The end of the war in Afghanistan and the subsequent statement by the USA that it is considering its role as the world’s policeman, means that the world will initially become a more dangerous place. Nation building and large numbers of boots on the ground will be replaced by new doctrines, ideas, training and deployments to defeat terrorism and other threats.
This process has already started with the US using targeted drone strikes in Iraq and Afghanistan on key targets using US or offshore locations. The use of such tactics is likely to increase and will be extended to precision missile strikes using cruise missiles and eventually a whole new range of advanced hypersonic missiles. As the F-35 is introduced across the world this will rapidly increase military realtime intelligence gathering techniques and the ability for instant retaliation to attacks as happened in Afghanistan last month after the Kabul airport bomb.
The use of 24/7 air operations supported by the F-35 to insert Special Forces and other teams will likely increase using V-22 Ospreys which are capable of flying direct from base to in-country locations without transitioning to tactical transports such as C-130 Hercules. The V-22’s will hold fast, heavily armed, light-strike interdiction vehicles with troops equipped with night vision devices allowing 24/7 operations. Communication with these teams is crucial, thus military commanders in the Land Environment will be enabled by agile Information Communication Services, giving them the ability to make informed and timely decisions.
To allow fast moving 24/7 international strikes, advanced multi-domain communications will be required to link the target area to the Headquarters and/or frontline to ensure that civilian casualties are minimised. The US, UK, NATO, Australia and the EU have programmes in train to prove the warfighter with 24/7 access to multi-domain communications.
The British Army in particular is modernising and transforming to face the challenges in this era of constant competition. In terms of the top three of what’s changed: The British Army is creating a digital backbone to deliver a single information environment. The British Army is about more persistent engagement to deliver greater anticipation and about delivering an ability to create networked real time links between any sensor, any decider, and any shooter to harness pan-domain effect to be delivered into the land-environment.
In September C4ISR & Networks reported that the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan prompted Pentagon officials working on the Joint All-Domain Command and Control concept to ask: ‘Do troops have access to data they need on the ground, absent of an adversary capable of disrupting that access?’
The answer was “no.”
“What we learned as a department and the joint force is we’ve grossly underestimated the scope of this problem,” said Brig. Gen. Rob Parker, deputy director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s J6 directorate and chairman of the JADC2 Cross-Functional Team.
“We have some real work to do on some big challenges that are out there, [such as] getting access to authoritative data sources [and] having the right policy in place to allow us to share that with our partners — not just international partners, but our own federal partners,” Parker said during the Defense News Conference on Sept. 8.
The two-week operation in which the U.S military evacuated more than 124,000 people provided the Pentagon’s JADC2 leadership new lessons learned and identified areas in need of improvement. That included ensuring data is populated and easily visible on programs of record.
Data access is central to JADC2, which aims to provide unprecedented amounts of data to war fighters to make informed decisions in battle.
Senior leaders at the Pentagon, starting with Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks, are making a major push on ensuring the department harnesses its gobs of data to make better decisions. In the last year, the department released a data strategy, and earlier this year Hicks published five “data decrees” as the department sought to elevate the importance of data across the force.
The Afghanistan withdrawal also reinforced the Pentagon’s need to ensure its workforce has the data skills to understand incoming information, produce computer code and develop algorithms. Ultimately, the withdrawal has “given us a lot to look at,” Parker said.
”Twelve to 14 days to get your data all together and looking at it may sound very good by traditional bureaucratic measures in the Pentagon, but it’s absolutely failure in the future fight,” he said.
As the department moves forward with JADC2, Parker also said the concept’s implementation plan is under review by senior staff. He added that it’s “weeks away” from being released.
The plan, which is classified, will outline seven minimal viable products that the military needs in order to enable JADC2:
- A DevSecOps software development environment.
- Zero-trust cybersecurity.
- Cloud technology.
- A transport layer.
- Identity, credential and access management, or ICAM.
- Assault Breaker II (a tool to counter anti-access, area-denial capabilities of adversaries).
- The mission partner environment.
The mission partner environment — a common platform that allows the U.S. military and allies to share information — will have an initial operating capability within 90 days: one for U.S. Indo-Pacific Command and the other for U.S. Central Command.
Parker said the Defense Information Systems Agency also had a “viable” ICAM solution that could be ready in the next year. And he added that he’s “excited” about the the department’s announcement of a new multivendor enterprise cloud capability, the Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability, which is set to replace the controversial Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud.
Multivendor cloud capabilities combined with low-Earth orbit satellites is another area in which the JADC2 CFT is interested.
“Some of the partners out there who are putting multi-cloud vendor solutions on some of their early LEO capabilities — we think that not only helps us in terms of moving this data globally at speed with high bandwidth [and] gets after some communication issues, ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance], PNT [positioning, navigation and timing], but importantly we think that’s going to be a critical step to getting some of the processing at the edge,” Parker said.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin signed off on the JADC2 strategy in May, which is also classified. Parker said an unclassified version of the strategy should be released in the next few weeks.
UK Land Operating Concept
UK Strategic Commander General Sir Patrick Sanders delivers speech at DSEI 2021 outlining his vision for his multi-domain warfare vision for the UK’s armed forces.
Good morning. It’s great to be back doing events live and in person and I want to join you all in expressing my thanks to Clarion, the organisers and Fujitsu, our sponsors here, for putting on such an outstanding conference, so far. It is very good to see so many faces in the audience.
When I last spoke here, in 2019, it was shortly before we launched Strategic Command. It’s been quite a journey, standing up the Command to drive the Integration and S&T agenda for Defence, but I think the fact that Multi-Domain Integration is the theme of DSEI this year shows that the imperative is well-recognised and our advocacy has been gaining some traction. Why should we care about Multi-domain integration?
One word: Threat.
The threat isn’t diminishing. In fact, the security outlook is more perilous than it was 2 years ago: we are now facing the twin spectre of emboldened Jihadi terrorists and something not seen since the 1930s – a growing authoritarian zeitgeist that celebrates the suppression of political and individual freedom as a better way to govern. This ideology is intersecting with geopolitics and driving great power competition as these autocratic regimes subvert and challenge the international order and adopt bold risk-taking strategies.
The risks are clear: it is a recurring pattern of great power behaviour that interests expand with power, that the appetite grows with the eating, and that risk-taking accelerates the potential for escalation and miscalculation unless this behaviour is challenged and contained. Without that we will find ourselves in a world where the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must. Or put another way to use my favourite cautionary tale from Hilaire Belloc: Pale Ebeneezer thought it wrong to fight. Roaring Bill, who killed him, thought it right.
What links these authoritarian regimes (let’s name them, Russia and China) is two things.
First an approach that seeks to win without fighting. What George Kennan described memorably as political warfare. General Gerasimov put it like this “The very rules of warfare have changed. The role of Non-military means of achieving political and strategic goals has grown and in many cases they have exceeded the power of force of weapons in their effectiveness”. Welcome to the so-called Grey Zone.
And secondly the expansion of warfare into the novel domains of space and cyber, coupled with an approach to modernisation that pursues the exploitation of disruptive information age technologies and allies these to winning operational concepts that seek to have the same impact as Blitzkrieg did. It is nothing less than a race for advantage in the defining technologies of the future.
Under its ‘Made in China 2025’ strategy, China has explicitly declared the ambition to dominate these technology frontiers. It includes artificial intelligence, advanced computing, quantum technologies, robotics, autonomous systems, commercial space technologies, additive manufacturing and the Internet of Things, along with new generations (5G and beyond) of the mobile telecommunications that will connect it.
And so the PLA has concluded that the Centre of Gravity in military operations has shifted from the concentration of forces to information systems. They look to dominate a system of systems confrontation, creating new operating concepts: cross domain, autonomous swarms and precision attack to achieve persistent paralysis.
So how can we respond to these threats?
Well we shouldn’t take counsel of all our fears. Great power conflict is not inevitable. Coercion doesn’t have to lead to a binary outcome between capitulation or conflict. Competitive coexistence is possible. But we can’t be passive: the preservation of peace requires active effort, planning, the expenditure of resources and sacrifices to underscore our credibility and will to secure our national interests, just as war does.
And we should recognise the advantages we have. Most notably for Defence, in the last 12 months we have been given the means to modernise with a historic funding settlement, the mandate to radically adapt our acquisition model in DSIS and in the Integrated Operating Concept the source code for how we will operate and fight as an integrated whole across domains.
We can respond to these threats at a national level by being more strategic, more assertive, by modernising and by being more integrated across domains, nationally, with partners across government, industry, academia and civil society, and of course internationally, with allies and partners.
But I want to be more specific. Because the reason we are all here at DSEI is to solve operational problems together and create national strategic advantage by harnessing the latent talent and ingenuity that exists in industry, and allying it to those who will have to adapt and overcome these threats in future – for those in uniform. So I want to spend the rest of my time here bringing MDI to life in a way you can relate to so you can help us solve some of these challenges, then describing the technological advances I need us to work on together, pose some questions about how we can grow the skills in our workforce to tackle these problems and then suggest how we might develop an integrated relationship with you as our industrial partners.
So what does MDI look like when it’s operationalised? And it’s important that we develop specific operational concepts to solve problems either against a particular adversary, a bit of geography or a particular problem
We need to become much more adept at operating with agility across this grey zone. Fundamentally, we have to make sense of, exploit and manipulate data. Our challenge is twofold – the data landscape is so complex and handling the sheer volume of information (and intelligence) that could be available to us. Using software to exploit freely available information is important – which is where many of our conversations are with industry – but it is much more challenging than that. Let me try to explain why.
If you work left to right, if you will, across this spectrum between competition, confrontation and conflict. We want to be more proactive on social media, exploiting it to deliver consistent, pervasive and also targeted messages. We also need to ‘operate’ through social media platforms with much greater agility, countering adversarial campaigns through a range of fora, including using third parties if necessary.
Taken a step further, we may wish to generate social reaction ‘on the ground’. To do all of this, we need a deeper understanding of our audiences. This will take time to build, we need well trained people, including locals, and the right tools. In short, we must become more adept, and comfortable, with acting across and dominating the cognitive domain.
Let’s step up the pressure. We need to be prepared to conduct ‘precision soft strike’. Sometimes this will be avowed, to deter, sometimes not. We may wish to target adversarial media campaigns, as we have in the past, or disrupt, even neutralise, military systems, such as a supply chain. These activities take potentially years to plan, so we need to think ahead, ensuring that they are nested within enduring campaigns, its to taking a strategic view
Let’s go one further. We will be prepared to prosecute hard strike, at extreme range, to destroy carefully selected targets. Designing, maintaining and constantly developing a pervasive ISR architecture, across all five domains, at multiple classification levels, has to be central to this. Communicating across it, protecting it, understanding and exploiting the bulk data inherent within it, measuring the impact of strikes and then going again – all of this requires us to move well beyond a fragmented, stove-piped and poorly governed environment to a single, interactive and responsive one.
We need to create synthetic environments where we can practice. To wargame, experiment, to plug and play. We need to work out what a flatter, more dispersed, more resilient command and control architecture looks like. Fundamentally, we must develop MDI operational art. We must exploit current operations in order to do so, and ensure lessons are fed into an interactive learning domain. We must integrate this with our longer-term conceptual development through the creation of digital twins and synthetic environments.
Bringing all this together, deliberately, and keeping it up to date, and operational, lies at the heart of our approach to MDI. It’s much more than buying a software service.
What technological edge are we seeking?
Fundamentally, the source of battlefield advantage will not come from platforms. If we focus, as some commentary invariably does, on the number of grey hulls the Navy has, the number of Fighter Squadrons in the RAF and the strength of the regular Army, we will simply perpetuate a traditional, industrial age force that is costly, exquisite and vulnerable to being defeated in detail.
The true source of battlefield advantage will come from our ability to sense, understand and orchestrate across domains at a tempo faster than the enemy. To create and close kill chains, as Christian Brose put it, and this means a digital force – software defined, hardware enabled. A force that harnesses pervasive sensors, resilient networks, cloud and edge computing. One that applies Machine Learning and AI to exploit data, support decision-making and enable expendable autonomous systems and swarming. It will be more about drones and missiles, than manned platforms.
The IR investments lay the foundations of this force, specifically the Digital Backbone, which Defence Digital are building with its focus on people, process and technology to build ubiquitous and resilient networks, curate, harness and exploit our data, expedite cloud computing at multiple layers of classification and pursue agile software development though the Digital Foundry. We need your help with this. In all humility. But we urgently need to go further and faster together. In three areas in particular.
First in the development of synthetic environments for the reasons I covered earlier.
Secondly in pursuing the combination of pervasive sensors and edge computing that will enable us to create a Military internet of things and realise the potential offered by autonomous systems and intelligent machines. And that in turn will allow us to field a larger, more capable and more affordable force. Here we aren’t harnessing the pace of development in the commercial sector.
The text-book sized processor on an autonomous car has 800 times more processing power than the most advanced processor on any military platform – and that is the one on the F35, nicknamed the flying super computer. The same car has more sensors than any military platform, just as many of your homes have more sensors than any military base. We can change this paradigm.
And third, in the development of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. We don’t have the time here to do justice to the potential of this technology – you could devote the entirety of DSEI to it, we probably will one day, and still only scratch the surface. Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Alphabet, said recently of AI: “We are in the early stages, but I view AI as the most profound technology that mankind will ever develop and work on…even more important than fire, electricity or the internet”.
The military use cases for AI – narrow AI at this stage – are pervasive: autonomous systems, swarming, cyber defence, decision support, intelligence processing to name only 5. But two things are clear. First, threat: Our adversaries will gain a decisive advantage if we do not compete in a more concerted and urgent way in this technology. And secondly, opportunity: Investment in military AI – will be symbiotic with the growth of AI in other sectors and will be at the heart of fuelling the UK as a S&T superpower.
I want to turn to the issue of skills, because we need to be clear-eyed about what is needed. Our current workforce is brave, talented, inventive, resourceful and resilient. But it isn’t yet imbued with the culture to pursue Multi-Domain Integration, nor does it have the diversity and skills needed to be competitive in the digital age. Culturally we are still largely and recognisably a tri-service organisation, and that’s where many of our strengths lay. We don’t provide joint education until around the 15-20-year point in someone’s career, yet MDI expertise will be needed at every level including the most junior. We value Royal Marines for being amphibians: comfortable in two environments. Some of us become tri-phibians – truly joint across all three physical environments.
But we need to evolve penta-phibians, with the ability to operate seamlessly across all 5 domains. We’re going to need to think radically about the career model, training and education that accelerates the pace of this evolution because if we don’t adapt, we will become at best become exquisite but irrelevant, and at worst we will die. In a similar vein, to achieve the vision of S&T advantage painted in the IR we are going to need access to fundamentally different skills and talent and to place equal value and afford equal status to computer scientists, data engineers and cyber operators as we do on the traditional warrior elite. I have more need of Q, than I do 007 or M.
So we will have to address the skills gap through attracting far more diverse talent, by inward investment, because we’ve not got enough STEM graduates so that coding and data literacy are seen as being as much a core skill as weapon handling, by much greater use of a larger and more diverse reserve, and by enabling a much more porous and flexible flow of talent between Defence, Industry and Academia.
Relationship with Industry
Bringing this to a close, I want to offer some thoughts about our relationship with you, our industrial partners here at DSEI, but I hope my voice may also reach the start-ups and small and medium sized enterprises for whom this is not a natural stamping ground.
The predominant image of the defence sector’s impact on the economy is of aircraft carriers and jet fighters. As important as these industries are, in a world in which capabilities are moving to the cloud and software and data can be as ‘real’ as any physical assets for a modern military, this image is dated.
And it’s worth reminding ourselves that the Digital sector is growing 2.6 times faster than the wider economy and that the market for military AI is projected to grow from £3.8Bn in 2016 to £6.6Bn next year. The benefits of this are much wider than Defence – it will drive a wave of upskilling across the economy.
Rob Magowan, my deputy, is part of a panel that follows this presentation. He will explain in more detail how we need to exploit DSIS in our development of MDI. He will set out those areas where we need to be most closely integrated with industry and suggest some collaborative models that will enable us to work on problems together.
No doubt, UK Defence needs to become much more agile and forward leaning in this space; and, if I may, industry needs to take some risks too, in order to protect and promote SMEs, and by companies working alongside each other for the common good, where necessary.
Thank you for your time today. Acting together, we can mobilise our armed forces to pursue the political vision of a bold, confident and active European power with a global perspective. Armed forces that campaign dynamically, adapt to threats and seize opportunities to strengthen alliances, partnerships and secure national advantage.
Working together we will ensure Defence is more closely integrated and modernised to deliver the IR and gaining advantage in science technology data and AI. And we can upskill our Armed Forces for the digital age.
The UK MoD Land Environment Tactical Communications and Information Systems (LE TacCIS) programme
The UK MoD Land Environment Tactical Communications and Information Systems (LE TacCIS) programme aims to deliver tactical military communications. The LE TacCIS programme consists of multiple sub-programmes and projects with the aim to deliver the next generation of tactical military communications in the land environment, providing the means to make informed and timely decisions enabled by agile Communication Information Systems (CIS).
The LE TacCIS Dossier consists of Bowman ComBAT Infrastructure and Platform (BCIP) 5.6, the MORPHEUS sub-programme, the TRINITY sub-programme, Joint Common Remote Viewing Terminal (JCRVT), Dismounted Soldier Awareness (DSA), Falcon, NIOBE, MMR and multiple delivery and support Projects.
The LE TacCIS programme is delivered by a partnership of British Army Headquarters Directorate Information (AHQ D Information), Defence Digital Battlefield and Tactical Communications and Information Systems (BATCIS) working as one team, in collaboration with key industry partners.
LE TacCIS will implement a fully Agile Enabled Governance Framework within an Agile Management Office ensuring the programme is ready to accommodate the increased tempo of changing requirements and agile delivery methodologies.
Evolutionary Capability Delivery (ECD)
The continuous need to address obsolescence and exploit rapidly developing technology in the CIS arena requires the adoption of an Evolutionary Capability Delivery (ECD) approach. This will provide a progressive evolution of the system, where each change results in a deliberate capability enhancement and/or other benefits realisation and is a transitional step on a trajectory towards a goal state.
LE TacCIS consists of Army Headquarters, BATCIS and key industry partners working as one team to deliver the next generation of tactical CIS. LE TacCIS is a collaborative, multi-vendor programme working to a joint shared objective, actively sharing information across organisations using efficient and coherent information management.
The LE TacCIS PQQ is expected in the first quarter of 2022 with full Increment delivery in the 2026-28 timeframe.
User Centred Design (UCD)
UCD is an iterative design process in which designers focus on the users and their needs in each phase of the design process. LE TacCIS will utilise UCD as a framework that ensures the needs of the users are at the core of the design process.
Future Operating Model (FOM)
In contrast to the current BCIP single source prime supplier model, MORPHEUS and other elements of the LE TacCIS programme will be competed from industry who will be incentivised to deliver increased system agility, capability and value for money; this is key to delivering the strategic benefits of the LE TacCIS programme.
What is the Morpheus Programme?
Morpheus is a £3.2 billion defence programme delivering the next generation of Tactical Communication and Information Systems (TacCIS) to forces operating in a Land Environment, inclusive of the Royal Navy in the littoral environment and elements of the Royal Air Force. The programme is delivered by the Battlefield Tactical Communications and Information Systems (BATCIS) Delivery Team in conjunction with Army HQ and Joint Forces Command. Morpheus will give access to fully integrated operational information technology that simplifies the user experience, allowing units to focus on the mission.
Morpheus is the first installation of Defence as a Platform (DaaP) in the tactical environment. By evolving the current Bowman system into the next generation of tactical communications, Morpheus enables evolutionary capability development in a way that has been impossible before.
In Spring 2017, Morpheus entered the second Assessment Phase, termed Evolve to Open (EvO). The EvO phase will change the current vendor tied system into a vendor independent and open information architecture system enabling the Ministry of Defence (MOD) to have greater flexibility over the future evolution of the system. This will enable the MOD to integrate and deploy new capabilities selected from across Industry in a faster and more cost effective manner.
The benefits Morpheus will deliver to the front line soldier include:
* improved end-to-end shared situational awareness from soldiers to HQ
* increased bandwidth and a more resilient network, allowing soldiers to get the information they need, when they need it
* open architecture enabling interoperability by design, giving the ability to develop and deliver applications in the way soldiers want – leading to better usability and at a faster pace by selecting from across Industry rather than one Prime Contractor
MORPHEUS is the first installation of Defence as a Platform (DaaP) in the tactical environment. By evolving the current Bowman system into the next generation of tactical communications, MORPHEUS enables evolutionary capability development in a way that has been impossible before.
Tender for the British Morpheus Programme.
November 1, 2019, was the tender deadline for those companies that wish to candidate for Systems Integrator (SI) of the British Morpheus programme. Under Morpheus, the UK is investing £3.2bn in military communication to establish a single information environment through a fully integrated operational information system which is seamless from the barracks, headquarters to the individual soldier. The system shall be based on an open, delaminated architecture. The British MoD will be the design authority with the ability to procure system elements in a modular fashion via a disaggregated supply chain. “This will give the authority greater flexibility to evolve the system in line with changes in technology, policy and the operational environment,” the MoD writes in their tender notice.
The full SI requirement statement will be released at the Invitation to Tender/Negotiate (ITN) stage. Within the Morpheus Future Operating Model (FOM), the SI is expected to work collaboratively.
“Within the FOM the Morpheus SI will interact with the authority and several MSPs in a multivendor environment. The Morpheus SI will manage the system on behalf of the authority but be dependent upon the MSPs for the provision of system components, with the authority providing overarching strategic direction and governance to system development.”
In the future the Morpheus operating model is intended to enable system change through a incremental development cycle. Once fielded, Morpheus will be integrated onto approx. 8,000 platforms with over 40,000 users. The SI will not be responsible for managing any hardware or system components, even though it may own or manage products as Managed Service Provider (MSP) or Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM).
“A key area of change which is anticipated for Morpheus will be the replacement of the bearer elements in the Morpheus system during the mid/late-2020s,” the British MoD added. “Change will also take place in the applications domain, with the potential consolidation or change in products such as Battlefield Information System Applications (BISA) over the contract term. Change will also take place in the network and infrastructure domain over the contract term to replace components in the system such as user data terminals. Change will feature as part of delivery under the contract. The contract will also feature the ability to then increase the capacity for change through a tasking mechanism.”
General Dynamics Evolve to Open (EvO) contract
In April 2017, General Dynamics UK was awarded a £330m contract from the UK Ministry of Defence to design and develop the next-generation tactical communication and information system as the initial phase of the MORPHEUS programme.
The system will be used to plan, deploy, manage and monitor communications and information for the Army. It will allow users to integrate new radios, applications and other system components faster and with greater ease.
General Dynamics will implement a new architectural approach, known as Evolve to Open (EvO), which will evolve the Bowman tactical communication (BCIP 5.6) capability into an open, modular system. The system will connect deployed tactical forces to their commanders, give improved access to powerful operational IT and simplify the user experience. The open system approach allows new technologies to be rapidly integrated to tackle emerging threats and enhance interoperability with allies.
The EvO contract is the first to be awarded for the MORPHEUS programme, which will give UK Armed Forces across all three services modernised command and control networks using the latest technology.
EvO Delays Cause Slip To Morpheus
Sources close to BATTLESPACE suggest that EvO has hit the buffers for two reasons, money and capability.
The source said that GDUK has not been paid the full amount under the contract whilst the MoD considers the next stage. The current spat over the Ajax programme hardly helps smooth matters.
When it was originally conceived to take Bowman to the next iteration to meet current warfare tactics and technology, the Multi-Doman warfare concept was in its infancy, so that did not form part of the consideration for EvO’s technology.
EvO requires a plug-and-play solution to Morpheus to prevent the existing stovepipe software and technology solutions which do not network together.
Multi-domain warfare requires seamless connectivity from land, sea and air platforms from HQ to front line using a multitude of bearers be they radio, satcom, 5G or IP.
The source said that to write a new architecture for EvO to accommodate all these requirements is a very ambitious task given that it took 25-30 years to develop the 5G mobile phone network.
The other obstacle is that in the majority of major MoD project, the contractor is required to develop a platform which will not necessarily have the required technology to talk to other platforms or indeed other armed forces equipment; thus they cannot operate together as a coherent force.
A solution could be the formation of a system of gateways as the current Bowman BCIP upgrades provide. The biggest problem to the original Bowman system was that the Command Systems software used by GDUK, as it did on the Canadian Iris project, did not have any gateways.
Iris was mainly voice and some data, whilst Bowman ha a major data input. Thus, every image downloaded was sent to every Bowman system and it crashed. The BCIP gateway upgrades solved this problem.
Another change in doctrine since EvO was issued is that future wars will be fought with coalitions, most likely led by the USA.
Thus, to save time and money, it would seem sensible for the UK MoD to build on what the US has done and not to build as many as 20-30,000 bespoke radios for a ‘UK only’ requirement. This would give the MoD 80-85% of the Morpheus requirement at an affordable price and within a reasonable timescale.
Lack of EW and Cyber Layer
At the recent AOC Europe, held in Liverpool, UK in October, the Editor asked a number of exhibitors their opinion on Morpheus and almost to a man they said that there had been very little consideration given to an EW/Cyber layer in Morpheus to counter the strong EW technology demonstrated by Russia in particular and exported to other states.
Network Up in The Cloud?
The other perennial question which has been asked, particularly since the implementation of the F-35 fleet and its reliance on a robust secure cloud-linked network, is, how mature are the UK’s Cloud and Network development plans?
Information is difficult to extract from the MoD about the Cloud and Network development but assurances have been made that this is a priority given that a secure cloud-based network is key to multi-domain warfare.
Whatever the MoD decides, this is likely to delay the implementation of Morpheus by at least 2 – 3 years to 2024-25 at the earliest.
Can the current Bowman system withstand that timescale of delay?
In terms of technology, the current 50,000 Bowman radios cannot provide the technology required for the 21st Century battlefield and in terms of hardware, the ASICS used in the radios are no longer manufactured.
On the plus side, as the British Army has shrunk by several thousand since the implementation of Bowman, there are surplus Bowman radios which can be cannibalised to keep the fleet operational.
One has to ask the question as to whether the lack of invitations by the MoD for the specialist defence press, to the recent AWE, as reported in Joint Forces by Bob Morrison, is deliberate, to shield the Army and MoD from any of the impending challenges posed by the Morpheus and associated systems’ trials.
The British Army Warfighting Experiment 21 (AWE 21) and the associated Exercise DYNAMIC WARRIOR recently concluded on Salisbury Plain, Bob Morrison wrote recently.
Much as we should have liked to have provided independent press coverage of AWE 21 and DYNAMIC WARRIOR, regrettably UK MoD did not invite us and indeed ignored our communications requesting details of when the media would be granted access.
As far as we can determine 16 or 17 Industry Partners, including many whose new technology we regularly cover in our Defence Industry News section, contributed to the month-long experiment which sought to harness technology to prepare for complex future warfare. The bulk of the military personnel who participated on the two-week Ex DYNAMIC WARRIOR phase appear to have been drawn from The Queen’s Royal Hussars, The Light Dragoons, The Rifles, The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment and the 1st Battalion, of the US Army’s 29th Infantry Regiment. New technology showcased included Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and Simulated Training aimed at enhancing the soldier’s collective training experience in a cost effective and realistic way.
In a Press Release coinciding with a visit to AWE 21 on 7th October by Minister for the Armed Forces, James Heappey MP, accompanied by senior officers, the Deputy Chief of the General Staff, Lt Gen Sir Christopher Tickell KBE, is quoted as saying: “AWE 21 seeks to harness technology to prepare for complex future warfare. It has been designed to experiment with and showcase next generation Collective Training Systems (CTS) to inform future Army and wider Defence force development decisions.”
From the small number of MoD images subsequently released and the 40-page Product Book published for attendees, it looks like this could have been a great opportunity to inform our readership on the latest iteration of AWE (which I last covered in 2017 for the late C&S Magazine). Some members of the media were indeed invited to visit AWE 21 a couple of days ago, hence the ‘Joe 90 Glasses’ story run today by one of the Nationals, but whether or not any in-depth independent coverage surfaces of the sterling work being done by the participating Industry Partners, in conjunction with DE&S and Dstl, remains to be seen.
Bowman ComBAT Infrastructure and Platform (BCIP) 5.6
BCIP 5.6 represents the capability upgrade of the Bowman system, and the launch-pad for MORPHEUS. With major updates to software and hardware, BCIP 5.6 provides better data transmission, improved situational awareness and enhanced usability and staff planning tools.
A whole new suite of tactical SDR radios will be procured to replace the current ageing Bowman radios supplied by ITT Defence (UK) Ltd. The procurement is being managed under the DSA Programme which has already evaluated a number of new networking radios.
Elbit Systems UK Selected For BMA
In September 2018, Elbit Systems UK had been selected as the preferred bidder for the UK’s Project Morpheus Battle Management Application (BMA) contract.
Army-technology reported that Elbit Systems UK secured a new contract from the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) for delivery of the Morpheus battlefield management application (BMA) to the British Army.
Elbit Systems UK has secured a new contract from the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) for delivery of the Morpheus battlefield management application (BMA) to the British Army.
The amount of the initial contract is valued at approximately £10m ($13m) and has a potential maximum value of £40m ($51.96m) over the entire lifetime of the award.
The initial contract is planned to be carried out over a period of three years.
Elbit Systems UK chief executive officer Martin Fausset said, “We are proud to have been selected by the UK MoD to supply the Morpheus BMA providing a valuable capability for the British Army. We are proud to have been selected by the UK MoD to supply the Morpheus BMA providing a valuable capability for the British Army. In doing so we will be bringing Elbit Systems’ operationally proven capability and technological edge into the UK, adapting it for use and delivering it together with our local partners.”
Under the deal, Elbit Systems UK will be responsible for providing the British Army with an operationally proven BMA for both headquarters and tactical units of the service.
The BMA is based on TORC2 H, which is a command and control platform developed and delivered the company to a number of customers across the globe.
Leonardo DRS Battlefield Information System Applications (BISA) processor units
DRS provided Platform Battlefield Information System Applications (BISA) processor units, various tactical computers built around a common, modular design, Commander’s Crew Stations (CCSs) and associated computer accessories, including hard disk drives, keyboards and batteries for the original Bowman programme. Work for this contract was carried out by the company’s DRS Tactical Systems units in Palm Bay, Florida, and supported by DRS’s UK facility (now an integral part of Leonardo MW Ltd) located in Farnham, Surrey, U.K.
“You are now established as the primary supplier of rugged computer and display systems for the British Army’s Bowman programme. Now that the momentum is building to develop and field the next generation of capability in the form of Morpheus, what do you see as your winning differentiator to position Leonardo DRS for the next generation of tactical computing that Morpheus will require,?” The Editor asked Bill Guyan of DRS Technologies Inc.
“The British Army seek best-value solutions to equip their forces. We expect to see requirements that encourage the innovative use of latest COTS technologies, while ensuring delivery of full-spectrum systems reliability and mission-critical performance. Advanced technology is key to Morpheus and to that end we are in the unique position to leverage U.S. commercial technology used in support of the MFoCS II program to serve as the source of not only the ongoing Bowman technology upgrades, but also in support of Morpheus. The result will represent the latest in ultra-rugged commercial-off-the-shelf technology in the form of Intel® Xeon multi-core processing units, solid-state hard drives, rechargeable battery technology and rugged multi-touch sunlight-readable GVA display systems. The other key factor in winning Morpheus is the ability of DRS to not only manufacture but also support these products throughout their lifecycle in the U.K.,” said Bill Guyan.
“What is the timescale for the Morpheus bid?”
“Having won the original Bowman contract in 2003, DRS has since won several competitive contracts to provide technology insertions and upgrades to the Bowman data terminal fleet. DRS won an additional contract to provide rugged tactical displays, rugged computing technology upgrades, and associated services for Bowman’s Legacy Systems Upgrade (LSU) now known as BCIP 5.6. The contract, awarded by General Dynamics U.K. to DRS Technologies U.K. Limited (DRS UK), valued at $51 million, reinforced Leonardo DRS as the major supplier of platform tactical computing to military forces in the United Kingdom through the Bowman program. We are following U.K. Army plans for potential refresh of data terminals in the 2021 to 2023 timeframe.”
“What are the key MFoCS technologies available for Morpheus?”
“It is probably safe to say that the primary technology for Morpheus has not yet been produced, given the continued rapid cycles of COTS technology development. Ideally, we strive to rapidly adapt the latest and most promising technologies for delivery as mission-critical capabilities for use by our military customers. We are proud of our demonstrated ability to limit the time lag between commercial availability and readiness for delivery as a qualified military product. We have been able to successfully leverage the same technologies used in the U.S. Army’s MFoCS program to support Bowman technology upgrades, with the supply of computer mainboards as a key enabler. That seems to be a model that provides the latest technology as good value for money and ensures a desired level of interoperability, security, and supportability. In addition, interoperability between allies is key to today’s combat operations and the common technology will enable not only seamless communications between allies but also worldwide logistic support in any war theatre.”
Slingshot Integrated into Bowman
In March 2021 the British Armed Forces announced that they have equipped Regular Army units with Spectra Group’s SlingShot system, as they deploy on Operations and Exercises, to enable tactical satellite communications across the area of operation.
Spectra Group’s SlingShot system is unique in that it can be integrated with currently in-service UHF and VHF tactical communications systems to extend the range of tactical radios from 30km to 1000(+) km on the move in all conditions. By integrating SlingShot and the L-TAC satellite service with the UK’s line-of-sight VHF BOWMAN radios, the deployed troops have immediately gained communications capability that would otherwise have only been available to more specialist units. In addition to Beyond Line of Sight (BLOS) voice, SlingShot includes a data capability supporting critical applications such as: situational awareness tools; GPS tracking; reporting and other data messaging without the requirement for ground-based line-of-sight re-broadcasting infrastructure. Voice and data remain encrypted ‘end to end’ utilising BOWMAN’s own crypto to secure voice and data transmissions using the already battle-proven SlingShot system. Enabling BOWMAN with the robust Slingshot system also means that troops do not need to carry both BOWMAN radios (for line-of-sight) and UHF TACSAT radios (for strategic rear link). Both can now be carried out using the same radio. Finally, the omni-directional antennas utilised with SlingShot provide manpack, land, sea and air platforms, with real-time Comms on the Move (COTM) rather than Comms on the Pause, as experienced with traditional TACSAT.
Major General Jonathan Cole, Director of Information and CIO of the British Army said, “SlingShot is a fantastic addition to our communications inventory, delivering vital capability to deployed troops. Of particular note is the fact that the training burden is minimal as the system is effectively a ‘bolt-on’ to our current BOWMAN radios. SlingShot is a game changer in allowing our troops to operate at reach without the additional requirement to deploy more troops to provide rebroadcast capability when operating at Battle Group level and below. I am delighted to be working with Spectra on the fielding of such an important capability.”
Simon Davies, CEO of Spectra Group said, “We’ve already seen SlingShot become a battle-proven and battle-winning capability used by Special Forces across the globe but we’re delighted to see our SlingShot system now being used on operations by more Regular forces for the first time”. He added: “The beauty of SlingShot is that it can be ‘plugged into’ any in-service tactical radio system. The UK have led the way with this kind of approach to the integration of SlingShot but we’re now seeing other global forces, including the USA, adopt a similar strategy to meet every Beyond Line Of Sight communications scenario.”
Spectra Group’s SlingShot system is unique in that it can be integrated with in-service UHF and VHF tactical communications radios to extend the range from 30km to 1000(+) km on the move, in all conditions. By integrating SlingShot and Inmarsat’s L-TAC satellite service with in-service radios, the deployed troops have immediately gained communications capability that would otherwise not be available. In addition to Beyond Line of Sight (BLOS) voice, SlingShot includes a data capability supporting critical applications such as situational awareness tools; GPS tracking; reporting and other data messaging without the requirement for ground-based line-of-sight rebroadcasting infrastructure. Enabling an extension of the in-service radios with the robust SlingShot system also means that troops do not need to carry both VHF radios (for line-of-sight) and UHF TACSAT radios (for strategic rear link). With SlingShot, a single radio can carry-out both functions. Finally, the small omni-directional antennas utilised with SlingShot provide manpack, land, sea and air platforms, with real-time Comms on the Move (COTM) rather than Comms on the Pause, as experienced with traditional TACSAT systems.
In September 21. Spectra Group received an order for their SlingShot satellite communications system from an undisclosed European ministry of defence. The order is for specialist use by troops currently deployed on remote operations globally.
Spectra Group is an internationally renowned specialist provider of secure voice, data and satellite communications systems, specifically optimised for use in remote and challenging environments, with offices in the UK and USA.
British Army Dismounted Situational Awareness (DSA) programme
Availability of situational awareness information in a timely, accurate and consistent manner is a key enabler to the effective command and control of dismounted close combat forces and achievement of military objectives. The UK’s current use of paper maps and radio voice communications is slow and onerous and can lead to misinterpretations between commanders. Advances in situational awareness technology, as demonstrated by the USA and other allies, offer the opportunity to further digitise the Battlefield. Through the automation of battlefield data collation and exploitation, commanders at company-level1 and below, shall be more informed, able to make decisions quicker, increasing operational tempo and reducing the risk of own force casualties.
The DSA project team entered an Assessment Phase2 in March 2021 to develop a new, technology-driven, situational awareness capability enabled through the acquisition of suitably qualified and experienced industry partners. Specifically, a Design and Integration Partner to develop a Ministry Of Defence (MoD) owned solution which shall enable future capability evolution into the 2030s and beyond, ensuring that the MoD has access to the latest technology and innovation from across industry whilst avoiding “Vendor Lock In3.” A Radio Provider and component provider shall also be contracted by the Authority to provide/manufacture/produce the physical DSA system at scale. It is expected the first capability delivery of DSA shall be Quarter 3 2024.
DSA is a project within the Land Environment Tactical Communications and Information Systems (LE TacCIS) Programme. The DSA project team sits within the Dismounted Command, Control, Communications and Information (DC3I) team. As part of Battlefield and Tactical Communications and Information Systems (BATCIS) delivery team it reports to Defence Digital, Directorate Information and Ground Manoeuvre.
The complexities of terrain, populations and enemy strategies within the Land Domain means that dismounted close combat remains a typical operational deployment. The achievement of military objectives through dismounted close combat operations, typically in a dispersed group, is dependent upon effective command and control enabled through situational awareness. Situational awareness is the: “knowledge and understanding of the current situation which promotes timely, relevant and accurate assessment of friendly, competitive and other operations within the Battlefield in order to facilitate decision making. An informational perspective and skill that fosters an ability to determine quickly the context and relevance of events that are unfolding”.
Today, the UK achieves situational awareness through the use of paper maps and radio communications, typically Personal Role Radios (PRR), with basic position location information provided by Bowman, Common Battlefield Applications Toolset (ComBAT), Infrastructure and Platform Battlefield Information Systems Applications (BCIP) 5.6. The need for more dependable battlefield situational awareness has been recognised for some time. Through capability concept demonstrators in 2015 and 2019, the potential of technology to provide more timely, accurate, complete and consistent information, increasing dismounted commanders’ decision-making capabilities and an overall significant step-change in military effectiveness has been demonstrated.
For UK Defence to realise the operational benefits of this technology, the DSA project was established to provide dismounted close combat users with enhanced voice and data services that shall result in greater situational awareness capabilities.
The primary outcomes of the DSA project are to visualise battlefield information, reduce the burden of collating operational data and provide military commanders timely data to make better, more accurate operational decisions. Benefits include:
- Increased tempo, by enabling a wealth of position location information to be gathered and presented automatically and more accurately in seconds, compared to the current more manual process often undertaken over congested voice communications networks.
- Better and quicker decisions, by reducing the information gathering process and decreasing the cognitive burden on commanders allowing them to focus on analysing the available information to make quicker, better informed decisions.
- Increased coordination, by providing a battlefield management view of operations and a means of planning and communicating across forces without having to rely on voice communications, reducing errors and confusion.
- Reduction in risk and own force casualties, by enabling users to locate and communicate more accurately both enemy and friendly force locations, reducing the risk of fratricide.
- Optimised communications performance by managing the electromagnetic integration of DSA to maintain safety, security and co-site interoperability.
DSA project shall provide an Official Sensitive5 capability incorporating:
- Voice communications, i.e. radios, to all dismounted close combat users.
- Situational awareness to all dismounted commanders to company-level, including:
(1) Position and location information of soldiers.
(2) Friendly force locations.
(3) Battlefield management software applications, including visual representations, operational constraints and intelligence.
- Planning and information sharing tools for commanders.
- Ability to work collaboratively between commanders within the company group.
- Ability to produce a coherent view of the battlefield and contribute to the strategic operational picture in a timely and accurate manner.
In simplified terms, DSA shall address: Where am I? Where is my unit? Where is the enemy? What are my orders?
Dismounted close combat users operate within a wide range of Radio Frequency (RF) environments, and as such, it is essential that the DSA capability continues to operate within the harshest of RF environments; which may include other co-sited transmitters and/or Force Protection (FP) Electronic Countermeasures (ECM).
The DSA capability shall be designed around the dismounted close combat soldier and allow future integration with mounted close combat platforms. In order to ensure effectiveness and compatibility with other technology-driven soldier related capabilities, its development shall be aligned to other MOD systems architecture and open standards.
The DSA Design and Integration Partner
The Design and Integration Partner shall be responsible for the design and development of the DSA System, including evolving the draft DSA System Architecture (provided by the Authority at Contract Award) and developing and managing the DSA System Design. The Design and Integration Partner shall produce detailed subsystem requirements documents and technical product specifications for the radio and components, which shall be used by the
Authority to contract third party suppliers to provide/manufacture/produce the DSA system at scale.
- The radio subsystem requirements’ documents and technical product specifications shall form the basis of the procurement for a Radio Provider, the competition for which shall be led by the Authority supported by the Design and Integration Partner. The competition shall include down-select trials to ensure that the chosen radio, together with associated waveforms and cryptographic security, can perform at the required operational level and environment.
- The component subsystem requirements’ documents and technical product specifications shall be used by the Authority to contract for the supply of components.
- The Design and Integration Partner shall work with the Authority (and its third-party suppliers) to scope solution designs which ensure optimised value for money for the DSA system.
Once the radio and component solutions have been selected, they shall be presented to an Authority led design board7, along with the corresponding Combined Operational Effectiveness and Investment Appraisals (COEIAs), for approval at Full Business Case (FBC).
Workstream A: Radio Provider
As radios and waveforms are a significant proportion of the cost for the overall DSA system, a separate Radio Provider competition will be conducted. The Radio Provider competition will include down-select radio trials to ensure that the chosen radio, together with associated waveforms and cryptographic security, can perform at the required operational level and environment.
Procurement route: It is expected that this will be a competitive procurement under the Defence and Security Public Contract Regulations (DSPCR) 2011. The contract for the Radio Provider will not be awarded until FBC approval has been granted.
Workstream C: Supply Of Components
The Authority shall use the component specifications (developed by the Design and Integration Partner) to contract for the supply of components at scale.
Procurement route: It is anticipated that the DSA project team will exploit the opportunity to raise a task through an existing BATCIS framework contract, the scope of which covers the provision of DSA components. The task to source the DSA components is not expected to be placed until FBC approval has been granted.
Workstream D: Army Experimentation
There is currently an AHQ initiative taking place to further understand the operational and strategic impacts of DSA and other LE TacCIS equipment through experimentation activities. Experimentation is taking place in a wide range of scenarios, roles and geographical locations to test the capability rather than the equipment. The feedback and lessons learnt from these experimentation activities will be fed into the DSA project (where applicable).
Three Counties Defence & Security Expo 2019 DSA Briefings
At the Three Counties Defence & Security Expo in 2019, BATTLESPACE received a briefing regarding the British Army DSA programme. The Army has recently briefed some key requirements are for a radio that can operate in a 1.2MHz frequency channel around the 1430MHz area of the RF spectrum whilst providing voice, positional location information and messaging between a networked group of 120 soldiers.
The Army conducted experimentation under the RAVEN/DSA experiment, prior to the formal commencement of the DSA programme. During this experiment, TrellisWare technology was selected as a representative RF bearer system to attempt to demonstrate the viability of Mobile Ad-Hoc Networking (MANET) technology for DSA. A number of other MAENT radio technologies are available from other vendors including Steatite, Persistent Systems’ Reseller.
TrellisWare’s low Size, Weight, and Power (SWaP) radios support on-the-move communications without having to manually change out RF bands and modules, or antennas. Barrage Relay networking enables continuous and flexible frequency coverage, and TSM radios effortlessly provide transparent IP networking adaptable to any harsh RF environment or when mission-critical parameters change.
The core technology behind the TSM™ waveform is TrellisWare® Barrage Relay™ networking technology, which is built with the robust signal processing techniques of collaborative combining to outperform traditional MANETs. Barrage Relay is a trusted TRL-9 technology deployed with U.S. Special Operations Forces, and the TSM-X™ waveform is the primary MANET for the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) next generation handheld and manpack radios.
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.
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.
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.
Steatite has offered the MPU5 for the radio requirement for the UGV and UAV applications. However, the radio has not been considered for the PRR radio replacement due to price and bandwidth. However given that the Army Warfighter Experiment (AWE) has been conducting trials for infantry radio control of UAVs and UGVs and a requirement for a new PRR which does not have the required bandwidth for UAV/UGV control, Steatite, the UK agent for Persistent Systems told BATTLESPACE at the recent AOC Europe exhibition that the Army may consider buying the more expensive but more capable MPU5 to fulfill both roles. In the US, the IVAS Trials have shown that the system will not function properly with a narrow bandwidth (10Mbps). In the US Trials a Thales MBITR2 Spear radio, has been linked to the MPU5 to provide the functionality required.
The Joint Common Remote Viewing Terminal (JCRVT)
The Joint Common Remote Viewing Terminal capability is a modular, remote viewing transceiver which receives & transmits Real Time Motion Imagery (RTMI) from future and legacy Full Motion Video (FMV) platforms in the joint environment. JCRVT increases situational awareness in maritime, littoral and land environments, with significant impacts operationally and strategically.
DSA Systems Integrator
DSA aims to provide Dismounted Close Combat users with enhanced voice and data services that will enable more effective situational awareness at company group level.
Rowden Technologies is managing DCC on behalf of DE&S as Systems Integrator
Rowden’s mission as a systems integrator and software developer is to reduce the cost, complexity, and timelines of integration and enable continuous technological modernisation for users at the edge.
This means embracing a Modular Open Systems engineering approach and a DevSecOps methodology of continuous software improvement, so that C4ISR capabilities remain adaptive as user need evolves and new technologies emerge.
Three consortia re left in the DCC Programme to supply the infantry systems element, these are Ultra, Glenair and Black Diamond.
It is expected that DE&S will announce a DSA Industry Day in January 2022
TRINITY will provide a deployable Wide Area Network (WAN) with significantly increased bandwidth and information mobility compared to current systems, replacing the current Falcon system. It will be platform compliant assuring the integrity and availability of the data; it will also be part of the Protected Core Network.
The Trinity PQQs were issued in May 2021 with the ITT believed to be slated for October 2021. Airbus is amongst the Trinity bidders which will replace the BAE Systems Falcon system.
Falcon is a hardened, deployable secure network communication capability. It is fielded with the army and the RAF and primarily supports large deployed headquarters through to deployed air bases. Falcon Sustain is a new support contract to maintain this capability until the capability is replaced by TRINITY and NSoIT(D) in 2024.
Ultra ORION radio system
The Ultra ORION radio system is a core part of the Falcon system and will be migrated to Trinity.
The ORION radio system is a software-defined, multi-channel, multi-band, MIMO radio platform that provides a Unified Heterogeneous Wireless Network (HetNet) capable of supporting a diversity of user requirements and resilient network operations in contested and congested environments. Providing fixed and mobile communications across multiple echelons, the ORION combines exceptional operational flexibility and interoperability in a small form factor.
The Ultra ORION radio system enhances the communications capabilities of military units by providing higher levels of data throughput at extended ranges, including critical areas at the tactical edge via military mesh networks. With increased deployment of advanced sensors, voice, data and video applications within the armed forces, on-demand access to a secure and resilient communications network is a critical operational requirement.
In February 2021 the U.S. Army awarded a delivery order valued at $26.7m to Ultra Intelligence & Communications for the procurement and fielding of Ultra ORION radio systems in support of the U.S. Army’s TRILOS Radio Program and Capability Set 21 Fielding Plan. The order is part of the $497m IDIQ TRILOS Production Contract awarded to Ultra in June of 2019. Ultra has delivered over 500 ORION Systems since the program’s inception.
The ORION radio system is a software-defined, multi-channel, multi-band, MIMO radio platform that enables a Unified Heterogeneous Wireless Network (HETNET) capable of supporting a diversity of user requirements and resilient network operations in contested and congested environments.
Ultra’s ORION radio system enhances the communications capabilities of military units by providing higher levels of data throughput at extended ranges, including critical areas at the tactical edge. With increased deployment of advanced sensors, voice, data and video applications within the armed forces, on-demand access to a secure and resilient communications network is a critical operational requirement.
The Ultra ORION is the fourth generation of high capacity radio systems delivered to the U.S. Department of Defense spanning a period over five decades.
Alain Cohen, President, Ultra Communications commented, “We are proud of our growing partnership with the U.S. Army to deliver an information dominance capability that future theatres of operations call for. The Ultra ORION network system has been designed to provide enduring technological overmatch. It can be continuously upgraded to ensure unrivalled network survivability. This will include cutting-edge cognitive features we are developing today. As the ORION X500 gets fielded to provide next-gen high-capacity backhaul connectivity, we’re equally excited to introduce the new ORION X510 to provide mobile and interoperable mid-tier connectivity to the densifying tactical edge.”
The user requires platforms, to host a wide variety of deployable Communication and Information Systems (CIS) capabilities including interchange. It will deliver these services in a coherent, secure and consumable manner at the point and time of need of the Land Domain User (Warfighter and Systems). It will provide a multi-platform common CIS fit using in-service CIS, be mission configurable, provide increased connectivity, range and bandwidth from sub-unit to Corps HQs.
‘The British Army, therefore, has a modernisation challenge. We are seeking to invest in new and novel technologies whilst simultaneously attempting to modernise an aging and increasing obsolete fleet. Central to our modernisation agenda is the digital and data backbone which places interoperability at the heart of the programme and will genuinely see the British Army transfer from the mechanical to the digital age. Future capability will be enhanced with greater access to wider services and networks, specifically intelligence, surveillance and communication networks, to enable those operating in and from physical platforms to operate more intelligently and effectively.’
A number of teams have bid the LE TacCis requirement
The proposed LE TacCIS Future Operating Model, in contrast to the current single source prime supplier model, will be procured from multiple providers incentivised to deliver increased system agility, improved capability, vendor independence and Value for Money; this is key to delivering the strategic benefits of the LE TacCIS programme.
The Operating Model not only allows the MoD greater awareness of risks, but also enables earlier mitigations more effectively than under the current prime model.
The LE TacCIS programme consists of multiple sub-programmes and projects with the aim to deliver the next generation of tactical military communications in the land environment, through Evolutionary Capability Delivery and providing the means to make informed and timely decisions enabled by agile Communication Information Systems (CIS).
The programme portfolio consists of Bowman ComBAT Infrastructure and Platform, BCIP 5.6, the MORPHEUS sub-programme, the TRINITY sub-programme, Joint Common Remote Viewing Terminal (JCRVT), Dismounted Soldier Awareness (DSA), Falcon, NIOBE and multiple delivery and support projects such as MORPHEUS Test and Reference Centre and BEARERS.
LE TacCIS will deliver the first installation of Defence as a Platform (DaaP) in the tactical environment, providing the next generation of secure communications and awareness systems to16,000 Land platforms, the solider, 130 Royal Naval vessels and over 200 RAF aircraft.
The LE TacCIS programme is delivered by the Battlefield Tactical Communications and Information Systems (BATCIS) Delivery Team, in conjunction with Army Headquarters and Strategic Command/Defence Digital and key industry partners.
Airbus, Fujitsu and Thales UK have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to work collaboratively on the upcoming Systems Integrator (SI) opportunity for the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD), Land Environment Tactical Communications and Information Systems programme (LE TacCIS).
The partners have formed team ICELUS bringing together a trusted collective of MOD strategic partners who have a unique breadth of expertise to accelerate the modernisation of defence networks to support a truly data rich, Multi-Domain environment.
ICELUS will offer pioneering change through a coherent systems integration approach to ultimately deliver operational effectiveness and information advantage to the end user. The three partners will be able to jointly explore how their respective unique expertise and solutions can be combined in order to put forward the best-possible proposals with regard to capabilities and competitiveness for this major programme.
ICELUS believes that no single industrial partner is able to assist the MoD in achieving their goals of enabling the ‘Digital Backbone’ through the introduction of emergent command and control systems. ICELUS believes that they are the only team able to offer the best System Integration capability using a ‘Soldier to Satellite’ ideology. ICELUS will continue to on-board innovative, small and medium sized enterprises and bring about specialist innovative capabilities to offer genuine innovation whilst continuing to sustain and enhance a UK centric, defence industrial base.
Since the signature of the MOU earlier this year, ICELUS has tackled the first LE TacCIS opportunity – Trinity – which focuses on battlespace broadband linking with higher HQs and high bandwidth users. We believe that Trinity represents the first stepping stone toward Global Hyper Connectivity and the realisation of the Digital Backbone. Moving forwards ICELUS will continue to prepare and focus on the upcoming System Integrator (SI) opportunity to lead on the design and integration of the products & services for applications, infrastructures and networks.
We believe that Team ICELUS is the only team able to offer the best System Integration capability to the authority using a ‘Soldier to Satellite’ ideology. There are many areas where Fujitsu will seek to offer capability to the LE TacCIS programme which include the exploitation of our extensive knowledge and experience in delivering successful hybrid cloud solutions. We also be looking to support the programme in terms of software integration and support, DevOps, Infrastructure management, data analytics as well as in the area of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to help the MOD evolve and achieve their goal of modernising the ‘Digital Backbone’ through the introduction of emergent technology in an agile manner.” Helen Birchall, Business Development Army & Deployed Operations
Defence & National Security, Fujitsu.
Jacobs has signed exclusive teaming agreements with Lockheed Martin, ATOS, Roke, BMT and MKC Training to develop an innovate and efficient Systems Integrator (SI) and Strategic Delivery Partner service solution for the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD), Land Environment Tactical Communications and Information Systems (LE TacCIS) portfolio. MORPHEUS is a sub-programme under LE TacCIS, and it requires a Future Operating model (FOM).
Jacobs and partners have formed team MOBIUS to provide an extensive set of Programmatic and Technical Engineering attributes that will deliver an enhanced System Integrator and Strategic Deliver Partnership service for the MORPHEUS FOM. It will also deliver supply chain management and operational service management.
Team MOBIUS brings together true collaboration from industry leaders with proven experience developing, integrating, and delivering complex mission critical systems for defence and industrial clients globally. MOBIUS will encourage and sustain an inclusive and diverse set of Small to Medium Enterprises and supply chain community while continually horizon scanning and nurturing new technology and talent that will future proof and enhance the LE TacCIS service for the MOD as the MORPHEUS and LE TacCIS Future Operating Model develops.
Skynet 6 is the programme to replace the current constellation of Skynet 5 satellites and associated ground support equipment.
Skynet 6A will extend and enhance the Skynet fleet. The contract signed with the UK MoD in July 2020 involves the development, manufacture, cyber protection, assembly, integration, test and launch, of a military communications satellite, Skynet 6A, planned for launch in 2025. The contract also covers technology development programmes, new secure telemetry, tracking and command systems, launch, in-orbit testing and ground segment updates to the current Skynet 5 system. The value of the contract is more than £500m.
The Skynet 5 programme, provided by Airbus as a full service outsource contract, has provided the UK MoD with a suite of highly robust, reliable and secure military communications services, supporting global operations since 2003. Airbus has been involved in all Skynet phases since 1974 and this phase builds on a strong UK commitment to space manufacturing in the UK. The programme commenced by using the legacy Skynet 4 satellites and then augmenting them with a fully refurbished ground network before launching the Skynet 5A, 5B, 5C and 5D satellites between 2007 and 2012. The Skynet 5 programme has reduced or removed many of the technical and service risks for the MOD, whilst ensuring unrivalled secure satcoms and innovation to UK forces. Through the many years of delivering an exceptionally reliable Skynet service the Airbus teams have managed to significantly extend the lifespan of the Skynet satellites many years beyond their design life, offering significant additional value for money and capability to the UK.
Richard Franklin, Airbus Defence and Space UK Managing Director said, “Airbus is extremely proud to be awarded this critical UK defence contract continuing our long tradition as the UK national milsatcom end-to-end services provider. Satellite manufacturing, linked to support services, is a critical component of the Government-industry UK space strategy and this contract underpins the UK MOD’s and industry’s lead position in this sector. Building this military satellite will, like Skynet 5, lead to significant export opportunities in the years ahead, growing high value manufacturing jobs and supporting a diverse supply chain in this increasingly important sector.
“This contract for 6A demonstrates the strong working partnership we have with UK MOD, built on the success we have jointly achieved on the Skynet 5 system since 2003. Airbus is fully committed to delivering world-class military communications services to our Armed Forces across the globe, and look forward to delivering this step change in capability to the MOD,” he continued.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said, “A new, more advanced satellite capability will provide continued communications support to the UK deployed forces for many years. British defence must continue to innovate and transform, particularly in cyber and space. Investment in first-class equipment like this new Skynet satellite will keep us safe from the threats we face both now and in the future.”
The Skynet 6A satellite will be based on Airbus’ Eurostar Neo telecommunications satellite platform. It will utilise more of the radio frequency spectrum available for satellite communications and the latest digital processing to provide both more capacity and greater versatility than Skynet 5 satellites. The satellite will feature electric orbit raising propulsion as well as electric station keeping systems for maximum cost effectiveness. Complete satellite integration will take place at Airbus facilities in the UK followed by testing using RAL Space testing facilities at Harwell in Oxfordshire supporting the UK Space Agency initiative for sovereign UK end-to-end satellite production and support.
Science Minister Amanda Solloway said, “Space technology plays an important role in supporting our military and keeping us safe, while also boosting the UK’s economy and enabling world-leading science and research. With this major investment in Skynet 6A, the development of the National Satellite Test Facility and the launch of a dedicated innovation programme, we are setting a bold new ambition for the UK in space.”
The satellite is due for launch in 2025 and will have a minimum design lifetime of 15 years. Its orbital position will be announced closer to the launch date.
Skynet ground facilities are currently operated by Airbus as part of a wider private finance initiative (PFI) deal signed in 2003 to build, own and operate a constellation of communication satellites and associated capabilities on behalf of the British military. That deal expires Aug 2022. The satellites and associated equipment will be returned to the MoD for a notional £1.
Enduring Capability and the Secure Telemetry, Tracking and Command (STTC) projects
The other two key parts of a program presently expected to cost in total around £6bn ($7.6bn) are the Enduring Capability project, to provide next generation communications capabilities, and the Secure Telemetry, Tracking and Command (STTC) project for providing assured sovereign control and management of satellites.
The MoD has settled its STTC requirements for Skynet 6A but its options for the longer term remain open.
Work on defining what the Enduring Capability requirement might look like has been underway for a while and industry executives here expect the effort to be ramped up in the coming months with the first tranche of recommendations due to be presented to the MoD early next year, said people with knowledge of the program.
The next-generation communications requirement is planned to get underway next year with the release by MoD of a pre-qualification questionnaire.
One industry executive, who asked not to be named, said securing the Service Delivery Wrap deal is seen as an important stepping stone towards the larger Skynet Enduring Capability procurements.
“It will help the winning consortium secure local skills in the sector, help in understanding the customers communications requirements and assist in filling in the revenue gaps between what is often sporadic investment in satellites and payloads,” the executive said.
Space is an industrial and military priority for the British, and while it remains unclear how the worsening economic picture here might impact defense spending it is hoped the sector and programs like Skynet 6 and the Galileo global navigation satellite system replacement project, might escape the worst of the expected cuts.
One cost cutting option the British are reckoned to have been looking at is to use future Skynet 6 spacecraft to double up its use by carrying a GNSS capability as well.
The winning Service Delivery Wrap contender is slated to take over ground operations from that point after a transition phase. Final submissions are expected in October 2021 with the winner announced in Q2 2022.
The Service Delivery Wrap arrangement runs for five years, not including any transition phase, with two single-year extension options also expected to be included in the deal.
The terms of the existing PFI arrangement entail the MoD paying a nominal fee of a Pound in exchange for which it will take ownership of hundreds of millions of Pounds worth of assets in the shape of ground infrastructure and the Skynet 4 and 5 satellite fleets currently operated by Airbus.
Accompanying the Service Delivery Wrap (SDW) is the Enduring Capability (EC) contract which runs alongside the SDW.
The EC programme is expected to cover the procurement of new satellite modems, large land-based antennas and naval antennas. The SDW winner will provide the systems integration for the complete system.
This time around the MoD wants to retain overall ownership of the capability in order to help grow its space skills and management experience by way of owning the ground station assets with the winning consortium working under a straightforward service provision deal.
Skynet service the Airbus teams have managed to significantly extend the lifespan of the Skynet satellites many years beyond their design life, offering significant additional value for money and capability to the UK.
In June 2020 Four international consortia were shortlisted by the MoD to enter the final stage of bidding to operate ground control facilities for its Skynet satellite communications network.
Teams led by Airbus Defence & Space, Babcock Integrated Technology, BT and Serco, were down-selected for the Skynet 6 Service Delivery Wrap program following the MoD’s Defence Digital organization release of an invitation to tender document to the remaining contenders in June 2012.
The make-up of one of the teams vying for the ground station operations contract is already known, while others have yet to announce who their partners are.
Airbus, Britain’s biggest satellite builder, did though coincide the MoD Skynet 6 down-select with a separate space partnering announcement of its own.
On 16 June 2020 the UK’s space industry leader Airbus, teamed with KBR, Leidos UK, Northrop Grumman and QinetiQ to bring new thinking to future space solutions and to launch the Open Innovation – Space initiative. The aim of Open Innovation – Space is to further increase SME involvement in UK future satellite communications services and space activities creating high value jobs and growth across the UK.
The consortium, comprising the UK leader in space and sovereign military satellite communication services, and leading defence companies in their fields, have extensive experience in mission critical communication services and associated space, ground and management segments. With proven track records of modernising defence services, the consortium partners already engage with many SMEs to serve government and commercial customers. Open Innovation – Space will look to significantly raise this SME engagement to accelerate regional recovery by broadening potential investment in novel solutions and ideas. Companies from across the UK are being encouraged to participate with a dedicated portal at www.openinnovationspace.uk to engage with the team.
Richard Franklin, Managing Director, Airbus Defence and Space UK said, “The space industry will play an increasingly important and visible role in the economic recovery of Britain, underpinning not only critical national infrastructure but also day to day services such as weather forecasting and satellite navigation. As space services and applications continue to expand and touch everyone’s lives even more, we are calling on SMEs to engage with us further to see how we can bring greater innovation and new ways of thinking in future satcom services to grow the UK’s space capability and industrial expertise.”
The consortium partners have been at the heart of the UK’s defence and space sector for more than 50 years having developed leading edge design, manufacturing, systems and service capabilities across the entire space domain.
Airbus in the UK is recognised as a global leader in the design and manufacture of advanced telecommunications satellites and is a trusted prime contractor for some of the most complex space science and exploration missions in the world. Airbus provides a range of space-based services to customers worldwide including the support of the UK Armed Forces, and its NATO Allies, by delivering and operating the Skynet military communications system, providing 24/7 services across the world for more than 15 years.
The consortium partners include leaders in modernising defence information technology systems as well as trusted providers of research, technology advice, products and mission rehearsal services. With proven capabilities to enable interoperability with allies, including the US, NATO, Five Eyes etc, the consortium share a vision of the future and a commitment to grow the UK’s industrial footprint through SME engagement.
Serco declares Team Athena
Serco declared Team Athena in May 2020. Serco, Inmarsat, CGI UK and Lockheed Martin UK have formed ‘Athena’ to develop additional UK space capabilities, win new business and boost the British economy. Athena is the UK’s new national team in space, formed by Serco, Inmarsat, CGI UK and Lockheed Martin UK. The four companies are world leaders in providing technology and services across defence, space, communications and information technology to governments, businesses and other organisations.
Athena has been formed to seize development opportunities that new space technologies will offer, driving economic growth for the UK and diversification across the British space sector as Athena succeeds. The combined capabilities and technologies available to Athena will enhance further the country’s ability to deliver the UK’s ‘Prosperity and Security in Space’ strategy, which aims to increase the value of space to wider industrial activities to £500bn, generate an extra £5bn in UK exports and attract £3bn of additional inward investment.
Kevin Craven Serco Chief Executive, UK & Europe, said, “I am delighted to introduce Athena as an exciting new team that will deliver enhanced space-based technologies and services from the UK. Athena will boost British capabilities, as well as the economy, via growth in this fast-moving, developing sector. The launch of Athena also ensures diversity and choice in the UK space sector for future sustainable development.”
Athena will work on a number of opportunities that leverage space-based technologies, their ground-based systems and end-to-end services as they arise, both in the UK and internationally in the export market.
The UK has significant potential for strong growth in the space sector, as it develops in importance worldwide to facilitate new technologies such as driverless transport, enhanced navigation, secure communications for defence and for industry via the Internet of Things (IoT) and, more broadly, as part of 5G and other hybrid networks.
While continuing to operate as separate companies, Athena will see Serco, Inmarsat, CGI UK and Lockheed Martin UK – already major employers in the UK – develop shared capabilities to meet future demand for space-enabled solutions for business and government customers. This will also aim to boost the UK economy, in partnership with the UK Government’s growing focus on the space sector and its priorities around ‘levelling up’ economic benefits across the country. Unleashing untapped potential in the UK space sector through future export business will deliver further growth and job creation at the four companies’ sites across the country as well as enhanced skills in the UK workforce.
As world-leading, UK-based organisations, Athena member companies have joined forces to amplify the sum of their parts, enhancing the nation’s space industry capabilities through meaningful collaboration. With best-in-class experience across a wide variety of technology and services, spanning defence, aerospace, communications and information technology, Athena was formed to help deliver prosperity and security as part of the UK space industry. Together, Athena aims to be a force for positive change in the space industry, building a strategic, innovative future on the experienced and proven foundations of the impressive heritage of the companies involved.
Spectra Group joins Athena
Spectra Group, the internationally renowned specialist provider of secure voice, data and satellite communications systems, joined Athena.
Spectra Group, a UK Government Top 100 SME supplier, has joined Athena to bring specific expertise to the area of UK defence and government satellite communications. Spectra’s SlingShot system, which was recently awarded the prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise for Innovation, is a unique, lightweight system that enables existing, in-service tactical military and commercial VHF/UHF radios to utilise Inmarsat’s L-TAC service. The technology delivers Beyond Line of Sight (BLOS) Comms on the Move (COTM) with low-latency voice and data connectivity to radio networks for ground, vehicle, maritime and airborne platforms. SlingShot’s unique capability provides reliable, secure command and control communications between widely dispersed military forces and/or civilian agencies operating in austere and hostile environments, without the cost, delay or logistical challenges of deploying additional infrastructure.
Simon Davies, CEO of Spectra Group said, “Joining Athena is a key step for Spectra Group in a world undergoing transformational change, driving a universal desire for a more united approach to the future in space for the UK. By combining our strengths in a national team and contributing with our specific skillset, Spectra Group and Athena will help the UK space sector seamlessly transition from the strong foundations of today, to the endless possibilities of tomorrow.”
Todd McDonell, President, Global Government at Inmarsat said, “Expertise and experience increasingly matters to defence customers and being able to incorporate highly skilled specialisations from leading UK SME companies brings benefit to both the UK economy at large, as well as to the UK Space agenda. Spectra has demonstrated a specialist skillset in delivering tactical radio communications globally, from their UK based expert teams. We see having Spectra join the Athena team as a great way to enhance the critical delivery of leading edge, space based services being offered to the UK.”
BT, NSSLGlobal and Viasat Team
BT, NSSLGlobal and Viasat have partnered to bid for the Service Delivery Wrap (SDW) contract for the UK’s Skynet 6 Satellite Communications (SATCOM) programme.
The BT-NSSLGlobal-Viasat consortium is set to face off against several other teams, for the SDW contract but believes it can provide a ‘fully managed best-in-class SATCOM solution.’
BT major government director Ed Stainton, said, “The combined strengths of this new alliance will bring leading-edge technical expertise to the MOD across maritime, air, land, space and cyber environments. We will build on a strong innovation culture and access to best-of-breed technologies to work collaboratively with our alliance partners to deliver military-grade, mission-critical communications services to the MOD and other government departments. For BT, this is an example of how we are striving to do the best for our customers and for our country.”
NSSLGlobal Defence and Space Programmes director Neil Fraser said, “As a British company, we have a strong 40-year ‘tried and tested’ heritage of working in partnership with the UK Armed Forces. The expertise of our dedicated staff and engineers is one of our key assets, providing innovative communications across sea, land and air. The strength of this alliance is embedded in our shared values of providing excellent service and our complementary skills and expertise.”
Viasat UK Government Systems managing director John Reeves newly added, “We bring deep expertise in working with the MOD and an extensive track record of innovative credentials to this team. In collaborating with BT and NSSLGlobal, we will be able to provide crucial advancements from the defence and commercial sectors to quickly modernise the UK’s Armed Forces capabilities and make the battlespace network of the future a reality for our servicemen and women. Together, this alliance is poised to become a national asset to the MOD for current and future communications and space programmes as it has the ability to enhance information advantage by utilising some of the world’s leading SATCOM, tactical networking, cyber and emerging defence technologies.”
Babcock-led Team Aurora
On 25th January 2021 Babcock-led Team Aurora announced the bid for Skynet 6. Babcock-led Team Aurora is putting collaboration, continuity and responsiveness at the heart of its solution to support the UK’s the defence satellite communications system.
Team Aurora – led by Babcock and including GovSat, Intelsat and SES – has gone forward to the next stage of the competition with its plans progressing at pace. Together the team brings a wealth of both international public and commercial expertise to support the delivery of the contract, and will put partnership with the Ministry of Defence at the centre of its delivery approach.
Backed by its unique, collective experience across defence and satcom operations, Team Aurora will maximise the use of existing infrastructure to bring efficiencies, leverage its extensive experience as a UK service delivery and support provider, and provide value for money by bringing technological innovation from the outset of contract.
Matthew Parnell, Babcock’s Defence Systems Technology Director, on behalf of Team Aurora, said, “Bringing insight and engagement from day one, Team Aurora is focussed on providing an uninterrupted, highly available service that is responsive and brings an assured end to end approach for the Ministry of Defence. We will put people at the centre of the service. Developing a culture of collaboration, Team Aurora will invest time to deliver value back through knowledge transfer and will grow a one-team ethos with our customer and the supply chain.”
Skynet 6A passes Preliminary Design Review
In January 2021 Skynet 6A successfully passed the Preliminary Design Review. This is an important milestone achieved despite Covid-19. Skynet 6A now moves towards detailed design phase with more than 250 working on the programme. Airbus has successfully completed the first key phase of the Skynet 6A project with the achievement of the Preliminary Design Review (PDR). The project now has permission to move into the next phase leading to the Critical Design Review (CDR).
Airbus was awarded the Skynet 6A contract in July 2020 and teams across its sites in Stevenage, Portsmouth and Hawthorn have been working on the programme to achieve this key milestone. Meetings with the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) were held virtually enabling the review board to take place in October and the PDR being achieved in November. Launch of Skynet 6A will take place in 2025 with Initial Operating Capacity in 2026.
The remaining satellites for Skynet 6, the final numbers are yet to be decided will be offered out to industry to bid by the end of 2021.
Richard Franklin, Managing Director of Airbus Defence and Space UK said, “This is excellent news and demonstrates our joint commitment to work in partnership to achieve the programme schedule. The progress we are making in building the UK MOD’s next generation military satellite and getting to this stage, despite current restrictions, really highlights the flexible and strong working relationship we have built with the Defence Digital team. Skynet 6A, to be built entirely in the UK, will significantly enhance the UK’s milsatcoms capability, building on the heritage of the four Skynet 5 satellites which were also built by Airbus, and which are all still operating perfectly in orbit.”
Teams from across the space and ground segments in Airbus worked closely with their MoD counterparts to keep the programme on track.
The Skynet 6A satellite is based on Airbus’ Eurostar Neo telecommunications satellite platform. It will utilise more of the radio frequency spectrum available for satellite communications and the latest digital processing to provide both more capacity and greater versatility than Skynet 5 satellites. The satellite will feature electric orbit raising propulsion as well as electric station keeping systems for maximum cost effectiveness. Complete satellite integration will take place at Airbus facilities in the UK followed by testing using RAL Space testing facilities at Harwell in Oxfordshire supporting the UK Space Agency initiative for sovereign UK end-to-end satellite production and support.
Skynet 6A Production Starts
On October 12th, UK Defence Journal reported that Jeremy Quin MP, the UK’s Minister for Defence Procurement, visited Airbus in Stevenage today and pushed the button to start production of the first panel skin for the UK MOD’s next generation military communications satellite Skynet 6A.
“The Defence Minister started the high precision cutting machine to profile the first aluminium panels of the near six ton Skynet 6A satellite which is based on Airbus’ Eurostar Neo telecommunications spacecraft and visited the extensive cleanroom facilities on site. Airbus was awarded the more than £500m contract to design and build Skynet 6A in July 2020 and the programme achieved its Preliminary Design Review in December 2020.” Airbus statement.
Jeremy Quin said, “Secure military satellite communications are vital for our ability to conduct operations on a global scale. Seeing the first hardware for the next generation Skynet 6A satellite shows we are on track for launch in 2025 and ready to upgrade and enhance the UK’s global military communications network.”
Richard Franklin, Managing Director of Airbus Defence and Space said, “Airbus in the UK is a world leader in the design and manufacture of military and commercial telecommunications satellites, and working hand in hand with the Defence Digital team we have overcome the challenges of Covid and are on track with the programme. We also look to future export opportunities which will benefit the wider space ecosystem and are actively engaged with bringing on board a wider spread of UK SMEs to deliver this essential sovereign capability.”
Skynet 6A will extend and enhance the Skynet fleet. The contract signed with the UK involves the development, manufacture, cyber protection, assembly, integration, test and launch, of the military communications satellite, Skynet 6A.
The contract also covers technology development programmes, new secure telemetry, tracking and command systems, launch, in-orbit testing and ground segment updates.
Airbus awards Viasat UK SATCOM contract
In February 2021 Airbus awarded Viasat’s UK entity an $8.5m (£ 6.7m) contract to upgrade the Ultra High Frequency (UHF) satellite communications (SATCOM) Network Control Stations (NCS), delivering the UHF Skynet capability to the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD). This upgrade will leverage Viasat’s Visual Integrated Satellite communications Information, Operation and Networking (VISION) software platform, enabling the MOD to comply with the latest Integrated Waveform (IW) requirements, known as IW Phase 2.
Airbus contracted this upgrade with Viasat to further enhance the UK Armed Forces’ mission situational awareness and operational insights; provide greater communications interoperability and scalability to more users on the battlefield; and ensure increased flexibility across legacy and next-generation NCS platforms. Airbus has been using Viasat’s UHF SATCOM technology since 2012, within the Skynet satellite network, which currently benefits UK MOD and coalition forces, including NATO and Five Eye (FVEY) nations.
“The UHF upgrade, incorporating our VISION software, is key to providing increased mission effectiveness and situational awareness by enabling our troops in the UK to communicate more efficiently and cost-effectively across the globe,” said John Reeves, managing director, Viasat UK. “With VISION, the network operators will gain more assured, reliable, real-time communications capabilities to reconfigure UHF satellite networks to meet new tactical profiles—as battlefield and warfighter requirements can dynamically change at a moment’s notice.”
BATCM/0322 – Multi-Mode Radio (MMR)
In May 2021 Harris Systems was awarded a £90m contract under the Morpheus MMR Requirement
On 4 May 2020 the Battlefield and Tactical Communication Information Systems (BATCIS) Team, part of the Ministry of Defence (“the Authority”) issued a Contract Notice to commence the procurement for a Multi-Mode Radio (“MMR”) system using the negotiated procedure with prior publication of a contract notice. Following the selection phase, an Invitation to Negotiate (“ITN”) was issued on 2 December 2020. There were three tenderers in the procurement. On 29 Jan 2021, one tenderer withdrew from the procurement by notice to the Authority. On 19 Feb 2021, another tenderer withdrew from the procurement by notice to the Authority. Accordingly, in the absence of suitable tenders in response to the negotiated procedure with prior publication of a contract notice, the Authority contracted for the same requirement, without substantially altering the terms of the proposed contract, with Harris Global Communications Inc / Harris Systems Limited using the negotiated procedure without prior publication of a contract notice pursuant to regulation 16(1)(a)(i) the Defence and Security Public Contracts Regulations 2011.
The aim of the Multi-Mode Radio (MMR) project is to maintain Tactical Satellite (TacSAT) and Ground-to-Air (G2A) capabilities post-2023 and set the conditions for a transition to and integration with the future MORPHEUS radio capabilities. The MOD has a requirement for National Security Agency (NSA) accredited Handheld and Manpack software-defined combat net radios capable of operating at SECRET across a broad range of military frequency bands (30MHz to 1.8GHz) delivering voice and data communication across the following modes of operation: Ground to Air; Ground to Ground – Line of Sight; Ground to Ground – Mobile Ad-hoc Network (MANET); and Ground to Ground – Beyond Line of Sight. In order to support interoperability between NATO and FVEY Partners, the radios are likely to require (but will not be limited to) the following waveform capabilities: HAVEQUICK II; Second-generation Anti-jam Tactical UHF radios for NATO (SATURN); Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System (SINCGARS); Demand Assigned Multiple Access (DAMA); Integrated Waveform (IW) 2; and TSM. To achieve secure communications, the radios will be capable of using various cryptographic standards, which are likely to include (but will not be limited to): VINSON Advanced Narrowband Digital Voice Terminal (ANDVT), Tactical Secure Voice Cryptographic Interoperability Specification (TSVCIS), Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) 256. The radios will be operated on the soldier (dismounted) whilst deployed worldwide on battlefield missions of 72+hrs without support, which will require the following system attributes: long battery life, minimum size, weight and power, low/no maintenance, no special tools or test equipment and include ancillaries. The radios will be configurable locally or remotely allowing users to load new mission fills and load or purge cryptographic keys. The Manpack radio will be able to integrate within the MORPHEUS Evolve to Open (EvO) System Baseline. MORPHEUS Evolve to Open (EvO) is the first instantiation of Defence as a Platform (DaaP) in the tactical environment.
Total Quantity or Scope
The core Contract supply is expected to have a value range of £70m-£90m (ex VAT). Including Options, the total anticipated Contract Value is between £70m-£250m (ex VAT). The supplier will be able to deliver quantities of up to 700 Manpack radios and 500 Handheld radios (exclusive of Options) that will meet the MMR performance requirements. Other requirements will include:
- Training needs analysis and development of training materials;
- Ancillaries (for example, antennas, headsets, batteries, pouch/bergen)
- Integrated Logistical Support, including: o Supportability analysis;
o NATO codification & unique item identification recording and marking (2D barcoding); o Delivery of initial spares package;
o Packaging, handling, storage & transportation planning; o Provision of technical documentation;
- Project management and governance; and
- Security, electromagnetic compatibility (EMC), safety and environmental assurance activities. Support Requirements Once the MMR solution has achieved FOC, the repair and inventory management services for MMR will be delivered by the future Logistical Support Contract (LSC) (Contract Reference: BATCM/0294) provider (Babcock Integrated Technology Limited). The MMR supplier will support transition of the MMR logistics requirements onto the LSC Contract. Additional information: The Authority reserves the right to amend any condition related to security of information to reflect any changes in national law or government policy. In reference to Section V: Award of Contract, the
The UK MoD has certainly set itself a daunting task to provide seamless agile communications across the multi-domain battlespace. With murmuring already rife that EvO is slipping and a change of requirement looms, we hope that Morpheus will not morph in another Bowman?