Joint Network Emulator (JNE)
The Joint Network Emulator (JNE) program started in 2009 as a SBIR project sponsored by what is now the Joint Tactical Networking Center (JTNC). The mission was to research technology to help wth the design and deployment of the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) waveforms and supporting equipment. In April 2011, based on a series of successful demonstrations, a SBIR phase III contract award was made to SCALABLE to transition the research work into an operational product that can be deployed broadly throughout the DoD for JTRS planning, testing and training purposes.
The Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) is an integrated effort to network multiple weapon system platforms and forward combat units where it matters most - at "the last tactical mile". Deploying communications equipment based on the JTRS standards across the different branches of domestic and allied forces (and their civilian counterparts) enables reliable intra- and inter-service communications throughout dynamic environments (such as battlefields or disaster areas).
But, in order to be comprehensively compatible with the wide variety of "legacy" radio systems currently deployed by different services, the JTRS specifications are quite sophisticated using software-defined radio systems that cover dozens of waveforms (some of which are export-controlled under ITAR).
Radio communications provides the fundamental command and control fabric - and frequently the lifeline - for highly mobile forces in a distributed environment. Equipment and applications developers, operational planners, and warfighters who will be in theater all need to understand the behavior of these new radios and their impact on processes, procedures, strategies and tactics.
But, the transition from all of the "legacy" communications systems to JTRS-based equipment takes time, due to both economics and logistics. The impacted parties want to engage in planning, testing and training, but, until they actually receive the new gear, how do they get experience? And, once they have some new gear, how can that be leveraged into understanding behavior in large scenarios?
The JNE "emulates" one or more JTRS-based radios. What this means is that a live physical JTRS radio can interoperate with the JNE, communicating back and forth exactly as if they were both live radios transmitting and receiving over the air. The user of the live JTRS radio cannot tell that they are actually communicating with a simulation.
The most significant benefit of this capability is that JNE provides a high fidelity, highly realistic construct of many hundreds of JNE systems all in a simulated virtual environment. This is a tremendous advantage to technical developers and operational managers who cannot yet afford to acquire any significant number of live systems, but who still have mission objective to meet.
Examples of this capability have been demonstrated on several occasions at various Network Integration Evaluation (NIE) exercises where a JNE deployment enabled a small number of participants with live JTRS radios, interoperating with a very large simulated environment, to experience exactly how this emerging communications technology will perform under true battlefield conditions.
- In advance of receiving actual JTRS-based gear, commanders can plan for the deployment of the new technology. Reading spec sheets is all well and good, but until there is hands-on experience it's difficult to really know how new pieces will fit in.
- High level applications, such as VoIP, can be developed and tested "live" on top of highly realistic software virtual networks.
- Newer isn't always better, since it sometimes changes things that worked well before. Commanders can test the impact of new equipment on established policies and procedures, and the effects of interaction with other equipment, without executing full scale live exercises.
- When new gear arrives, you want to take advantage of it immediately. But, users need training. Train people to really understand new gear before you have the new gear. Users can gain experience working as a part of a large mission, learning effective procedures until they are second nature.
The JNE "product" is a library of network communications models and interfaces built on top of SCALABLE's EXata emulation platform. The JNE library is available at no charge to approved government organizations and defense contractors. Use of JNE requires a commercial licence for the EXata platform, available directly from SCALABLE.