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The RIC-U, is a voice bridge for tactical radios that will allow U.S. forces to seamlessly talk with allies during multi-national operations, yet still protect access to the Army's tactical network. (Photo Credit: Photo by U.S. Army C5ISR Center)
By Douglas Scott, C5ISR Center Public Affairs
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (May 2, 2019) -- The Army Futures Command demonstrated a new capability that will enable secure, real-time radio communication between the U.S. Army and its coalition partners on April 25 during DoD Lab Day at the Pentagon.
The Radio Interoperability Capability -- Universal, or RIC-U, is a voice bridge for tactical radios that will allow U.S. forces to seamlessly talk with allies during multi-national operations, yet still protect access to the Army's tactical network.
"The digital information age we are working in now, we fully understand that technology is turning at a very quick pace, so as that expands, we need to keep up with it," said Gen. John M. Murray, commanding general of Army Futures Command, during his March 9 "Fireside Chat" at South by Southwest 2019 in Austin, Texas. "Tactical radio communications with coalition partners is one of the key problems we have been trying to solve."
The Combat Capabilities Development Command, or CCDC, a major subordinate command within AFC, developed RIC-U. CCDC's Command, Control, Communications, Computer, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, or C5ISR, Center devised, fabricated and tested the device.
"It is definitely important on the tactical level for U.S. forces and coalition forces to be able to communicate instantly," said Rex Johnson, lead engineer for RIC-U at C5ISR Center's Space and Terrestrial Communications Directorate.
"The RIC-U converts the voice to digital, applies filtering, keys up and passes the voice onto the other radio network almost instantly, and eliminates any data that could accidently transmit through the actual device," Johnson explained.
The RIC-U complies with National Security Agency requirements for a tactical voice bridge and is upgradable to address future interoperability requirements between U.S. service radios and those used by allies. The capability will be critical to the Army's future voice communication in the absence of a unified radio that can work between the Army and its coalition and non-coalition partners.
The RIC-U is a follow-up to the Radio Interoperability Capability -- Korea, or RIC-K, which was a customized tactical radio communication link designed specifically for direct, secure communication between U.S. and South Korean Soldiers on the Korean Peninsula.
"The RIC-K has proved itself when using different frequencies, hop sets, communications security and waveforms between ROK and U.S. radios. It provides us with an immediate fight-tonight capability, needed during combined operations," said Col. Randolph S. Wardle, the Eighth United States Army, or EUSA, assistant chief of staff for G6.
The RIC-U is designed to work with the radio voice networks of many U.S. coalition partners. The C5ISR Center is testing and performing demonstrations of the RIC-U with EUSA and the 2nd Infantry Division in Korea; the 77th Armor Regiment; U.S. Army Africa; and U.S. Army Europe. The reaction has been positive.
"They can't wait to get it in their hands for good," said Robert Dicarlo, C5ISR Center programmatic lead for the RIC-U. "This is a real game changer for them, and they want it as soon as possible -- really 'the sooner the better' they say."
The RIC-U, which supports the Army's Modernization priority for Network Communications, Command, Control and Intelligence, is one of six innovative technologies that CCDC brought to DoD Lab Day.
Hosted by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, Defense Laboratories Office, DoD Lab Day is a biennial event that showcases innovative work performed by scientists and engineers within the Defense Laboratory Enterprise, which includes Defense laboratories, warfare centers and engineering centers across the world.
The event presents an opportunity for the labs to display groundbreaking work developed throughout the DoD in support of the Warfighter.
"Our warfighters need to be agile, expeditionary and interoperable, so we are developing tactical network solutions that are mobile, hardened, resilient and able to operate in degraded and contested environments. The RIC-U is just one of many examples of how we've aligned our programs and resources to address Army Modernization priorities and challenges to the warfighter," said Maj. Gen. Cedric T. Wins, CCDC commanding general.
The C5ISR Center anticipates transiting RIC-U to a program of record in the near future.
"We still want to test it with a couple of partners, but we believe we have something completely ready for manufacturing by the end of the year," said Will Daddario, lead for S&TCD's Vulnerability Assessment Team.