Tech Briefs

Software enables realistic, real-time tactical communications scenarios.

Military planners are aggressively developing network-centric warfare platforms that use wireless communications as a force multiplier. The aim of these programs is to provide warfighters with the best equipment and technology to achieve tactical dominance as soon as practical.

Software virtual networks (SVNs), built with emulation technology, enable wireless network designers to evaluate new components and technologies faster and at much lower cost than previously possible. SVNs are high-fidelity emulations of physical networks - exact digital replicas of real network components. Until now, there has been no efficient, scalable, and low-cost method for design and analysis of mobile wireless network systems.

The Net-Centric Kill Chain Training Scenario. The design objective of this kill chain is to enable the sequence from initial intelligence discovery to final missile launch to happen in a matter of minutes.
A software program called EXata creates SVNs with high levels of realism. Any hardware, software, or human user connected to the SVN is not able to tell the difference between a real network component and its emulated counterpart.

This high level of realism makes SVNs suitable platforms for operations training, much like the flight simulators used to train pilots. The figure depicts a net-centric kill chain training scenario. In this example, the chain of command starts with on-the-ground troops and moves through intelligence links like satellite and predators, and then out through satcom links to the weapons systems. The design objective of this kill chain is to enable the sequence from initial intelligence discovery to final missile launch to happen in a matter of minutes. It covers a wide geographical area and a broad spectrum of roles. Leveraging the same SVN used to design the kill chain as the training platform adds substantial cost efficiencies and dramatically shortens time to deployment.

An SVN that delivers exact digital replicas shares the following characteristics with the real network it replaces:

  • Same Behavior and Logic. For instance, a real router can't discern between emulated network nodes and real ones. To achieve this, the protocol stacks, middleware, network-centric services and applications in an emulated environment must be equivalent to the real network systems.
  • Same Interaction and Language. Same interaction means the response from an emulated network has the correct content, or language, including byte order, packet contents, packet headers, etc. An exact digital replica allows the real network to interact with it on whatever layer of the protocol stack is called for. In other words, emulators must support cross-layer technologies.
  • Same Response and Timing. Response time is critical in emulation. In order to respond like a physical network, the emulation must process network events no slower than, or no faster than, real time. The concept of timing synchronization granularity means that the emulation must represent packets and time at a level fine enough to perfectly synchronize with the external world.