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Military adopting Smart phones and tablets, into tactical operations, however they also increase vulnerability

In reversal of earlier trend when technology was developed for military and then found way in commercial domain, presently Military is increasingly looking to commercial devices like Smartphones and tablets and are rapidly making their way into military operations.

U.S. Army Special Operations Command reportedly has started using iPhone 6S as the end-user device for the Tactical Assault Kit – special-operations-forces version Army’s Nett Warrior battlefield situational awareness tool, according to an Army source. Nett Warrior as well as the iTAC basically consist of a smartphone that’s connected to a networked radio. They allow small unit leaders to keep track of their location and the locations of their soldiers with icons on a digital map.

Marines is using off-the-shelf smartphones to call for fire support from the air, ground and sea making calling  easier, quicker and more accurate. An upgrade to the Marines’ current Target Handoff System, will load key elements of the system onto the compact tablets, cutting the system’s weight in half, from 20 to 10 pounds, and cutting the cost in half as well, according to a news release from Marine Corps Systems Command. The phones will work in coordination with a laser range finder, video downlink receiver and combat net radio to enable Marines to call for fire support.

“With the new version, Marines will obtain a lightweight device equipped to provide immediate situational awareness on where friendly and enemy locations are, and the ability to hand off target data to fire support to get quick effects on the battlefield,” said Capt. Jesse Hume, project officer for the system.

However, COTS hardware has multiple security threats ranging from the reverse-engineering of systems lost on the battlefield to the accidental introduction of counterfeit components on the factory floor. In response, Militaries  are introducing secure and rugged  versions of  phones and tablets  with anti-tamper (AT) and cybersecurity or information assurance (IA) capabilities.

Internet Company Boingo is bringing Wireless Tech to the Military. Boingo’s wifi technology is helping people in the military connect to secure internet while on the go. The Boingo network has grown rapidly on military bases over the past three years. Hagen says Boingo is close to 50 percent penetration at the bases, and plans to increase over the next year.


Shift towards Commercial Products provides many advantages but introduce vulnerabilities

The COTS products allow military to reap the benefits of commercial R&D, cost reduction due to economies of scale in manufacturing of COTS and take advantage of the large-scale support and logistics available. Additionally, the ability to adopt COTS technology to conform to international interoperability standards enables the military to communicate between different services, and also with coalition and alliance partners, writes Charlie Kawasaki.

The shift toward commercial products is a newer approach for NSA. In the past the agency maintained a tight grip on the hardware and software it deployed for various communications applications, NSA’s Andrea Roddy noted.

“However, if you could build a secure network, one that troops could actually use in the most remote stretches of wilderness and the most war torn cities, even the simplest of smartphone functions would be tremendous tools not only for communicating but also for other simple tasks that are quickly complicated in battlefield scenarios”, said Doran.

The ability to view and manipulate maps in real time, for instance, is clearly a step up from the existing paper-and-pencil approach on which many soldiers currently rely. And yes, of course, smartphones would also be great communication tools, especially compared to the old brick-sized radios soldiers now use.

However the Army fears that its massive electronic footprint is becoming a major vulnerability that could leave troops more exposed and open to detection. Electronic signals emitted by U.S. forces make it easier for tech-savvy enemies to keep tabs on units’ locations and movements. The spying tools are relatively cheap and ubiquitous: iPhones, Goggle maps, commercial tracking software. “It’s an unbounded battle space,” said Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley Jr., Army deputy chief of staff for intelligence.

He suggested that security features of military weapons, command-and-control, and communications systems like “low probability of detection” and “low probability of intercept,” needs to be adapted for the new environment, Ashley suggested. The proliferation of technology and how the Army will respond is part of a broad review of strategy and doctrine that is now under way. “We need forces to be ready and resilient” to fight in future conflicts, Ashley said.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley worries that the “ubiquitous nature of information technology” could have stark implications for the Army. “Today, almost anywhere on the surface of the earth you have access to iPhones, to information technology of high quality, imagery, communications, you can get real time data on the location of people, equipment, formations,” Milley said. “I would argue that we’re at a point where almost anything militarily can be seen, especially large formations.” Military analyst Michael O’Hanlon, of The Brookings Institution. “Battles will be fought in complex environments where the enemy will have a lot of information technology,” he said in an interview.


IDF launches new secure smartphone

The Israeli army has launched its first smartphone, developed in collaboration with Motorola. The  phone supports both 4G and military networks and enables soldiers to securely send classified visuals and footage from the field, the video said. The IDF said at the time that the smartphones would include a touchscreen, GPS and an eight-megapixel camera, and allow soldiers to send secure text messages, images and emails.

The Defense Ministry said at the signing of the contract that the phones would also be waterproof and dirt-resistant, and will have a battery that can last for up to 400 minutes of talk time and 500 minutes on standby. The upgraded phones are meant to replace the “Mountain Rose” phone system used by the IDF — also developed by Motorola Solutions

Militarized Smartphones  for Canadian Army

General Dynamics Mission Systems-Canada of Ottawa believes that the Army should embrace militarized smartphones and a portable secure Internet network to support lighter weight and more capable future soldier systems. The concept is designed to get away from military radio-based technology and instead use militarized civilian smartphone technology for providing communications and navigation systems for future soldiers.

Fawcett said the firm will now focus on developing a portable military cell network that can be set up in remote areas and on improving how smart phones can interface with older Army radio technology still in use. General Dynamics will also improve security protocols to prevent militarized smartphones from being jammed by enemy forces.

Fawcett said the use of such technology would not totally eliminate the need for military radios, but it would provide a less expensive, lighter and easier to use system, adding that most soldiers have their own cell or smartphones.

GD Mission Systems–Canada already provided its tactical LTE technology for Colt Canada’s Sniper Weapon & Observer Reconnaissance Devices (SWORD) system. SWORD integrates weapon-mounted surveillance and targeting devices with ruggedized smartphone-like technology.

Colt also linked a small UAV to its weapons, again part of SWORD. That allows soldiers with smartphones to not only view what others are seeing on the battlefield but also what the cameras on the pilotless aircraft are monitoring.

Rockwell Collins to provide Canadian Army’s DACAS system with joint-fires solution

The Canadian Army has chosen Rockwell Collins to deliver its Android-based joint-fires solution for the service’s digitally-assisted close air support (DACAS) system. The joint-fires system will be provided to digitally connect airborne platforms and ground-based joint terminal attack controllers (JTACs) using a smartphone.

Under the terms of the deal, Rockwell Collins will develop and service 100 joint-fires applications with the potential for follow-on options. The wearable Android-based system offers a lightweight and user-friendly solution to the Canadian Army, in addition to maintaining complete digital interoperability with a wide range of coalition aircraft and artillery systems.


DISA rolls out new classified smartphone system

DISA’s Defense Mobile Classified Capability-Secret (DMCC-S) is fully operational after an expansive pilot program test-driving the offering. Developed by the Defense Information Systems Agency and the National Security Agency, it uses commercial smartphones with enhanced security added and security-risk features such as camera, GPS receiver and Bluetooth turned off.

“The operational mobile classified capability brings us one step closer to the Joint Information Environment vision, where our warfighters and national level leaders can access a secure infrastructure and applications from any device, anytime, anywhere,” Kim Rice, DISA’s mobility portfolio manager, said in a news release.

One of the key benefits of the commercial-based device DMCC-S offers is that it allows DISA to deliver secure mobile capabilities faster than ever before, according to Kimberly Rice. That’s one of the overarching goals of NSA’s Commercial Solutions for Classified (CSfC) program, under which DISA’s devices – and those in many other DoD and intelligence community organizations – are vetted and made available.

DISA had earlier announced a new high-level device, the DOD Enterprise Classified Travel Kit Gateway (DECTK-GW), that will provide classified voice, data and, sometimes, video, depending on the configuration. It comes in three configurations that range in weight from 12 to 19 pounds.

Unclassified DISA MDM users include DISA personnel; the Army; the Air Force’s Air Mobility Command, Air Combat Command, Air National Guard and Air Force Global Strike Command; the Defense Threat Reduction Agency; and some combatant commands. By the end of the fiscal year, another 30,000 to 40,000 users are projected to be operating under the unclassified MDM program. On the classified side, secret users are undergoing a limited deployment with a 2.0 release that “is significant because it does two things for the department: It gets a new secret device introduced, and it introduces MDM into the secret architecture,” said Kimberly Rice, DISA DoD mobility program manager.

The challenges like security and ruggedization are also being overcome. The DISA Mobile Application Store (MAS) is the foundation of the Department of Defense’s ability to go mobile and be secure.  Only devices managed by DOD can access the MAS, which creates a robust foundation for security. They use special secure software, ruggedized cases to withstand water, impact, and environmental extremes and interfaces to radios – since they operate in places where you can’t count on a cell tower being functional (or there at all). The systems also can use a variety of batteries, and can charge these on-the-move from solar panels, trucks, or even the motion of walking.

Department of Defense to start issuing tablets for classified documents

The Defense Information Systems Agency has initiated a pilot program to allow senior officials to access classified documents on specially secured tablets. Secured tablets with 8-inch screens have been issued to senior officials. They include features like the United Video Dissemination System that allows full-motion video from intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance sources.

The program expands on a previous effort allowing access to documents on smartphones and falls under the Department of Defense Mobility Classified Capability – Secret Program. “We’re bringing the mobile device from something you use mostly to consume information from to being able to actually do work on the device,” Pentagon Mobility Portfolio manager Jake Marcellus said in a press release.


Iris ID Tech Adopted for Military Communications

The company has announced that its iris recognition technology has been incorporated into Ultra Electronics’ military-focused product portfolio, with integrations into the latest Combat Apps Tactical System (CATS) tablets.

The tablets are designed to offer encrypted, high-speed communications between troops in the field and administrators at headquarters, and will now use Iris ID’s R-100 camera and Iris Accelerator matching software to authenticate soldiers’ identities, matching their iris biometrics against databases stored at military bases.

Iris ID business development and sales VP Mohammed Murad suggested that the technology’s track record points to military applications, asserting that “Iris ID technology has been proven effective worldwide in remote locations and during extreme weather conditions for national ID and other programs.


Marines Use Tablet Technology to Advance Warfighting Technology

According to the release, the version allows Marines on the ground to rapidly pinpoint the location of a target, then send that data to supporting arms elements–either air, artillery or naval fire support. A map application on the smartphone receives target coordinates automatically generated by the system, dispensing with manual inputs and limiting the margin for error. The digitized information is then send to the relevant fire support coordination center, which determines how to make the attack.

The Marine Corps has been using tablets for several years now and select units like the Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force – Crisis Response and 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit have already implemented its use operationally.

There are different applications on the tablets allowing Marines a wide range of capabilities. One in particular is KILSWITCH, Kinetic Integrated Low-cost Software Integrated Tactical Combat Handheld, that gives Marines in the air and ground real-time situational awareness by using a map similar to Google maps but without having to be connected to a server.

Using commercial off-the-shelf encrypted wireless technology and linking it to the radios enables Marines within Wi-Fi distance to talk wirelessly through the tablets like instant messaging. “Using the tablets allows us to better respond to crises,” said Foley. “We’re leveraging the technology to allow us to have better situational awareness on a much broader scale.”

In the future, if satellite communication systems were to go down, the tablets would help Marines create small networks throughout the battlefield, which would allow them to maintain situational awareness and the ability to talk amongst each other potentially saving lives and creating a more lethal rifle squad.


DOD Mobility Program

The US DOD driven by vision of ” A highly mobile workforce equipped with secure access to information and computing power anywhere at anytime for greater mission effectiveness,” , it’s mobile device strategy has identified IT goals and objectives for maximizing the use of mobile devices and apps in the DOD information enterprise.

It has focused on three areas critical to mobility: enhance wireless infrastructure to support the secure access and sharing of information; establish mobile device policies and standards to secure access and interoperability; and promote the development and use of DOD mobile and web enabled applications.

Mobility continues to transform how the Department of Defense (DoD) operates, connects, and supports its stakeholders – most significantly, through the use of commercial mobile solutions to provide mission-essential tools to our warfighters. DoD users are becoming increasingly empowered with the latest commercial smartphones, tablets, and apps.

As outlined by Major General Sarah Zabel, USAF and Vice Director, DISA, expanding the Department of Defense’s mobility unclassified capabilities is a priority in FY 2017. Speaking to the details of this mobile capability expansion, Jacob Marcellus, Acting Mobility Portfolio Manager, shared that in 2017 DISA will be adding more than 45,000 mobile devices to its unclassified networks using commercially available platforms. In order to make optimal use of those mobile platforms DISA will also be looking to add over 300 vetted and approved apps to its mobile application store in FY2017. DISA has shown great foresight in recognizing that mobile apps are critical for the Department of Defense (DOD) to drive greater mission effectiveness.

DISA’s top priority pertaining to secure mobile technology is producing enterprise capabilities that the entire DoD, as well as other federal agencies, can leverage. The DoD Mobility Program Management Office (PMO) provides enterprise-level classified and secure unclassified mobile communications services that ensure interoperability, increased security, access to information, and reliable service to the warfighter anywhere at anytime.

These service offerings are composed of a secure networking infrastructure and gateway that provides and extends enterprise Unified Capabilities (UC) [integration of voice, video, and/or data services] to mobile devices; an enterprise Mobile Device Management (MDM) system that provides application layer confidentiality, integrity, and authenticity; and an enterprise Mobile Application Storefront (MAS) that will host government-approved apps.

DISA has identified many challenges: Joint Information Environment (JIE) Cloud deployment challenges like supporting PKI management and synchronization across various clouds, the challenges of providing better control of network access, and increased trust in mobile applications and improved information access by ensuring the device integrity and employing hardware-based security controls and other means.

Military adopting 4G LTE-enabled telecom environment

The U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development Engineering Center or CERDEC for short, has issued a request for information inviting fourth-generation, Long Term Evolution cellular technology vendors or 4G LTE for evaluation of their systems.

The 4G LTE can provide soldiers at the tactical edge with extended secure wireless communications across the battlefield and enhanced Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities.

It allows for the dissemination of mission command data, imagery, streaming video and voice between dismounted Soldiers and fixed command posts through a mounted/hand-held computing environment. It has potential to provide quick, efficient deployment of secure, reliable wireless broadband networks during critical situations and in the most remote and demanding environments.

“The driver for 4G LTE comes down to bandwidth,” said Thomas Sepka, Jr., chief of the Army Commercial Technology Evaluation & Integration Branch, within the Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC)’s Space and Terrestrial Communications Directorate. “It’s about bringing more bandwidth down to the soldier so they have access to more information.”

U.S. Navy has also conducted sea trials of 4G LTE wireless network aboard some of its ships. The network achieved an aggregate throughput of 300Mb while working up to distances of 20 nautical miles. This is useful for connecting a naval task force, a Marine expeditionary team, or an aircraft carrier battle group. It can complement Navy’s satellite communication, while freeing up scarce satellite bandwidth.

Under Jolted Tactics program, Ford F-250 and Pilatus PC-12 aircraft were converted to act as 4G LTE mobile cell tower to establish secure cellular network independent of the civilian cellular system. The system was tested in Bold Quest, an annual NATO multifaceted capability assessment program.

4G LTE shall also be useful for security and disaster response applications by supporting command, control, and field efforts during emergencies, access to central databases (e.g. fingerprints, facial databases, digital maps), automatic vehicle location, video cameras in emergency vehicles and mobile voice over IP networks (Mobile VoiP).

One of the most profound challenges may be described as structural, arising from the very nature of cellular networks. In the commercial world a wireless network is architecturally fixed: towers placed at points. But the military is highly mobile and decentralized a structure that would seem to be at odds with more conventional arrangements.

The real challenge for commercial systems is to be able to operate in a challenging radio-frequency environment of the battlefield and also secured by providing information assurance and policy-based security.



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