CWID 2007 – THE FIRST GLIMPSE OF U.K. NEC
By Julian Nettlefold, Editor, BATTLESPACE
There was a new positive air apparent at CWID this year. Gone were the ‘secret squirrel’ style of showing exhibits coupled to the oppressive regime of Viv Danks and his Qinetiq team who made it virtually impossible to converse with any exhibitor or even go unescorted to the Gents!
Traditionally, the USA has been able to ‘fill the communication gap’ by spending millions of dollars on commercial satellites whilst the UK has had to be less profligate and more creative, that was the message from CWD 07.
Wing Commander Stephen Borthwick, CWID National Lead said, “CWID 07 is an extraordinary venture with over 40 complex trials, demonstrating joint and coalition interoperability, made possible by the superb technical planning, support and infrastructure provided by QinetiQ. Firsts at CWID 07 include a preview of NEC – Initial State Communication Networks and the use of a service-orientated approach in a realistic military context.”
The other message that came across loud and clear was the understanding that COTS technology develops so quickly that the current procurement cycle renders many systems obsolete by the time the system is procured. This is especially true of BOWMAN where the long cycle means that technology has overtaken the purchased system. This is not the fault of GD or the MoD but the manner by which these systems are procured. As the MoD said about BOWMAN last year, they had to draw a line in the sand somewhere to enable the equipment to be procured and this meant that some systems such as the PUDTs which are now being procured with updated specs and the smaller ITT 354 radio which is now being upgraded to the 354 (i) Standard. Sources suggest that a senior Government advisor waved his Blackberry at a recent conference, extolling its merits over BOWMAN! The Blackberry has the advantage of a customer who acts faster and who has the benefit of a huge consumer user group to allow for product development. The short procurement cycles seen in the UK have always been a barrier to affordable and fast upgrades. The slow introduction of open architecture software in the military is probably the biggest cause of costs and lack of product development. This process is being addressed at the moment but its inclusion in such projects as BOWMAN and Typhoon has made upgrades hugely costly as much as $10000 per line of code. Thus, this year saw the reintroduction of Procurement from CWID in addition to the ability to iron out bugs in previous procurements including UORs. Fujitsu said that following their CWID 06 Demo, the product was procured over the existing incumbent. The Cunning Running Network MANPADS software product was an example of a system being procured for use in Afghanistan under a UOR. This product was running at CWID to test the system for any developments required before deployment.
Major Gavin Saunders, organiser of CWID summed it up in his introduction, “These are the people we are here to help. CWID 06 showed us that there were clear capability gaps; these have been addressed at CWID 07. 42 trails are involved not only to test the robustness of the product but to ensure interoperability and the ability to exchange data and to see new technology in action. CWID 07 is about networks, information and people We are addressing every aspect of the UK’s NEC Programme in order that it may a basic system may be deployed in 2009 with DII coming in 2012. This includes networking all the systems we have on display here including Cormorant, Falcon, Skynet 5/Reacher, DII, BOWMAN, VHF and HF and all the tactical datalinks including Link 16. Falcon is being exhibited for the first time and BAE is using CWID to develop interoperability for the system prior to the introduction to service. GD (UK) is using CWID to develop the functionalities for BSIP 5 which will be deployed next year but also to develop the groundwork technology for B