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12 Jul 18. ‘Exciting, Crucial’ Time in AI Development, Official Tells Innovation Board. Artificial intelligence is a strategic priority for the Defense Department that could transform the way the department operates, the head of machine learning at the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental said yesterday.
“We are in the midst of an exciting and crucial time in the development of AI,” Brendan McCord told a meeting of the Defense Innovation Board, held at DIUx headquarters in Mountain View, California. McCord pointed out the recent announcement of the creation of DoD’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, or JAIC, saying it is an effort that is significant to the department and the country. “Structurally, we know that AI has the potential to be an enabling layer across nearly everything,” he said, explaining it means countless applications in daily life and could affect all areas of the department.
AI provides the opportunity for humans to “see more deeply, to act with greater precision, to be offered more choices and scenarios, offered better advice,” McCord said, adding that it “changes the nature of things.”
Affecting a Variety of Tasks
Artificial intelligence could affect the way the department does a variety of tasks, such as maintaining equipment, perceiving its environment, training and protecting its members, defending its networks, operating its back office, providing humanitarian aid and responding to disasters, he said. He highlighted four themes of the JAIC: improving the ability to translate the technology into decisions and impact; helping the department evolve partnerships with industry, academia, allies and partners; attracting and cultivating world-class talent; and supporting the goals of the National Defense Strategy.
Defense Innovation Board Executive Director Joshua Marcuse said multiple agencies are making progress on projects that align with the board’s recommendations. He highlighted several of those areas: embedding computer science as a core competency; catalyzing innovation in AI and machine learning; implementing acquisition innovation; expanding new approaches to innovation; embedding technical teams at major commands; making computing and bandwidth abundant; taking a new approach to data; and establishing tech and innovation training for senior leaders.
Building Innovation Capacity with Allies, Partners
The DIB is a federal advisory board that launched in April 2016 with a two-year, renewable mandate. It comprises private-sector leaders and innovators to provide recommendations to the secretary of defense and other senior defense leaders in an effort to improve DoD’s processes and apply best practices. The agenda at yesterday’s quarterly meeting included building innovation capacity with allies and partners, in support of a National Defense Strategy priority of strengthening alliances and creating new partnerships.
“I cannot be prouder of the progress that has occurred,” DIB Chairman Eric Schmidt, technical advisor to the board of Alphabet Inc., said as he closed the meeting, pointing out that senior leaders really want to address the underlying challenges they face. The board’s last previous meeting was in April in Boston. The next meeting is set for October in the national capital area. (Follow Lisa Ferdinando on Twitter: @FerdinandoDoD)
12 Jul 18. Persistent launches portable ground-to-air antenna for MPU5 radio. US-based Persistent Systems has launched the new auto-tracking antenna system for the MPU5 smart radio to provide a truly networked battlefield environment for the soldiers. The auto-tracking solution is a portable ground-to-air antenna that operates on the self-forming/self-healing Wave Relay mobile ad-hoc network (MANET) technology, which routes the data around obstacles, thereby optimising network performance and mobility. The system can be easily assembled and deployed in less than 15 minutes and incorporates aircraft into the MANET. The antenna’s portable and lightweight design is completely collapsible, with the main 5ft parabolic dish breaking down into eight individual petals. Persistent Systems chief executive officer Herb Rubens said: “The auto-tracking antenna system represents a major step towards achieving the vision of a truly networked battlefield. The tracking antenna rotates to follow air assets, keeping them connected to the MANET. The air platforms orbit over our users on the ground, extending the MANET bubble and keeping soldiers connected to the enterprise. High-throughput, low-latency connectivity empowers the warfighter and decreases the dependence on SATCOM, which both reduces cost and increases network availability. Furthermore, the system features interchangeable S-Band, L-Band, and C-Band multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) feeds that enable it to cover all frequencies where the five radio modules of the company operate. An automatic heading system also allows the tracking antenna to self-calibrate before carrying out operations for greater precision and less than one-degree pointing accuracy. MPU5 is an advanced, scalable MANET radio that helps create powerful, secure networks anywhere, thereby allowing soldiers to stay connected and share critical information. (Source: army-technology.com)
10 Jul 18. Peraton Expanding Global Network to Offer Enhanced Communications Solutions. Upgraded Services to Provide Multi-gigabit Connectivity Tailored for Government and Critical Infrastructure Applications. Peraton announced today it is enhancing its global connectivity services by significantly upgrading and expanding its terrestrial core network and adding new points-of-presence (”PoPs”) across the U.S., Europe, the Middle East and the Asia Pacific region.
“Demand for high speed persistent communications has grown exponentially over the past few years, with today’s applications often requiring gigabit rather than megabit connectivity,” said David Myers, president, Communications sector. “Our enhanced network will not only provide higher data rates, but also the resiliency demanded by government and critical operations like public utilities and transportation. As an independent private service provider, Peraton is proud to partner with our clients to continually develop cost-effective communications solutions tailored to their unique requirements and operating environments.”
The enhanced services will provide high-reliability carrier-class connectivity over a self-healing meshed core network with built-in redundancy, diversity and 24 x 7 network management. Customers can select from a menu of services with both local and long-haul options, and end-point data rates ranging from 50Mbps up to 100Gbps. Peraton’s global network and local PoPs are being purpose-built to support data intensive emerging applications and the unique reliability requirements of government and critical infrastructure customers. The move is part of Peraton’s strategic growth initiative to expand its market presence and offer innovative private networking solutions designed specifically for mission critical operations. The network will use the latest in fiber-based gigabit Ethernet and software defined networking technology. Services will support not only traditional internet access, voice-over-IP, and high-definition video, but also emerging applications driven by the Internet of Things (“IoT”) movement and the desire to collect and analyze “big data” in near real-time. Peraton is leveraging over 25 years of experience providing assured connectivity solutions to government and commercial customers over both terrestrial and satellite based networks. The company currently operates an extensive optical and circuit switched network serving over 20 metropolitan areas. The current network also includes easy access connectivity at over 60 government installations. The expansion will upgrade technology and take Peraton’s network coast-to-coast, adding several new major metropolitan areas including Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Denver, Dallas and Chicago. In addition to expanding service coverage across the U.S., Peraton is adding new PoPs for customers with international operations in London, Marseilles, Stuttgart, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Dubai for 2018, with more locations to follow in Singapore, Guam, and Australia. The company plans to have over 150 network PoPs in place by the end of 2019. (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
10 Jul 18. Cyber ambiguity: NATO’s digital defense in doubt amid unstable alliances. The banks were broken. In 2007, financial institutions across Estonia had difficulty carrying out the simplest of tasks. The banks’ servers were overloaded by a swarm of digital requests, called a distributed denial-of-service attack. Simple account withdrawals suddenly became feats of digital heroics. The banks were not alone. Email inboxes of Estonian journalists were flooded with spam. The Ministry of Defence’s website went down. The Estonian government blamed Russia for the digital blitz. The crippling cyberattack lasted for three weeks and at the time was known as perhaps the most brazen act of cyber aggression by one state on another. But more than a decade later, the alleged Russian cyberattack on Estonia is seen as a rallying cry for NATO to bolster its cyber prowess. Today, the alliance counts cybersecurity as one of its core missions. It has placed a new cyber research center in the heart of the Baltic nation. But amid what is viewed as a sustained campaign of Russian digital warfare on the West and the trans-Atlantic alliance ― whose foundations are being questioned through a surge of populism ― the very future of NATO’s cyber strategy is left intentionally murky. During a May speech, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he is often asked under what circumstances the organization would trigger Article 5 in the case for a cyberattack. Article 5 is the alliance’s principle of collective self-defense; an attack on one member nation is considered an attack on all member nations.
“My answer is: We will see. The level of cyberattack that would provoke a response must remain purposefully vague, as will the nature of our response,” Stoltenberg said. “It could include diplomatic and economic sanctions, cyber responses, or even conventional forces, depending on the nature and consequences of the attack.”
Questions over how NATO will respond to a cyberattack come as the alliance takes steps to bolster its digital protocols. In its joint air power strategy, unveiled in late June, NATO added cyberwarfare to its joint operations programs. The document boasts of the historic threat the organization faces: “For the first time since the end of the Cold War, the Alliance has to be able to conduct operations.” In 2014, the alliance said for the first time that a cyberattack could trigger the organization’s collective-defense mechanism. It has proven a successful deterrent to combat large-scale digital attacks like the reported Russian cyber assault on Estonia in 2007, said Sorin Ducaru, a former assistant secretary general of NATO. But he added that the alliance has to be more creative in deterring medium- and low-grade cyberattacks “because that is the world we are living in.” For Estonia, an aggressive NATO cyber policy could be the difference between the smooth withdrawal of cash or a disturbing “error” sign flashing on an ATM screen. An Estonian intelligence report from earlier this year predicts Russia will continue its campaign of aggression in Eastern Europe and the Baltic states through a combination of cyberattacks and information warfare. When it comes to digital threats, “each country has faced them alone. NATO has not adopted a unified response,” former Estonia President Toomas Hendrik Ilves said during a May conference. Today, nations are still loath to share information on cyberattacks, Ilves said, recounting a story about how as president he reported a hack on Estonia to NATO. “The response was: ‘Oh, you, too.’ I don’t think that’s how we should be doing things.” Ilves is among those who have called for a cyber NATO ― an alliance of nations cooperating in digital defense. The top civilian of Estonia’s Ministry of Defence also told Defense News that international cooperation could help thwart cyberattacks.
“I think people are realizing that we need international cooperation, and without international cooperation we simply cannot succeed in this new domain,” Jonatan Vseviov said.
Yet a bolstered NATO cyber response could mean a wave of new tension with Russia and China, which are seen as two of the alliance’s biggest digital challengers. It is unclear under existing NATO rules how the alliance could be more aggressive in response to cyberattacks, said Alex Crowther, a senior research fellow at the National Defense University.
“In order for Article 5 to be voted on, it has to be something major. It pretty much has to be an armed attack or a use of force as discussed in the U.N. Charter. The most commonly adopted point of view is that people have to be hurt or killed, or property is damaged or destroyed,” Crowther told Fifth Domain, a sister publication of Defense News. “I have met people who say that the only attack that meets that criteria was the Stuxnet attack because it caused damage to Iranian centrifuges.”
Even the hack on Estonia did not meet the criteria for triggering the principal of collective self-defense, Crowther added. (Source: Defense News)
10 Jul 18. USMC wants to protect its Hornets from GPS jammers. The Corps is looking to install antennas in its F/A-18 C/D Hornets to help the aircraft defeat GPS jammers. In a request for information posted in early June by Naval Air Systems Command, or NAVAIR, the Corps wants to install the anti-jam antennas known as the Air Navigation Warfare Program, or NAVWAR, in 120 of the legacy Hornets. The anti-jamming antenna “provides Global Positioning System (GPS) protection for Naval Air platforms by allowing for continued access to GPS through the use of Anti-Jam (AJ) Antenna Systems designed to counter GPS Electronic Warfare threats from intentional and unintentional interference,” Michael Land, a spokesman for NAVAIR, told Marine Corps Times in an emailed statement Tuesday. The development comes as U.S. aircraft have faced mounting electronic warfare attacks against aircraft in Syria. Army Gen. Tony Thomas, the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, told audience members at a conference in April that adversaries were trying to bring down AC-130 gunships in Syria using electronic warfare, or EW.
“Right now in Syria, we’re in the most aggressive EW environment on the planet, from our adversaries,” Thomas said. “They’re testing us every day, knocking our communications down, disabling our AC-130s, et cetera.”
The Corps is amid an overhaul of its forces and equipment to prepare for a potential fight with near-peer adversaries like Russia and China. Both countries boast an impressive array of electronic warfare capabilities. Russia has been using the Syrian battlefield to hone its EW skills. The top Marine has oft repeated the threats posed to GPS systems from rising adversaries and says the Corps needs to be prepared to fight in GPS denied environments. The F/A-18 is the Corps’ bridging aircraft as it moves to the new high-tech F-35. As the Corps transitions the older legacy Hornets are undergoing a service life extension, meaning the aircraft are being updated to handle the modern battlefield.
“Installation in F/A-18 A-D helps ensure continued mission capability as the service life of the aircraft is extended and facilitates supportability by using more common equipment,” Land said.
The Navy and the Marine Corps already use the anti-jamming GPS antenna in a number of airframes, according to Land.
“Typical installations replace a platform’s existing GPS antenna with a NAVWAR antenna and separate antenna electronics, while leaving a platform’s GPS receiver in place,” Land added.
The Corps expects the F/A-18 to be in sunset by 2030. As the Corps moves to the F-35 and phases out its Hornets, the legacy fighters will consolidate on the West Coast by 2018 with the exception of VMFA (AW)‐242, which will remain aboard the Corps’ air station at Iwakuni, Japan until it transitions to the F-35 in 2028, according to the Corp’s 2018 aviation plan. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
10 Jul 18. Algorithmic Warfare: Special Operations Command Exploring AI Tech. With the Defense Department investing more funding into artificial intelligence platforms, Special Operations Command is also looking at how it can leverage such technologies to assist commandos around the globe.
“There are many ways that we are looking into artificial intelligence and deep learning,” said Jim Smith, the command’s acquisition executive.
One is by taking part in the Defense Department’s Project Maven, an effort to develop technology that could help the military more quickly analyze intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data collected by unmanned aerial vehicles, he said.
“We’ve got folks that stare at screens for many hours in the day watching an ISR feed,” he said during remarks at the National Defense Industrial Association’s annual Special Operations Forces Industry Conference in Tampa, Florida. “It almost seems custom-made for machine learning-type technology.” The command is working hand-in-hand with other Pentagon agencies on that effort, he noted. “We’re on the edge of that for DoD,” he added. David Breede, program executive officer at SOCOM’s special reconnaissance, surveillance and exploitation office, said the command is one of the primary organizations working on Project Maven. His office is using its full-motion video processing, exploitation and dissemination system to assist with the effort. The PEO is participating in not “just the general meeting, but also the discussions of how things coming out of Maven might transition to a longer-term program,” he told National Defense. For now, Project Maven is focused on analyzing video data, but other advancements in automation and data analytics will also likely be examined, Breede noted. “We stay abreast of what they’re doing,” he added. A key part of utilizing artificial intelligence properly is ensuring that the platform has enough data to learn from, as well as building a large database of information, Smith noted.
“We’re in the process now of getting that robust database, that robust machine information so that our probability of, ‘Yes, that’s a red truck,’ goes from where it is today — a fairly low percentage — to a very high percentage,” Smith said.
Special operators often come across vast amounts of information that can be useful for military operations, he noted. Lisa Sanders, director of SOCOM’s science and technology office, said machine learning will be a key aspect of the command’s new “hyper-enabled operator” concept which seeks to give commandos enhanced capabilities. The concept includes four technology pillars: communications, computing, data/sensors, and human-machine interfaces. The command plans to develop these technologies under an aggressive timeline, she said during remarks at the conference. Equipment that includes commercially available technologies could be ready and in the hands of operators in as little as six months, she said. However, most will probably be developed in an 18-month to two-year timeframe, she added.
“Special operators often come across vast amounts of information that can be useful…”
Other capabilities — such as machine learning — will take much longer to develop and field, she said.
“If I really need to understand how I’m going to use artificial intelligence … to provide a positive identification for either the hostage that I want to rescue or a building that I’m going to be in, [then] there are a lot of questions that have to be answered.” about how to validate those tools, Sanders said.
Artificial intelligence presents many challenges, and it has taken major companies such as Google a large amount of time to develop AI-enabled technologies such as self-driving cars, she noted.
“That’s because people are trying to understand what happens when things go wrong,” she said. “The normal way that we validate things like that is that we test every possible outcome and that’s how we determine what’s safe,” Sanders added. “But in the world of artificial intelligence, you can’t do that because every outcome is changing with every input that you put in.”
Special Operations Command needs to work through various policy questions as it develops the technology. In some cases, it could take up to 10 years for capabilities to be approved, she said.
“I do think you are going to see a fairly substantial amount of products that are coming out in the two- to five-year window of time, and then it’s the ones that are policy-constrained that are going to take us longer” to field,” she said.
The way SOCOM approaches the development of artificial intelligence and autonomy is by contemplating the effects that the technology could offer commandos, Sanders noted. That could include “taking mountains of sensor data and through artificial intelligence highlighting what are the probable best targets … or using the combination of that machine learning to help guide an autonomous system,” she said during a press conference. However, despite SOCOM’s interest in the technology, there has been little actual investment in such platforms on the science and technology side, Sanders added.
“Right now, I have not spent any money from SOCOM S&T on artificial intelligence,” she said. “We were trying to explore what we were trying to achieve with artificial intelligence rather than just advancing the science of artificial intelligence.”
However, Sanders’ office has done some exploratory work where officials brought in subject matter experts to discuss the technology, she noted. “[We] talked about how do we even define the language so that the people that are working that space understand our problem sets,” she said. But S&T funding for artificial intelligence is on the way, she noted. The office plans to complete some projects related to AI in fiscal year 2019, Sanders said. (Source: glstrade.com/National Defense)
09 Jul 18. USAF moves to improve electronic warfare effectiveness. BAE Systems is transitioning its Compass Call electronic warfare system to a new type of aircraft. In a July 9 news release, the company said that under its Cross Deck initiative the system will be used on the more modern and capable EC-37B aircraft, replacing the aging EC-130H aircraft that has been used since 1981.
“The cross-decking program enables the Air Force to maintain existing, unmatched EW mission capabilities in an economical business jet that can fly faster, higher, and farther than its predecessor, improving mission effectiveness and survivability,” said Pamela Potter, director of electronic attack solutions at BAE Systems.
According to BAE Systems, the EC-37B is a special-mission Gulfstream G550 business jet that is heavily modified to meet Air Force requirements and will provide a more modern electronic attack platform thanks to reductions in weight and operating costs, as well as the ability to operate at a higher altitude and at longer ranges. The Compass Call system enables the Air Force to disrupt enemy command-and-control operations. The system also has enhanced stand-off jamming capability and allows the Air Force to counter communication and radar threats. Modifications to the first G550 have already begun and BAE Systems, which has partnered with L3 Technologies to transition capabilities, says it expects the first two EC-37B with Compass Call to be fielded by 2023, with a total of 10 planned. BAE Systems also said that it will continue to provide support for the EC-130H fleet while the cross-decking continues. (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
28 Jun 18. Six Member States agree to pool & share cyber ranges capabilities. Today, six Member States (Austria, Belgium, Estonia, Finland, Germany and Latvia) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the pooling and sharing of their respective cyber ranges capabilities. The signing, which took place at the EDA premises, is a first important outcome of EDA’s Cyber Ranges Federation Project launched in May 2017 in which a total of 11 EDA Member States participate. Cyber Ranges are key national facilities to develop and evaluatecyber defence capabilities and this MoU opens the way for the six MoU signatories to make their cyber ranges available for shared development activities and joint exercises by using the pooling and sharing arrangements developed through the EDA project. By doing so, the six countries not only bring into the Cyber Ranges Federation Project their cyber ranges assets but also their expertise and best practices in terms of cyber defence exercises and training. The MoU is therefore an important stepping stone on the path to enabling an effective sharing of cyber defence capabilities across the EU, and in line with the objectives of the EU’s Cyber Defence Policy Framework.
The MoU was signed by the Capability Directors of the six countries concerned: Lt Gen Johann Luif (Austria), Maj Gen Philippe Boucke (Belgium), Ms. Tiina Uudeberg (Estonia), Lt. General Kim Jäämeri (Finland), Maj. Gen. Gerald Funke (Germany) and Mr. Airis Rikveilis (Latvia). The ceremony was also attended by EDA Chief Executive Jorge Domecq. (Source: EDA)
09 Jul 18. Raytheon focuses in on cyber. Cyber will be a major focus for Raytheon at the Farnborough International Airshow, with the company set to provide overviews of its cyber hardening systems for military aircraft. Raytheon provides cyber resiliency for a wide range of both rotary and fixed-wing platforms, including the V-22 Osprey, the HH-60 Pave Hawk, the CH-53 Sea Stallion, the F-16 Fighting Falcon and the A-10 Thunderbolt II. It also works on unmanned aerial vehicles, providing cyber-security support to the control stations of the RQ-4 Global Hawk and the B and C variants of the MQ-8 Fire Scout.
‘Many of these platforms were fielded before cyber was really a concern,’ said Todd Probert, VP mission support and modernisation at Raytheon Intelligence, Information and Services (IIS).
The IIS business conducts a range of cyber-focused activities on both the offensive and defensive sides, Probert said. It aims to bring all of this to bear in hardening aviation platforms, approaching the work ‘with an attacker’s mindset’. The ISS business conducts vulnerability assessments, looking ‘comprehensively at that platform in terms of what cyber threat vectors might be there,’ Probert said. Raytheon is planning a number of cyber resiliency overviews, briefings and discussions at Farnborough, ‘largely talking about how we do a vulnerability assessment’, which Probert says involves looking ‘at the various ways that an attacker could get in’. The company will have a cyber dome at the show, displaying in 360° and in 3D its cyber capabilities, including cyber resiliency, cyber operations centres, an anatomy of a hack, insider threat solutions and cyber training. A military aircraft is likely safest from cyber concerns when it is in flight, Probert said, with ‘probably a small handful of nation state actors’ that could effect a cyber attack at that stage. However, there are a whole host of other ‘touch points’ that could bring a cyber challenge, such as when an aircraft is in maintenance mode. Every weapon system brings a new computer that represents a cyber vulnerability, he said, as does the whole gamut of other onboard equipment, such as helmet-mounted displays. The supply chain and the sustainment network also merit attention, he added. Raytheon’s vulnerability assessment looks at ‘all of those various touchpoints on the platform [to] understand the risk level … down to the hardware and certainly how the software was put in place’. The company then develops a remediation approach to address these problems, he said; this could be ‘as varied as the threats themselves’, ranging from a focus on hardware and software products to coding. Cyber has rapidly grown as a focus for Raytheon more broadly, and specifically at airshows like Farnborough, Probert said.
‘Cyber has fast become part of the way we maintain our weapon systems and our airplanes,’ he said, also highlighting the civil dimension. ‘It’s something that we have to build [into] how we maintain and sustain our platforms, or we’re not doing our jobs.’ (Source: Shephard)
09 Jul 18. Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) is expanding its work with Guardtime Federal to integrate a variety of integrity and cyber-related capabilities into Lockheed Martin aircraft products and processes. The new contract builds on specialized mission support testing in 2015, and the integration systems and support contract related to supply chain risk and software development management in 2017. This time the focus is on further reducing the attack surface of the information supply chain that forwards information to and from operational aircraft systems. Lockheed Martin and Guardtime Federal began working together in 2015 with demonstrations and now are progressing into more operationally oriented pilots that integrate data integrity technologies to address the threat of data manipulation in networked and weapon system embedded cyber physical systems. The new work further escalates engagement with on-going hardware and software in the loop testing to address the continued evolution of cyber-focused threats across the entire development and fielding lifecycle.
Lockheed Martin was the first U.S. defense contractor to incorporate blockchain technology into its cyber safe strategy for developmental processes, enabling more efficient and assured offerings to its customers. The new efforts will accelerate toward fielding new capabilities for mission survivability in a global cyber persistent threat environment.
“We continue to integrate new cyber security approaches across our portfolio of aeronautics programs,” said Ron Bessire, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics’ Engineering and Technology vice president. “Our collaboration with Guardtime Federal continues to yield fresh new approaches to solve the lingering challenges that more traditional technical solutions have not solved.”
Guardtime Federal continues to evolve tools and techniques that go well beyond conventional firewall protections and focus on the integrity and origin of any digital element. The new capabilities, once integrated, will provide linked digital data attribution that revolutionize the way digital provenance is being applied, assured, and audited across the lifecycle of mission critical information flowing into operational systems.
“At Guardtime Federal we continue to appreciate the support Lockheed Martin has provided to allow us to focus on Cyber Integrity. Our goal is to provide every Soldier, Sailor, Airman and Marine the confidence that they can rely on the information they see and the equipment they operate without fear that it has been manipulated by an outside force,” said David Hamilton, president of Guardtime Federal. “There is no overnight solution, but this is the objective of our work with Lockheed who shares our ‘Cyber Integrity First’ core value.”
05 Jul 18. A better way to call for help. A soldier who gets separated or lost in a hostile landscape naturally wants to send a radio signal as a call for help. The problem: Enemies can often see the signal too. To break this conundrum, the Army recently awarded a $33.9m contract to support development of new technology.
“The motto is to leave no one behind,” said Mark Cianciolo, vice president of contractor Orolia Americas. “When you look at troops wounded in ground combat, when you look at helicopter crashes, all those things drive a sense of urgency. The Army wants their soldiers to be able to activate that beacon when an emergency situation occurs.”
Orolia officials say they plan to deliver 350 of its next-generation emergency beacons for user testing in the coming year, with subsequent deliveries of 10,000 units a year for a total of 40,000 beacons. Soldiers presently carry a device that transmits a 406 MHz signal, which is the international distress frequency. When a soldier activates the alert, satellites receive the signal and relay it back to a mission control center, and from there to a rescue coordination center.
“The problem is that when you are forward deployed, if you become separated or lost, you don’t want to activate that and compromise your position, because in all probability our adversaries are monitoring those frequencies as well,” Cianciolo said.
Instead, Orolia suggests a dual-mode beacon. In peacetime it broadcasts using existing infrastructure. “But there is another mode, a software-defined radio with a programmable wave form that the Army can use to define their own classified, proprietary frequency,” he said. “This allows for a closed-loop combat search and research capability.”
The beacon is packaged in an easy to use, 7 oz. form factor. To activate, the soldier unfolds an antenna and presses a button.
The Army has been looking for a way to improve how it recovers soldiers for more than a decade. A 2007 Army document said enhanced personnel recovery would “increase force morale by demonstrating that we will employ every effort possible to recover our personnel,” but that effort struggled for funding. In a 2015 document, the Army continued to press the issue: “Soldiers who become isolated are still in the fight and must trust in their fellow Soldiers to recover them and have confidence in their own abilities to survive and resist enemy exploitation.” The Army’s Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas lays out the specific goals of soldier recovery, which aims to: return physically and mentally healthy recovered personnel to duty; sustains morale of the fighting force knowing they won’t be left behind; increase operational performance by gathering lessons learned; and deny adversaries the chance to exploit the intelligence and propaganda value of isolated personnel. To meet those aims, soldiers need to be able to call for help, knowing their distress signals won’t betray their position to the enemy. Orolia won a first-phase award for prototype development in 2016, in part, thanks to its ability to meet Army requirements for big battery life. Once activated, the dual-mode device should be able to remain operational for up to 48 hours. When soldiers are deemed to be in peril, a tactical operations center or rescue coordination center will monitor a preselected frequency. While the new technology will ensure that signal arrives safely, and without being intercepted, Army planners still will have to devise rescue plans specific to the circumstance.
“This will give them the ability to identify that person’s location but the tactical situation on the ground will still dictate the way in which they prosecute that emergency, depending on the threat and the situation,” Cianciolo said. “But at least commanders on the ground will now have situational awareness,” he said. “They will know that someone has been lost or separated and they will be able to make the appropriate decisions in real time.” (Source: C4ISR & Networks)
Spectra Group Plc
Spectra has a proven record of accomplishment – with over 15 years of experience in delivering secure communications and cybersecurity solutions for governments around the globe; elite militaries; and private enterprises of all sizes.
As a dynamic, agile, security accredited organisation, Spectra can leverage this experience to deliver Cyber Advisory and secure Hosted and Managed Solutions on time, to spec and on budget, ensuring compliance with industry standards and best practices.
Spectra’s SlingShot® is a unique low SWaP system that enables in-service U/VHF tactical radios to utilise Inmarsat’s commercial satellite network for BLOS COTM. Including omnidirectional antenna for the man, vehicle, maritime and aviation platforms, the tactical net can broadcast over 1000s miles between forward units and a rear HQ, no matter how or where the deployment. Unlike many BLOS options, SlingShot maintains full COTM (Communications On The Move) capability and low size and weight
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
Spectra’s CEO, Simon Davies, was awarded 2017 BATTLESPACE Businessman of the Year by BATTLESPACE magazine and is a finalist in the inaugural British Ex-Forces In Business Awards in the Innovator Of The Year category.
Founded in 2002, the Company is based in Hereford, UK and holds ISO 9001:2015, ISO 27001 and Cyber Essentials Plus accreditation.