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Software Defined Radio for Indian Navy

Published Nov 14, 2018
Updated Jun 18, 2020

After induction, Indian Navy would be able to carry out net-centric operations confidently using indigenous state-of-the-art radios.

Tactical operations require robust communication system having security, jam-proof mechanism, and built-in capability for future updations. However, very few of present systems in use by Indian Services have built-in security, anti- jam features, networking capability and architecture for future functionality enhancements. Most of the current systems in use are narrow band and some of them were procured from foreign sources with Indian add-on security.

Considering importance of indigenous communication systems for naval operations, Indian Navy started a project, Integrated Development of Software Defined Radio for Navy (INDESDR), in July 2010 through DRDO’s Defence Electronics Applications Laboratory (DEAL) led consortium for development of five different Software Defined Radios (SDRs) form factors (SDR-Naval Communication, SDR-Tactical, SDR- Airborne, SDR-Manpack and SDR-Hand-held) and associated waveforms as per the Navy’s requirements. Thesefive-form factors would address needs of Indian Navy for surface, ships, specific air platforms (Dornier) and marines.

The SDRs being developed by DEAL would replace existing single purpose hardware-based communication systems used by the Navy through multi-band, multi-function, multi-role/ mission radios having capabilities for software-based re-configurability. These SDRs are able to interoperate with all legacy naval tactical radios and have integrated mission specific waveforms. The most complex and critical waveform is Mobile ad hoc Networking (MANET) having built-in Electronic Counter- Countermeasures (ECCM) capability for dynamic networking among naval assets on the move.

Two critical components of radio software environment—SCA Core Framework (SCA CF) and CORBA (Common Object Request Broker Architecture) have been developed indigenously. In addition, the SDR hardware has Software Programmable Digital Processing and RF Modules. An Integrated Graphical Human Machine Interface (HMI) helps in Radio Configuration/Monitoring and a High Level Network Management Software in effective utilization of radio communication resources by external Network Centric Operation (NCO) applications onboard naval ships.

The development activities for all SDR form factors and waveforms have been completed including user-assisted developer trials. The SDR-NC form factor of the project has gone through successful User Evaluation Trials (UET).

The Defence Acquisition Council has accorded approval for procurement of SDR-NCs. SDR-NC consists of three independent RF channels and can be used for ship-to-shore, ship-to-ship, and ship-to-aircraft net radio type communication applications.

The UET of SDR-TAC and other three radios are at advanced stage of completion. The SDR-TAC, a standard 19” rack-mount radio with configurable four RF channels, is the most versatile SDR required by Navy. Any RF channel in SDR-TAC can be replaced with other RF band modules such as HF, UHF satcom, etc., in future. The radio is integrated with the state-of-the-art networking waveforms in V/UHF and L-band. These waveforms provide simultaneous communication of voice/messages/image with IP-based data formats, and are capable to provide dynamic network connectivity with automatic relaying (multi-hop communication) feature to nodes, which are directly not in LOS with a radio. The airborne SDR has two V/UHF RF channels, one L band channel, and one HF channel.

Each SDR form factor is a secure reconfigurable communication platform having modular hardware architecture, comprehensive security features and underlying high assurance architecture to provide reliable and secure operation in a networked environment. The Radio hardware and software architecture follows traditional Red-Black separation and various cryptographic data protection

mechanisms. Built-in reconfigurability results in flexibility to provide Legacy support, Interoperability (for joint operations) and Upgradeability to new waveforms and features through software. The portable SDRs (manpack and hand-held) have lightweight operating environment for battery operation.

With the indigenous development of SDR, India has come on par with the world for military radio communication. The SDR-NC and SDR-TAC ship-borne radios are contemporary to the similar radios from advanced countries (e.g. Rhode and Schwarz from Germany). The portable radios use latest devices, software tools and architecture (with specific Indian customizations), which are contemporary to radios of Thales (France) and Harris (USA). The INDESDR radio operating environment and ad hoc networking architecture are contemporary to the best radio operating environment and networking architecture available in the world.

Partners in Development

Consortium-based approach was adopted for execution of this technologically complex project. DEAL is the nodal agency for design and development of SDRs form factors.


Some of the advanced technologies developed first time in India during the project are:

T Indigenous software operating environment based on high level abstraction through Software Communication Architecture (SCA) with customization for Indian security evaluations

T High assurance hardware and software architecture for vehicular platforms with customization for

Constraints of manpack and hand-held SDR

T ECCM-enabled waveforms having both COMSEC and key-controlled frequency hopping TRANSEC for jam-proof secure communication

T Wideband RF Front End and High Performance Digital Processing Modules

T Mobile ad hoc Networking, with integrated ECCM and robust Network Synchronization

Indian Navy’s operational capability many-fold.

SDR Navy would act as a catalyst for indigenous development of SDRs for other service wings and internal security organizations.

DEAL has plan to take forward the SDR activity and develop next generation radios using advancements in devices, hardware design and software tools/practices. Plan for development of next generation radio technology for fighter aircraft, land systems and for special operations are also in the pipeline. After induction, Indian Navy would be able to carry out net-centric operations confidently using indigenous state-of-the-art radios.

[Source – DRDO Monthly Newsletter August 2018. Volume 38 | Issue 8. ISSN: 0971-4391]