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10 May 19. UK Emergency services radio system ‘£3.1bn over budget.’ A replacement for how Britain’s emergency services communicate is set to go over budget by at least £3.1bn, a spending watchdog has warned.

The Home Office has already delayed switching off the existing system by three years to 2022. But the National Audit Office (NAO) has raised doubts about whether the project will be ready by then. Ministers say the new service would result in faster response times and better treatment.

The Emergency Services Network (ESN) would replace Airwave, a digital radio network introduced in 2000 and used by all 107 police, fire and ambulance services in England, Scotland and Wales.

Airwave links control rooms to response teams, as well as to 363 other bodies such as local authorities and train companies.

  • Delay to 999 radio system ‘could cost millions’
  • Emergency services ‘should share control rooms’

The Home Office says ESN will transform what is currently available.

Officials believe it would allow users access to high-speed mobile data and save money by sharing an existing commercial 4G network.

But the scathing NAO report suggests the Home Office has “failed” and that management of the programme has led to delays, increased costs and poor value for taxpayers.

Home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw said the report concludes that key technology is yet to be properly tested, with work not started on upgrading control rooms or providing coverage for police helicopters and air ambulances.

upgrading control rooms

The report also reveals that ministers are expected to approve a decision which will mean that the new system would not be “as resilient to power cuts” as the existing one.

NAO head Sir Amyas Morse said success of the new network was “critical to the day-to-day operations” of emergency services.

He said the Home Office “has already been through one costly reset and is in danger of needing another unless it gets its house in order”.

‘On track’

A Home Office spokesperson said the ESN was “on track to deliver an ambitious, world-leading, digital communications network” by 2022, resulting in savings of £200m a year.

But the NAO’s report said although ESN is expected to be cheaper than Airwave in the long run, savings will not outweigh costs until at least 2029.

Criticisms come after ESN was due to be implemented in September 2017, with the transition being complete at the end of this year.

But the rollout was delayed and the department announced a “reset” of its approach, opting to phase in services – rather than launching the whole programme at once.

The watchdog said the reset had addressed some problems but that “to date, the Home Office’s management of this critical programme has represented poor value for money.”

The software that ESN runs on is being provided by Motorola Solutions and the infrastructure is being built by EE; created by upgrading their existing network, including deploying more 4G radio frequencies in rural areas, and building around 500 new sites. All new sites are open to being shared with other mobile network operators. To maximise coverage for the emergency services the government will build around 300 further sites in the most remote and rural areas of Britain and, potentially, these will also bring much needed commercial coverage to these areas. (Source: BBC)

09 May 19. SwRI develops GPS cyber security testing technique. Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) has developed a US federal regulation-compliant tool to test for cyber vulnerabilities in automated vehicles and other systems that rely on GPS receivers for positioning, navigation, and timing.

“Before we started this project we had the ability to create GPS signals in our lab, or GPS spoofing but the problem was that we could only do it in the lab as you are not allowed to radiate these signals over the air,” Victor Murray, head of the Cyber Physical Systems Group in SwRI’s Intelligent Systems Division, told Jane’s.

When carrying out testing in the laboratory, the team had to use a Faraday cage to prevent emissions from expanding beyond the immediate environment. (Source: IHS Jane’s)

07 May 19. How an electronic warfare update could help the US Navy. The US Navy wants to harden its aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers and warships against an evermore hostile electronic warfare environment. And to do so, the service recently awarded Lockheed Martin an $184m contract.

The contract is for ongoing production of Block 2 systems that are part of the Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program, or SEWIP.

SEWIP supports AN/SLQ-32(V), a shipboard electronic warfare system that delivers electronic support and countermeasure protection for U.S. and international navies.

The Block 2 upgrade “increases the capability of the system significantly,” said Joe Ottaviano, director at Lockheed Martin Rotary and Mission Systems. “The number of threats and signals out there is increasing exponentially, and the system has to be able to handle those more complicated threats. It also brings the system into the digital age as the first open-architecture EW system that the Navy had moved on.”

Designed in the 1970s and deployed in the 1980s, AN/SLQ-32 (pronounced “slick”) scans the electronic spectra for signs of incoming missiles. While a Block 1 upgrade fine-tuned some of those capabilities, Block 2 is more of a reboot, giving the system considerably expanded powers. Reaching across the entire electromagnetic spectrum, Block 2 enables AN/SLQ-32 to tune into not just missiles but ships, radio traffic and other key electronic signals.

The Navy points to enhanced capabilities via an upgraded electronic support antenna, an electronic support receiver and an open interface with the Navy’s key combat systems. “These upgrades are necessary in order to pace the threat and improve detection and accuracy capabilities of the AN/SLQ-32,” according to Navy documents.

Together, these improvements “take electronic warfare to the 21st Century,” Bryan Fox, engineering agent manager at the Naval Surface Warfare Center’s Crane Division, said in a news release. “We are giving the warfighter game-changing technologies so that current and future threats can be combatted.”

Ottaviano said the open interface is especially significant in an increasingly hostile EW environment, where integration between shipboard systems becomes critical. “You have more flow of information, allowing the combat system to make faster, real-time decisions. It also gives the combat system a better picture of the overall environment that it sits in,” he said.

With its broad radio-frequency range, Block 2 creates situational awareness across the electromagnetic domain. When that intelligence can be integrated into the combat system, “that’s a very powerful capability, in that it enables the combat system to be looking everywhere all at once,” Ottaviano said.

In practical terms, Block 2’s sophisticated signal processing should give commanders the ability to more effectively interpret the EW landscape.

“Most battles take place close to shore, where you get more signal,” Ottaviano said. “This system can take apart that complex, dense environment very quickly and ascertain what is a threat and what is not a threat. In a digital world I can look at an extremely fine level and tear those signals apart so that I can understand exactly what is going on. Being digital gives me the ability to look at the environment with much finer granularity.”

The open-architecture approach also allows Block 2 to seamlessly interface with other intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets, such as the Advanced Off-Board Electronic Warfare system.

“Together that gives you an increased field of view,” Ottaviano said. “It comes from being digital and it comes from having an open system. A lot of work was done to standardize the interfaces, to really think well into the future.”

Further future-proofing comes via the programmable nature of Block 2, which is largely based on off-the-shelf technology components.

“As threats continue to become more complex, we had to be sure the system was software upgradable, to give the system additional capabilities,” he said. “This is a new tool in the toolbox and everyone is still finding out just how powerful it is. If there is a decision to upgrade systems software, we can do it very quickly and easily.”

Looking ahead, Ottaviano said a planned future Block 3 likely will augment Block 2’s passive scanning with tools used in a active response on the electromagnetic spectrum. In January, the Navy awarded Northrop Grumman a contract to bring a modern electronic warfare attack capability to U.S. surface ships. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)

07 May 19. The E/A-18G Growler electronic attack plane is about to get even more lethal. What will the next version of the EA-18G Growler look like? Boeing’s E/A-18G Growler could be getting a package of upgrades in the mid-2020s that will give it a suite of new tools to electronically attack its foes.

Early this year, the Navy awarded Boeing initial funding to begin studying what kinds of technologies could be incorporated into a “Block 2 Growler,” said Jen Tebo, the company’s director of Super Hornet and Growler development.

“There were kind of rumblings of Growler Block 2 a year ago, and now it is a real thing,” Tebo told reporters on the sidelines of the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space. “The Growler is the only platform of its type that is being produced today and so it makes sense that we would take something that was designed in the 90s and now enhance it to really be relevant for decades to come.”

The Navy is interested in retrofitting some — potentially all — of its E/A-18G fleet in the mid 2020s. The exact nature of those upgrades is still to be decided, but Tebo outlined a couple broad improvements.

First, Boeing plans to improve the Growler’s electronic attack sensors. For example, it is considering enhancements to Northrop Grumman’s ALQ-218 sensor system, which is used by the Growler for radar warning, electronic support measures and electronic intelligence, Tebo said.

It plans to add “adaptive and distributed processing” so that the E/A-18’s computers can quickly digest and pump out threat information. And because those computers will be processing more information and delivering it to the pilot and weapon system officer, it makes sense to improve interfaces so that data is easy to digest and the aircrew’s workload is minimized, she said.

“All of that is kind of accomplished through software defined radios that are enabled through a flexible and adaptable hardware architecture,” Tebo said.

“That not only gives the Navy step function capability now but sets up the infrastructure and the architecture to allow us to continually evolve capability, as the threats are dynamic out there and they change,” she said. “We don’t know what they are, and the life of the Growler is very very long.”

The Block 2 upgrades will also contain some capabilities that Boeing has already developed for the latest Block 3 iteration of the Super Hornet, such as low-drag conformal fuel tanks. The company is also assessing whether to boost the Growler’s 7,500 hour service life as part of the retrofit process.

Boeing is in the “wrap up phases” of its initial trade study and will brief the Navy and other stakeholders in industry on its result, she said.

“As we move later this year to the SFR — the system functional requirements phase — sometime in that you’ve got to nail down an architecture to get to the functional requirements of this and how we might achieve them.” (Source: Defense News)

06 May 19. The US Army looks to build up its cyber arsenal. The Army is building a new tactical cyber force and it’s going to need an arsenal. Immediately stocking one is another story, however, because “offensive cyber” tools are currently developed and owned by U.S. Cyber Command for the joint mission, so the Army is working on how to best equip its teams’ specific needs. The Army’s 915th Cyber Warfare Support Battalion (CWSB) will be capable of conducting localized cyber effects through the electromagnetic spectrum, rather than the IP-based operations conducted by Cyber Command, though it might have a tie-in with these forces and capabilities. The CWSB will operate as an Army Cyber Command asset. It will live at the division level with 12 expeditionary cyber teams, each consisting of 45-person detachment-sized elements that will be in support of brigade combat teams and arrayed over that brigade’s battlespace on the ground. They will likely operate alongside companies.

In order to prepare these new cyber teams, the Army will have to work through the Joint Cyber Warfighter Architecture (JCWA), a singular approach to tools and platforms for high-end, remote cyber operators established by Cyber Command.

“By defining that architecture, then Cyber Command encourages the service cyber components with their acquisition entities to propose capabilities that would meet that architecture,” Ronald Pontius, deputy to the commanding general at Army Cyber Command, told Fifth Domain on the sidelines of an industry conference May 1. “Cyber Command should lead the architecture and standards, then they should be looking to the services to actually build the capability.”

The JCWA is intended to guide capability development across all the services, as Cyber Command doesn’t want capabilities designed and used by one service. How that translates into equipping these Army-specific entities requires working out “synergies” between that tactical force and the larger force, so determining what common and custom tools the CWSB uses will be in concert with the joint Cyber Command forces.

“It all has to be integrated from top to bottom,” Kenneth Strayer, deputy program manager for electronic warfare and cyber at Program Executive Office-Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors, told Fifth Domain. “All the way from sanctuary through developing capabilities to delivering capabilities. This all has to be integrated and it’s all nested on Cyber Command and ARCYBER, [which] is a component, and the tactical units are all nested under ARCYBER.”

Strayer added that he wouldn’t separate them, but obviously the needed capabilities will be different depending on the placement of units, either in the close fight on the ground or in remote sanctuary.

Questions Army Cyber Command leaders will have to wrestle with regarding using tools from the joint force at the tactical level include what infrastructure forces will operate on, and whether the tool will be attributable or not. Pontius said generally tools should be 100-percent attributable in the tactical space [letting victims know the United States is attacking them as a deterrent of further action], while that is not always the case in the joint environment.

Having the CWSB in Army Cyber Command and not distributed throughout the service, he added, aids in answering these questions, optimizing tool development, and keeping the force trained and certified much more efficiently than if members of this force were spread out across different Army entities. One way the Army is potentially benefiting the CWSB separate from the joint mission is a recent $1bn contract for research and development work in support of the cyber mission. Contractors awarded are tasked with providing research into cyber and electromagnetic activities (CEMA) capabilities. The contract currently is not asking for any materiel development. (Source: Defense News)

07 May 19. Australian cyber security chief announces resignation ahead of poll. The head of the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) Alastair MacGibbon has announced his resignation for 28 May to return to the private sector. The ACSC under MacGibbon was made part of the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) by former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull in January 2018. Announcing the resignation over the weekend, ASD director-general Mike Burgess thanked MacGibbon for his fierce advocacy, raising the public profile for the importance of cyber security for the community, businesses and governments.

“He is indeed the face of cyber security in Australia and, through his leadership, helped raise the nation’s cyber security standards,” Burgess said.

The ACSC drives cyber resilience across the whole of the economy, including critical infrastructure and systems of national interest, federal, state and local governments, small and medium business, academia, the not-for-profit sector and the Australian community.

ASD principal deputy director-general Lieutenant General John Frewen will add the leadership of the ACSC to his responsibilities until MacGibbon’s replacement can be found.

Burgess added, “His work in response to the recent compromise of the Australian Parliament’s computer network is a good example of how Alastair and his team have made an important, practical difference to cyber security in Australia.”

It is the hub for private and public sector collaboration and information-sharing, to prevent and combat cyber security threats and to minimise harm to all Australians.

More specifically, the ACSC provides:

  • Responses to cyber security threats and incidents as Australia’s computer emergency response team (CERT);
  • Collaborates with the private and public sector to share information on threats and increase resilience;
  • Works with governments, industry and the community to increase awareness of cyber security; and
  • Provides information, advice and assistance to all Australians.

The ACSC is the Australian government’s lead on national cyber security. It brings together cyber security capabilities from across the Australian government to improve the cyber resilience of the Australian community and support the economic and social prosperity of Australia in the digital age.

In July 2018, the ACSC became part of the ASD, which became a statutory agency. Australian government cyber security expertise from CERT Australia and the Digital Transformation Agency moved into the ACSC.

ASD is a vital member of Australia’s national security community, working across the full spectrum of operations required of contemporary signals intelligence and security agencies: intelligence, cyber security and offensive operations in support of the Australian government and Australian Defence Force. (Source: Defence Connect)


04 May 19. The Pentagon wants to boost its spending on classified IT. The Pentagon asked for an additional $1bn in classified IT spending in its fiscal 2020 budget request, continuing a nearly decade-long trend of shifting more IT dollars into restricted or sensitive systems.

In fiscal year 2015, the Pentagon spent about $6bn on classified IT programs. That figure is expected to reach $11.4bn by fiscal year 2024, according to budget documents released in April.

This year, Defense leaders asked for $10.967bn, a nearly 10 percent hike in classified spending from fiscal 2019. The larger request comes at a time when the Pentagon’s overall IT budget is shrinking. The department’s request for fiscal 2020 is about $800m less than the fiscal 2019 request.

During the last decade, the Pentagon has gradually shifted more money into the classified realm. In total, the Pentagon expects classified IT programs would constitute about 26 percent of all DoD IT spending in fiscal 2024. That’s up from about 16 percent in fiscal 2015.

For perspective, the amount of money the Pentagon wants to spend on classified IT is significantly more than any single civilian agency is expected to spend on IT next year.

The government does not include details about classified budget programs, except to say that the money is used to address “cyberspace activities” and other IT initiatives and resources. A spokeswoman for the Department of Defense’s Chief Information Officer declined to offer further information.

However, in the last year, officials from the National Security Agency, Defense Information Systems Agency, U.S. Cyber Command, as well as the under secretaries for intelligence, acquisition and research met with leaders from the Pentagon CIO’s office. Their goal was to use the budget to “significantly improve cyber’s ability” to support the National Defense Strategy and “bolster successful DoD mission execution even in the face of sophisticated cyber adversaries,” according to budget documents from the Office of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)

04 May 19. New report explains how China thinks about information warfare. The Department of Defense’s annual report on China’s military and security developments provides new details about how China’s military organizes its information warfare enterprise, an area that has been of particular interest to U.S. military leaders.

In 2015, the People’s Liberation Army created the Strategic Support Force, which centralizes space, cyber, electronic warfare and psychological warfare missions under a single organization. The Chinese have taken the view, according to the DoD and other outside national security experts, that information dominance is key to winning conflicts. This could be done by denying or disrupting the use of communications equipment of its competitors.

The 2019 edition of report, released May 2, expands on last year’s version and outlines the Chinese Network Systems Department, one of two deputy theater command level departments within the Strategic Support Force responsible for information operations.

“The SSF Network Systems Department is responsible for information warfare with a mission set that includes cyberwarfare, technical reconnaissance, electronic warfare, and psychological warfare,” the report read. “By placing these missions under the same organizational umbrella, China seeks to remedy the operational coordination challenges that hindered information sharing under the pre-reform organizational structure.”

As described in previous Pentagon assessments, Chinese military leaders hope to use these so-called non-kinetic weapons in concert with kinetic weapons to push adversaries farther away from its shores and assets.

“In addition to strike, air and missile defense, anti-surface, and anti-submarine capabilities improvements, China is focusing on information, cyber, and space and counterspace operations,” the report said of China’s anti-access/area denial efforts. This concept aims to keep enemies at bay by extending defenses through long range missiles and advanced detection measures, which in turn make it difficult for enemies to penetrate territorial zones.

Cyber theft and collective strategic importance

This year’s report includes two subtle changes from last year’s edition regarding China’s cyber activities directed at the Department of Defense.

While last year’s report documents China’s continued targeting of U.S. diplomatic, economic, academic, and defense industrial base sectors to support intelligence collection, the latest edition points out that China’s exfiltration of sensitive military information from the defense industrial base could allow it to gain a military advantage. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)

03 May 19. US Army develops new voice-bridging system. The US Army is developing a new device called the Radio Interoperability Capability-Universal (RIC-U) to simplify secure radio communications with allied partners, the army announced on 1 May. The RIC-U will serve as an analogue-to-digital voice bridge between US and allied forces. With the device incorporated into their voice communications network, soldiers will simply select the radio they are using and the radio they are trying to communicate with through the device’s computerised user interface. After the device is set up, soldiers can start transmitting and receiving voice communications. By incorporating the RIC-U into voice networks, both partners can use their native radio communications equipment, unique encryption and frequency-hopping techniques to speak with US military personnel.

While developing RIC-U, the army incorporated feedback from the Radio Interoperability Capability-Korea programme.

The army plans to submit a request for proposal to vendors in August 2019 and narrow them down by September 2019, in order to get the system into production. (Source: Shephard)

02 May 19. US Army lays out timeline for 2021 network update. The Army’s top network buyer provided the most detailed timeline to date of how the service will plan an update to its tactical network in 2021.

“We have until about early [20]20 to get after the meaningful experiments that are going to inform our final set of design choices as we refine our preliminary design,” Maj. Gen. David Bassett, Program Executive Officer for Command, Control, Communications Tactical, said May 1 during an AFCEA event. In a chart outlining what the 2021 capability set, which, among other tasks, will provide units more abundant communications options, could look like, he listed broad deadlines for when the Army wants open proposals on hardware and software solutions and when it is trying to narrow down which will work for the service.

Bassett said while ideally he’d like to keep the software solutions open as long as possible, hardware solutions will likely need to be identified earlier in the process.

According to the chart, the Army will be open to hardware and software solutions in fourth quarter 2019. Around spring 2020, the Army will finalize hardware solutions while industry proposes software packages. In the third quarter 2020, the Army expects to narrow potential products for both areas.

Army leaders won’t look for hardware solutions again until summer 2021 and software until second quarter 2022, according to the chart.

“There’s going to come a point where all of your good ideas in technology are too late, like a good idea cut off point. Then those things are going to have to flow into the next capability set,” he said. “It doesn’t mean we’re going to ignore them, it just means in order to deliver that integrated capability, we’ve got to be able to converge on something. We want good broad divergent critical thinking about the range of technical options that are available to us and then we want to converge and deliver capability.”

Bassett noted that in the near future the Army will juggle simultaneous network upgrades. By the time the service gets to critical design review of the 2021 build, the Network Cross Functional Team should be driving the preliminary design review for the 2023 capability set.

“I’m going to be fielding one while I’m doing the detailed design on the second while I’m doing the [science and technology] and technology research for the third,” Bassett said.

What’s in store for 2021

Army officials also said some of the hardware and software that will be included in the 2021 capability set is not guaranteed for future iterations.

“The capabilities that will be assessed between now and capability set 21 procurement [are] pretty much locked in place and after the [preliminary design review] we’ll have a better idea of exactly what’s in and what’s out,” Col. Garth Winterle, program manager for tactical radios in PEO-C3T, said during the same event.

He added that while there has been some concern of vendor lock, the Army is currently resource constrained.

“If we have only a certain number of vendor solutions that are demonstrating that capability as part of the [capability] set 21 evaluation, that does not man those vendors are locked in for those capabilities,” he said. “In many cases, we have multiple vendors that will be demonstrated whether from [Rapid Equipping Force] procured assets or assets that have been procured to support the 1st of the 82nd [Airborne Division] evaluation.”

These capabilities will then compete in field experiments, Winterle said. In the case of multiple vendors, there will be a run off and down select. The Army has said these experiments, which have occurred in concert with the Network Cross Functional Team, have helped better inform designs and drill down on risk reduction.

“We had hoped by now to be experimenting at the brigade level. But the money didn’t move,” Bassett said. “The above threshold reprogramming last year wasn’t approved. The one that we needed this year to keep it on track wasn’t approved even inside the Pentagon. So we’re going to have less experimentation than we had hoped for to inform our design.” (Source: C4ISR & Networks)

02 May 19. The US Army wants help with extended range electronic warfare. The US Army is asking for industry’s help with a new extended range electronic warfare capability and plans to issue a request for information in the coming weeks.

While the Army knows this is a capability it needs, service leaders do not yet know the exact form a solution will take. Kenneth Strayer, deputy program manager for electronic warfare and cyber at Program Executive Office-Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors, said during a panel at an AFCEA event May 1, it could be a dedicated airborne asset or a ground asset that provides some type of additional electronic warfare capability.

“You’ve got to get elevation, that’s the only way,” he said.

But he, clarified to C4ISRNET following the panel, that “from a materiel solution, we obviously don’t know” what it will look like.

The request to industry will ask “some follow up questions on how industry would attack that problem and what are some things we need to think about as we define the requirements and the materiel approaches to provide that solution,” Strayer said.

The move is part of the Army’s overall approach to rebuild its electronic warfare prowess, both in the form of materiel solutions and personnel expertise. While starting at the tactical edge, largely in response to Russian capabilities in Europe, the Army is realizing it needs capabilities across all echelons. George Lewis, vice president of CEMA initiatives at CACI and a former electronic warfare officer in the Army, said the previous thinking was that the service would build similar systems and scale them depending on what echelon they were needed. This wouldn’t cut it, he said.

“There’s nobody I know in the artillery community or the combined arms community that says when I request higher echelon firepower I really want you to give me more 105s [mm],” he said. “No. they want 155s [mm], they want [multiple rocket launcher], they want [Army Tactical Missile System is a surface-to-surface missile], they want joint fires, they want things that can see deeper, attack deeper, deliver different effects than what they can with organic [capabilities] because they need deeper reconnaissance, deeper attack.”

The Army is beginning to develop these types of capabilities.

The Terrestrial Layer System, is the first such organic brigade level EW system and Strayer said it will kick off in fiscal year 2020.

Army officials are also writing requirements for electronic warfare and signals intelligence payloads on smaller unmanned systems, though, this is dependent on what direction the Army wants to go with its next generation small UAS, Strayer said. The Army recently awarded Lockheed Martin for Multi-Functional Electronic Warfare Air Large, an airborne brigade level payload asset mounted to a large UAS. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)


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On 23 November 2017, Spectra Group (UK) Ltd announced that it had recently been listed as a Top 100 Government SME Supplier for 2015-2016 by the UK Crown Commercial Services

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Founded in 2002, the Company is based in Hereford, UK and holds ISO 9001:2015, ISO 27001 and Cyber Essentials Plus accreditation.



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