Army awards secure joint tactical radios

The Joint Tactical Radio System may still be a few years from completion, but the Army recently selected General Dynamics Decision Systems to provide cryptographic software for the Advanced INFOSEC Machine (AIM) processor chip that will encrypt voice and data communications sent to and from the futuristic radios.

The JTRS is a software-centric radio that can be programmed to patch users into various radio frequencies. Radios in use today were designed to work in a specific frequency range; each of the military services uses its own frequency. Joint tactical radios can be programmed for any waveform, and initial production is expected in 2005, according to the prime contractor, Boeing Co.

On Dec. 5, 2002, the Army awarded General Dynamics Decision Systems a $10 million contract to develop, test and deliver cryptographic software products to run on the radios' AIM chips, which can be used in the JTRS prototypes for airborne, maritime and ground applications. The software will be delivered to the JTRS Joint Program Office by the third quarter of 2003; the office will then make it available for use by select radio manufacturers, according to the company.

The AIM chip is a flexible and highly secure programmable device that allows government users to embed security functions in the radios and upgrade security with a software download.

The chip can execute multiple algorithms at the same time, which enables secure communications between older fielded equipment and the next generation of radios currently in development. The product also allows for interoperability with coalition forces, according to Tim Hall, director of the information assurance operation at General Dynamics Decision Systems.

Hall said that software-programmable encryption will improve communication security "by enabling faster algorithm upgrades and faster reloading of algorithms if a compromise is suspected."

The AIM chip received Type 1 certification from the National Security Agency in December 1999.

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