Sponsored by Spectra Group
28 May 20. US Army Invites Air Force ABMS To Big Network Test: Project Convergence. This fall’s experiment will study how the Army’s own weapons can share target data, Gen. Murray said, but in 2021 he wants to add the Air Force’s ABMS network. Damn the pandemic, full speed ahead. The four-star chief of Army Futures Command plans to hold a high-tech field test in the southwest desert this fall, COVID-19 or no.
Called Project Convergence, the exercise will test sharing of targeting data amongst the Army’s newest weapons, including aerial scouts, long-range missile launchers and armored vehicles. The Army also wants to plug in its new anti-aircraft and missile defense systems, AFC head Gen. Mike Murray told reporters, but those technologies are at a critical juncture in their own individual test programs – some of which was delayed by COVID – and they may not be ready on time for this fall.
“I’m going to try to drag them all into this,” Murray said. The experiment, set to begin in late August or early September, will definitely include the Army’s Artificial Intelligence Task Force, as well as four of its eight modernization Cross Functional Teams. That’s Long-Range Precision Fires (i.e. artillery), Future Vertical Lift aircraft (including drones), and the tactical network, he said, plus the Next Generation Combat Vehicle team in “a supporting role.”
What about the Air & Missile Defense team? “We’ll see,” Murray said. “Right now… I’m very cautious, because of the two major tests they’ve got going on this fall in terms of IBCS and IMSHORAD.” IBCS is the Army’s new command network for air and missile defense units, which had to delay a major field test due to COVID. IMSHORAD is an 8×8 Stryker armored vehicle fitted with anti-aircraft missiles and guns, which Murray said is now delayed “a few months” by software problems.
Meanwhile, the Air Force – with some input from the other services – will be testing its own nascent data-sharing network. That’s the ambitious Advanced Battle Management System, the leading candidate to be the backbone of a future Joint All-Domain Command & Control (JADC2) network-of-networks linking all the armed services.
The Air Force’s ABMS experiment will be separate from the Army’s Project Convergence exercise happening at roughly the same time this fall, Murray said. But he wants to hold a Convergence test each year from now on, he told reporters, and he wants to bring in ABMS in 2021.
“In ’20, we’re parallel, not interconnected,” he said. “Our desire is to bring them closer and closer together, beginning in ’21.”
Murray spoke via phone to the Defense Writers Group, along with the Army’s civilian chief of acquisition, Bruce Jette. While the two men’s roles and organizations are kept distinct by law, they’ve been joined at the hip on modernization, and Jette – a scientist, engineer, and inventor — is clearly enthused about the experiment.
“We are looking at the potential integration of all of our fires into a fires network,” Jette told the listening reporters. Currently, he explained, the Army has one network, AFATDS, to pass data about ground targets to its offensive artillery units – howitzers, rocket launchers, surface-to-surface missiles. Meanwhile, it’s developing a different network, IBCS, to share data on flying targets – incoming enemy rockets, missiles, and aircraft – amongst its air and missile defense units.
The two networks and the sensors that feed them must meet very different technical demands, since shooting down a missile requires split-second precision that bombarding a tank battalion does not. But there’s also great potential for the two to share data and work together. For example, the defensive side can figure out where enemy missiles are launching from, then tell the offensive side so it can blow up the enemy launchers before they fire again.
“If I can bring the two of them together,” Jette said, you can use a sensor the Army already developed, bought and fielded to spot targets for one weapon – say, the Q-53 artillery radar – to feed targeting data into a totally different type of weapon – say, a Patriot battery. Artificial intelligence could pull together data from multiple sensors, each seeing the same target in different wavelengths or from a different angle, to build a composite picture more precise than its parts.
“We’re moving past just simple concepts of sensors and shooters,” Jette said. “How do we get multiple sensors and shooters [integrated] such that we get more out of them than an individual item could provide?”
Looking across the Army’s 34 top modernization programs, Murray said, “an individual capability is interesting, but the effect is greater than the sum of the parts. There have to be connections between these [programs]. And that’s really the secret sauce I’m not going to explain in detail, ever.”
What Murray would share, however, was that the Army got to test a slightly less ambitious sensor-to-shooter link in Europe earlier this year, as part of NATO’s Defender 2020 wargames. The field experiment fed data from a wide range of sources – in space, in the air, and on the ground – to an Army howitzer unit, he said.
However, the Army had also wanted to experiment with new headquarters and organizations to command and control ultra-long-range artillery, Murray said, and those aspects of the massive exercise had to be cancelled due to COVID. The service is looking at alternative venues, such as its Combat Training Centers, but “it’s just hard to replicate what Defender 2020 offered us,” he said. “What we lost was the largest exercise we’ve done and the largest deployment of forces in a very, very long time.”
That makes the stakes even higher for Project Convergence. “You can call it an experiment, you can call it a demonstration,” Murray said. “Right now, the plan is we’re going to do this every year… every fall as we continue to mature… this architecture that brings the sensors to the right shooter and through the right headquarters.”
While this year’s Convergence exercise will focus on the Army, Murray is already working with the Air Force to meld the two next year. “We have been in discussion with the Air Force for the better part of the year on how we integrate with the effort they have going on,” he said. “I was actually out at Nellis the last time they had a live meeting on JADC2 [Joint All-Domain Command & Control] with all of the architects of ABMS.”
Those discussions made very clear to both the Army and the Air Force participants that “it all comes down to data and it all comes down to the architectures you build,” Murray said.
“As Bruce [Jette] talked about, it’s not a specific sensor to a specific shooter,” he said. “On a future battlefield… just about everything is going to be a sensor. So how you do you store that data and how do you enable a smart distribution of data to the right shooter? Because we can’t build architectures that are relying upon huge pipes and just massive bandwidth to make it work.” (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
28 May 20. DOD, USAF Warfare Center to Build a 5G Network, Test Prototype Software at Nellis. The Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (OUSD(R&E)) and the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center (USAFWC) at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada have teamed to build a fifth-generation (5G) cellular network on Nellis as part of DOD’s development of 5G for both defense and civilian uses.
”The Defense Department recognizes 5G technology is vital to maintaining America’s military and economic advantages,” said Dr. Joseph Evans, DOD technical director for 5G and the lead for the department’s 5G development effort. ”We expect to start construction on the network at Nellis in July and have it fully operational in January of next year.”
Only users taking part in the testing will have access to the private network. The network will feature relocatable cell towers that can be set up and taken down in less than an hour. Testing will involve mobile operations centers where team members will use the network while on the move.
The Information Warfare Research Project (IWRP), an industry consortium, will seek commercial software prototypes through a Prototype Other Transactional Authority (OTA) process it will manage. IWRP member companies may provide prototype proposals. Prototypes will focus on two areas: Applications and Services for Survivable Command and Control (C2) and Wireless Network Enhancements.
Applications and Services for Survivable C2 prototypes will build or revise C2 software used at Air and Wing Operations Centers to support distributed planning and mission-execution functions. These applications involve architectures that enable C2 operations under a variety of 5G network conditions. They may incorporate human-machine interfaces, which go beyond simple graphic-user interfaces and may include audio, gestures, augmented reality devices and haptics that stimulate touch and motion. Network Enhancement prototypes will build and test novel 5G features including network slicing to allow network operators to dedicate portions of their networks to specific uses and software-defined networking, which makes network control possible using software applications. This prototype will also test interoperability with legacy and future generations of cellular and mobile networking.
Testing at Nellis will start in January 2021 and continue in three 12-month phases.
This test builds upon DOD’s previously announced 5G communications technology prototyping and experimentation at Hill AFB, Utah; Joint Base Louis-McChord, Washington; Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, Georgia; and Naval Base San Diego, California. (Source: US DoD)
27 May 20. Innovation could solve the military’s radio interoperability challenge. Interoperability in communications has long vexed military, public safety and law enforcement organizations. The ever-expanding landscape of equipment unable to reliably and securely communicate with each other impacts situational awareness and more consequentially, mission success.
Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, then-commander of U.S. Army Europe, noted three years ago that field radios used by U.S. troops and NATO allies “cannot even talk to each other securely.” More recently, Army Futures Command leaders acknowledged still that “tactical radio communications with coalition partners is one of the key problems we have been trying to solve.”
Government and industry innovation are enabling DoD organizations to make tangible gains in radio communications interoperability in tactical environments. Understanding the core challenges and how emerging approaches and solutions can solve them will go a long way in advancing military efforts in the months and years ahead.
Radio interoperability challenges
DoD organizations tap numerous types of communications equipment — including handheld radios, desktop phones, laptops, and intercom systems — for which interoperability can be a hurdle. As a result, a warfighter or operator in the field might not be able to connect to someone in a command post, on a vehicle, or in headquarters, unless they have matching equipment.
Further impeding seamless communication, these varied handheld radios use different waveforms or frequencies. Even if the devices and frequencies align, each organization might use different channels to communicate within their own groups, so internal groups and teams can’t communicate with each other. Lastly, different radios have different range limitations that need to be factored into the equation.
Conventional approaches historically focused on fielding systems providing radio interoperability and radio-over-IP (RoIP) — many of which were large, not rugged, and not well-integrated. The lack of small form factor systems that were proven in ruggedized environments has slowed interoperability efforts. At the same time, interoperability solutions have often left DoD to mix-and-match from different vendors, and absorb the full burden of trying to integrate them.
Meeting the challenge
The speed at which technology innovation can reach warfighters is critical to mission success. But as is the case in any industry, more products and services introduce complexity. For the DoD, rapidly fielding new communications hardware and software complicates interoperability. New types of software defined radios, MANET radios, handheld Link 16 radios, and soon, 5G solutions, will make this interoperability problem tougher, not easier. At the same time, it is not cost-feasible to replace all existing legacy radios every time a new version comes along, so interoperability must also be established between new and old radio technologies.
Adapting popular radio types, phone types, and intercom systems into a common communications format — that is, Internet Protocol (IP), and mixing and distributing the communications back out to all users — is key. Further, providing this adaptation to multiple systems at the same time — so that many systems, even from different organizations, can work together simultaneously — must be a focus as well. Using IP allows for transmission over any variety of long-haul systems, including Beyond Line of Sight systems, or SATCOM, to enable worldwide transmission.
Systems must also be integrated, rugged, small enough to be transported by hand or mounted on vehicles, and be power-efficient enough to run on batteries in order to meet needs across organizations. Finally, these systems and related technology will benefit from a rich feature set, user interface and APIs that are interoperable above the communications layer.
When DoD organizations can’t communicate easily and in real-time, they can’t succeed. And interoperability can’t be narrowly defined as enabling converged voice communications between like organizations, staff and vehicles. It must extend across otherwise incompatible or non-interoperable systems such as dismounted units, FOBs, command posts, ground vehicles, and aircraft, as well as in upper echelons — for military, intelligence, law enforcement, and Homeland Security use. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
28 May 20. HENSOLDT modernizes German Airforce IFF systems. Encryptable transponders help to avoid friendly fire incidents. As part of the modernization of all NATO’s IFF identification systems (IFF = Identification-friend-or-foe) to the new “Mode 5” standard, sensor solution provider HENSOLDT is equipping the Air Force’s 90 Tornado fighter aircraft with its Mode 5-capable LTR 400 transponder. An initial order for the delivery of 42 devices worth several million euros has been placed by Panavia Aircraft GmbH – the industrial consortium for the development of the Tornado; the conversion of over one hundred further platforms of the German Armed Forces is planned.
As early as October 2019, the additional qualifications required for the LTR 400 transponder system to be installed on the German Tornado at equipment level were successfully completed and the relevant documents handed over to Airbus Defence and Space (ADS). Subsequently, during the test flights carried out by ADS in Manching at the end of 2019, the performance requirements for the IFF system as specified by the responsible military technical service (WTD-61) were verified
.The IFF technology is of central importance for all military operations. Based on automated electronic signals, it ensures that the armed forces can recognize friends who respond with the correct signal when contacted and identify potentially hostile vehicles who do not.
All NATO countries are mandated to migrate to the new Mode 5 standard IFF, which uses advanced cryptographic techniques to secure systems against electronic interference from the enemy. This is important when armed forces operate together, as ensuring that crews of land, air and naval forces can reliably identify their allies is one of the most important ways of preventing so-called “friendly fire” incidents. The LTR 400 transponder is qualified for all flying platforms of the German Air Force and Army and is in use on all Airbus military helicopters.
26 May 20. Boeing selects Leonardo and Thales to provide systems for RAF. Boeing has selected Leonardo and Thales to deliver a UK sovereign Defensive Aids System (DAS) to the British Royal Air Force (RAF). The delivery is for RAF’s new fleet of five Boeing E-7 Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) MK1 aircraft worth $1.98bn, which will replace the existing current E-3D Sentry aircraft.
Last year, Boeing selected Thales’s Elix-IR Threat Warner and Leonardo’s DAS controller to equip the RAF’s fleet of Shadow R1 Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance aircraft. The aircraft will protect the country against missiles and other fire threats.
Thales said in a statement: “Air platforms are fundamental in the support of warfighting, peace-keeping, peace-enforcement and humanitarian operations worldwide.
“These varied missions often present hostile and threatening conditions to the safety of the crew and passengers. In all operations, air platforms remain high-value assets that present a prime target for conventional and unconventional adversaries alike.”
Elix-IR is an advanced multi-function passive Threat Warning System (TWS) that provides functionalities of a simultaneous Missile Approach Warner (MAW) and Hostile Fire Indication (HFI) solution.
It is used on rotary and fixed-wing platforms, including helicopters, transport aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and VIP aircraft.
The E-7 is based on a standard Boeing 737 airliner modified to carry Northrop Grumman’s active electronically scanned radar. This is capable of covering four million square kilometres over a period of ten hours.
In March last year, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson signed a deal to purchase five E-7 Wedgetail aircraft. The E-7 fleet will ensure the continued delivery of the UK’s Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) capability. (Source: airforce-technology.com)
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.