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22 Apr 21. The U.S. Air Force, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) and L3Harris Technologies have collaborated to further expand the mission capabilities of the U.S. Air Force’s versatile MQ-9 Reaper® Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA). For the first time, crews from the Air Force’s 26th Weapons Squadron (WPS) flew an MQ-9 equipped with the Reaper Defense Electronic Support System (RDESS). The flights were conducted in parallel with the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) demonstrations recently in Europe.
RDESS is a broad spectrum, passive Electronic Support Measure (ESM) payload designed to collect and geo-locate signals of interest from standoff ranges. With it, the Reaper becomes an even more versatile surveillance aircraft given its ability to conduct electronic sensing well enough to provide high quality intelligence but also keep safely away in friendly or international airspace. The flights were accomplished via remote split operations that allowed the 26th WPS to both fly the aircraft and control the RDESS payload from within the United States while the MQ-9 flew in Europe. Additionally, the aircraft flew with a high-capacity, solid-state digital recorder to collect Multi-Spectral Targeting pod data that will be used to further Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) development.
“The MQ-9 continues to demonstrate its robust flexibility,” said GA-ASI Vice President for DoD Strategic Development, J.R. Reid. “The ability to operate and disseminate information gathered from the advanced sensors carried aboard the MQ-9 is foundational to its role in the great power competition environment. Our efforts in AI and ML is further advancing the MQ-9’s autonomous capabilities which will greatly enhance its mission resiliency during periods of contested electromagnetic spectrum operations.”
21 Apr 21. Preliminary design review looms for Army’s next set of tactical network tools. Ahead of a deployment to Afghanistan, the 2nd Security Force Assistance Brigade concluded a training rotation at the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) at Fort Polk, Louisiana, in late January that included training on new Integrated Tactical Network capabilities. CCDC is focusing its network development efforts in part on resilience, with the goal of building a network that can remain operational in a contested, near-peer conflict. (JRTC Public Affairs). The Army’s network architects have worked through a preliminary design for the service’s next set of tactical network tools and plan to brief the general overseeing network modernization early next month.
The focus of what the Army is calling Capability Set ’23 is “capacity, resiliency and convergence,” the Army Futures Command Network Cross-Functional Team chief of operations, Col. Rob Ryan said April 21 at the C4ISRNET Conference.
“What is the max amount of shared data that we can get distributed? Where are we at? And how can we best distribute what we have learned from [Capability Set] ’21 as we move to ’23? What technologies are going to mature on the vine and which aren’t? And then scalability, affordability, those are key pieces there. Resiliency, you know, as we look at this, do we have the necessary redundancy and diversity as we kind of move forward,” he added.
Ensuring a common operating picture will be critical, Ryan noted, “as you look at this with both legacy communications equipment and … as we modernize the forces, I’ve got to keep continuity with both. I’ve got to manage that because I’ve got to be able to allow commanders at every level to have that common operating picture and I have to allow systems of systems to converge so I can leverage every other battlefield warfighting function I have,” he said.
The Army held its first evaluation of its Capability Set ’21 tactical network tools at the full brigade level at the Joint Readiness Training Center evaluation at Fort Polk, Louisiana, in February.
Set ’23 will be focused on what a Stryker Brigade Combat Team will need, which is a big shift from what was needed when designing network tools for an Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
“That’s going to be different, now they’re mounted,” Col. Garth Winterle, program manager for tactical radios within the Army’s Program Executive Office for Command, Control, and Communications-Tactical, said.
The set will need to provide the right power sources and levels in Stryker vehicles and will need to work at higher speeds at greater distances for a different mission set, he said.
“We’ve really designed a lot of different test events to take that into consideration and peel apart those differences in the next year between what we learned as part of the IBCT and what we’re going to learn on the Stryker BCT,” Winterle said.
While there will be more to come on what CS ’23 will look like, some decisions that were deferred with CS ’21 will be settled for CS ’23, Winterle added.
“We’ve got some deferred basis of issue decisions on things like dismounted leader radios and where do they belong in the formation,” he said.
During the JRTC rotation, “there was a lot of discussion below platoon-level, does a team leader or squad leader really need a two-channel leader radio or can they really use a more simple, easier-to-operate and more power-efficient, single-channel radio,” Winterle said.
But a lot of the equipment that is part of CS ’21 will serve as a baseline for CS ’23, but the service will continue to assess the material solutions it is buying, Lt. Col. Brandon Baer, the PEO C3T product manager, said, in order to ensure the Army is getting the best value and best capability.
For example, multiple vendors are capable of delivering a single-channel radio out there and so after the Army bought its first lot, it put out a request for information to industry to see what else was available, Baer said.
The service is preparing for a final down-select and an award to procure another lot of radios to field in fiscal 2022. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
20 Apr 21. A cyber tool that started at DARPA moves to Cyber Command. A critical cyber tool, one that could help military commanders make better decisions during cyber operations and has been in development for many years, has officially transitioned to U.S. Cyber Command.
Project Ike is a prototyping effort that once got its start under the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency under the name Plan X in 2013. It was later moved to the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office in July 2019 with an award to contractor Two Six Labs for $95m dollars. Then in early April, the program officially transitioned to a program under the Joint Cyber Command and Control (JCC2) program management office, a Department of Defense spokesperson told C4ISRNET. Ike, will be used to map networks, assess the readiness of cyber teams and command forces in cyberspace.
Project Ike was thought by many to be a precursor to JCC2, which is one pillar of Cyber Command’s Joint Cyber Warfighting Architecture, which will guide how Cyber Command leaders develop and procure capabilities. The Air Force is managing JCC2 on behalf of Cyber Command and the joint cyber force.
Few details about the work of JCC2 program have surfaced in recent years. The Department of Defense requested $38.4m for the initiative in the fiscal 2021 budget with efforts primarily dedicated toward developing new capabilities, expanding the program office, building up DevSecOps teams for pilot programs at combatant commands, creating a development environment and infrastructure and integrating situational awareness capabilities.
According to the Government Accountability Office and government officials, the JCC2 program seeks to integrate data from a variety of sources to help inform and support commanders’ decisions, measure readiness down to the individual level, visualize cyberspace and provide situational awareness of forces in operations at all echelons.
“[JCC2] allows us to plan, synchronize and assess. How do you stich together your joint campaign plans with your campaign orders and of course your tactical orders and your missions,” Col. Benjamin Ring, director of the Joint Cyber Warfighting Architecture Capability Management Office at Cyber Command, said during a March virtual event. “How do you stich together assessments and effects and successes from your tactical missions and then feed that back into your strategic planning so you can drive and become a learning organization.”
The GAO said in a November report that while the Air Force initiated the program in 2017, it had not yet formally entered the acquisition lifecycle.
JCC2 will rely heavily on information from Unified Platform, another key element of the Joint Cyber Warfighting Architecture.
The Strategic Capabilities spent two years with Two Six Labs building out Ike for Cyber Command, Jeff Karrels, vice president of Cyber and Electronic Systems at Two Six Labs, told C4ISRNET.
When Plan X was transitioned to the Strategic Capabilities Office, it was a specific tactical capability, Karrels said. The Strategic Capabilities Office sought to scale it to the highest strategic levels to drive the visualizations that come from tactical data.
JCC2′s current acquisitions strategy is designed to ingest and integrate prototype, existing and new capabilities, to include Project Ike, an Air Force spokesperson told C4ISRNET.
“JCC2 will leverage the Project Ike prototype as one of the baseline capabilities for battle management and continue to work toward an integrated joint cyber C2 solution.”
With Ike is serving as the baseline architecture for JCC2, Karrels said Two Six Labs envisions JCC2 as an app-based model orchestration platform in which a user can access all types of information and data feeds from a single dashboard to provide better situational awareness and decision aids for commanders. That same information would require multiple systems today.
In the future, he said, Two Six Labs plans to use machine learning to make recommendations for what courses of action a particular commander or cyber team should make. It also could recommend what a potential network could look like in several months from a bandwidth perspective or service interruptions. The system will also allow for a historical look at a network based upon how a previous team accessed and mapped it.
Moreover, from a strategic level, Ike allows commanders to see both offensive and defensive teams operating in cyberspace as well as friendly and adversary forces. This type of command and control in cyberspace is critical from a friendly perspective because multiple teams around the world need to be deconflicted.
Already, Ike is in use by operational forces, Karrels said. While he declined to offer specific numbers, he said it has seen thousands of users.
At the same time, Two Six Labs is continuing to upgrade the program’s software roughly every three weeks, Karrels said.
“We have what we call staging systems that are the next version of code,” he said. “We always have the next version of code running in a staging environment on the proper networks. There’s select members of the community that are interacting with the next version and on a daily basis providing value back of hey it would be nice if it did x, y and z.” (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
19 Apr 21. How will the DoD’s next multibillion-dollar IT contract fare after messy JEDI deal? Consider these two quotes about two contracts the Department of Defense says are key to modernizing networks and advancing its computing power: “The war fighter is absolutely waiting for this.”
“It is one of the crown jewels that we have as part of our IT reform.”
The first quote is how former U.S. Defense Department Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy described the department’s need for the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud contract in August 2019. More than a year and a half later, the enterprise cloud that was supposed to house data across all classification levels hasn’t been built despite a contract award in late 2019.
The second quote comes from one of Deasy’s deputies about the Defense Enclave Services contract, an IT services deal to create a common network for DoD offices that aren’t under the military services, known as the fourth estate agencies.
What do the two contracts have in common? Officials are emphatic that they serve a critical needs for the department, resulting in flashy price tags awarded to a single company for each project. The JEDI cloud has a ceiling of $10bn over 10 years, while the DES contract could be worth more than $11bn over a decade.
The JEDI contract attracted the major cloud providers, with Microsoft ultimately winning, but it has been tied up in court over accusations of political interference and evaluation errors. Likewise, the DES contract will attract major IT integrators. Could the department stumble into another boondoggle with the DES contract? Experts told C4ISRNET that any high-dollar procurements are likely to face protests, but they don’t expect the say level of controversy.
“Any contract can be protested,” said David Mihelcic, former chief technology officer of the Defense Information System Agency. “It seems like the trend these days [is] most large contracts are protestable.”
The JEDI cloud is meant to serve as an enterprise-wide cloud computing environment that will carry 80 percent of the department’s systems in an effort to reduce stovepipes to ease access to data. The DES contract, meanwhile, contains cloud computing services, network management, IT infrastructure and help desk services.
“It’s a forcing mechanism to get all of the fourth estate agencies on a set of standard services,” said Chris Cornillie, a federal technology market analyst at Bloomberg Government. “It’s basically a way to get everyone on the same page, much in the same way that JEDI cloud was originally devised as a way to get all of the military services onto the same platform, enabling them to share data and leverage artificial intelligence.”
The Defense Enclave Services contract has been a much quieter process so far. The department released its final RFP in December without problem, a far cry from the JEDI cloud RFP that was twice protested as unfair after its release and later ended up in court.
The JEDI cloud further suffered in part because of the intrigue around involvement in the contract by President Donald Trump, accused by Amazon Web Services of meddling in the contract to steer the lucrative award away from AWS because of the former president’s distaste for Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
“I’m certain you’re not going to see that level of intrigue with this is DES competition,” said Mihelcic, now a consultant at technology market insights firm DMMI.
Another key difference is that JEDI would have massive business implications for major cloud providers if a single vendor was able to demonstrate that it could take on databases hosted by a competitor, Cornillie said, but with DES, it’s a “traditional competition among government contractors.”
He also pointed out that DES will have several subcontracting opportunities, whereas with JEDI, the winner would keep the bulk of the cash.
“It’s perhaps not a total loss for an integrator that doesn’t win the prime spot” on the DES contract, Cornillie said.
Alleged technical errors have been a thorn in the side of the department on cloud acquisition lately. A Court of Federal Claims judge halted work on the JEDI cloud based on AWS’ accusations that the DoD technical evaluators incorrectly reviewed the company’s proposal. In another $7bn cloud contract, known as the Defense Enterprise Office Solutions cloud, the DoD twice accidentally released proprietary information to a competing company, delaying the award several months.
To ensure another critical solution doesn’t face similar fates, the department will have be meticulous through each stage of the contracting process.
“The losers (of the DES contract) will think long and hard about whether or not the evaluation was conducted fairly and equitably and may end up protesting that, but we’re not going to see anywhere near this level of intrigue” that came with JEDI, Mihelcic reiterated. (Source: Defense News)
19 Apr 21. DARPA selects research teams for WARP programme. The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) have officially selected several research teams to lead the agency’s work in developing technologies to expand and enhance wideband software defined radio (SDR) capabilities across the US armed forces.
The teams, consisting of participants from industry and academia, “will explore a diverse set of technology approaches” in the field of wideband radio frequency (RF) interference cancellation for current and future SDR platforms, as part of the Wideband Adaptive RF Protection (WARP) programme, agency officials said in a statement.
“Wideband software-defined radio systems provide unprecedented access to the RF spectrum and are beginning to proliferate throughout the [US Department of Defense – DoD] and commercial applications as a result. Unfortunately, as bandwidth increases, dynamic range tends to decrease, which impacts the radio’s sensitivity and performance,” DARPA officials said.
In an effort to reduce that dynamic range reduction, while maintaining expanded wideband capability for SDR’s, WARP programme officials are exploring advanced in the use of tuneable filters and signal cancellers “to manage external interference as well as … to address self-interference”, in those radio platforms, agency officials explained.
Specifically, the WARP research teams will plan and execute experimental work on intrinsically switched electromagnetic (EM) resonator technologies, as well as multiferroics, acoustics, and photonics to enable tuneable RF frequency filter and signal cancelling capabilities for SDR systems. Those technologies would be paired “with new circuit architectures, heterogeneous device integration, and advanced RF packaging”, which would provide SDR operators adaptive control of those RF tuning and signal cancelling capabilities, according to DARPA. (Source: Jane’s)
15 Apr 21. DOD Issues First Requests for Prototype Proposal Through the National Spectrum Consortium’s Spectrum Forward OTA. The RPPs, which focus on Risk-Informed Spectrum Access and Multiband Control Channel Architecture, are open to members of the National Spectrum Consortium (NSC). The US Department of Defense (DOD) has issued two Requests for Prototype Proposal (RPPs) in support of electromagnetic spectrum research related to the capabilities of the 400+ members of the National Spectrum Consortium.
The Risk-Informed Spectrum Access (RISA) RPP calls for industry input to develop and demonstrate a set of prototype spectrum access planning, management and operational tools. These tools will provide the capability to identify, assess and reduce systemic risk to mission associated with current or projected spectrum availability to assist with both planning and during operations. The tools will have the potential to be employed in legacy systems as well as infrastructure-based (e.g., DoD test and training ranges) and infrastructure-free (e.g., tactical edge) spectrum access systems.
As a complementary piece of the automated spectrum ecosystem, the Multiband Control Channel Architecture (MICCA) effort will enable dynamic spectrum access for large force exercises and other spectrum-intensive scenarios. MICCA will leverage Machine-to-Machine (M2M) protocols and interfaces to enable near-real-time command, control, and communications. The ultimate goal of MICCA is to enable flexible spectrum access and spectrum operations agility by developing a standardized method for distributing spectrum parameters, data products, and related control messages. This will allow for “closed-loop” spectrum operations in near real time.
These RPPs are the first to be issued under the National Spectrum Consortium’s 5-year, $2.5bn ceiling Other Transaction Agreement, which was signed in December 2020. Additional RPPs are expected to be issued through the NSC in the coming days and weeks.
“Over the past few weeks, the Department of Defense released the first spectrum access RPPs through the Spectrum Forward OTA,” said the National Spectrum Consortium Executive Director Maren Leed. “The new OTA builds on past NSC successes in technologies that improve military-commercial sharing and extends the application of those technologies to a broader range of military operations. This new vector for the NSC makes full use of the breadth of our members’ extensive expertise and shows the power gained from truly dual-use technical development. We are excited to expand our efforts in this way and continue demonstrating the NSC’s ability to develop innovative advanced technologies that support our national and economic security interests.”
“Spectrum access is the lifeblood of modern communications and is especially important at a time of global technology competition,” said National Spectrum Consortium Chief Strategy Officer, Vice Admiral Joseph Dyer, USN (ret). “So we strongly encourage our members to collaborate and respond to these important RPPs to support innovation and make sure that our nation’s armed forces can remain agile and utilize spectrum in an efficient, effective manner.”
Request for Prototype Proposals
Specifically, DOD issued two RPPs to support the following government requirements:
NSC-21-RPP-02 – Risk-Informed Spectrum Access (RISA)
NSC-21-RPP-03 – Multiband Control Channel Architecture (MICCA)
These RPPs are part of projects in the Spectrum Access Research & Development Program (SAR&DP) Portfolio being solicited in Tranche 2. This includes 1) Risk Informed Spectrum Access (RISA); 2) Operational Spectrum Comprehension, Analytics, and Response (OSCAR); 3) Multiband Instrumented Control Channel Architecture (MICCA); and 4) Cooperative Spectrum Access for Testing (CSAT).
The contractors on these projects are expected to work in a cooperative manner with other project teams within the SAR&DP Tranche 2 portfolio to align schedules and harmonize the development of interfaces and protocols with complimentary systems between projects. Details on the projects can be found at beta.sam.gov.
Members of the NSC in good standing can submit proposals in response to the RPPs. Proposals related to the RISA RPP are due May 06, 2021 at 11:59 PM ET. Proposals related to the MICCA RPP are due May 20, 2021 at 11:59 PM ET.
Spectrum Forward OTA
Last December, the DOD awarded the Spectrum Forward Other Transaction Agreement (OTA) to the National Spectrum Consortium (NSC) to accelerate the development, adoption and deployment of next-generation technologies to provide our warfighters the decisive edge on the battlefield. The OTA has a term of five years and a ceiling value of $2.5bn. The goal of the Spectrum Forward OTA is to facilitate a partnership between the US technology and industrial base and the US Government to develop dual-use technologies across a range of advanced technologies that rely upon electromagnetic spectrum from machine learning to autonomous navigation to next generation radio access networks.
Additionally, last year, DOD issued four 5G RPPs through the NSC focusing on smart warehouses, AR/VR for training, and dynamic spectrum sharing. DOD announced in October that these projects had been awarded as part of $600m of Tranche One funding.
The NSC membership possesses broad expertise in the following areas related to electromagnetic spectrum: Ubiquitous Connectivity; Cognitive Spectrum Access & Sharing; Cybersecurity; Radio Frequency-Free Space Optics Cooperative Systems; Autonomous Systems (Ground/Air/Maritime); Internet of Things (Narrow Band/Critical/Massive); Electronic Warfare; Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR); Software Defined Radios/Networking/Architectures; Radar Systems; Digital Signal Processing; Microelectronics; Software Reconfigurability; Nanotechnology; Machine Learning/Artificial Intelligence; Autonomy/Robotics; Biotechnology; Big Data Analytics; Edge and Cloud Computing; Augmented/Virtual/Mixed Reality; Location Detection; 3D Printing/Additive Manufacturing; and 5th generation (5G) information communications technologies, products, and services including the use of zero trust.
About the National Spectrum Consortium
The NSC is comprised of over 400 U.S. companies and academic institutions, and their technologists, engineers, scientists, manufacturers, and program managers work with their counterparts in government to solve the toughest problems facing the nation with regard to spectrum-related technologies, to include 5G and 5G-based technologies, providing the DoD and other customers with spectrum superiority. The NSC’s mission is to foster collaboration among Government, Industry and Academia to identify, develop and demonstrate the enabling technologies necessary to broaden the military and commercial access to and use of the electromagnetic spectrum for 5G and beyond. For more information, visit www.nationalspectrumconsortium.org. (Source: PR Newswire)
Spectra Group Plc
Spectra Group (UK) Ltd, internationally renowned award-winning information security and communications specialist with a proven record of accomplishment.
Spectra is a dynamic, agile and security-accredited organisation that offers secure Hosted and Managed Solutions and Cyber Advisory Services with a track record of delivering on time, to spec and on budget.
With over 15 years of experience in delivering solutions for governments around the globe, elite militaries and private enterprises of all sizes, Spectra’s platinum and gold-level partnerships with third-party vendors ensure the supply of best value leading-edge technology.
Spectra was awarded the prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise (Innovation) in 2019 for SlingShot.
In November 2017, Spectra Group (UK) Ltd announced its listing as a Top 100 Government SME Supplier by the UK Crown Commercial Services.
Spectra’s CEO, Simon Davies, was awarded 2017 Businessman of the Year by Battlespace magazine.
Founded in 2002, the Company is based in Hereford, UK and holds ISO 9001:2015, ISO 27001:2013 and Cyber Essentials Plus accreditation.