The US military’s JTRS program began in the late 1990s as an attempt to unify its underlying communications infrastructure. The program was visionary – and very ambitious. Ongoing requirements creep was thrown into the mix, and the resulting delays and cost overruns eventually led to the complete restructuring of the program.
The part of the program that aimed to create radios for aircraft and ships – the Airborne, Maritime/ Fixed Station Joint Tactical Radio System (AMF JTRS) – saw pre-system development and demonstration contracts issued to Team Boeing (Boeing, BBN Technologies, Harris, L-3 Communications, Milcom Systems Corporation, Northrop Grumman, Rockwell Collins) and to Team Lockheed (Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon) back in 2004, with an extension in 2006 that brought the totals to about $75 million each. Team Lockheed won the $766.2 million AMF JTRS development contract in March 2008.
The US Department of Defense (DoD) and the individual services are turning more and more to virtualization to improve the efficiency and flexibility of their IT networks. This technology allows multiple virtual machines with different operating systems to run side-by-side on the same physical machine. The main benefit is a decrease in needed hardware, space, and power to perform the same IT operations, thus saving money and weight on military IT systems and platforms.
At the same time, virtualization raises security concerns because traditional IT security products, such as firewalls, do not work in the virtual environment.
Far out at sea, no-one can hear your cell phone. That’s why ships of all kinds need satellite communications, in order to stay in touch beyond their immediate task group. The USA’s Military Sealift Command operates government ships, but they’re crewed by civilian mariners. To provide them with the satellite communications they need, the US Defense Information Technology Contracting Organization has awarded Inmarsat subsidiary Stratos Government Services Inc. in Washington DC a maximum $315 million, 8-year indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract.
MSC’s next generation wideband commercial satellite communications infrastructure and service will replace the current MSC Afloat Bandwidth Efficient Satellite Transport (BEST) contract. Inmarsat’s FleetBroadband service delivers simultaneous broadband data and voice, with data rates up to 432 kbps and guaranteed data rates on demand up to 256 kbps, using Inmarsat’s I-4 satellite constellation. The contract is structured as a 4-year base period from July 2011 – July 2015, plus 4 more 1-year option periods that could run the contract to July 2019 (HC1013-11-D-0102).
As the US defense budget is seeing targeted cuts, one area that seems to be getting more money is cybersecurity. The US military has announced plans to spend billions on technology to secure its networks.
In response to this shift in priorities, traditional defense contractors, such as BAE Systems, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman have been on a buying spree, snatching up cybersecurity firms left and right. At the same time, a number of these companies have proven vulnerable to cyber attacks themselves, with some analysts seeing a tie to a security breach at RSA, which provides technology for remote access of employees to their corporate networks.
This article examines this shift in the US defense industry and defense spending regarding cybersecurity. In particular, the article examines where the money being earmarked for cybersecurity is going and what kind of initiatives are being undertaken by the US military.
Most of us remember Iridium as the Motorola-backed, multi-billion dollar commercial satellite phone flop. The expensive, bulky phones, the $2 per minute airtime charge, and the inability to use the phone inside buildings doomed the project, which came online when the cell phone market was taking off. Despite all these problems, the US military found the low-bandwidth satellites and phones very useful in remote areas. So the Pentagon backed an effort for the constellation to be acquired by investors at a fraction of the original $5 billion development cost, and became the revived satellite company’s largest customer.
Iridium Communications Inc. has been steadily picking up customers beyond the Pentagon. They now have almost 360,000 subscribers, and in 2007, they began planing a second-generation satellite constellation called Iridium NEXT. With launches expected to begin in 2015, Iridium NEXT will offer higher data speeds, flexible bandwidth allocation, and IP-based routing. In the meantime, militaries have found innovative ways to use Iridium’s services, making Iridium NEXT a privately-held but significant space resource for future military operations.
April 27/11: Intelsat General Corp. in Bethesda, MD won a $142.9 million firm-fixed-price 7-year contract, with as not-to exceed ceiling of $167.5 million, to supply the American Forces Radio and Television Service’s Global Satellite Services Program with bandwidth. Intelsat’s worldwide commercial telecommunications services will include C- and Ku-band satellite resources, land earth stations, terrestrial backhauls, and bandwidth management services from April 22/11 through April 21/18, via a 1-year base contract with 6 one-year options. The solicitation was issued as a full and open competition on FedBizOpps, awarded to the lowest priced technically acceptable offeror. The Defense Information Technology Contracting Organization at Scott Air Force Bass, IL received 2 offers (HC1013-11-C-0101).
As of March 2011, Intelsat said that it had the world’s largest fleet of commercial satellites, operating a fleet of 52. They supply a number of military SATCOM services alongside their other deals, and even have a program that allows militaries like Australia’s to buy payload space on their satellites.
DRS Systems, Inc. in Parsippany, NJ has received a series of contracts for satellite-based internet-broadband service and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) network in support of deployed military personnel. Later announcements make a clearer distinction between this service and military operations, characterizing it as a “satellite IP services to support morale, welfare and recreation and other non-global information grid operations and programs.”
Troops deployed to forward operating bases do need some level of phone and internet connectivity, and using an alternative to critical battlefield networks is just basic sense. M.C. Dean has also received some contracts along these lines. In DRS’ case, those contracts could expand to almost half a billion dollars from 2007-2011…
NATO’s Muli-sensor Aerospace-Ground Joint ISR Interoperability Coalition (MAJIIC) project aimed to help participating nations share imaging and radar data from their planes and UAVs, even if their individual platforms were not designed for that kind of compatibility. MAJIIC ran from April 2005 through March 2009, and showed results in exercises and in Afghanistan, where participating countries could share full motion UAV videos. Now, NATO is embarking on a 5-year, EUR 100 million second phase, called MAJIIC 2 (Multi-intelligence All-source Joint ISR Interoperability Coalition).
While the name behind the original acronym suggests a focus on aerospace platforms like UAVs, the project aims to handle any sensor platform on ground, sea, or air. That includes SAR/GMTI radars, day/night cameras, and even sensors like ESM radar finders and artillery locating radars.
The US Army soldier is burdened with C4ISR technology. The soldier uses a handheld radio to talk to other soldiers and commanders, Blue Force Tracker to track friendly and enemy forces, a portable GPS receiver to determine location, a ROVER system to receive UAV video feeds, and, if he or she is lucky enough, an Afghan interpreter to communicate with the locals.
What if all these things could be brought together on one device – a smartphone that millions use every day in civilian life. The US Army has undertaken an effort, called Connecting Soldiers to Digital Applications (CSDA), to develop smartphones for the office and the battlefield, such as tracking enemy movements, determining locations of fellow soldiers, sending intelligence reports, and receiving live UAV video.
There are a number of obstacles to this bold vision, however, not the least of which is security. How will the Army ensure that all of this classified information is protected using open source commercial technology?
Saab’s system appears to include both civilian and military applications, with a wide range of customers that includes India’s Directorate General of Lighthouses and Lightships, Directorate General of Shipping, Coast Guard, and Navy. It includes sensors (usually radar, but can sometimes involve long-range cameras in key areas), and equipment for regional and national control centers. Saab’s Indian partner is Elcome Marine Services, and the system is scheduled to be in place within 18 months. The contract also contains undisclosed future options.