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01 Apr 21. Could Latvia become NATO’s 5G military test hub? Latvia is aiming to market itself as a hub for 5G military testing in Europe, with a successful technology test late last year leading to an expanded effort planned for 2021.
For several days last November, Ādaži Military Base, located outside of Riga, was temporarily turned into a 5G hub. The test involved doing medical training through virtual/augmented reality glasses, as well as training for military personnel via a VR headset, with the VR capability coming from Latvian companies.
The training happened with up to 12 miles (20 kilometers) distance between military units, Jānis Garisons, state secretary for the Latvian Ministry of Defence, told C4ISRNET. It also involved communicating with unmanned aerial vehicles at a distance.
From conception to execution took about three months, according to Ingmārs Pūķis, vice president for marketing and business development at LMT, Latvia’s largest telecommunications provider. The company set up the test bed and worked with the Ministry of Defence on the experiments.
The 5G network is based on Nokia Corp. technology, with Garisons stressing that Chinese firm Huawei Technologies Co., a major security concern for the U.S. military, was never an option considered, as a result of cybersecurity protocols passed by the government last summer requiring that all 5G components used in Latvia be produced in NATO or EU countries.
The two men declined to give a total cost for the effort, but indicated it was dramatically lower than the $600m cost announced for five U.S. military test sites — unsurprising, given that Latvia’s annual defense budget is about 708m euros ($830m at current exchange rates).
The testbed was not the first 5G experiment for the Latvian government, which has mapped out a rough 5G plan for the country through 2024. Previous tests looked at whether a network handoff along the Latvian and Estonian border can be done smoothly and whether cell phones could be linked up to tactical radios to create a wider mesh network, which Pūķis called “somewhat crazy” because of its complexity.
But this was the first time a military base was used as a test site with an eye directly on 5G military capabilities, even if Pūķis described the initial round of tests as experimenting with the “low-hanging fruit” of 5G capabilities.
Garisons sees “three main directions” for 5G development in Latvia: situational awareness and early warning, communications network redundancy, and future technological developments.
Latvia is “a small country and we don’t have a lot of manpower,” Garisons said. “And through those technologies we can achieve, probably, some effects that probably otherwise we would not be able to achieve” against a stronger power.
While Garisons didn’t mention Russia by name, Atlantic Council fellow Ian Brzezinski said it makes “eminent sense” for Latvia to focus on technology like 5G as a counter to its larger neighbor.
“Technology can be a powerful a force multiplier — especially when that technology is ahead of that of the adversary,” Brzezinski said. “A country the size of Latvia bordering on Russia with the current government in Moscow needs that competitive edge.”
Both Latvians acknowledged they would be happy for their nation to become a key part of the NATO development of 5G systems, but discussions at this point are in the early stages.
Canada has forces stationed at Ādaži as part of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence, and has expressed interest in looking further at what the Latvian government learned from the test, Garisons said. Additionally, Latvia presented its findings at a late 2020 meeting of NATO’s Communications and Information Agency.
“Latvia has offered their 5G facilities if we want to collaborate in the future,” NATO spokesperson Samantha Ehlinger confirmed to C4ISRNET, but added that the country is one of many NATO members exploring the technology.
“At this stage we are doing this work primarily for NATO’s Consultation, Command and Control (C3) Board Programme of Work, and Allied Command Transformation’s Innovation Programme of Work, but we are interested in collaborating further with Latvia to explore this topic,” Ehlinger said. “Several NATO Nations are exploring the potential to establish a combined effort on military applications of 5G, a multinational project facilitated by the Agency.
The alliance is organizing a 5G session at the upcoming International Conference on Military Communications and Information Systems (ICMCIS) in May, she added.
Garisons said that there have been initial conversations with the U.S. as well, and noted that Latvia — which, like the other Baltic nations, is always looking for an American military presence — could potentially host exercises not just around 5G but broader military training.
“I think the most interesting thing [would be] actually trying to link to networks on both sides of the Atlantic and actually trying to see: Can you can you actually operate them as one?” noted Pūķis. “Theoretically you maybe could have unit training in virtual reality, being geographically [in] different places. There are a zillion issues to be solved around this, but that would be a beautiful use case.”
“Taking a leadership role in the development and application of such technology is a great way to deepen engagement with key allies like the United States, Germany and others,” Brzezinski said. “5G is a really exciting realm, and Latvia is now leaning forward. What I’d love to see is a core group of NATO allies drive this forward — the U.S., U.K, Germany, Latvia and maybe Poland — you get a core of allies, and they start driving that onto the alliance agenda.”
Brzezinski added a suggestion that a key location, such as Ramstein Air Base in Germany, which hosts NATO’s Allied Air Command as well as American and German air force assets, should be home to a 5G bubble for further experimentation and training.
In the short term, Latvia will continue to further test 5G use for unmanned systems in the coming months. Longer term, the goal is to expand the 5G test site to a larger geographical area, although exactly what that will look like is still being worked out between the MoD and LMT. Pūķis is “hopeful” that will be set up and ready to go before the end of 2021.
“The sooner you do something practical and physical, the better — then you have experience you can build on,” Pūķis said. “Because sometimes when you make super cool, super expensive plans for many years, nothing happens for years and the world moves on. And those who do something faster usually win, rather than those who fantasize about it.” (Source: Defense News)
01 Apr 21. Northrop Grumman: Strong network business ‘extremely important.’ In an interview with Army Technology as the company established its new Networked Information Solutions division, Northrop Grumman’s Communications Solutions business vice president Jenna Paukstis spoke of the importance of the company’s networking capabilities going forward.
Paukstis told Army Technology that having a strong networks business was ‘extremely important for Northrop Grumman serving as a ‘fundamental architecture’ as armed forces look towards a more interconnected way of operating.
She said that she believed Northrop Grumman was in a ‘unique position’ to combine ‘broad and innovative, integrated capabilities’ together across the domains of air, land, sea cyber and space, adding that the company’s work on advanced networking and processing was ‘fundamental’ to achieving this.
Paukstis added that market leadership in advanced networking was a key focus for the company as it moves forward.
Describing the new Networked Information Solutions Division (NIS), Paukstis said: “Our ultimate goal is really to be one of the most trusted DoD [US Department of Defense] partners by bringing forward industry-leading solutions in cyber, secure communications, networking, information inference, advanced processing, to meet the most challenging mission needs of today and tomorrow.
“By bringing these capabilities together in a purposeful way, this NIS division will create significant advancements in cross-domain connectivity, edge processing, and high speed, cyber-secure, resilient command and control aimed at providing our customers with a decisive advantage over increasing near-peer threats.”
Northrop Grumman is supporting the US Air Force’s Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) development as part of the DoD’s wider Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) plans.
The company is also working on developing and fielding the ‘gatewayONE’ system, using its existing Freedom Radio and other gateway technologies. gatewayONE is designed to enable fifth-generation fighters like the F-22 and F-35 to share data between each other and fourth-generation fighters.
Last December, the US Air Force announced that gatewayONE had flown on an attritableONE XQ-58A Valkyrie UAS. Typically, fifth-generation fighters can only communicate with command-and-control stations or other aircraft using legacy data links rather than the native ‘languages’ they use to process data.
The gatewayONE system can translate between different formats used by fighters and move data that normally has to be sent to a ground station directly between aircraft.
Commenting on Northrop Grumman’s work on ABMS, Paukstis said: “The result of that is this net-centric fifth to fifth-generation aircraft communications that are able to be integrated with other platforms and a modular open architecture gateway. Very recently, in the summer of last year, our freedom radio successfully integrated within the atrritableONE platform and we were able to demonstrate and enable fifth to fifth-generation aircraft communications.
“One of the key successes was establishing that secure two-way translational data path across multiple platforms and multiple domains. The success of that demonstration showed that our freedom radios have those innovative and integrated capabilities to connect advanced fighters, as well as the adaptability to really meet emerging mission demands and advanced functionality to realize that DoD vision for JADC2 on very accelerated timelines.”
On JADC2, Paukstis said that while the DoD was trying to break down internal siloes to connect all domains and branches of the US military, Northrop Grumman was doing the same across the business.
Paukstis said that combining a scalable open architecture system with the right multi-level security would be ‘key enablers’ to the creation of a future ‘internet of military things’.
Last December, Northrop Grumman’s Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) gateway passed 200,000 combat operational flight hours since its initial deployment in 2008 with the US Air Force. The BACN system is fitted on four EQ-4B Global Hawk uncrewed aerial systems (UAS) and three modified E-11A business jets.
Paukstis added: “BACN enables warfighters and platforms to effectively communicate and securely share data across all military branches, which is really at the heart of JADC2. We’re not only leveraging our current gateway systems and freedom radio offerings, but we’re bringing forward a new family of gateway systems that’s really designed to be platform agnostic.
“That will enable communications and cross-domain translations between multiple beyond line of sight networks and data lines and the development of these systems includes that focus on cyber secure and integrated functions like cloud computing, machine learning, and other capabilities.” (Source: army-technology.com)
01 Apr 21. Current challenges: How AI-enabled power distribution could prevent losses. An AI-enabled technology developed to address inefficiencies in power distribution is undergoing testing through a public-private collaboration with the Ministry of Defence and the University of Strathclyde. Berenice Healey speaks to the developers and project partners to find out more.
The challenges to effective power distribution were identified from the very earliest experiments with electricity power. Iconic electrical engineer Nikola Tesla famously said: “The greatest energy of movement will be obtained when synchronism is maintained between the pump impulses and the natural oscillations of the system.”
Even the most modern electrical grids and systems are subject to losses and inefficiencies due to factors including peaks and troughs in usage and generation, inefficiencies, power quality and degraded equipment. The problems have only increased as networks have become more sophisticated, generation methods have diversified, and a wider variety of equipment puts stresses on demand.
Visible waste in industrial power systems is recognised as stemming from usage peaks and the inefficiency of underperforming industrial equipment and operational processes. But this is compounded by invisible waste, which is often ignored and written off as operational overhead. This includes unoptimised power quality that means power is transferred less efficiently and can degrade equipment; sub-optimal load balancing that results in waste and static power system design unable to accommodate the dynamic nature of electricity.
Expensive countermeasures are often seen as the only solution to absorb destructive power quality conditions.
Using AI to optimise power flow
Software defined electricity (SDE), developed by engineering and manufacturing company 3DFS and offered by Optimized Sciences, addresses these problems.
SDE optimises the electrical state across phases, resolving issues of imbalance, instability and other sub-optimal power quality conditions. The result is optimised alternating current (AC) power, which improves power efficiency, electrical equipment performance, asset health and circuit resilience. It can also improve the performance and health of equipment and adds safety and resilience to a system.
Explaining the difference between currently available solutions and SDE, Optimized Sciences co-founders Kyle Webb says: “The best term we could come up with for the way it is presently done is digitised analogue. The core method of measurement and control is still analogue, but it’s overlaid with digital controls so that data can be extracted.
“What we’re doing is fundamentally digital transformation, digitising not only the measurement part but the control, too, and with that, precision and timing. This is where all the efficiencies come from. It’s just a profoundly different way to do it, and it’s the only way to access it because power flows at the speed it does; if you’re not working at that speed you can’t prevent those losses.
“I don’t think that we will ever achieve a parallel level of efficiency and success in another method, it’s going to take AI and nanosecond response to correct in real time.”
SDE uses AI to synchronise power generation in real time with grid and load conditions, maximising electromagnetic energy transfer and completing transmission operations safely, eliminating the risk of electrical fires and minimising loss. It optimises power delivery to improve electronic equipment health and performance while reducing waste.
Supporting modern power and environmental demands, it offers seamless integration for electric vehicles, microgrids, renewables and transactive energy – the system by which anyone can trade energy on the grid such as via solar panels – to create a sustainable electrification-based ecosystem.
Testing support from the Ministry of Defence
Lieutenant-Commander Jonathan Parker of the UK Ministry of Defence’s Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) Future Capabilities Group stumbled by chance on an article about SDE and saw an opportunity to commoditise it and bring it to the attention of the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD).
“Electrical power and distribution was not my background at all, so I asked the test house at Blandford [Camp, the home of the Royal Corps of Signals], ‘Can you test this out?’,” he says. “They said they weren’t sure, but maybe our subcontractors could.”
Initial progress was slow, but a chance encounter with Barca and Webb at the Distributech power trade event helped facilitate a push for a low-budget, low-commitment testing round. The MOD’s Defence Innovation Unit (DIU) tested SDE in February 2020 with promising results, including a 77% reduction in power consumption and the demonstration of new electricity concepts.
Elaborating on the AI functionality, Parker says: “There’s a light-ish AI engine inside the device – think of it more as machine learning – and that’s looking at the electrical loads and building itself a mathematical model of what those are, so it can then correct for them, but also it can record what those are.
“The key outputs we’re looking at is that it will tell us out how something degrades over time; so, as the installation or the motor winding starts curving, its characteristics as seen by the device will change.
“Once we have a library of those common faults, we can have it alerting to us in real time and say, ‘motor number one is on is on the way out’, and you’ll see that probably before a vibration analysis, or anything else will pick it up, simply because it’s looking in such detail.”
Further tests ahead
The MOD now intends to conduct the phase 2 applied trials to work towards an understanding that the team hopes may open up the technology across MOD, government, the UK and potentially worldwide. This will involve trials of the kit in a MOD environment to test the applicability and digging deeper into where and how power factor applies and what happens through a power network.
“We found that correcting at the main power board in an industrial unit doesn’t necessarily propagate all the way down to the last distribution board and its loads,” says Parker. “Likewise, correcting at the last load, for example, a three-phase motor, has a dramatic effect on the load, but doesn’t propagate back up and around the power network within the unit.
“We’re looking to go deeper into this relationship of reactive power up and down the distribution hierarchy, and that can be the same voltage, just distribution panels no more than 20 metres apart.
“The University of Strathclyde is also on my testing list at the Power Networks Demonstration Centre. This is where we’ll get into the ‘distance’ answers, but also investigate claims about increased safety due to reduced neutral current, sparking control, and alerting to safety events like insulation degradation.”
According to Parker, the MOD is keen to form partnerships for the second stage with organisations that have their own use cases they would like to investigate, as well as looking into applications for the MOD’s own interests. Ships, for instance, can use as much power as a small town and have the additional challenges of not being earthed and the inherent capacitance and electromagnetic interference of using high-demand electrical equipment.
The technology has the potential to scale up for use across the power supply chain. Barca says: “The general line of thinking in terms of the product is that when you scale to these bigger levels there comes a new safety compliance and complexity that just hasn’t been commercialised yet. But ideally, we can move this to the substation level, so start with distribution-level substations. The maximum efficiency will be achieved when we have absolutely full synchronisation control across the entire system.
“Right now, there is a feedback loop and the way the utilities work and how that they actually do talk to the generation companies with a digital signal that says, ‘You need to raise your or lower your generation capacity to balance the grid’. That’s part of normal operational control, but we take that to another level.
“Those are rough SWAGS [scientific wild-ass guesses]; we take it to a precision level, and we put it across the whole grid. Honestly, I think there’s going to be a level of efficiency that we don’t actually know yet, based on what we’ve seen in the past in the small-scale stuff. It’s very exciting.” (Source: army-technology.com)
30 Mar 21. JGSDF forms new EW unit to defend Japan’s southern remote islands. The Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) has established a new electronic warfare (EW) unit at Camp Kengun in Kumamoto Prefecture on Kyushu Island to enhance its ability to defend Japan’s southern remote islands. The JGSDF activated a new EW unit on 29 March to enhance its ability to defend Japan’s remote southern islands. (JGSDF)
The unit, named the 301st Electronic Warfare Company, was officially activated in a ceremony at the camp on 29 March, JGSDF officials told Janes. The company, which is under the command of the Western Army, comprises about 80 personnel and operates the recently developed truck-mounted Network Electronic Warfare System (NEWS).
The system is comprised of several specially equipped EW vehicles designed to perform electronic reconnaissance and degrade the command, control, and communication (C3) networks of adversaries.
One of the unit’s main tasks will be to detect and identify enemy naval and airborne communication and radar emissions. It will then use this information to jam enemy radar and missile seekers, while protecting the JGSDF’s own communication links.
The new unit will work closely with the Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade (ARDB) at Camp Ainoura in Sasebo, which is also on Kyushu Island. The ARDB was launched in March 2018 to enhance Japan’s capabilities to defend the Nansei Islands in the southwest, including the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in Okinawa Prefecture, which are controlled by Japan but also claimed by China and Taiwan.
The JGSDF said it plans to establish six more EW units across the country during the next fiscal year (starting on 1 April), namely at Camp Rumoi in Hokkaido; Camp Asaka, which is located at the boundary between Tokyo and Saitama; Camp Ainoura in Nagasaki; Camp Amami in Kagoshima; and Camp Naha and Vice-Camp Chinen on Okinawa. (Source: Jane’s)
29 Mar 21. US Army’s network equipment tested for first time with full brigade. Marking a paradigm shift in how the Army procures, fields and updates equipment, a full brigade for the first time is testing modernized radios, tactical cell phones and network gear this month in the one of service’s most operationally realistic environments.
The exercise is a culmination of three years of work to build a baseline for a modernized network, while incorporating more soldier feedback on communications equipment and speed up fielding.
Soldiers of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne division now have the most advanced networking and communications gear in the Army, and they are putting it through the paces during their rotation at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk.
The site and its companion National Training Center at Fort Irwin provide a dedicated opposing force with tailored scenarios based upon a particular region of the world. Units battle over a two-week simulated campaign facing a raft of attacks from kinetic to electronic.
The gear is part of the Army’s Integrated Tactical Network (ITN). Specifically, the soldiers tested equipment as part of the network’s Capability Set ’21, a combination of radios, new waveforms and tactical cell phones that pinpoint troops’ location, along with network extension equipment and cross-domain technologies that allow communication with units and coalition partners.
Soldiers lauded what’s known as the individual soldier kit, fielded to team leaders. It includes a two-channel radio paired with a hardened cell phone attached to a soldier’s chest; provides unprecedented situational awareness, including solider location on the battlefield; and allows seamless text chat and voice communications up and down echelons.
Under the Army’s network modernization approach, it plans incremental delivery of new gear every two years under capability sets.
The Army is fielding the ITN equipment to the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Europe and plans to field four infantry bridges in fiscal 2021, with four more and a Stryker brigade in 2022. Lessons learned from the rotation at Fort Polk will factor into those other units’ fielding.
“We’ll be looking for either feedback to determine are the quantities about right or what adjustments should we make based on this large-scale force on force rotation, which we haven’t had the luxury of having in the past,” Maj. Gen. Peter Gallagher, director of the Army Network Cross-Functional Team, said in a secluded field in the middle of the vast training range, the site of a major command post the day prior. “Our decisions have been made without having this kind of feedback, so this will be important going forward.”
The event wasn’t a special exercise that was network focused, but rather part of this brigade’s training schedule. The team now owns this network gear, and its rotation at the Joint Training Readiness Center provided the opportunity for the Army’s test and program community to take some valuable lessons with the first full brigade exercise using the new network design.
Officials explained the modernized equipment provides units with speed and range needed to defeat advanced adversaries in a multidomain battlefield.
“I think this is all about speed and range. You start getting after what we want to do for decisive operations, decisive decision-making. We want to get after sensor-to-shooter,” said Brig. Gen. Robert Collins, program executive officer for command, control, communications-tactical. “How do we do that quickly at speed, how do we extend the range … I think this fundamentally is a game-changer and allowing this airborne unit to be able to extend across those areas of speed and range.”
Officials and soldiers also explained the essence of the modernized network is to provide multiple, resilient communications options to commanders. Previously, if communications failed or were jammed, there were limited alternatives. Now forces have multiple paths of communications with hardened waveforms.
“We’re trying to provide them much … more resilient capability,” Gallagher said. (Source: Defense News)
26 Mar 21. SSenStone and Wooribyul sign MOA for joint research and commercialization of defense industry. SSenStone signed a Memorandum of Agreement with Wooribyul, a leader of information security solutions and wired & radio ICT equipment in the defense industry, for joint research and businesses to advance Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) systems. It is expected to create great synergy in the defense industry as an experienced ICT expert and a rising startup cooperate. Wooribyul has been recognized for its technological prowess in the defense industry through the development of security and ICT system for decades. SSenStone is expanding its business into the defense industry with swIDch, a SSenStone’s affiliates, selected as the Cyber@StationF partner by renowned Thales.
Under the MOA, the two companies will jointly develop a K-defense model that applies SSenStone’s One-Time Authentication Code (OTAC) technology to IFF in the defense industry. In addition, they plan to expand their business in the military and civilian sectors in relation to drones, which are increasingly being used in defense.
OTAC has been recognized for its technology and marketability at 175 global patents and numerous international awards. This remarkable technology is not reusable, never duplicates with others, and generates codes that change every time even without cellular networks.
In particular, OTAC technology provides excellent security performance of IFF systems in the defense industry, where exposure of static information may soon lead to fatal human damage. SSenStone’s amazing technology also provides an environment in which IFF can easily identify targets in one direction by generating unique dynamic random codes and authenticating generated values even without communication networks.
Wooribyul plans to first apply OTAC technology to the IFF system of military drones based on its technology and experience accumulated in the defense industry over the years. In addition to distinguishing friendly and enemy drones, IFF of military drones is an essential system to prevent control problems by identifying affiliation and information of friendly drones, and prevent unauthorized drones from stealing identification codes.
Yoo Chang-hun, CEO of SSenStone and swIDch said: “The defense industry demands the most secure authentication and identification of users and devices, and requires not only advanced technology, but also sufficient experience and ability to deploy. We will actively cooperate with Wooribyul, so that OTAC can become the most important authentication and identification technology in the defense industry in the future.” (Source: PR Newswire)
26 Mar 21. Australian Defence funds new electronic warfare initiative. Government, academia and defence industry have joined forces to establish a new ‘Centre of Expertise’ for electronic warfare.
Defence has partnered with Flinders University to co-fund a Defence Science Partnership (DSP), joining South Australia-based company DEWC T&E to establish a Professional Electronic Warfare Training, Education and Research (PEWTER) memorandum of understanding (MOU).
As part of the agreement, the Commonwealth government and Flinders University will jointly invest $5m in funding over five years to set up a Centre of Expertise for Electronic Warfare, headed up by defence scientist Professor Sam Drake, who will serve as the inaugural Flinders University Academic Chair of Electromagnetic Systems and Security.
Professor Drake and his team have been tasked with collaborating with Defence scientists to develop electronic warfare-focused education and research programs, while also facilitating professional electronic warfare training and research to stimulate and sustain workforce development.
Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price said the new program would advance the development of electronic warfare capability.
“Having a skilled electronic warfare workforce comprising both practitioners and researchers across Defence, academia and industry is key to ensuring future defence capabilities are fit-for-purpose and future-proofed,” Minister Price said.
“Talent acquisition and retention are critical to delivering an effective and enduring electronic warfare workforce across Defence.
“The Morrison government, Flinders University and DEWC T&E recognise the urgent need for increased quantity and quality of personnel with the skills and background to meet our national strategic needs in electronic warfare.”
Minister Price added: “These advanced capabilities will provide the ADF with a strategic and tactical advantage to keep pace with the evolving operating environment.” (Source: Defense One)
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