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Militaries developing Multidomain Command and Control (MDC2) technologies including interoperable wideband line-of-sight radio communications for land, sea and satellite links

The emerging battlefield is a multi-domain battlefield which shall include all the traditional domains of land, air and sea as well as Cyber, Space, Low Intensity conflicts, Information warfare including Psychological warfare and cognitive warfare shall be exploited by our adversaries simultaneously or in any desired combinations.


Implementing multi domain operations require is achieving MDC2. U.S. Air Force, under the direction of Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, has made multi-domain command and control a top priority. Broadly speaking, this will involve the seamless integration of air, space and cyber capabilities, providing commanders cross-domain options to make more rapid decisions in complex battle spaces. The Air Force is in the throes of a highly anticipated study on the issue lead by the multi-domain C2 enterprise capability collaboration team, or ECCT.


Recently, the Chief of Staff of the US Air Force published a white paper that describes three characteristics of MDC2: situational awareness, rapid decision-making, and the ability to direct joint forces to achieve Commander’s intent. The challenges with operationalizing this concept reside in three domains: technical, policy, and human. In the technical domain, MDC2 systems must have a network that supports the exchange of ‘big data’, removes stove-piped data streams, and improves interoperability. Further, we must be able to identify and remove policy barriers to interoperability to shorten the time from data to decision. Last, in the human domain, command authorities must be established and easily delegated to the tactical level so that those with tactical control (TACON) can produce effects across domains, in real-time


Implementing Multidomain Command and Control requires interoperable Multi domain communications. “The key is really as the speed of information and the speed of war increases, making sure that we can get the right information to the right person to allow them to make that decision quickly,” said Renee Pasman, mission systems road maps director for the Skunk Works division, adding that being able to share that information across the entire network is critical.


“What we’re looking at doing is enabling the vision of linking assets that are space-based, in the air, in the sea and on the ground to create combined effects,” according to Jack O’Banion, vice president of strategy and customer requirements for Lockheed Martin Skunk Works. “[The] challenge is: How do you create a dynamic network that allows you to link things together to create effects inside the bubble and from outside the bubble to create collaborative engagements and multiple dilemmas for an adversary?”


The Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command is developing a low-cost backbone for line-of-sight radio communications using land, sea and satellite links in an effort to provide interoperable wideband communications.

Norway’s Mime programme seeks all-domain C2 information systems

Norwegian Armed Forces expect to soon field significant enhancements in command-and-control information systems (C2IS) as the Norwegian Defence Materiel Agency (NDMA) works up plans to execute its ‘Mime’ Integrated Tactical Information Infrastructure programme.


Mime would represent a significant European C2IS programme, as it is designed for air, land, and maritime components. Ongoing programmes in Germany (DLBO), Netherlands (Foxtrot), Spain (SCRT), and the UK (Morpheus) are primarily focused on ground-based operations.


According to Mime’s Norwegian Armed Forces liaison officer, Lieutenant Colonel Bernhard Fog, this tri-service concept – meant to ensure connectivity across air, land, and sea environments as well as cyber, space, and electronic warfare domains – is “one of the hardest elements of the programme”. Interoperability with allies and civilian actors within the Norwegian national defence concept is an important part of the programme’s mandate.


Falling under the Norwegian Ministry of Defence’s (MoD’s) wider joint programme for information infrastructure, Mime’s conceptual framework rests on two major pillars: one concept for the land domain and a concept for the sea and air domains. As programme officials continue to develop Mime requirements, service officials are also considering future co-operation with other European C2IS programmes including Foxtrot, DLBO, and Morpheus. “We are working on architecture and then operational and technical requirements,”


Technology focus areas include tactical radios, battle management systems (BMS), applications, artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality, autonomous systems support, and information technology, programme officials said.

Maritime Radio Challenges

Development of bandwidth efficient HDR communications in a maritime radio environment is a challenging research problem due to the time-varying propagation effects within the marine layer. Marine layer propagation typically causes fading of the signal spectrum due to RF interference effects, and intersymbol interference because of multipath induced time spreading. The use of adaptive equalization to overcome distortions is difficult in this environment because of the dynamic nature of the signal propagation caused by transmitter and/or receiver motion and the maritime layer atmospheric effects. An alternative to channel equalization is the application of Coded Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (COFDM) which overcomes distortion effects without equalization through its orthogonality properties


Silvus Technologies receives HDRLOS radios for RAN

Silvus Technologies has received the first set of High Data Rate Line of Sight (HDRLOS) radios for the Royal Australian Navy’s (RAN’s) fleet of Anzac frigates.


The units were delivered by Amber Technology. They will be fitted to all new qualifying RAN vessels, as well as being deployed as an upgrade to existing vessels where appropriate.


The HDRLOS system integrates Silvus’s MN-MIMO waveform to fleet communications to establish ship-to-ship data links. Silvus radios deliver a self-forming, self-healing mesh network that allows vessels to establish data links with each other automatically, seamlessly and without operator intervention. The system consists of a custom-built unit that combines Silvus waveforms with a dedicated control system and 100W of amplification for each of the two bands that the radio supports.


The presence of Silvus waveform as a core communications bearer on RAN vessels will support a wide range of deployment scenarios, allowing boarding parties, landing parties, troops in transit, UAS and other assets to seamlessly network with the main ship and each other, and to act as range extenders.


External assets can piggy-back on the high power HDRLOS radio system of a mothership to take advantage of its elevation and power as a relay, without requiring access to the secure on-board networks of the mothership. Land-based transceivers can also be established to deliver seamless communications from naval vessels to shore assets.


SPAWAR builds backbone to shore up lines of communication

The project, High-Data-Rate Line-of-Sight Wireless Communications, falls within the Joint Tactical Radio System initiative and illustrates both the challenges and the goals of JTRS. It is being designed to provide reliable, secure, ship-to-ship-to-shore-to-air communciations, spanning a wide range of radio frequencies and distributing voice, data and video among ships, submarines, aircraft, land vehicles and satellites.


HDR LOS calls for implementing a mobile radio-frequency network with backbone links supporting variable data rates ranging from 64 Kbps to 4.6 Mbps, with the ability to adjust the bandwidth to maintain the maximum reliable data rate at any distance. In the process, SPAWAR is seeking to overcome some of the difficulties that have always plagued field communications.


The problems facing development of an interoperable system start with the incompatible radio systems scattered throughout the military.


‘We all buy our own radios for given missions,’ said Richard North, the HDR LOS project manager at the SPAWAR Systems Center in San Diego. And those systems don’t work together.


Another factor is the disparity of vehicles involved in military operations and the varying distances between them. ‘Some platforms move fast, some don’t,’ North said.


For example, a land vehicle could be moving slowly up and down over rough terrain, in contrast with a ship steaming away from the coast. Add in aircraft and a satellite, and the puzzle becomes more difficult. he said.


The physical and technical hurdles don’t preclude communications, but they have limited them. ‘We have all kinds of point-to-point systems,’ said Lt. Cmdr. Howard Pace, who leads the radio frequency networking efforts for JTRS. But the military has not been able to network those systems.


‘What we want to do is develop the ability for superior information knowledge in the battlefield’know where the enemy is and where he is not,’ Pace said. For that, the military needs fast, reliable communications that will reach all points. ‘And that’s not going to happen with point-to-point links,’ he said.


JTRS is working to develop software-programmable, scalable radios that will operate at frequencies from 2 MHz to 2 GHz. The waveform itself hasn’t yet been defined. ‘It may be its own waveform with its own chunk of the spectrum,’ Pace said, but that decision will come in the third part of the project.


Know what you want

The first step was to define the technical specifications, Pace said. In the second step, JTRS will award a contract’expected later this month’for developing the technical architecture according to those specifications and, later, select a vendor to build the radios according to the architectural design. After that, JTRS will define the wideband waveform.


JTRS plans to gradually replace the thousands of incompatible radio systems within the Defense Department with the wideband radios, which would pay off not only in interoperability but in lifecycle savings, Pace said.


Though deployment of new radios won’t be cheap’ DOD has estimated the JTRS program could cost $9 billion’ SPAWAR officials say the implementation will save money. One way will be by eliminating duplications. For example, a battleship might have an ultra-high-frequency satellite link, a lower-frequency UHF link to another ship and a very-high-frequency link to land.


The three radios could require separate technicians, three sets of parts supplies and three sets of servicing requirements. JTRS would replace the three radios with one, which would bring an equal reduction in support costs.


Joint effort

Combining the HDR LOS program with medium-data-rate, beyond-line-of-sight high-frequency links and satellite communications would have other benefits, SPAWAR officials said.


Among them: reducing the time and cost of such things as tasking orders and brief-ings; providing an infrastructure for telemedicine, remote maintenance and distance learning; and reducing a satellite communications bottleneck.


Like other communications efforts within DOD, the primary goal is interoperability and eventually departmentwide deployment. JTRS, in a way, extends other efforts such as the Navy’s Information Technology for the 21st Century and the Army’s Force XXI initiatives.  ‘There have been first steps, like IT-21’it was a masterpiece. Really ahead of its time,’ Pace said. ‘These are our first baby steps toward how we are going to do this.’  The bottom line is being able to exchange information freely, quickly and securely in the battlefield, Pace said, and JTRS would take a big step in that direction.


‘This is what communications technology should be; what we always wanted it to be,’ he said.


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