepkowski said. "First, it enables the programmable Sierra II encryption module to emulate a number of legacy cryptographic solutions for backward interoperability during rollout of the new JTRS equipment. Second, in addition to those legacy modes, new cryptographic modes will be implemented to support high-speed networking and data transfer on the battlefield of the future."

DOD is calling the future high-speed capability "Wideband Networking Waveform," and the Harris contract also will result in the cryptographic modes necessary to support that new waveform, he said.

"Once the Wideband Networking Waveform is implemented, there will be a significant increase in the data-sharing capabilities of the commanders across the battlefield," Rzepkowski said. "Some of the data will be routed from unmanned aerial vehicles overhead, or from unmanned ground sensors placed in strategic locations to monitor movements that might be of particular interest in planning and executing the battle strategy."

Harris will build the cryptographic software, and the NSA will then evaluate it for future certification. The initial task orders will focus on the waveforms to support JTRS Cluster 1, and additional task orders and waveform support will be incrementally added to existing Sierra II products through its reprogramming capabilities, he said.

The indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract, which is worth up to $10 million, was awarded Jan. 28 and work has already begun, but Harris is continuing to recruit engineers to contribute to the JTRS program, Rzepkowski said.

Last June, Boeing Co. was awarded an $856 million contract to spearhead the development and initial production of the first generation of JTRS, and Harris is one of many contractors working on various aspects of the program. In December 2002, The Army's Communications Electronics Command awarded Cubic Corp. a contract worth up to $14 million to develop an interoperable waveform, or signal, supporting JTRS.

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