Joint Tactical Networking Center: Making Software Radios Interoperable, Secure, and Affordable

by Greg Giaquinto, Electronic Systems Analyst, Forecast International.


The Joint Tactical Networking Center (JTNC) was created following the cancellation of the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) program.  The U.S. Department of Defense needed an entity to store the software communications waveforms developed under the JTRS program, and consequently established the JTNC.

The JTNC ensures interoperable, secure, and affordable waveform and wireless communications by recommending standards, conducting compliance and certification analyses in accordance with DoD policies, and maintaining a DoD Waveform Information Repository (IR).  Its operations support the needs of service, multi-service, and coalition forces.

Importantly, the JTNC provides a validated open systems reference architecture that separates the waveform/network manager from the radio set.  It also permits common software communications waveforms to be deployed across multiple vendors’ radio sets.

The JTNC is designed to enable more cost-effective capability growth by applying the concept of competition to an acquisition strategy.  The center’s business model – the reuse of government-owned software by multiple communications vendors – represents a paradigm shift for defense communications, according to an article in Army AL&T magazine ( by Maj. William Brickner.  Says Brickner, “It [the JTNC] moves away from sole-source, stovepiped, proprietary systems to a highly competitive, interoperable networking environment.”

Because the JTNC puts software communications waveforms under “one umbrella,” it results in cost savings for communications companies since they don’t have to develop their own communications waveforms from scratch.  Further, it ensures that radios made by different communications vendors are compatible, as they are all using software communications waveforms from the IR.  And finally, it promotes the development of new software communications waveforms for the repository by government-private sector partnerships, thereby spreading the cost of development between government and industry.

Among the benefits of the JTNC is the rapid turnaround time for deployment of a software communications waveform.  Because the software in the IR is already written, the communications vendor can download it onto the radio in minutes, vs. the long lead times in loading software onto a radio when has to be written from scratch.

Although the Joint Tactical Radio System never came to fruition, something positive did result from the JTRS program: the software communications waveforms.  The resulting Joint Tactical Networking Center is therefore a “win, win” for the DoD and communications vendors.


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