COMMUNICATIONS UPGRADES KEEP WARFIGHTERS CONNECTED
By Patty Welsh, 66th Air Base Group Public Affairs
15 Aug 11. The Theater Deployable Communications Team at the Electronic Systems Center is continuing to ensure warfighters have the key communications infrastructure they need while deployed.
“We are looking for capability modernization and to update the equipment modules that make up TDC as they get to end-of-life,” said Marc Bastien, TDC program manager. “The TDC is the backbone for communications, such as computers, phones and imagery in a deployed location.”
After successful completion of a Production Readiness Review, the TDC program management office recently gave approval to contractor Northrop Grumman Corp. to begin producing a Wireless Distribution Module, or WDM. WDM extends deployed communications and information to remote users over greater distances, with more bandwidth, while reducing the airlift and operational footprint.
“We were able to take two diverse requirements and be able to meet those needs with this one product,” said Joe Morrissey, MITRE technical lead for the project. “And we’re making communication for warfighters easier, so they can stay out of harm’s way.”
As size, weight and power are always concerns, especially in austere
environments, combining capabilities can reduce logistic burdens and also reduce cost.
The team also ensures training is included in the acquisition.
“As a part of the acquisition, we do ensure for a train-the-trainer process,” said Mr. Bastien. “Bringing a network up from scratch is a skill set that not a lot of people have.”
Although the program originated in 1993 and the original requirement document dates back to 1995, the team is continually meeting with the user community to ensure that what is being provided is what the users need and want. Air Force Space Command, which is the lead command for the TDC, also is updating the requirement documents so additional capabilities, such as video teleconferencing, can be included.
The thrust for this year has been voice modernization, according to Mr. Bastien. For the future, upcoming plans for the TDC include looking at a wireless capability.
“We’re looking to establish a wi-fi, if you will,” said Mr. Bastien. “So when you’re out in the desert, your wi-fi enabled device will pop up information and you’ll be able to receive it that way.”
One area the team is always thinking about is information assurance.
“Security plays a big part in what we do,” said Mr. Morrissey. “Technology is growing in leaps and bounds and we need to ensure our IA keeps up.”
TDC can be established as soon as a runway is available for the pieces to be brought in. So, in addition to warfighting missions, the TDC can support other activities such as humanitarian relief operations and building coalition partnerships. It recently has been used in Japan to assist after the earthquake and tsunami, and previously has supported humanitarian relief operations during last year’s earthquake in Haiti and also during Hurricane Katrina.
The first time the system was used was in Kosovo, and since then warfighters and others have been impressed with it, said Mr. Morrissey.
As a colonel in the Air National Guard, Mr. Morrissey has deployed to locations where TDC equipment was used and has received user feedback firsthand.
“The guys loved it,” he said. “It works and it does what it’s supposed to do.”
In addition to getting praise from users, the program office has been
acknowledged for its work as well, recently winning the 2010 ESC Team of the Year award.
“We’re a team with only a small amount of personnel who are accomplishing a large mission,” said Jacquelynn Coles, TDC deputy program manager. “We’re proud of the work we’re doing.”
As the program is in sustainment, it will be transitioning to Ogden Air
Logistics Center at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.
“We provide the equipment that allows deployable comm uni