DOD rolls out radio-over-IP net

The U.S. Central Command is now using its new Radio-over-IP Router Network (RIPRNET) for convoy operations in Iraq.

The RIPRNET links analog radios to a network capable of transmitting signals regardless of distance or geography, using commercial technology.

The Air Force announced Jan. 19 that RIPRNET has reached a milestone that allows further development work to continue, known as initial operational capability. The system hopes to eliminate the need for dangerous manned radio relay stations in Iraq.

“It enables, for the first time, the Army to pull hundreds of soldiers back inside the wire to main operating bases, rather than keeping them stationed at small outposts along roadsides,” said Lt. Col. Marty Schlacter, chief of the architectures and integration division at CENTCOM’s Combined Air Operations Center (CAOC), in a press release.

The CAOC originally planned RIPRNET for close-air support aircraft flying routine missions over Iraq. But soldiers in theatre extended the range of the system for convoy operations to fill a needed gap in communications.

Soldiers can access the RIPRNET by connecting their radios to a computer console, which converts the analog signal into an Internet protocol (IP) data stream. Through this method, ultrahigh frequency, very high frequency and high frequency (HF) networks can be joined into a common network for command and control (C2), according to the Navy’s Signal magazine.

The RIPRNET was conceived for command and control between ground and air forces, according to an internal Air Force article by Capt David Canady, CENTAF’s Chief Tactical C4 Engineer. RIPRNET was tested under an initiative called Scope Valkyrie, which intends to expand the capability across the military services, he wrote.

“By combining the best in commercial radio technology with the versatility and flexibility of IP networks, Scope Valkyrie will provide a self-healing, scalable, open-source network,” Canady wrote.

The shortage of tactical radios in Iraq has long plagued convoy operations there. Soldiers have employed several stopgap measures since 2003, including buying radios off-the-shelf from Radio Shack.

The Department of Defense plans to ask for significant funding for radios in its fiscal year 2007 supplemental budget request. The Army will request $1.7 billion for the Bridge to Future Networks program, which includes the Joint Networks Node-Network.

Also, the Army will ask Congress for $1.4 billion for the Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System, and $460 million for HF Family Radios, according to the service’s budget submission documents.


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