Sponsored by Spectra Group
07 May 20. How cross-domain technologies can help the US military modernize. In modern day military construction projects, IT infrastructure is as essential as plumbing or electrical systems. But that infrastructure is becoming increasingly complex and costly to maintain. Physical footprints have become unwieldy and difficult to manage. Meanwhile, legacy IT systems, often in the form of space-consuming hardware, can be security liabilities.
To address these challenges, the U.S. military has opted to take a “hard-right turn” into Enterprise-IT-as-a-Service. With Enterprise-IT-as-a-Service, the military is willing to invest in services, rather than hardware, to achieve their infrastructure reduction and efficiency goals.
Although this method requires accepting some level of risk, the upshot is that the Army can prioritize which components to modernize, rather than try to tackle everything at once.
As the military takes this hard-right turn, it should look to cross-domain solutions (CDS), which can replace a large amount of very costly physical infrastructure and provide better overall security.
Improving priority infrastructure
CDS solutions permit communication between networks and classification levels that would otherwise be kept separate. This can help the military solve both infrastructure and risk management challenges by allowing for the installation of equipment with a smaller physical footprint. The U.S. military can modernize and improve the efficiency of priority infrastructure—making the deployment of enterprise-level applications more feasible—while also supporting secure information sharing.
Modern CDS tools can replace legacy hardware that could present security vulnerabilities, meet raise-the-bar guidelines and are NSA-approved, providing increased efficiency, savings, modernization, and security. More specifically, the military can replace what would otherwise be multiple instantiations of hardware with a greatly reduced, software-driven footprint. CDS eliminates the need for equipment such as Protective Distribution Systems (PDS), multiple computers, monitors, keyboards, KVM switches, and TACLANE devices. Instead, Trusted Thin Clients can be used to access information on a number of networks from a single endpoint.
Army Cyber Command, for example, just built a 324,000 square-foot headquarters command complex that streamlined historically compartmentalized classified networks—desks cluttered with multiple PCs, monitors, keyboards, and mice—through the use of cross-domain solutions. This reduces the cost and time involved in maintaining separate network infrastructures and outdated physical security measures. Integrating cross domain access, transfer, and printing technology for 3,500 users and up to 10 networks into the building led to substantial savings and efficiencies.
On a related note, one DoD agency received a 239% return on investment in just over a year of operation thanks to multilevel desktop consolidation—no longer needing a different machine (or associated peripherals and wiring) for each network. Total savings have tallied over $4m to date, split between operations labor savings and hardware and maintenance savings.
Rapid, secure coalition-building
CDS also helps the U.S. military share information securely with coalition partners—and easily cut them off when collaboration needs or policies change. For example, some humanitarian relief efforts may only last 90 days. Having to create infrastructure from scratch may take longer than that. With CDS, operations can be scaled up or down expeditiously and as necessary. Users have the ability to rapidly subscribe to published mission networks without the need to deal with onerous IT processes and requests.
In Afghanistan, the DoD’s work with NATO required separate PCs, networks, and servers for inline data encryption. Because CDS can move data efficiently and securely between different security levels and partners, it eliminates such complexity. Instead of needing five different instantiations of hardware to access five different networks with various security levels—which is both complex and expensive—secure access can be granted quickly.
The bottom line
Both sustainment, restoration and modernization (SRM) efforts and new construction are expected to achieve a careful balance of security and efficiency. But modernizing hundreds of military bases would take 20 to 30 years and be immensely expensive. Instead, the military is leaving some bases untouched (for now), while it focuses on modernizing assets in a methodical fashion.
The tough reality is that the military has little choice but to reduce the physical footprints of their facilities to achieve better efficiency and reduce costs. They literally can’t afford to keep building and maintaining facilities of exceptional scope. Simultaneously, they also must judiciously divest of legacy items in a secure manner; otherwise net growth makes the problem more severe.
CDS must play a central role on the road to modernization. It lets the military provide the right people with the right access to the right networks, as it closely monitors data transfers and ensures that only correct and authorized information crosses a boundary. In turn, it can help the U.S. military solve its infrastructure and risk management challenges by reducing infrastructure, lowering costs, and streamlining the environment, while also bringing coalition partners together through secure communications. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
07 May 20. USAF rolls out Advanced Battle Management System devices in COVID-19 fight. The U.S. Air Force has begun deploying thousands of personal devices to military personnel and health care providers that allow them to access classified information from home or outside of the office, even though the devices themselves are unclassified.
The devices were supposed to be demonstrated during a test of the Air Force’s Advanced Battle Management System in April, which was delayed to August or September due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation. With the test pushed back, the Air Force decided to begin rolling out the devices to support the fight against COVID-19.
“Even in a virtual, COVID environment, the team pulled together very rapidly to do something that we were going to demonstrate in April as a prototype,” said Air Force Chief Architect Preston Dunlap during a virtual Mitchell Institute event May 7.
The devices are loaded with SecureView, a software architecture built on an “unclassified at rest” model.
“(The software has) the ability to process classified information on a device that’s unclassified when you’re not using it. So you could literally throw it on the street—no problem. I wouldn’t recommend it, but no problem. But then when you use it, you actually can operate and access the information you need much like you would in your office,” explained Dunlap.
“We’re deploying about 1,000 of those in about three week sort of cycles now to get them out to the force,” said Dunlap.
In addition, the Northern Command ABMS team was able to deploy unclassified tablets with SecureView to healthcare workers in New York City and aboard the hospital ship previously deployed to New York City, the USNS Comfort. The team is also pushing out data and applications to those devices to give users real time awareness of patients’ health status, Dunlap said. He also said they were using artificial intelligence algorithms to predict how COVID-19 will spread.
The software was developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory as part of DeviceOne, a line of effort under the Air Force’s ABMS family of systems.
ABMS is the Air Force’s contribution to the Department of Defense’s Joint All-Domain Command and Control concept, an ongoing effort to ensure connectivity between the services. Under JADC2, the Department’s leaders want sensors to feed data to shooters in near-real time, regardless of domain. As envisioned, JADC2 systems should enable National Reconnaissance Office satellites to feed data to U.S. Army shooters, or U.S. Navy sensors to feed data to Air Force shooters.
Dunlap noted that the use of DeviceONE to fight COVID-19 represented a real world on ramp of ABMS.
“So from both a classified and unclassified world, seamless devices, mobility, data and applications where you need it, when you need it, are actually being demonstrated before our eyes in a real world current operation,” said Dunlap. “In some sense, you could call that we’re actually doing a current ops on ramp to be able to support people and keep people safe.”
The Air Force is largely agnostic towards which hardware is used for DeviceONE, said Dunlap. The program utilizes off-the-shelf consumer devices, enabling easy upgrades and keeping costs low compared to other DoD technology efforts.
“For DeviceONE, all of the work that the team did was software-based and software security-based, and the hardware piece of that (we) are procuring and competing across the vendors that can provide the laptops, the tablets, the servers in the backend and so forth,” said Dunlap.
While the system can be used to access any classification level, the configuration rolled out for COVID-19 support was limited to just the secret level. However, Dunlap said the software can be used for any classification level and was currently in use around the world by several combatant commanders.
“It’s incumbent for us to be able to provide the security and software on top of (the hardware) that enables our operators to be on that island, on that aircraft, in that Humvee, in the tents, and be able to get the information they need,” said Dunlap.
And Dunlap added that the delayed ABMS test will be expanded when it does occur, incorporating Strategic Command and Space Command. Dunlap also hinted that the ABMS test after the August/September test will include Indo-Pacific Command, bringing the on ramp to the operational edge.
“There’s going to be a variety of key adjustments there,” said Dunlap. “Before, in December, it was mostly a Northern Command focus. We now have a Space Command and a Space Force, and so the predominant thing here is we’re going to have the U.S. Space Command Commander, Gen. (John) Raymond, actually be the supported commander for the first time as opposed to a supporting commander.” (Source: Defense News)
07 May 20. Australian Army to acquire EW attack capability. Procurement of a new Australian Army electronic attack capability is set to begin this year. Indeed, acquisition of a force-level EW system that includes an attack component will be undertaken under Tranche 2 of Australia’s Land 555 Phase 6 programme.
Speaking to Shephard, a Defence spokesperson said an RfT is ‘indicatively scheduled for mid-2020,’ adding that this programme will allow the army’s EW capability ‘to be interoperable with joint and coalition partner electronic warfare systems’.
A contract is expected in 2021, with delivery completed by 2023. This is a year later than anticipated when Tranche 2 secured first pass approval in 2018 with the release of an invitation to tender.
That invitation stated the EW system would include electronic attack capable of jamming techniques, electronic support for detection, and C2 for networking and communication at the tactical, operational and strategic levels, and with battle management capabilities.
The spokesperson said Tranche 2 ‘is currently under review to further define capability requirements’, but the new system will be ‘more tailored to specific missions and will allow the Australian Army to undertake more coordinated mobile electronic attacks and support ADF operations’.
The new EW systems will be fitted to Bushmaster vehicles and will be interoperable with EW systems acquired by the RAAF, Royal Australian Navy and Five Eyes partners.
Meanwhile, under Tranche 1 the construction of facilities to support 72 EW Squadron, part of the army’s 7th Signals Regiment at Borneo Barracks in Queensland are due to commence in July for completion by year’s end.
Tranche 1 will procure an additional six army EW systems beyond those purchased under the earlier Land 500 Phase 1 contract.
That saw Chemring Australia provide its Resolve 3 EW manpack system for A$18m ($11.5m) to replace the army’s existing Manpack Electronic Surveillance System. The company received an industry capability grant in 2013 to develop a range of military electronics systems in Australia.
The new facilities will ensure the army can support this new equipment in-country and contribute to further EW developments.
The Resolve manpack can provide full-spectrum surveillance to provide instant threat warnings, and direction finding to locate its origin. When operating with other units, it can use angle-of-arrival techniques to fix a target’s position.
The spokesperson said new systems procured under Tranche 1 ‘are required to be suitable for fitment to the Protected Mobility Electronic Platform variant Bushmaster, a trailer or other in-service protected mobility options’.
Elsewhere, the Land 4120 EW Rolling Programme is not expected to seek first pass government approval until 2024. Land 4120 aims to regularly enhance land EW capability based on immediate priorities to respond to emerging threats.
It is anticipated Land 4120 will ‘take an iterative approach to the project scope’ as a ‘multi-decade programme’ to ensure Australia can ‘maintain a technological edge over potential adversaries,’ and that investment in R&D and technology ‘is anticipated to be an enduring theme for Land 4120’. (Source: Shephard)
07 May 20. Fire Scout set to gain Link 16. Northrop Grumman is set to receive new contracts from the US Navy over the next two years to integrate Link 16 on the MQ-8C Fire Scout VTOL UAV, as part of a growing range of the company’s systems to feature such a capability.
US Naval Air Systems Command awarded Northrop Grumman a contract in 2018 for a demonstration installation of Link 16 on the MQ-8C. This completed a proof-of-concept and risk reduction effort for full Link 16 integration onto the UAV.
The US government is set to award a Phase 1 MQ-8C Link 16 integration contract to the company late in FY2020 for an initial integration design; a Phase II contract in FY21 will then complete the integration design, conduct laboratory testing and support government testing of the system. The full retrofit is planned to begin in late FY23.
Northrop Grumman now awaits a contract from the USN to integrate Link 16 into the UAV’s AN/ZPY-8 radar, with the first such systems deploying next year.
‘Link 16 will enable the MQ-8C to provide ISR data to multiple users in the network, including ships, aircraft, ground sites, etc,’ said Melissa Packwood, programme manager for tactical autonomous systems at Northrop Grumman. ‘This will allow the navy to employ Fire Scout in a variety of missions to enable near-real-time data to inform critical decision making,’ she told Shephard.
Scott Winship, vice-president of advanced programmes at Northrop Grumman, said data link functionality is present in a wide range of the company’s autonomous systems, including the MQ-4C Triton and RQ-4 Global Hawk. Data links provide an ability to disseminate critical information to military personnel as they conduct complex and distributed operations, he added.
‘Data links make it possible for systems to talk, link and share data. They’ll be critical for the next level of connectivity essential to Joint All-Domain Command and Control [JADC2], which will be the real discriminator in future environments,’ Winship remarked.
The Distributed Autonomy/Responsive Control (DA/RC) battle management command and control system from Northrop Grumman is designed to support JADC2 efforts, Winship said, including with unmanned vehicles, by supporting ‘decision-making superiority for a manned/unmanned fleet in highly contested environments’. (Source: Shephard)
06 May 20. Sonim and Savox Team Up to Launch TRICS Remote Speaker Microphone Compatible with Both Land Mobile Radio and LTE Handset. Sonim Technologies (Nasdaq: SONM) partnered with Savox to launch the Tactical Radio and Intercom Controller System (TRICS®) for enhanced situational awareness, compatible with Sonim’s XP8, XP5s and XP3 handsets. TRICS is compatible with up to four devices, including radios, smartphones/LTE devices, intercoms and Sonim handsets. TRICS is designed for military special forces, tactical teams and first responders working in mission critical operations.
“Interoperability between land mobile radios (LMR) and LTE cellular handsets is a key need for mission critical communications,” said John Graff, CMO, Sonim Technologies. “The TRICS RSM provides a single interface to support both a land mobile radio and Sonim handset. Sonim and Savox are providing an inherently safe and reliable communications solution to meet this need.”
The following are key features of TRICS that are compatible with Sonim’s XP8, XP5s and XP3:
- Sonim’s SecureAudio interface allows the wired TRICS to be physically secured to handset.
- Wireless TRICS can seamlessly connect to Sonim handsets via Bluetooth.
- A range of headsets and hearing protection available to support different mission types.
- The user can combine radios, smartphones, other LTE devices and vehicle intercom systems to ensure mission appropriate communication channels.
- Compatible with leading Push-to-Talk (PTT) applications.
TRICS is a versatile and flexible communication system geared towards high risk mission critical operations. It includes dynamic audio routing, enabling users to choose the best audio options for the mission to ensure the level of situational awareness required. TRICS’ voice amplifier function allows communication while wearing protective gear like respirators or CBRN suits. It is completely software controlled, allowing customer specific configurations to fit the user requirements. A voice prompted menu offers ease of use and quick adjustment. Mute/silent buttons allow for discrete use and silent approaches.
“Savox TRICS meets the communication demands of special missions. It is an easy-to-use system, specially designed according to MIL standards, keeping in mind the various communications needs, tools and channels, and special communication requirements of the users,” said Sami Paihonen, CTO, Savox Communications. “TRICS broad compatibility also reduces the overall gear and weight carried on the body of users.” (Source: PR Newswire)
07 May 20. Security certificate with BSI certification for SOVERON D (SVFuA series). SOVERON D (SVFuA series) receives security certificate with BSI certification allowing classic command and control capability at all echelons. Delivery to troops is imminent.
On February 15, the German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) granted Rohde & Schwarz certification for classification level SECRET for the joint radio system of the German armed forces (SVFuA). The certification allows transmission of data and voice in the classification levels, unclassified, restricted and SECRET, allowing classic command and control capability at all echelons.
In 2017, following many years of joint development, the Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support (BAAINBw) signed a contract with Rohde & Schwarz for the procurement of the SVFuA (series designation SOVERON D). SOVERON D operates on the principle of the software defined radio (SDR) and offers secure, trustworthy communications. Rohde & Schwarz relied on its in-house cryptology development as a key national technology.
When development ended in 2016, it was determined that SOVERON D met the requirements for certification. Certification in line with the internationally recognized Software Communications Architecture (SCA 2.2.2) standard for SDR radio systems was a prerequisite for customer acceptance.
“SOVERON D is one of the most advanced commercially available SDRs with unique capabilities, and Rohde & Schwarz expects it to give future projects of the German armed forces an enormous boost toward connected, secure and jam-proof transmission of voice and data,” explains Hartmut Jäschke, Executive Vice President Secure Communications and member of Rohde & Schwarz Corporate Management. “The SOVERON network architecture from Rohde & Schwarz, consisting of SDRs and associated network-capable waveforms, is a key prerequisite for a comprehensive, interoperable system solution.”
In the future, SOVERON D will also use the ESSOR high data rate waveform that was developed within the framework of the trans-European interoperability initiative for armed forces at the tactical level, an initiative the Federal Republic of Germany has joined. In line with the SDR concept, further waveforms can be later loaded on SOVERON D as software. This makes SOVERON D a secure investment for the future and supports the digitalization of the German armed forces. The project is on track to deliver the first series-produced units to the customer.”
06 May 20. The Pentagon made its case against Ligado. What now? Military members practice navigating in a GPS-denied environment. The Pentagon is concerned a move by the FCC may harm GPS functionality. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eli J. Medellin/Released)
Top defense officials used a May 6 hearing to make a detailed, public case for why the Federal Communications Commission was mistaken last month when it voted to allow Virginia-based Ligado access to spectrum that the Pentagon says will harm the global positioning system — but stopped short of publicly asking for legislative assistance from friendly senators.
The hearing, the Senate Armed Services Committee’s first since returning from a coronavirus-related break, was unusually technical, with defense officials providing a joint presentation about how GPS works, their view of Ligado’s technology, and how the military could be hurt by Ligado’s efforts. The first round of questions from senators took more than two hours and 15 minutes.
A pro-Pentagon tone was set early. Sens. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., and Jack Reed, D-RI., the chairman and ranking member of the committee, had joined their House counterparts to write an April 23 op-ed slamming the FCC’s decision and threatening potential legislative action. Notably, neither representatives from Ligado nor the FCC were invited to attend the hearing.
News that the FCC planned to approve Ligado’s request was first reported April 10 by C4ISRNET. On April 20, the FCC unanimously voted to move forward with the plan.
Appearing before the committee were Dana Deasy, the department’s chief information officer; research and engineering head Mike Griffin; Gen. Jay Raymond, the head of U.S. Space Force; and Thad Allen, a retired Coast Guard admiral with years of radio frequency experience.
The fight over Ligado’s request dates back almost a decade, when the company was known as LightSquared and had different ownership. But objection from the Pentagon has remained steady, with defense leaders saying Ligado’s plan would cause disruptions of the GPS system that could put war fighters in harm’s way.
Supporters, including FCC chairman Ajit Pai, have argued that technical changes from Ligado make it so that DoD systems should not be impacted. And members of the Trump administration, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Attorney General Bill Barr, have praised the move, saying it is vital to building out a 5G capability to rival that of China.
L-band is described as the range of frequencies between 1 to 2 GHz. GPS, and other international navigation systems, rely on L-band because it can easily penetrate clouds, fog, rain and vegetation. Ligado owns a license to operate the spectrum near GPS to build what the firm describes as a 5G network that would boost connectivity for the industrial “internet of things” market.
At its simplest, the fight comes down to which set of testing data one believes. The DoD and those siding with it argue that Ligado’s L-Band plan would create interference with GPS capabilities, harming military use and the economic benefits from the system. Ligado’s case rests on the argument that DoD’s testing does not accurately capture the mitigation plan the company has developed over the years, and argues that there is no true proof that interference will be an issue.
The Pentagon’s case
The Pentagon officials relied on three major talking points that they came back to time and again throughout the hearing, often supported by the Senators asking questions.
Argument 1: Ligado is not a provider of true 5G capability. The company and its supporters, including Attorney General Barr, have emphasized the importance of allowing Ligado’s plan to go forward in order to develop strong 5G capabilities. But Inhofe and Deasy emphasized that the band Ligado plans to operate in is not part of the FCC’s 5G FAST plan for developing 5G.
“We all agree we need to compete with China in the 5G development,” said Inhofe. “Ligado’s proposal is not tied to that work whatsoever …. they tried to conflate this proposal with other midband spectrum sharing discussion but in reality these two issues are completely separate.”
Pentagon officials backed up that assertion.
“The non-contiguous bands that Ligado could bring to market are fragmented and impaired,” Deasy said in written testimony. “Furthermore, Ligado’s plans only target a small subset of 5G specifications, mainly limited Internet of Things, rather than the full range of high data rate, ultra-fast 5G services needed to reach the full promise of 5G benefits for businesses and consumers.”
Argument 2: Ligado’s proposed fixes are technologically and logistically impossible to implement. Ligado’s plan, as approved by the FCC, comes with requirements that the company help cover costs and replace U.S. government receivers that are impacted in any way.
In his testimony, Deasy wrote that it would be impossible for the millions of receivers used around the United States, both from the federal government and general consumers, to be tracked for interference. More specific to the military, Deasy noted that the idea of replacing GPS receivers inside military systems is not realistic.
“The FCC order expects Ligado to protect U.S. government GPS receivers and to repair or replace affected receivers identified before Ligado terrestrial operations commence. But this overlooks the classified nature of military GPS use and the sheer number of government receivers and military platforms affected,” Deasy wrote. “The FCC expectation is unreasonable and could never be employed in real practice. To avert significant mission impacts, the government would need to undertake unprecedented accelerated testing, modification and integration of new GPS receivers on existing platforms. This is cost and schedule prohibitive and would significantly degrade national security.”
During testimony, Griffin noted that DoD systems are not designed so that the GPS receivers are easily accessed. Trying to do so would at best require taking a weapon system out of service for a period of time in order to apply a fix; in some case, it would require damaging the system to get to its inner parts and potentially leaving the system inoperable.
Argument 3: Ligado’s impact on GPS will lead commercial GPS users to switch over to non-U.S. GPS providers, most notably Chinese systems. This talking point appeared to be crafted to challenge the pro-Ligado argument that 5G capabilities need to be developed to counter China.
“The department believes this FCC ruling increases the risk that American families and businesses may turn to foreign space-based navigation and timing systems like China’s BeiDou and Russia’s GLONASS, to replace the functions of GPS if it becomes unreliable due to interference from Ligado operations,” Deasy wrote. “This is fundamentally a bad deal for America’s national and economic security.”
Added Griffin, a noted China hawk: “If we damage our own world standard… we should only expect that users worldwide will find other standards. That will not be to our benefit.”
‘Caught off guard’
A point that defense officials, Reed and particularly Inhofe came back to several times was that the Pentagon expected to have more of a chance to weigh in on the issue — not to be blindsided by the FCC voting over a weekend to approve the measure.
Deasy said the DoD and FCC have “historically” had a good working relationship, but that broke down in this situation.
“There was not a give or take, the back and forth we typically go through. At the end of the day we were completely caught off guard when over the weekend in April the decision was taken by the FCC to go ahead and move forward” with the plan, later calling the FCC’s actions “unheard of.”
Asked during a press call after the hearing if he believed the FCC purposefully tried to hide what was coming from the department, Deasy declined to speculate.
Inhofe repeatedly pointed to the fact some FCC members voted on a Sunday and at a time when the country was distracted by the coronavirus outbreak.
“A few powerful people made a hasty decision over a weekend, in the middle of a national crisis, against the advice of every other agency involved and without cluing the president in on any of this,” Inhofe said, adding he had talked with U.S. President Trump and “I can assure you that is the case.”
Despite all that, the defense officials clammed up when asked several times what they wanted the SASC members to do. The lack of direct reply eventually led Inhofe to state that he, at least, knows what he wants: “We want to get this thing reversed.”
There is a formal path forward for petitioning the FCC to change its ruling, which Deasy said the department would pursue before the end of the month; however, given the unanimous vote at the FCC, convincing three or more members to change their minds seems a long shot. And a number of SASC members noted they don’t have direct oversight of the FCC; that belongs to the commerce committees.
On the call with reporters, Deasy said that “one avenue could be legislative action” but declined to go into details.
An hour before the hearing, Ligado executives publicly released a five-page letter to the SASC members, with an additional presentation, arguing the company’s case and calling it “unfortunate” the company was not asked to be present.
The letter argues the company will provide benefits for 5G, a feat proponents such as former NASA head Dan Goldin have echoed. It also raises questions about the DoD figures, which it said has not been retested since 2016; since then, Ligado has altered its plans in several ways the company says should mitigate the concerns from that older government testing.
Towards the latter half of the hearing, some senators did express skepticism about the DoD argument, most notably Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, who noted that without representation from Ligado or the FCC at the hearing it was hard to take the one-sided arguments on face value.
Industry weighs in
Multiple trade groups with an interest in GPS capabilities, as well as space-focused companies who view Ligado as a potential competitor have backed the Pentagon. In the wake of the FCC’s approval, those trade groups have issued several individual statements of concern, culminating in almost 70 groups and companies signing a letter to Inhofe and Reed warning Ligado “risks public safety.”
Among that coalition of companies: major defense contractors like Lockheed Martin and L3Harris; air carriers like American Airlines, United, and Southwest; the National Defense Industries Association and Aerospace Industries Association; and freight carriers UPS and FedEx.
Secretary of Defense Mark Esper also joined in the fight this week, using the opening comments of a May 5 press conference to push back at the FCC decision, and publishing a May 6 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal warning of the potential damage.
“There is no evidence that the company has a technically viable 5G solution. This is about one company changing the rules to maximize the value of its spectrum, and the cost to Americans is too great to justify,” Esper wrote. “In announcing its recent decision, the FCC rehashed Ligado’s old arguments, wrapped in new language, to say that the company has made changes and the FCC has set conditions to ensure GPS won’t be affected. Don’t be fooled.” (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
07 May 20. Government authorities secure mobile communication with crypto solutions from Sectra. International medical imaging IT and cybersecurity company Sectra (STO: SECT B) is receiving new orders for its crypto solutions for mobile telephony, smartphones and the blue-light operations’ communication network TETRA from several European government authorities. Order bookings for Sectra’s Secure Communications operating area amounted to approximately SEK 35m in April 2020. With solutions from Sectra, authorities that handle sensitive information are able to maintain their operations even when faced with exceptional circumstances.
“Communication is pivotal for an operation in times of crisis. If information is unreliable, it is impossible to lead the operation,” says a spokesperson for a European security authority.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many operations are being run from the employees’ home offices. Today, opportunities to work remotely are extensive in many work categories, but for individuals who are privy to classified information, working from home is not always an option. This means that certain critical operations risk coming to a standstill if employees are unable to meet each other or access their usual working tools.
To uphold operations, many European government authorities have now implemented mobile encryption solutions from Sectra. Measures taken include providing their key employees with smartphones and tablets that are protected with Sectra’s crypto solution. With these tools, they are able to exchange information in encrypted calls and chat, as well as gain access to important applications like email and calendar via a secure connection. Without such a solution, classified information belonging to the authorities cannot be exchanged at all outside of the walls of their official facilities.
Other authorities that are closer to the field are taking advantage of Sectra’s crypto technology for the TETRA network. The TETRA network is used by blue-light operations and other emergency services and is usually operational on a national level. One country in Europe has elected to expand its access to Sectra’s crypto solution to ensure that, for example, healthcare professionals are able to discuss sensitive information while maintaining security and integrity for both healthcare services and the individual.
06 May 20. Vitavox has launched the advanced ViTac™ Personal Communication System (PCS), providing industry leading hearing protection for mounted and dismounted close combat operators.
ViTac™ PCS introduces revolutionary new features:
Suited to LAND, SEA and AIR domains, ViTac™ PCS keeps personnel connected through a single Personal Headset when operating and monitoring multiple systems. Compatible with all modern standard infantry helmets, ViTac™ PCS features user configurable software parameters, is modular by design and features rapid fit connections as standard.
Adapt to any audio interface connection and combine with the Personal Communication Control Unit (PCCU) to add soft key Push-To-Talk with individual source keying ability. Supporting dual channel radios, dual audio input and volume control, personnel configure their ViTac™ PCS to their requirements in the field.
Combined with ViTac™ Noise Reduction Filters, the system can reduce damaging impulses by up to 37dB.
Research and Development of ViTac™ PCS
User-lead workshops provided critical real-world insight and direction throughout the development cycle. Supporting the British Army across numerous active test and evaluation exercises, ViTac™ is a product of active soldier feedback combined with cutting edge technology.
Significant exercises include:
- Supported Ex WESSEX STORM – February 2020
- Supported Ex WESSEX STORM – June 2019
- Supported Project STREETFIGHTER on Challenger 2 – 2019
- Supported US & UK Military during the US evaluation experiment, Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiment (AEWE) – 2019/2020
- Supporting Project THUNDERCAT with UK MOD Light Cavalry
- Supporting Royal Navy with current and emerging headset capabilities (Boats and Ships)
05 May 20. Akoustis Ships Drone XBAW Filter. Akoustis Technologies, Inc., an integrated device manufacturer (IDM) of patented bulk acoustic wave (BAW) high-band RF filters for mobile and other wireless applications, announced that it has achieved design lock and shipped its C-band filter for the drone market supporting unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). The filters will be used for control and non-payload communication (CNPC) links.
This announcement marks the 12th design locked XBAW filter that Akoustis has produced, a six-fold increase in catalog filters in the last year. The catalog now includes three 5G network infrastructure filters, two high-band WiFi filters and seven defense filters including the drone/UAS filter.
Jeff Shealy, founder and CEO of Akoustis, stated, “As we continue to leverage our proprietary and patented XBAW process for new high frequency RF filter applications, we are shortening our modeling and design times, which has led to a rapidly expanding product catalog. We expect to continue growing our product portfolio as we push into new frequency bands and new markets. We are excited to add the cutting-edge drone market as a new business vertical.”
Originally expected to be delivered in the September quarter, the new drone filter was designed, developed and delivered by Akoustis in under three months. The Company expects to deliver a qualified XBAW drone filter and expects to receive commercial orders by the end of March 2021.
The new filter will operate in a key C-band frequency (within the 4-8 GHz frequency spectrum), that is under consideration for licensing by the FCC, where Akoustis has historically focused its development efforts and has delivered its first designs for high-band WiFi, 5G infrastructure, 5G mobile devices and defense applications. The filter is expected to use the same supply chain and packaging as the current 5 GHz WiFi filters and 5G infrastructure filters.
CNPC is Command and Control (C2) frequency modulated radio intended for point-to-point or networked UAS operations for Beyond Line of Sight Operation (BLOS). The shipments were to a new defense customer, but the filter is expected to have wider market applications for commercial and consumer drones and other aircraft.
The XBAW UAS filter features:
- Low insertion loss passband filter
- High frequency C-Band operation
- High rejection
- Single ended Tx/Rx ports
- High power rating, maximum +30dBm
- Ultra small form factor 2.5mm x 2.0mm x 0.9mm
- Performance over -40C to +85C
- RoHS compliant, Pb-free package
The UAS filter is manufactured using the Company’s patented XBAW process housed within the Company’s Si-MEMS Wafer Fab located in Canandaigua, NY.
Akoustis has introduced several new filters over the past twelve months including a 5.6 GHz WiFi filter, a 5.2 GHz WiFi filter, two small cell network infrastructure filters including a 4.9 GHz band n79 filter , a 3.8 GHz filter and five S-Band filters for defense phased-array radar applications, a 3.6 GHz filter for the CBRS infrastructure market and a C-Band filter for the unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) market. The Company is also developing several new filters for the sub-7 GHz bands targeting 5G mobile device, network infrastructure, WiFi CPE and defense markets. (Source: UAS VISION)
05 May 20. DoD CIO Makes Case For Sticking With JEDI. No current cloud, commercial or military, lets frontline troops access both classified and unclassified data from all over the world, Dana Deasy told Breaking Defense. That makes JEDI unique – and too complex to split up among multiple contractors.
A lot of people – even experts – don’t get what the JEDI cloud computing program is really about, Dana Deasy told me. And that, the Defense Department’s Chief Information Officer admitted, is partly the Pentagon’s own fault he told me during a half-hour interview.
So, this morning, after Breaking Defense published the latest of several stories on JEDI’s legal and political troubles and the mounting criticism of the program, Deasy agreed to an interview to explain just why he thinks the worldwide military cloud is still essential – and too complexly integrated to split chunks off to different contractors.
There are three fundamental misunderstandings about JEDI that the Pentagon needs to dispel, Deasy told me:
- First, people think JEDI is meant to be the one cloud to rule them all. It’s not. While JEDI will be the default option for “general purpose” cloud computing across the entire Department of Defense, it will not replace hundreds of existing cloud contracts across the DoD not prevent the creation of new “fit for purpose” clouds tailored to specific missions.
“We definitely had created the wrong perception. People believed that we were going to take all of our clouds, get rid of them, and migrate everything over to JEDI,” Deasy told me. “That was clearly never the intent.”
- Second, people think JEDI is a 10-year, $10bn contract. It’s not – not necessarily. While that’s the maximum value and duration of the contract, the Pentagon has the option to terminate it after two years. There’s another end-it-or-extend-it decision three years later, and a third three years after that. The minimum the winning contractor is guaranteed to get? Just $1m over two years.
“When I came on board, one thing I did was restructure the terms,” Deasy told me. “I’ve been working with clouds since clouds were first brought to the commercial industry marketplace, and about every two to three years, you see really big changes. I’m talking about significant enough changes where you just want to step back and look at the marketplace. That’s why we changed the terms of the contract.”
- Third, people think JEDI is just another cloud. It’s not. While existing military and even civilian clouds can do some of what JEDI is meant to do, none of them can do all of it. None of them can pull unclassified, secret, and top secret data, from the Pentagon, bases around the world, and forward outposts, and put it all together in a way that even troops in combat can access.
“Go out to the tactical edge, sit down with the warfighter, and look at how we push information out to someone who’s literally outside of the village on the side of a mountain,” Deasy told me. “I spent some time in Afghanistan last year, and you look at what it takes for them to prepare for a mission, to execute a mission. They are pulling data from a variety of sources, some unclassified, some classified.”
But doing that today is damnably hard. It takes a lot of awkward workarounds to bridge the gaps between different and frequently incompatible networks, and you can’t bring the kludged-together solution with you into combat. That’s why one of JEDI’s first priorities is building backpack-sized mini-servers.
“To actually combine that data and physically get the information out to the warfighter in a form factor that they could use when they’re out in the field, it just doesn’t exist today. And no — you cannot pull that off the shelf,” Deasy said. “That is a unique capability that we have to build.”
“We have to find a partner to help us do that, and that is what we’ve been looking to do with JEDI,” he told me. He really means a partner, one contractor, not many, because the task of building this highly complex, tightly integrated system is not something you can split up, the way you would an order for bulk commodities like potatoes, jet fuel, or even online storage.
Why not? Let’s let Deasy explain it in his own words (edited for clarity and brevity).
Q: There’s been a lot of excitement over JEDI since the program began in 2018, and a lot of frustration over the delays. How would you respond to the critics who say it’s time to give up, or even that it was the wrong approach all along?
A: At the time I joined [the Defense Department], which was actually two years ago this week, the first thing that Deputy Shanahan turned over to me was JEDI. The first thing he asked me to do was to go back and take a hard look at was, was this the right thing we were doing for the Department of Defense, were we going about it the right way.
Was it the right thing? Yes. Were we going about the right way? Well, I’d say, mixed results.
[Now] there’s this whole conversation: “Should the DoD give up? Should the DoD start over? Should the DoD go and do something else?” I’ve spent a lot of time contemplating a bunch of different scenarios, and no matter what scenario I look at, you still have to solve the problem for the warfighter. We need to take data all the way out to the tactical edge, across multiple classification levels.
And even if I wanted to stop JEDI today, there is no solution that is available already inside the Department of Defense to do that. I’d have to turn right around, go back out to the market, start an RFP once again to solve for that particular problem.
This is why we stay the course.
We’re not staying the course because we’re just being defiant or stubborn. We’re staying the course because it’s the shortest way to get from point A to point B, because if we don’t stay this course, we will still have to go back and solve this particular warfighting need. And that is why I believe staying with JEDI and moving forward is the right solution.
It’s very easy for critics to say, “hey, there’s a bunch of clouds already inside of the Department of Defense, why don’t you just go use one of those?” Or “why don’t you just split this up and give this to a bunch of different suppliers?”
Yes, of course, JEDI can do commodity cloud capabilities, and so do a lot of our other clouds across the Department of Defense. The whole world of commodity cloud has gotten better and better. But it doesn’t solve for our classification levels. It doesn’t solve for the tactical edge today.
If you look at the heart of that RFP [the 2018 Request For Proposals] and you really sort through all the requirements, what makes JEDI still unique today, that cannot be satisfied by other cloud environments, is the fact that it was solving for both OCONUS [Outside the Continental United States] and CONUS; it’s moving data across multiple classification levels; and it was looking to create a commercial solution that would give us far better terms, conditions, and pricing than we’d ever seen inside the Department of Defense.
When we looked across the landscape of all the cloud environments we had, there was not a single cloud environment that we had that could do all those things, nor was there one being contemplated inside the Department of Defense.
We’ve got the Army that is now looking to consolidate their clouds, we have the Air Force has their cloudOne platform, Navy has stood up a special purpose cloud with their SAP HANA to consolidate their various SAP environments. All of those things fit exactly what we were trying to achieve in the cloud strategy document at the end of 2018.
However, if you look at all those cloud environments and other ones that are stood up across Department of Defense, none of those, still, can do CONUS and OCONUS, none of them is solving for the tactical edge, and none of them is solving for multiple classification levels.
[Before the stop-work order], we had dozens of projects across combatant commands and the services wanting to be the first to standup in the new JEDI cloud, because of two fundamental things: It offered capabilities that their clouds didn’t offer and it offered it at a way better price.
At the end of the day, the most competitive way of looking at market forces is, where are the services going to? And they were clearly going towards JEDI because of what it offered in terms of technology and what it offered in terms of price.
One of the criteria that we really wanted out of JEDI was to get to the best commercial terms and conditions. And I can tell you after we were done with that award, we clearly in that award had better terms, better pricing than we had in any cloud across the Department.
Q: But you took a long time assessing which competitors could meet your technical requirements, finally choosing Microsoft. Given the delays, and given how fast IT changes, is that assessment now obsolete?
A: We did not take this final decision on the selection of our vendor until towards the back half of last year. Yes, we started this in 2018, but the offerings that we were looking at were being updated and refreshed throughout the entire RFP process until the point that they submitted their final submissions.
Our [implementation] schedule is actually going to be in phases. First, we’re going to roll out unclassified, then we’re going to roll out the secret, and then we’re going to roll out the top secret. And those solutions were going to be designed and built as we went through this process. One of the reasons we did that was because we did recognize that technology would change.
We set it up in a way that we absolutely can stay fresh with technology as it changes, because we have these option periods [at two years, five years, and eight years] to go back and look at whoever our provider is and to decide whether or not they’re staying current.
If we saw that a vendor was starting to lose its competitiveness either on pricing, on speed of delivery, or on technology, you make it clear that if they were to continue down the path they’re going, there’s not going to be a renewal.
The best evidence you get is just how are they delivering every day? Is it working, is it up and running? Do they really give you a tactical edge? Do they really give you multiple classifications? Are the warfighters benefiting from it?
Q: But why is having a single contractor you can opt out of at set times better than having multiple vendors competing all the time for work orders under an Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quanity contract?
A: It’s a fair question. And if what we were providing the Department of Defense was pure commodity cloud, a platform for storing and compute and building applications in a standard way that we see industry doing it today, IDIQ would be a perfect way to go.
But that’s not what we’re doing here. That’s what gets lost in this whole conversation. This is not your typical, basic, commodity cloud offering where you can put it out to three or four vendors and let the service pick every day who they want.
Let’s go back to what the requirements are. We are trying to build a cloud that can handle CONUS, OCONUS, unclassified, secret, top secret, traverse the data between those environments, and create hardware solutions at forward bases and to the tactical edge.
Imagine for a second that I now wanted to have three or four vendors to do that. Think of the complexity it would take to build cross domain solutions for unclassified, top secret and secret, OCONUS, CONUS, forward bases, tactical edge devices, all the way out to the guys on the side of the mountain.
Especially when you think about trying to move forward with this Joint All-Domain Command & Control, where the fight of the future is going to be multiple services and combatant commands having to work together and share data. That becomes almost untenable if you set it up as an IDIQ with multiple vendors. I mean, how would you ever build that to work all the way to the tactical edge?
To move data from unclassified to secret to top secret, it’s extremely complicated. It’s not like you go buy this off the shelf. This is a very bespoke, tailored solution that has to be built.
There is an actual hardware element of this, of creating the hardened devices that need to be put into the hands of a warfighter out there on a mission and that’s what we don’t have today. You have to find a vendor that can help you build those hardened devices out on the tactical edge.
If we’re doing IDIQs and every time we have a new warfighter need, we now are going to go out for three or four vendors, we’re going to put that out, they’re going to come back and bid, they’re going to give a solution and then we have to go back and now re-integrate that solution. That gets be very hard and very complicated and very time consuming.
You have to FEDRAMP all of them, you have to test all of them, you got to run them through certification. We have to put NSA red teams onto them, we have to put US Cyber Command to oversee each of those environments. Is that in the taxpayer’s best interest? Does that sound like to you the lowest cost, most efficient solution for the DoD and the warfighter?
There’s going to be a lot of business across the Department of Defense where IDIQs are going to be perfect and we’ll have lots of cloud providers that will flourish. But JEDI is a unique environment where having a partner to help us build this out is the smartest way to go.
Throughout this entire process one thing has stayed constant: You have to find a way of putting a warfighter cloud capability into the hands of our men and women out on the tactical edge every day. And I’ve always looked at my responsibilities as CIO is to not to satisfy the cloud industry, but to satisfy what the warfighter needs. We have a unique war-fighting need that you just can’t go get off of the shelf today. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
04 May 20. Silvus Technologies To Deliver Over 1,000 Radios in Support of US Army IVAS Program. Tactical Radio Network Provides Real Time Data Transmission to Soldiers. Silvus Technologies, Inc. announced today that it has received a $3.9m order from the United States Army to provide tactical Mobile Ad Hoc (MANET) radios in support of the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) program.
The IVAS program utilizes an Augmented Reality (AR) Heads Up Display (HUD) goggle to provide soldiers with situational awareness while allowing their eyes to remain focused on the battlefield. Critical to the success of the program is a high performance, low size/weight/power (SWaP) tactical radio network that allows soldiers to share information wirelessly in real time and in dynamic, unpredictable circumstances.
Silvus competed with more than a dozen companies in the downselect process for the IVAS prototyping phase and was selected to deliver over 1,000 IVAS radios to support rigorous integration and testing which will culminate in a Soldier Touch Point (STP) event in mid-2020. The STP is designed to provide direct user feedback and will follow a DevOps model where Silvus and other vendors work closely with the government to develop, deploy and operate solutions more efficiently, shortening the development life cycle.
“Silvus is prepared to support the needs of the IVAS program as our StreamCaster radios are optimized for low size/weight/power, high scalability, high throughput and resilient connectivity in congested/contested environments, providing the soldier with real time data transmission for situational awareness,” said Silvus Technologies Vice President of Sales, Jimi Henderson. “IVAS is a fast-moving and forward-leaning program which is well matched with our ability to rapidly produce cutting edge technology and refine its capabilities to meet the needs of the warfighter.”
The IVAS program has been prioritized and accelerated to meet multiple US Army Future Command’s “Top 6” Modernization Priorities including Networks and Soldier Lethality as well as Air and Missile Defense.
About Silvus Technologies, Inc.
Privately held and headquartered in Los Angeles, Silvus Technologies develops advanced MIMO technologies that are reshaping broadband wireless connectivity for mission critical applications. Backed by an unmatched team of PhD scientists and design engineers, its technologies provide enhanced wireless data throughput, interference mitigation, improved range, mobility, and robustness to address the growing needs of its government and commercial customers. (Source: PR Newswire)
04 May 20. Lockheed Martin discloses details on new cyber and EW-capable GRFIN programme. Lockheed Martin, for the first time, disclosed details on the company’s work toward a new ground-based electronic warfare and intelligence node, designed for eventual integration into the US Army’s Multi-Function Electronic Warfare (MFEW) family of systems.
Company engineers working the Ground-based RF Intelligence Node (GRFIN) programme officially demonstrated the system’s cyber-enhanced EW capabilities, as well as the platform’s interoperability with the company’s prototype offering for the “Air Large” wing pod component of the MFEW family, at the army’s Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Command (CERDEC) Flight Activity facility at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey in July and August 2019. (Source: Jane’s)
04 May 20. US Army issues RFI for Link 16 network radio on Apache attack helicopters. US Army acquisition officials are seeking industry input for possible production of Link 16 tactical network radios for the service’s fleet of AH-64E Apache attack helicopters, according to a recently issued request for information (RFI).
The effort, overseen by the US Army Contracting Command on behalf of the Project Manager for Apache Attack Helicopter (PM AAH) office within the Program Executive Office for Aviation (PEO AVN), “seeks to identify potential sources that possess the expertise, capabilities, and experience to meet the requirements for the AH-64E Link 16 solution, sourced directly to the [US] government to be provided to the AH-64E production line,” according to the RFI, issued on 23 April. (Source: Jane’s)
01 May 20. Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) is rapidly working on developing and fielding a gatewayONE prototype, an open system enabling translation and communication across platforms, in support of the Advanced Battle Management family of Systems (ABMS).
Under the contract, awarded by the U.S. Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s C3I & Networks Directorate, Northrop Grumman is providing engineering, management and technical assistance for the Air Force’s integration of net-centric 5th-to-5th generation aircraft communications capabilities and other platforms into a modular, open-architecture gateway. Testing of a flight-representative configuration will be conducted in a systems integration laboratory, on the ground, and in the air based on the four month operational demonstration pace envisioned by the Air Force Acquisition Lead, Dr. Will Roper and the Department of the Air Force Chief Architect, Preston Dunlap.
“We’re constantly advancing capabilities in networking and communications focused on large-scale modular, open architecture systems-of-systems solutions,” said Roshan Roeder, vice president, communications, airborne sensors and networks division, Northrop Grumman. “We are working closely with the Air Force to design and deliver to the field, advanced communications systems quickly and affordably.”
Work performed under this program will directly support live demonstrations of the Air Force’s developing Advanced Battle Management family of Systems. This capability could be used to network together the types of aircraft being developed through the Air Force’s Low-Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology initiative.
Northrop Grumman will integrate this capability — using its proven Freedom radio product line that can connect 5th-to-5th generation aircraft of a single type as well as 5th generation to 4th generation platforms — and via ABMS extend this to enable multiple 5th generation platform types to share and integrate data, helping make interoperability a reality. Freedom multifunction, software-defined radios are the heart of the F-22 integrated avionics suite and F-35 communications, navigation and identification system. Building upon investments, the company is developing affordable variants customized to fit multiple platforms.
Northrop Grumman solves the toughest problems in space, aeronautics, defense and cyberspace to meet the ever evolving needs of our customers worldwide. Our 90,000 employees define possible every day using science, technology and engineering to create and deliver advanced systems, products and services.
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.