BATTLESPACE Editor Julian Nettlefold interviewed Adrien Robenhymer, VP of Business Development for Persistent Systems and Chris Harrington, Divisional Director of Steatite, Persistent Systems’ Reseller.
Background to Persistent Systems
Headquartered in New York City since 2007, Persistent Systems, LLC is a global communications technology company that develops and manufactures a patented and secure Mobile Ad hoc Networking (MANET) system: Wave Relay®. Wave Relay® transmits and receives data, video, voice and other applications under the most difficult conditions. Their suite of products is utilized in Commercial, Military, Government, Industrial, Agriculture, Robotics, and Unmanned Systems markets.
Persistent Systems offers a secure and scalable mobile networking capability based on its cutting-edge Wave Relay MANET Technology. Persistent’s products provide a total solution consisting of voice, video, and situational awareness to mobile users with no reliance on fixed infrastructure. For more than a decade, Persistent has been a pioneer in developing advanced MANET technology and commercializing it in the Defense and Industrial sectors.
Founder & CEO: Herbert B. Rubens, Ph.D.
Dr. Rubens is responsible for both strategic and technical directions at Persistent Systems. As the Founder and CEO, Dr. Rubens has led Persistent from its inception to a 120+ employee company with 3 Offices in the United States and a global partner network. Dr. Rubens holds a BS, MS, and PhD degree in Computer Science all from the Johns Hopkins University. He also has a minor in Business and Entrepreneurship. Dr. Rubens is an expert in mobile ad hoc wireless networking and distributed systems and has more than a dozen publications in international conferences and journals. His research interests include scalable routing protocols, adaptive routing metrics, distributed algorithms, energy efficient protocol design, and Byzantine robust security algorithms. He brings to the team over 17 years of experience in wireless network protocol design and real-world systems implementation.
Founder & CTO: David Holmer, Ph.D.
Dr. David Holmer is the research and development lead for Wave Relay. He has a background in sophisticated high performance distributed and network systems design and implementation. Dr. Holmer has roots in both Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, yielding a unique insight into wireless networking, which spans both fields. This insight was honed over six years of academic research at Johns Hopkins University. This research resulted in a multitude of peer-reviewed publications. Dr. Holmer has vast range of experience from real world practical deployment issues up through theoretical algorithmic scaling issues. The full use of this experience has been invaluable during the development of Wave Relay. Dr. Holmer has a B.S. in both Computer Science and Electrical Engineering. He also obtained a Masters and Ph.D. in Computer Science, all from the Johns Hopkins University.
“You’ve had a busy year, your technologies now seem to be a key part of the future battlefield in the US and overseas?” The Editor asked.
“Yes, the USAF Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) On-Ramp Experiment proved to be a major proving platform for our Wave Relay® MANET technology,” said Adrien Robenhymer, VP of Business Development for Persistent Systems. “The next iteration of ABMS, ABMS 4, will be under the direction of the Commander, Air Force Europe and Africa.”
Our ABMS demo provides a whole suite of comms in a networked environment. We show how new and existing technology and solutions can be fused as well as using existing technologies to update the kill chain outside normal programs. In addition We are anticipating that our new Aeronet, a mesh network that can share information that’s platform-agnostic will be demonstrated on Ramp 4. Another technology is our Cloud Relay which works with Persistent Systems’ Wave Relay® by allowing long-range remote access to video, voice and data to and from all MANETs. Smooth transition via Layer 3 networks such as Internet or a private network (i.e. SATCOM) through which traffic is routed across to get it to another MANET in different parts of a city, state, country or even different parts of the world. Cloud Relay™ allows distributed enclaves to participate as if locally connected.” Goldfein said.
The Airborne Extensible Relay Over-Horizon Network, or AERONet, digitally links friendly forces, providing them with their own location, the location of other friendly forces and real-time enemy movement updates. It will be showcased to partner nations at the Bold Quest exercise in Finland this month. AERONet is a version of systems already used by law enforcement to patrol borders and track and combat smugglers. First responders use similar systems while fighting wildfires in the mountain states.
The system was conceived by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein, refined by Air Force Research Lab and is being brought to market by the Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence and Networks Program, or C3I&N, executive office at Hanscom AFB. The Tactical Data Links Lab at Hanscom AFB helped prototype a system, funded and built with the goal of providing turnkey combat networks to partner nations that do not have arms export agreements for this type of data link information.
Goldfein wanted a system that would provide off-the-shelf technology to countries that struggle with violent extremists but don’t have access to the most expensive and classified command and control suites. AERONet provides commercial-level security and is not subject to stringent export controls placed on advanced U.S military technology. Airmen designed the airborne node to be versatile, integrating into fixed wing, rotary and unmanned aircraft platforms from multiple partner nations.
The system has three nodes, each with distinct combat capabilities: The airborne node is a radio and computer hybrid that users can attach to nearly any aircraft. It receives and relays voice and chat and pipes full motion video to and from any other node in the system. Dismounted troops such as joint tactical attack controllers and tactical air control parties use the ground node, which looks like a tablet and satellite-radio hybrid. It can run on Android technology and provides operators with airborne command and control capability from smartphones or tablets.
The final node, a reach-back command and control tactical operations center, provides decision makers with access to all the information flowing through AERONet from their troops at the tactical edge. C3I&N’s Aerial Networks Division will demonstrate the entire system during exercise Bold Quest in Finland, which is tailored to experiment with interoperability among NATO and non-NATO nations.
USAF ABMS On-Ramp Experiment
In September Persistent Systems successfully supported the U.S. Air Force’s second Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) On-Ramp Experiment, which took place under the auspices of U.S. Space, Strategic and Northern Commands and wrapped up on September 3. Unlike the traditional platform-centric program with a prime contractor, ABMS brings together dozens of companies in a multi-billion-dollar effort to build a military internet of things. The goal is to connect computers, sensors and shooters at machine-speed, thus fulfilling the U.S. Department of Defense’s vision of Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2). Taking place at multiple military sites, ABMS On-Ramp 2 simulated an attack on U.S. national infrastructure.
“To respond to such an attack in a coordinated fashion, the combatant commands needed reliable connectivity,” said Adrien Robenhymer. “Our Wave Relay® MANET technology played a major role in delivering that mobile connectivity fabric.”
At Nellis AFB, in Nevada, Persistent seamlessly connected strategic convoys with dismounts, sensors, vehicles, and other supporting assets—enabling and defending a mobile command-and-control capability. In doing so, the company leveraged its work with U.S. Global Strike Command and the Air Force Research Lab on the WaRTAK and follow-on ROP programs.
At the White Sands Missile Range, in New Mexico, Persistent used its Cloud Relay™ edge-extension to feed treated sensor data to the Unified Data Library, a cloud-based architecture used to build Common Operating Pictures (COPs).
“We also networked other enabling connectivity,” Robenhymer said. “For example, we augmented 5G in austere areas, which is an amazing capability.”
Finally, at Andrews AFB, in Maryland, Persistent helped the various COPs visualize their data for distinguished visitors sitting in on On-Ramp 2 and gave members of the All Domain Operations Center a two-way communications path that ran all the way down to the individual dismount at the edge.
Persistent also partnered with Palantir, Anduril, Praseas, Boeing, Honeywell, and other contractors to enable real-time data fusion for AI-enabled JADC2. This drastically reduced the kill chain.
“In all, we were connecting sensor to shooter, connecting vehicles, platforms, people, and data all residing on our scalable, low-latency, high-bandwidth wireless network with room to spare for additional capabilities, such as counter-UAS or controlling drone swarms,” Robenhymer said. “This IDIQ contract has a potential value of up to $950 million, which will be our largest to date.”
“The heart of our system is the MPU5 radio, the world’s first smart radio which is in service with armed forces across the world including the UK and US. We have enhanced the system to ad AI capability together with push to talk features and integrated antennas as well as the addition of a cloud relay C2 system which allows users to store data in the cloud to allow less traffic on the network.” said Adrien Robenhymer.
MPU5 and the Integrated Antenna Series
MPU5 is the most advanced, most scalable, and most efficient Mobile Ad Hoc Networking (MANET) radio in the world. Built to create powerful, secure networks anywhere, the MPU5 unites all your critical data sources in real time – giving you and your team the confidence to make difficult decisions in the heat of the moment. Data, video, voice, and a fully integrated AndroidTM computer system makes the MPU5 the world’s first Smart Radio. The power of the Wave Relay® MANET integrated directly into an antenna extends the enterprise to the edge over large geographic areas.
Phase I of the U.S. Army Robotic Combat Vehicles (RCV) program
In August Persistent Systems, LLC successfully completed Phase I of the U.S. Army Robotic Combat Vehicles (RCV) program.
Run under the auspices of the Army Future Command’s Next Generation Combat Vehicles – Cross Functional Team, the RCV program aims to show the utility of manned-unmanned teaming with a future Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle (OMFV) being able to control multiple RCV ‘wingmen.’
During Phase I, a modified M113 tracked armored personnel carrier acted as an RCV surrogate while a modified Bradley infantry vehicle called the Mission Enabling Technologies-Demonstrator, or MET-D, served in lieu of a yet-to-be-built OMFV.
“We successfully networked the surrogate platforms in a point-to-point fashion with our Wave Relay MANET. That means enabling the cameras, sensors and software as well as the command-and-control interface for control of the RCV and its gun systems.” Robenhymer said.
Persistent Systems is now working with the Next Generation Combat Vehicles – Cross Functional Team and other stakeholders, such as Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Ground Vehicle Systems Center and C5ISR Center, to review lessons learned and further adapt Wave Relay capabilities.
“We are really looking forward to Phase III of the Army RCV program,” Robenhymer said. “because it’ll be a complex, RF-contested and -congested environment with multiple air, ground, and dismounted units, and that’s where Wave Relay’s scalability, resiliency and spectrum efficiency will shine.”
Meeting Up With Steatite
On September 14th, BATTLESPACE Editor Julian Nettlefold met up with Chris Harrington, Divisional Director of Steatite and Marketing Manager, Adam Woolley.
“What is Steatite’s role in promoting Persistent Systems’ products?” The Editor asked
“Steatite is classed as a Reseller by Persistent Systems. We are one of 4 located in UK, Australia, Czech Republic, and Japan; Steatite is the largest by sales of the four. Steatite is listed on the Persistent Systems web site as covering Europe, Middle East and Africa.”
“When we met up at DSEI you briefed me on your CRiB terminal, the MPU4 legacy radio which is in service and the MPU5 radios and your dismounted soldier system. Could you give us an update on the progress of these systems?”
“CRiB has been very well received by our customers and we expect significant orders in due course. Our MP4 radios are in service with the British Army and soon the MPU5 is to be demonstrated at AWE 2020 along with our dismounted soldier system. We are in continued dialogue with DE&S and the Army about the inclusion of MPU5 into Morpheus.”
Developed by Steatite to be highly mobile, easy to use and quick to deploy, the CRiB provides a smart command and control system ideal for tactical operations. With the ability to maintain full connectivity whilst on the move, the CRiB ensures that commanders keep up with the battle picture. With support for both Windows and Android operating systems, the CRiB can independently display both systems across the dual screen configuration. Additionally, there is also a HDMI output port for a 3rd display or projector.
Playing an integral part of any Mobile Ad Hoc Network (MANET), the CRiB provides an instant viewing terminal for full motion video (FMV), situational awareness and other sensor data, all from one convenient HQ management platform. The built in LTE enabled Cisco router, provides the CRiB with an instant reach back to the headquarters as well as providing secure access to enterprise services from across the globe.
The CRiB can also be used for Push-to-Talk voice or provide a Video Telephone Conference, allowing for crystal clear communication between multiple talk groups either individually or simultaneously.
“Can you give an overview as to what you will be presenting at AWE.”
“One of our key demonstrations will be the ability of the MPU5 network to distribute UAV imagery across the network via a datalink from the UAV. We will have a total of 50 MPU5 radios, including the integrated sector antenna system, at AWE to create a dedicated network which will be linked with soldiers kitted out with our dismounted soldier system for voice and data. Included in the demonstration will be MACE software.”
“What range do you obtain from UAV to radio?”
“Either we can obtain images obtained via the Central Command and Control system or we can extend the network beyond line of sight via the use of a tracking antenna which gives us 3-5 Megabytes of data at 150 kilometers range. The tracking antenna has been tested to a range of 210 Kms. We can also tether on to systems such as the Spectra Slingshot mounted on a dedicated radio to give extended range via satcom. Other bearers are troposcatter and HF which of course are free to use and give instant access continuous operation whilst on the move.”
Spectra appointed as the UK distributor for Comtech Systems
Spectra Group (UK) Ltd have been appointed as the UK distributor for US company Comtech Systems Inc with a 5-year contract. As part a contract with Navy Command supported by the UK Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL), COMTECH have developed a mobile system utilising Troposcatter communications technology, which is also currently in use as part of the 2020 AWE.
The advanced Troposcatter systems developed by Comtech provide high capacity, low-latency data links for over-the-horizon communications, without the need to rely on satellites or multiple line-of-sight repeaters. Recent trials of new, innovative, low-RF signature modems have successfully delivered bandwidths far exceeding those possible using satellite communications systems.
The current 500 Watt Mobile Transportable Transmission Systems (MTTS ) version from Comtech is capable of delivering in excess of 200Mb/s up to ranges of 200km dependent on conditions, whilst the mobile version, COMET, delivers between 5 and 60Mb/s using as little as 10 Watts of power for ranges in excess of 50km.
This collaboration sits well with Spectra’s ethos of innovation. Spectra’s own revolutionary Slingshot technology has been a true game-changer in the world of tactical communications. SlingShot is a unique system that enables UHF and VHF radios to use L-Band Satellite frequency, allowing users to instantly extend the range of their in-service tactical communications equipment to BLOS (Beyond Line of Sight). Conceived and designed to meet demanding Special Forces requirements, SlingShot offers a significant number of benefits for users requiring secure, reliable and robust communications on the move (COTM). Over 3500 SlingShot systems are in operation world-wide in the Manpack, Vehicle, Maritime and Aviation variants.
Simon Davies, CEO of Spectra Group said, “Spectra is delighted to have been appointed the UK distributor for Comtech. With increasing state-level global threats to communications and the potential for denial or degradation of Satellite services, we need to focus on innovation and diversification. The fresh development of robust, reliable and effective Troposcatter technologies opens up the opportunity to offer multiple long-range, secure communications solutions that don’t rely exclusively on satellite systems.”
Dismounted Soldier System
“Can you give us an overview of your Dismounted Soldier System?”
“Our Dismounted Soldier System has a number of advanced features including a dual push-to-talk feature, headphones, an End User Device (EUD) and 16 different talk groups (voice channels) which enables the user to instantly change channel from Command and Control, medical, fires and other nets. The system also has full duplex capability enabling the dismounted soldier to focus on his main task such as parachuting, breaching, and unmanned systems control via voice activated communications. In addition, it features the US Army ATAK system which the British Army are looking into for possible future use. Another unique feature is the dismounted radio over IP tether which enables any user on the Wave Relay network to utilise the tethered radio(s) providing, for example, a BLOS capability.
Android Team Awareness Kit (ATAK) is an Android smartphone geospatial infrastructure and military situation awareness app. It allows for precision targeting, surrounding land formation intelligence, situational awareness, navigation, and data sharing. This Android app is a part of the larger TAK family of products. ATAK has a plugin architecture which allows developers to add functionality. This extensible plugin architecture that allows enhanced capabilities for specific mission sets (Direct Action, Combat Advising, Law Enforcement, Protection Operations, Border Security, Disaster Response, Off-grid Communications, Precision Mapping and Geotagging). It enables users to navigate using GPS and geospatial map data overlayed with real-time situational awareness of ongoing events. The ATAK software represents the surrounding area using the military standard MIL-STD-2525B symbology, and customized symbols such as icons from Google Earth and Google Maps for iconography and the Cursor on Target data format standard for communication. Initially created in 2010 by the Air Force Research Laboratory, and based on the NASA WorldWind Mobile codebase its development and deployment grew slowly then rapidly since 2016. As of 2020, ATAK has a growing base of 250,000 military and civilian users across numerous public safety agencies and US partner nations and has seen the addition of 15 United States Department of Defense programs. (Source: Wikipedia)
“I see that Persistent Systems has a big presence in Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV) systems?”
“Yes, building on our recent US success, we are present on several big programmes particularly in Holland and France where our systems are being trialled. We expect big growth in this area.”