BATTLESPACE Meets Charlie Kawasaki CTO PacStar recently acquired by Curtiss-Wright
Background to Curtiss-Wright Acquisition of Pacific Star Communications, Inc. (PacStar)
On November 2, 2020, Curtiss-Wright Corporation (NYSE: CW) announced the acquisition of Pacific Star Communications, Inc. (PacStar(r)) for $400 million in cash. PacStar is a leading provider of secure tactical communications solutions for battlefield network management, including commercial off-the-shelf (COTS)-based rugged, small form factor communications systems, and its proprietary “IQ-Core(r) Software” integrated network communications management software.
The acquisition establishes Curtiss-Wright as a critical supplier of advanced tactical and enterprise network communications solutions supporting a broad spectrum of high-priority U.S. military force modernization programs. The combination of Curtiss-Wright’s mission-critical mobile and secure COTS-based processing, data management and communications technologies with PacStar’s highly complementary hardware and software solutions will enable the delivery of best-in-class platform network integration and tactical data link network management to the warfighter. In addition, it ensures that Curtiss-Wright is well-positioned to benefit from the military’s continued investment in robust, secure and integrated battlefield network management.
The PacStar business will operate within Curtiss-Wright’s Defense Solutions division. The acquisition supports Curtiss-Wright’s financial objectives for long-term profitable growth and strong free cash flow generation. PacStar is expected to generate sales in excess of $120 million in 2020 and is expected to yield significant opportunities for revenue growth. Further, it is expected to be accretive to Curtiss-Wright’s adjusted diluted earnings per share in its first full year of ownership, excluding first year purchase accounting costs, and produce a strong free cash flow conversion rate well in excess of 100%.
Curtiss-Wright Corporation (NYSE: CW) is a global innovative company that delivers highly engineered, critical function products and services to the commercial, industrial, defense and energy markets. Building on the heritage of Glenn Curtiss and the Wright brothers, Curtiss-Wright has a long tradition of providing reliable solutions through trusted customer relationships. The company employs approximately 8,300 people worldwide.
Background to PacStar
Founded in 2000, PacStar’s solutions are utilized in mission-critical applications, combining tactical networking equipment and software to enable enhanced battlefield situational awareness down to the individual warfighter. Its patented software and hardware technologies are core components of secure command, control and communications systems, particularly in remote or infrastructure-starved areas. PacStar’s network management software, IQ-Core Software, provides a simpler, faster and more reliable solution for setting up and managing network communications, including secure wireless, satellite communications, and soldier-portable systems. The business has secured strong positions on critical U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps programs. PacStar employs approximately 145 people.
“How did PacStar develop its capability in battlefield communications?” The Editor asked.
“The company was founded to develop advanced rugged communications systems after spinning out of a company providing construction supplies to US military bases overseas. PacStar developed a capability in ruggedizing COTS platforms. The next stage was the networking of those platforms and subsequent software development to enable seamless communications between platforms.” Charlie Kawasaki said.
“How does PacStar address the future comms requirements of its defense customers?”
“Using the networking expertise developed over many years, PacStar’s industry-leading family of advanced communications solutions addresses a wide range of military, intelligence and commercial applications. PacStar created and manufactures COTS-based rugged, small form factor expeditionary and mobile communications systems. We work with partners such as Viasat in the field of crypto to ensure the security of our products and networks and to develop new technologies enabling 5G, SATCOM such as LEO, and PACE (management of multiple radios) and Digital Barriers deploying AI embedded in systems providing video processing and analytics for ISR applications. Cybersecurity and associated products are also key to the success of our systems. The development of cloud computing systems at the network edge is key to our systems development program as well. If satcom is down due to EW from the adversary, you lose your comms and thus battlefield connectivity.”
“What do you see as the key differential between yours and your competitors’ products?”
“Given the amount of comms equipment required on the battlefield we saw Size, Weight and Power as the key differentiator. We have developed our products not only to take up less space than the competition but also to use less power, particularly in Command Post and FOB applications. The logistics involved in transporting generator fuel and thousands of batteries to the front line forces is a huge problem and of course puts those soldiers’ lives at risk. Additionally, our product line includes integrated intuitive network management software that makes our products more reliable, more secure and easier to deploy.”
“Who are your key suppliers?”
“Our two key suppliers are Cisco Systems who we have a strong working relationship to develop new routers and switches, and Intel providing processors with the maximum amount of RAM available which at the moment is 128 Gbytes. This ensures video and images can be distributed around the battlefield. Other partners include Aruba, Palo Alto, Forcepoint, Juniper Networks, and many more.”
“You have developed a comprehensive range of advanced routers? Can you describe the advantages of these systems?”
“PacStar 400-Series small form factor modular communications systems are designed to maximize capabilities and configuration flexibility, with the smallest SWaP possible. Including routing, switching, advanced network services, and more, these modules can work standalone or together in lightweight packaging solutions designed with a wide variety of power options. PacStar 400-Series is optionally managed by IQ-Core® Software to simplify setup and operation.”
“PacStar has developed an expertise in software, do you see this as the next stage in the development of seamless communications systems?”
“Yes, very much so, we saw open architecture plug and play software as a key element in seamless comms across the battlefield. Universal interoperability between our legacy and new systems is key to the development of battlefield comms. To that end PacStar spent a considerable amount of our own R&D Money in developing our own integrated, network communications management software, IQ-Core Software, for the military, federal, state/local government and emergency responder markets. The company’s patented IQ-Core Software, hardware technology and integrated solutions provide secure, command, control and communications systems, particularly in remote or infrastructure starved areas. In addition, PacStar’s communications systems are ideally suited for commercial/industrial organizations with mission-critical field communications requirements.”
“How do you keep up with technology developments to ensure that your systems and software operate and maximum potential?”
“We have an ongoing process to continually update and improve IQ-Core Software. In fact, our IQ-Core Software v5 recently released contains major advances in management of Commercial Solutions for Classified (CSfC) systems, tactical radios, and vehicle-based networks. The release also includes upgrades in its support of open management standards, performance enhancements, and more.”
IQ-Core Software is a comprehensive management software application designed for secure, tactical, and distributed network management – ideal for edge networks in disconnected, intermittent and limited (DIL) environments. It comprises three major editions: IQ-Core Network Communications Manager (NCM) for nodal management, IQ-Core Crypto Manager (CM) for CSfC management, and IQ-Core Remote Operations and Management (ROAM) for distributed management. All of these editions contain major functional enhancements in the v5 release.
IQ-Core Software contributes to tactical mission success by reducing network misconfiguration, improving uptime, simplifying troubleshooting, and providing cyber situational awareness to tactical networks. IQ-Core Software v5 advances PacStar’s mission to enable tactical, expeditionary and mobile organizations to modernize networks, field the most advanced technologies, and achieve cyber overmatch, while driving down complexity and training costs. It accomplishes this through an intuitive and integrated user interface that makes system setup and operation quick, easy to learn and recall.
Major new IQ-Core Software v5 capabilities include:
Enhanced CSfC Management
- Integration and automation of Juniper vSRX CSfC-compliant Virtual Private Network (VPN) VPN setup and VPN tunnel monitoring including both IKE v2 and IKE v1
- Management of digital certificates and PKI with CSfC-listed Red Hat Certificate Services
- Ability to manage certificates and device configurations in the context of hierarchical PKI
Integration and Management of Tactical Radios
Major new tactical radio capabilities include integration and management of new and popular tactical radios and satcom modems such as:
- Ultra Electronics TRILOS Tri-channel Line of Sight Radio
- iDirect 9-Series satellite modems
- L3 Linkabit MDM-2000 Network Centric Waveform SATCOM IP modem
Local and Remote Network Management on Vehicle Platforms
- New, optional user interface called Dashboard Mode, which presents an essential, at-a-glance network status appropriate for vehicle operators, commanders and non-technical staff
- Dashboard Mode shows a limited view of networks on the vehicle display. However, it runs on top of the full power of IQ-Core Software, enabling local and remote management by administrators.
- Ability to distribute network and spectrum plans from centrally located planning software to select satellite modems and radios at the edge of the tactical network, ensuring coordinated operations
- Major enhancements to its built-in SNMP capabilities, enabling customers to tailor the user interface to monitor and control devices and device settings for any device that supports that open standard
- Advanced support for REDCOM Sigma call control including setup, configuration, and monitoring. REDCOM Sigma support adds to IQ-Core Software’s strength in integrated management of unified capabilities, which includes management for other popular deployed call control systems
“We are very happy to introduce IQ-Core Software v5 to our customers so they can now take advantage of its advancements in CSfC, tactical radio integration, and vehicle integration. IQ-Core Software v5 advances PacStar’s mission to enable tactical, expeditionary and mobile organizations to modernize networks. IQ-Core Software v5 advances the capabilities for all of our many customers, across a wide range of functional areas. The rapidly increasing adoption of IQ-Core Software enabled us to dramatically speed our development pace, increase our investment in R&D, and deliver results to all of our tactical customers.”