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Nanobiotics & Defence High Frequency Battlespace Communications System Project Phoenix Currawong Wagtail Raven


Defence High Frequency Communications System reaches a decade of service

Watch this video to see DHFCS’ evolution from disaggregate circuit-based manual systems to a highly automated, sophisticated voice, data and email communication capability.

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LAND 2072/2B Currawong Battlespace Communications Systems declares IOC

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The ADF’s Project LAND 2072 Phase 2B Currawong Battlespace Communications System has achieved an initial operating capability (IOC).

The $950m Currawong program will provide a digital strategic communications system to replace the Parakeet tactical satellite and trunk communications system in service.

Boeing Defence Australia vice president and managing director Darren Edwards said with the declaration of IOC, the Australian Defence Force now has the world’s most advanced battlespace communication system to transfer secure data, voice and video between Australian headquarters and deployed forces globally.

“The system improves the set-up time, capacity, flexibility, and responsiveness of the Australian Defence Force information exchange while reducing equipment size, weight and power during operations,” Mr Edwards said.

“The rapid implementation of the Australian-designed and manufactured communications network is testament to the high customer engagement during product development and the expertise of Boeing’s Australian team in delivering complex development systems.”

Officer 7th Combat Signal Regiment, LTCOL Les Juckel Commanding said IOC was achieved during the recent Exercise Carbon Diamond. “The Integrated – Battlefield Telecommunications Network (I-BTN) was unquestionably superior to previous Defence networks in terms of ease of configuration, situational awareness for the operators, and network performance,” he said.

“Overall the operation of the network was beyond the expectations of the operators and left them awaiting future material and software releases for further capabilities.”

IOC comes on schedule, just four months after the project’s Initial Material Release (IMR). Under release 1, the project has to date delivered the core communication network software and hardware, and 39 deployable communication nodes to the ADF.

The world-leading system is believed to be of interest by several other nations, including the UK.

The ADF’s Project LAND 2072 Phase 2B Currawong Battlespace Communications System achieved Initial Operating Capability (IOC) in April.

The $950m Currawong program will provide a state-of-the-art digital strategic communications system to the ADF, replacing the 30-year old Parakeet system in service. IOC comes just four months after the project’s Initial Material Release (IMR). Under Release 1, the project has to date delivered the core communication network software and hardware, and 52 deployable communication nodes to the ADF.

Boeing Defence Australia (BDA) vice president and managing director Darren Edwards said with the declaration of IOC, the ADF now has the world’s most advanced battlespace communication system to transfer secure data, voice and video between Australian headquarters and deployed forces globally.

“The system improves the set-up time, capacity, flexibility, and responsiveness of the Australian Defence Force information exchange while reducing equipment size, weight and power during operations,” Mr Edwards said.

“The rapid implementation of the Australian-designed and manufactured communications network is testament to the high customer engagement during product development and the expertise of Boeing’s Australian team in delivering complex development systems.”

Officer Commanding 7th Combat Signal Regiment, LTCOL Les Juckel said IOC was achieved during the Exercise Carbon Diamond, the lead up to June’s Exercise HAMEL 2018. “The Integrated – Battlefield Telecommunications Network (I-BTN) was unquestionably superior to previous Defence networks in terms of ease of configuration, situational awareness for the operators, and network performance. Overall, the operation of the network was beyond the expectations of the operators and left them awaiting future material and software releases for further capabilities.”

Currawong was then extensively tested in the more expansive Exercise HAMEL which involved 8,500 troops from Army, Navy and Air Force, as well as the US Marine Corps and the New Zealand Army.

Background

Government gave second pass approval for LAND 2072 Phase 2B in June 2015, with then Minister for Defence Kevin Andrews stating the preferred solution was offered by a team consisting of Boeing Defence Australia, Varley Group and Harris, and would incorporate deployable computer networks sourced from Thales Australia.

“Approval of this project is a critical milestone in achieving a modern, networked Army,” Mr Andrews said in a June 26 2015 statement. “This equipment will enable deployed forces to operate more effectively, providing digital communications from theatre headquarters to the unit level.”

The requirement was for Army as well as elements of the RAAF and Navy to replace their ageing mobile communications and computer networks, and to provide improved situational awareness, command and control, and information sharing capabilities.

“Army signallers like to call their programs after native Australian birds, so Parakeet is the system we replaced with Currawong,” BDA Director of Product Development, Lee Davis told ADBR in a recent briefing. “The contract was awarded in 2015 for $650 million for the acquisition, and we had about a six-year period of performance to deliver that, principally in two releases.

“Army had a need to field the capability very quickly, especially with the long history of LAND 2072 which has had some mis-starts,” Davis added. “So, whilst we’re really happy with our progress and the timeline we delivered for the end users, they had already been waiting for the system for some time. Because Army had a desire to field something very rapidly, the program was split up into two releases, one of an initial fielding, and then an upgrade.”

Previously dubbed Joint Project (JP)2072 Battlespace Communications System (Land) (BCS(L)), the requirement goes back to the early 2000s. The program emerged from a merger between two earlier efforts, the JP65 Phase 7B Parakeet Battlefield Communications Network upgrade, and the Project LAND 128 Currawong VHF Combat Net Radio replacement programs.

In describing the initial requirement, then director of the general communication systems branch at DMO, David Marshall noted that integration was the key issue. “The current field communications capability of the ADF has been implemented from a number of separate programs over a number of years,” he said. “As such, the capability was not integrated and, by design, focused on transmission of voice communications.

“JP2072 seeks to address these two key areas of deficiency and has introduced an integrated system with a focus on all forms of communications, including data. The area of most concern is communications between mobile headquarters and forces at the lower tactical headquarters.”

A team of General Dynamics Canada, ADI Ltd (later Thales) and Tenix Defence (later BAE Systems) was down-selected to deliver BCSL in September 2005 and signed a contract in December 2005 for a solution based on the UK’s Bowman tactical communications system. General Dynamics had considerable experience on other battlefield communications programs, including the US Army’s Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T), and the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) Cluster 5.

“The General Dynamics Canada-led JP 2072 team delivers the best of two worlds for the Australian Defence Force,” president of General Dynamics Canada, John Watts said in a December 2005 statement. “It capitalises on the extensive experience of General Dynamics in deploying systems of similar scale and complexity, and takes full advantage of the capabilities of Australia’s largest defence companies, ADI and Tenix Defence.”

But in September 2007 the project was unexpectedly terminated by then Defence Minister Brendan Nelson due to technical difficulties with GDC’s solution and the reported inability of the DMO and an independent Systems Engineering Independent Review Team (SEIRT) to agree on remediation efforts to get it back on track.

The project was subsequently re-jigged to consider emergent technologies and new requirements, while some elements were spun off into the multi-phased LAND 200 digital radio and Battle Management System (BMS) project.

Signallers from the 7th Combat Signal Regiment adjust a high capacity line of sight radio antenna connected to the Integrated Battlefield Telecommunications Network – Defence

Phase 1 of Project JP 2072 provided an interim capability upgrade, and this was awarded to a team comprising Elbit Systems, Harris and Raytheon Australia to provide a COTS communications system to fill priority gaps in the existing BCS(L).

For the larger and more permanent Phase 2B requirement, BDA’s solution was up against proposals from a teaming of Lockheed Martin Australia and Elbit, Raytheon Australia teamed with General Dynamics, and BAE Systems Australia partnered with Thales Australia.

Development

For the re-booted LAND 2072 Phase 2B effort, BDA’s Release 1 was the initial development and was delivered just 27 months after contract signature. This is a remarkable feat considering more than 150,000 lines of code were written for the system, and that it runs on custom ruggedised hardware which was designed, manufactured, qualified and delivered in that period. This equipment is designed to function in environments ranging from -32 degrees to +70 degrees Celsius with no external airconditioning required.

“With many deployed comms systems, you’ll see the approach of traditional commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware in rack-mounted rugged enclosures,” said Davis. “For the end-users this generally means more space is required for airconditioning and fuel and commercial servers which don’t really operate well in a deployed tactical environment.

“The original intent for this program was to use COTS hardware, with software development to pull all those pieces together,” he said. “Through the bid process, and it was quite a long process – 2011 was when we put our first response in for this program, and 2015 was the signature.

“During this process we had some time to really look at the risk of the program, especially with that hardware piece. Size, weight and power is really important to the army from a deployment footprint, because it directly translates to number of vehicles required to deploy the system, number of vehicles available, and space in platforms to get those vehicles into location.”

“There was a really strong focus on getting the smallest possible footprint for the key communication elements of the program, and then figuring out how those could be scaled,” Davis said. “Because of this we chose to go down the path of custom hardware, with a clean-sheet solution. I guess the flipside of that is that we now have developed a very capable product. We’re on the path now to start to explore opportunities, particularly in the export space for that product, which for local business is really good.”

While the initial cost of customised hardware may be higher than a COTS solution, Boeing says the long-term ownership and upgrade costs are cheaper. “If you look at a COTS model you’re procuring hardware from the US, and there are costs associated with ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations) controlled equipment and servicing of that equipment,” Davis said.

“In the previous iteration, we were relying on the design using a US-based core computer which was ITAR controlled. Now, we have a customer IP core computer that’s locally designed, manufactured and sustained. It’s actually more competitive because, to get that device repaired, it’s a local supply chain from Brisbane to Logan, as opposed to a two to three-month cycle back through an ITAR encumbered process in the US.”

Davis says he thinks acquisition models are shifting back towards custom hardware solutions. “Traditionally custom hardware was seen as very technically challenging to deliver on schedule and, then from an overall sustainment perspective was expensive,” he said. “But I think that when you compare that against some of the challenges that you have with COTS equipment to meet the tough requirements, it suddenly becomes extremely competitive if you can develop it on time.

“Getting that out on time and having a good local supply chain in place to deal with that really makes it competitive,” he added. “And now that we’re looking at export opportunities, that local supply chain model will be involved in that which makes us even more competitive, especially when comparing Australia to the US and those type of exchanges where we’d be going into.”

Boeing also established a large systems laboratory in Brisbane which employs some 200 engineers and support staff to manage the system’s development, and the company started the design and integration work well before it was down-selected for and awarded the contract for the program.

Boeing Defence Australia invested in prototyping and development before being awarded the Currawong contract, and now has 200 engineers and support staff employed at its Brisbane systems laboratory to manage the system’s development – Boeing

“There was a lot of focus on burning the risk down, so the business invested heavily in making sure we were ready to execute on the program,” Davis said. “We did a lot of early, rapid prototyping work and then, through the agile development process, we are able to really lean into that hardware development.

“In a traditional system engineering process, you spend a lot of time working on the documents and requirements, and then halfway through the program you might start building some hardware,” he added. “We flipped that model on its head, and before we’d signed the contracts we had already built a prototype of the system.

“Even in the early phases of the system design, review and preliminary design reviews, we had prototype hardware that we were already evaluating and environmentally testing. We would take that through environmental test, test a little, learn a little, roll that into the design, and then go back again, test a little more, learn a little more, and roll that into the design.”

Exercising the system

During Exercise HAMEL, Army’s 7th Combat Signal Regiment, 1st Division and 145 Signal Squadron used Release 1 Currawong equipment to form seamless communication links from the forward command areas in Shoalwater Bay back to units situated in Rockhampton, and also via satellite back to the strategic network. This provided the backbone network to allow the management and exchange of data, voice and video to provide situational awareness and communication capability to the units fighting the battle.

LTCOL Les Juckel said he was happy with the performance of the system. “The equipment was used in a deployed tactical field setting across Shoalwater Bay,” he said in a release. “The system connected 17 nodes across the battlespace stretching from within Shoalwater Bay to Rockhampton. The HCLOS backbone achieved high-capacity bandwidth exceeding 20mbps and spanned distances totalling 112km over challenging terrain.

A still frame from an animated OV1 shows the numerous links, capabilities and redundancy of the Currawong battlespace communications system – Boeing

“The HCLOS also allowed the brigade to practice operation in a satellite-denied environment with no loss to capability,” he added. “Time division multiple access satellite terminals achieved bandwidth across the exercise area of over 30mbps.

“This order of magnitude in bandwidth increase allowed the live streaming of multiple real-time Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) video streams as well as large file transfers, such as geospatial data, across the exercise area using the SATCOM and HCLOS. The network has significantly enhanced command and control of the combat brigade by facilitating large data transfer across the deployed network.”

Boeing has also received positive feedback about the system’s ability to continue to operate despite being degraded. “On exercise, they’ve had links that have been down and they haven’t actually realised because the system’s just been rerouting data through other available interfaces,” said Davis.

“It’s not until they’ve had time to go back and look at the logs or the after actions, that they go, ‘actually those interfaces weren’t up, but we didn’t need them because the system was able to work around that’.”

Davis describes the system as “self-healing” and “user-friendly” due to it using IPv6 technology, the most recent version of the internet protocol (IP) that will supersede the current IPv4 which is suffering from address exhaustion.

“Given that LAND 2072 Phase 2B is essentially the centre of the deployed network architecture, for any deployed force to get connectivity back into strategic, they need to go through Currawong,” said Davis. “So, the view was we would provide the IP as a pass through to Defence, therefore all of the aligned programs had the IP at the centre to be able to mitigate that.

“The ADF has other comms programs like JP2047, Telstra, EDLAN, and LAND 200 Tranche 2, and all of these associated programs that require the Currawong infrastructure to be successful,” he added. “We’ve been very successful at navigating those challenges and we’ve been able to deliver the core of that deployed network space ahead of schedule for the customer, which is really a great outcome for us, and is a great outcome for Army.”

Export

The development of the Currawong system has positioned BDA well for a number of upcoming allied communications system replacement export opportunities, and there’s no doubt Government’s recent efforts to expand Australia’s defence export business will assist here.

In the US, the Army there is looking to upgrade its Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) program to address issues of obsolescence and capability shortfall, and BDA says it has already been “engaging in that space.”

In the UK, the Morpheus program seeks to deliver a next generation Tactical Communication and Information Systems (TacCIS) capability to address critical system obsolescence and introduce a more agile TacCIS solution.

In New Zealand, the Network Enabled Army (NEA) program is described as a “long-term transformational program that will introduce into service a deployable, networked Command, Control, Communications, Computers (C4), Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) capability for the NZ Army’s Land Forces and Special Operations Forces.

To this end, NZ plans to acquire modern communications systems and computer technology to produce an integrated network of command posts, platforms, soldiers and sensors.

“Singapore has an upcoming communications upgrade program as well,” Davis said. “So from our perspective, we’ve got a cutting edge product at the time when the international market’s looking in the upgrade space, so we’re very excited about the opportunities.”

The UK angle is particularly intriguing given that nation’s reported interest in other Australian defence exports such as Boeing’s E-7A Wedgetail and the Thales Bushmaster PMV, Australia’s recent decision to acquire nine BAE Systems Hunter class frigates, and reports that both countries are looking to fast-track a free trade agreement as the UK’s ‘Brexit’ deadline looms.

Milestones

Since achieving IOC, the project has achieved another key milestone. BDA Project Currawong Director Ian Vett said that on 17 July, the Commonwealth approved preliminary level design for Currawong Release 2, three months ahead of the contract schedule, allowing Boeing to proceed into detailed design for Release 2.

“Release 2 includes additional communications links, on-the-move satellite nodes, vehicle-mounted solutions, and integration of the system with other ADF security domains,” said Vett.

“These capabilities will provide the ADF with additional functionality to enable enhanced multi-security bearer and networking services, control and management capabilities, and will allow faster deployment, automated set-up and fault tolerance in a rugged low size and weight.”

Rather than buy commercial-off-the-shelf equipment, Boeing Defence Australia and its subcontractors developed their own ruggedised hardware with sufficient growth built-in and the ability to be supported by its Australian supply chain – Defence

Vett added that some of the new features of Release 2 will be ‘troposcatter’ communications to provide high capacity beyond-line-of-sight (BLOS) datalinks, a ‘headquarters on the move’ wideband global SATCOM connectivity to the commander’s Bushmaster PMV, trailer-mounted wideband global SATCOM terminals, vehicle-mounted terminals for high-density computing and routing, and an external network access point to allow secure connections through public networks.

The detailed design review of Release 2 is scheduled for completion in 2019, after which the program will undergo a test readiness review, final testing, and final material release (FMR).

Currawong’s ‘headquarters on the move’ has been integrated with Thales Bushmaster PMV command vehicles during development – Boeing

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If the ADF wants JTRS-compliant radios under JP2072, will this dictate its choice of radio, and supplier, under Ph.1
Having completed their Offer Definition Activities, a sort of due diligence probe into the trustworthiness of their original bids, the two contenders for this major Battlespace Communications project, BAE Systems Australia and General Dynamics Canada, have been faced with yet another task before the final choice of prime systems integrator for this major project is announced. That new task? They’re not saying but we suspect it’s a cost reduction exercise better known as a best and final offer.

There is little doubt that the upcoming requirement for multi-mode, multi-band tactical communications, sought under JP2072 Battlespace Communications (Land), is headed towards a US Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) solution. But the JTRS program–the future world standard for high capacity tactical radios-is experiencing serious delays and hard decisions are looming over bridging a two to four year capability gap between JP2072’s in-service date (2009) and the likely availability of JTRS compliant radios.

More than 12 months have passed since bids closed for the Prime System Integrator role for this ambitious project which covers the spectrum of combat net radio and trunk communications as well as local area voice and data systems. Eventually JP 2072 will also introduce tactical data distribution systems and tactical communications range extension systems not previously employed in the Australian context.

As we have previously reported DSTO has been experimenting with range extension systems including the use of EPLARS radios in UAVs. We understand that ADI’s JP129/JP2072 proposal mirrors the UK’s Watchkeeper project using the Hermes 450 TUAV as an airborne radio relay for Bowman.

Of the original four bidders, Raytheon Australia and IBM Australia were dropped leaving BAE Systems Australia and GD Canada in contention. This occurred when recommendations on the selection of prime contractor went to the Defence Minister last August. It seems that while he was agreeable to dropping the first two his natural caution took over-and who can blame him-and he wasn’t about to approve a choice between BAES and GD Canada, for this very important long term task, without further information.

We assume he wanted assurances about the capacity of both contenders to bring this very important project to fruition within the agreed timescale and budget. We may be right because an Offer Definition Activity, a sort of intensive due diligence exercise, was subsequently undertaken by both organisations and only recently completed. And (Defence Minister willing) it is anticipated that a decision will be announced shortly on the selection of the PSI with contract signature by mid-year.

BAES Australia has strong Australian credentials, having delivered and supported more than ninety percent of the ADF’s existing tactical mobile communications capability through the Raven, Wagtail and Parakeet programs. And BAE Systems (US) has also been involved with the JTRS program since its inception and the first to produce a working JTRS radio. BAES has also led the development of significant aspects of the JTRS Wideband Networking Waveform, with future NCW implications.

GD Canada brought ADI Limited (half-owned by Thales) and Tenix Defence into its team and offered GD Canada’s expertise with the Bowman (UK) and the Iris (Canada) tactical communications programs. Undoubtedly GD will draw upon those architectures for JP2072. Affiliated companies, General Dynamics and Thales Communications, are major players in the JTRS program with the latter a core member of the GD team developing JTRS backpack and handheld JTRS radios. Thales is separately modifying its in service MBITR radio as an enhanced JTRS MBITR.

The goal of JP2072 is to provide the Land Force with a deployable and integrated communication system with connectivity across all component systems of the theatre such as C2, intelligence, offensive fire, logistics, ground based air defence and maritime and airborne sensor-linked weapon systems. A key feature of the system will be the employment of that relatively recent development: software defined radios (SDR) that is digital radios with software programmable waveforms that provide the multi-band, multi-mode operation required for connectivity across the battlespace.

The extent and shape of that battlespace can be judged by the JP2072 interfaces which include the ARH and AIR9000 helicopters, Project Overlander vehicles, tracked and wheeled armoured and light armoured vehicles, airborne and high altitude surveillance and early warning platforms. Maritime platforms include Armidale patrol boats (already equipped with the Rohde & Schwarz M3SR reprogrammable digital radio) as well as the ANZACs, and future AWDs and LPDs.

The first (and current) phase will equip a Joint Task Force (JTF) based on 3 Bde, with upgraded Parakeet trunking, data-capable combat radios (including augmented Raven/Wagtail) and an improved Local Area System. This phase will also provide the opportunity to examine new technologies and architectures which will inform the definition studies for Phase 2-the roll-out of BCS(L) to high readiness units.

There are significant capability deficiencies in the current combat radio and tactical trunk systems as well as local networks. While Raven and Wagtail CNR systems provide a useful single mode voice capability, they are unable to support current land operational requirements for data traffic let alone meeting future high bandwidth data demands of tactical radio networked environments. Long term maintainability may also prove to be a problem if augmentation, rather than replacement, is relied upon to solve the current data discrepancies.

Similarly the Parakeet tactical trunk system requires improved bearer range and capacity and a more efficient network to suit the increases sought in communications traffic. Improvements to local networks are also required including wireless infrastructure for improved mobility.

In place of the in-service Raven/Wagtail combat radio, with its limited frequency range, single band (FM) and single mode (analogue voice) operation and limited capacity, Defence envisages a commercial or military off the shelf digital combat radio with the following attributes:

* Frequency range of 30-512 MHz

* Multi-band, multi-mode VHF/UHF (AM & FM)

* Software based waveforms

* Enhanced capacity (64kbps+)

* UHF SATCOM

* US interoperable

There are a number of software programmable tactical radios now available, or under development, with specifications approaching those sought by Defence. But the US Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) program is at the forefront as the future world standard for SDR tactical radios. In a multi-billion dollar program JTRS is undertaking the development of high capacity, multi-channel, multi-mode sets to replace 750 000 radios in the US inventory with one third that number.

Under the program’s various development clusters (for different operational applications) JTR sets are being sought for Army vehicle and rotary wing applications as well as handheld, manpack, and small form-fit sets. JTRS radios are also being developed for maritime and fixed-station applications, and for airborne use.

JTRS would appear to have broad application to JP 2072’s tactical radio requirement as a relatively low risk MOTS procurement. We suspect both the JP2072 contenders believe this to be so and we imagine that the JP2072 program office would not disagree. But there are problems on the horizon.

Indicative equipment for the Joint Task Force in JP2072’s first phase includes:

* a multi-mode LOS/tactical satellite combat radio,

* a compact intersection combat radio, and

* an HF combat radio

But with Phase 1’s limited budget of around $100 million the overall replacement of current infrastructure is not proposed. While some high priority capability gaps will need to be filled-and this will doubtless require off-the-shelf acquisitions of some new radios – existing equipment, such as Raven/Wagtail, will have their capabilities enhanced through augmentation to provide greater data throughput, channel capacity and so on.

This interim augmented capability will need to last until the rollout of new equipment, to be defined by the PSI as part of his Phase 1 task, begins in 2009. The problem here is that if a JTRS solution is chosen-as surely it will be-radios able to support JTRS waveforms may not be available for some two to four years after that. And if other software defined radios are selected for roll-out to high readiness units on the basis that they are available and meet JP2072’s indicative requirements, they may have to be subsequently replaced if they cannot be upgraded to receive JTRS waveforms.

One obvious option would be to restrict the selection to equipment that can be readily adapted to receive JTRS waveforms and thus ensure their application within a future JTRS environment. But are such radios available?

JTRS requires that compliant radios employ a particular software operating environment, the Software Communications Architecture (SCA), enabling them to support various JTRS communications waveforms-the key to improved interoperability among services and coalition partners. To encourage adoption of the SCA standard, DoD policy states that US military services may purchase only JTRS SCA-compliant radios unless granted a waiver on a case-by-case basis. The converse appears to be that if you haven’t adopted the SCA standard you don’t get JTRS waveforms.

Due to delays with the JTRS program the US armed forces last year spent hundreds of millions of dollars buying tactical radio systems not covered by JTRS. These acquisitions included Thales AN/PRC-148 handheld squad radios and Harris Falcon AN/PRC-150 HF backpacks.

Question: In view of what follows, would these radios (or their like) therefore suit JP2072 as an interim purchase, on the basis that they could be upgraded later to receive whatever JTRS waveforms might be required for JP 2072?

Under an engineering change to a current US Army contract Thales Communications is redesigning its AN/PRC-148, an expensive special forces-style SDR, also termed the MBITR, as a JTRS Enhanced MBITR or JEM. Key features of this upcoming JTRS handheld include user selected frequencies (30-512 MHz), user programmable waveforms including VHF/FM, VHF/AM, UHF/AM, UHF/FM (LOS), user location in GPS or military grid reference, embedded COMSEC and other features. And this is only the Block 1 specification!

Harris Falcon II SDR radios encompass the HF, VHF, and UHF frequency spectrum, and a large suite of waveforms and communications capabilities. The 30 to 512 MHz PRC-117F(C) radio, now being actively promoted to the Australian Defence Force, represents the next level of radio design. Effectively three radios in one, it provides low-band VHF capabilities for combat net radio, high-band VHF functionality for public safety, and ground-to-air and UHF features for military ground-to-air and satellite communications (SATCOM).

Outside the US, France and Germany have cooperated closely on the bilateral Multimode Multi-role Radio Advanced Demonstrator, through Thales and EADS, supported by Rohde and Schwartz. The latter is reported as having developed the first SDR to be widely militarily available.

The Rohde & Schwartz M3TR is in service with the military forces of Belgium, Brazil, Portugal, and Sweden. Australia is using the maritime version in the Armidale class patrol boats while Germany is using the airborne version.

With its extended frequency range of 1.5 to 512 MHz, high data rate of up to 72 kbit/s, the R&S M3TR covers the whole spectrum from shortwave through to the UHF band, and is another exceptional software programmable tactical radio. Currently designed for use with military and civilian legacy waveforms we understand that Rohde & Schwartz will be developing an SCA compliant JTRS radio.

We assume that Rohde & Schwartz and other communications specialists, interested in developing JTRS radios, must play a waiting game until more is known about JTRS waveforms and their releasability, bearing in mind that US government and some US companies have IP rights over waveforms selected for JTRS. Presumably the waveform requirements of JP2072 will emerge as part of the initial capability.
Because the Bowman project predated JTRS, inter-operability was based upon inter-service communication rather than between UK and US forces. A degree of interoperability with US forces is being achieved by the establishment of Bowman VHF waveforms and algorithms in the JTRS waveform library.

This article has focussed on just one aspect of JP2072-discussion over possible equipment solutions for the tactical radio requirement. We posed the question whether those in-service radios, whose design is the basis for modification to JTRS capability, could themselves be subsequently and readily upgraded to receive the JTRS waveforms selected for JP 2072. We haven’t answered that question because we don’t know. Should the answer be in the affirmative then with their acquisition JP2072 would have a growth path to JTRS.

C4ISR: Digitising battlespace communications – JP2072

In September last year, the Commonwealth signed a contract with Boeing Defence Australia for the acquisition and sustainment of an Integrated Battlespace Telecommunications Network, which will provide secure wideband voice, data and video services over both wired and wireless infrastructure between Army’s deployed forces and headquarters.

Nigel Pittaway | Melbourne

Project Currawong, or more formally Land 2072 Phase 2B, is a $950 million program which will provide a digital strategic communications system to replace the existing BAE Systems Parakeet tactical satellite and trunk communications system acquired in the mid 1990s and now approaching life of type.

Currawong is the latest phase in a program to deliver a digital battlespace communications capability throughout Army.

Tranche 1

The overarching JP2072 project is actually a multi-phase program of complex projects, which together have been described as the ‘Telstra of the battlespace’. Phases 1 and 2A have seen the roll-out of modern software defined radios to replace the earlier generation Pintail, Wagtail and Raven radios used in the tactical communications environment, and the two phases are now largely complete.

Around 19,000 VHF/UHF and another 4,000 HF radios have been delivered and both projects are now in the sustainment phase.

“The radios have been rolled out and are now in widespread use,” explained JP2072 program director Bob Hutchinson to ADM. “We have passed the tipping point and Army now trains on the new digital system, with conversion to the old analogue system if required.”

Opening of Boeing's new Currawong facility in Brisbane. Credit: Defence

The opening of Boeing’s new Currawong facility in Brisbane. Credit: Boeing

According to Hutchinson, the remaining risks in the tactical domain delivered by Phases 1 and 2A are around configuration management and control of not only hardware, but also software, firmware and waveforms associated with modern software defined radios.

“But we have a good system in place to manage and control configuration and we successfully tested it recently in Exercise Hamel,” he added. The two phases, together with Land 200 (Land 75/125) are retrospectively referred to as ‘Tranche 1’ and the next tactical phase of JP2072, together with Phase 4 of Land 75 (Battle Management System) is known as Land 200 Tranche 2.

Phase 2B

The contract for Phase 2B was signed with Boeing on September 3 last year, which covers five years of acquisition valued at $665 million, and a performance-based sustainment contract.

It will provide a modular, scalable Integrated Battlespace Telecommunications Network; able to provide communications support for anything from a handful of users up to a large-scale deployment.

Initial Materiel Release (IMR) is forecast to occur in the third quarter of 2017 and will be followed by Initial Operational Capability later that year. Final Materiel Release will then follow, followed in turn by Final Operational Capability, due to be achieved in 2020.

IOC will provide a ‘vertical slice’ of the capability to Army, and the timeframe is factored around testing the system under operational conditions, including during Exercise Hamel 2018, which will then provide feedback for the second materiel release to follow.

“The capability has been designed in ‘bricks’ and the scalable architecture means you can take just which ‘bricks’ you need with you once you have designed your mission,” explained Phase 2B project director Darren Lysenko to ADM. “You don’t have to bring every ‘brick’ with you everywhere you go.”

Second Pass approval for Phase 2B had been delayed by affordability issues, and the subsequent need to ensure that the capabilities required by Army were prioritised in the funding envelope available.

However, because Boeing began work on the initial build, known as ‘Build 1’, during the offer definition phase, work was well advanced by the time the contract was eventually signed and IOC will not be affected by the delays to contract approval.

“In terms of the way the contract is being executed, using innovative Agile Sprint Methodology, Boeing already had a head start and almost had a working prototype by the time we signed the contract,” Lysenko said.

“And so we have continued that work under the new contract and we have a very focussed engagement model.”

An example of this agility is some parallel work Boeing has done with industry to develop their Tactical Services Router (TSR), a critical component which resides within the Network Access Module hardware. Rather than using Commercial Off The Shelf technology, Boeing has developed its own device which is packaged into a small form factor and does not require an external source of cooling.

“The TSR is performing well beyond specification and we are very impressed with it,” added Myra Sefton, Director General Communications in CASG. “Not just by the fact they delivered it, but by them having developed it through three or four iterations, each time improving on what it was capable of before.”

Phase 2B will also develop a state of the art Network Planning and Management System which will optimise planning and management and improve usability of the system.

Sefton believes that the NPMS is on-track to meet the forthcoming milestones and points to the relationship the project has with Defence’s Schedule Compliance Risk Assessment Methodology (SCRAM) team, which regularly compares Boeing’s software development metrics against their software database.

“It gives us confidence that Boeing’s development path is achievable and that they are within tolerance,” she told ADM. “We have just passed Preliminary Design Review (PDR) and we will hit Detailed Design Review before Christmas in line with the contract.”

Phase 3

The next project to gain traction under the JP2072 umbrella is Phase 3 which, together with the Elbit BMS delivered by Land 75 Phase 4, forms Land 200 Tranche 2. Presently in the final stages of solicitation, it will deliver a new suite of software-defined radios and a networking capability, while extending the Phase 2B NPMS.

“We have Chief of Army’s eye very firmly fixed upon us, because his desire is to create a modern, digital, networked force and we are a key enabler of this,” Hutchinson concluded. “There is a real convergence in technologies at this point in time – we have new (Land 400) vehicles which will have IP-based networks for internal data and communications within the vehicle and now we’re extending that into external communications networks – and everything has to work seamlessly.

“We are working with Army at the moment to determine the best step towards the next tranche. We will do the design for what will be implemented in the Land 400 vehicles, but Army is also thinking about what other vehicles they would like to put it in.”

Australia Builds Future Tactical Network

Programs merge to create system that supports coalition operations.

Interoperability with allied forces is a priority for Australia’s military, and a program underway will deliver a multiphase, $600 million renewal of the Australian Defence Force’s tactical communications systems. The program initially will rely on a bridging capability largely based on existing infrastructure that will be supplemented and ultimately replaced over at least the next decade in a series of phased improvements.

Integration is a key issue for the JP2072 Battlespace Communications System (Land), or BCS(L), program. JP2072 was formed by the merger of two earlier projects: the JP65 Ph.7B Parakeet Battlefield Communications network upgrade and the Land 128 Project Currawong Very High Frequency Combat Net Radio replacement programs. David Marshall, director of the general communication systems branch at Australia’s procurement agency, the Defence Material Organization (DMO), explains the importance of delivering a coherent approach to digitization. “The current field communications capability of the Australian Defence Force [ADF] has been implemented from a number of separate programs over a number of years. As such, the capability was not integrated and, by design, focused on transmission of voice communications. JP2072 seeks to address these two key areas of deficiency and has introduced an integrated system with a focus on all forms of communications, including data. The area of most concern is communications between mobile headquarters and forces at the lower tactical headquarters,” he says.

The DMO undertook extensive market surveys to understand what was available internationally, and it worked with allies across the field to understand comparable efforts around the world. According to Marshall, a key requirement for the JP2072 is interoperability with allies, the United States in particular. “It will be one of the more important functional requirements derived from the stated operational requirement. The project maintains close links with U.S. programs through a number of Australian liaison officers embedded in U.S. organizations and units,” he explains.

Within industry, some have speculated whether Australia will go further and adopt the U.S. Joint Technical Architecture during phase one, or in later stages of the program, to ensure greater interoperability. Reflecting U.S. interoperability requirements, Australia, like New Zealand, has requested to use the U.S. National Security Agency approved Railman embedded communications security module for its tactical intranet.

The JP2072 has understandably drawn comparisons with the United Kingdom’s Bowman program, which achieved its initial service date in March of this year. Marshall explains that the JP2072 project office had visited the Bowman integrated project team while developing the statement of work for the JP2072 prime system integrator request for tender. “JP2072 can be likened to a cross between the Bowman and Falcon projects in the United Kingdom, analogous to the U.S. Warfighter Information Network–Tactical. The project office maintains a watch on the development of both programs and intends to maintain close links when completing the requirements development post-contract signature,” he adds. However, he notes, important differences exist between Australian and British requirements. The JP2072’s initial requirements will not introduce a capability comparable to the United Kingdom’s Bowman High Capacity Data Radio.

“The key lesson observed from discussions with allies and Australian users is the need to maintain accurate situational awareness at the lower tactical level. Due to force dispersion, this environment has and is likely to continue to rely on VHF [very high frequency] and HF [high frequency] communications. Without heavy reliance on satellite communications, maintaining acceptable data capacity between these mobile headquarters will pose a challenge,” Marshall states.

The project office is managing links to other communications projects through interface control working groups. Many of these are already in place and were established by existing projects. Where they do not exist, they will be established by the JP2072 and will be the prime forum for interface management through the requirements definition process.

Military satellite communications and other communication systems are managed within the communications branch of the DMO’s electronic systems division, enabling close coordination across multiple projects. Furthermore, projects are developed within a defense information environment framework, and the defense chief information officer is a co-coordinating capability manager who addresses more overarching linkages.

In a phased program, maintaining legacy equipment and ensuring maximum backward compatibility with new capability are always issues that require close management. In the JP2072, both the fleet management organization responsible for maintaining current systems and the JP2072 project office belong to the same system program office. Future procurement decisions, Marshall explains, would be taken with “value for money” and through life-cycle support costs as prime considerations.

An important component of this equation is maximum practical use of existing infrastructure and support where possible. A prime system integrator (PSI) for the JP2072 is expected to be appointed later this year. The integrator will be responsible for demonstrating that this analysis has occurred during the evaluation process prior to any equipment solution being accepted by the Australian Defence Force.

Australia’s military, as are other militaries around the world, is well advanced in soldier modernization programs, increasing demands for communications at the tactical level being provided by the JP2072. In Australia’s case, this effort is known as Land 125 Project Wundurra.

 
In a separate procurement from the JP2072 program, Australia is acquiring 59 M1A1 Abrams integrated management tanks and support vehicles. Included in the $475 million foreign military sales package will be 80 single channel ground and airborne radio systems.

“Land 125 is one of many Australian projects that affect or will be affected by the implementation of the JP2072 capability. The project systems engineering manager maintains a liaison with these projects and resides on a number of interface control working groups to ensure that interface issues are addressed. Land 125 and other requirements will be considered when deriving the functional requirements and specifications for the implemented capability,” Marshall says.

Land 125 also is obtaining tactical communications systems that are outside the JP2072 program. These include substantial numbers of the Marconi Selenia Communications Personal Role Radio. U.K. and U.S. marines used the radios in operations in Iraq.

The DMO intends that the PSI selected for phase one will continue through the life cycle of the program, but Marshall emphasizes that this is contingent on performance. “The PSI role would be re-competed if the phase one contractor fails to perform through this phase. Throughout this period, various equipment suppliers will also be selected to provide the material solution based on offering the best ‘value for money’ through the life of the equipment,” he relates.

Four teams have emerged in the competition for the JP2072, submitting bids to meet the deadline last April. Raytheon Australia is promoting its own experience supporting the U.S. Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below effort and includes the U.S. program’s prime contractor Northrop Grumman on its team. Nordic companies Kongsberg and Ericsson are providing the team with expertise in combat net radio and trunk communications technology from outside the United States.

General Dynamics Canada, the company that developed the Canadian IRIS program on which the United Kingdom’s Bowman solution is based, has teamed with leading Australian defense companies ADI Limited and Tenix Defence. BAE Systems Australia is the incumbent on the existing projects Raven, Wagtail and Parakeet communications systems and is pitching itself as a PSI without a commitment to specific equipment vendors. IBM also has submitted a solution for the bid. A number of international equipment manufacturers, including Harris, ITT, Thales, Tadiran Communications and Rohde and Schwarz, have been briefed on the program.

The JP2072 capability has been divided into three linked phases that will last until at least 2016. Work initially will focus on delivering an improved capability sufficient to equip a brigade-size joint task force (JTF) and then will be rolled out across the armed forces in parallel with successive technology refreshes over several years. Phase one was approved in 2001, and development of the request for tender was completed in 2003. That document was released in January 2004, and contract signature is expected in December of this year. Marshall explains that equipment delivery is not expected to begin until 2006.

The team selected as prime system integrator will have a twofold task: to deliver an initial acquisition designed to fill immediate capability gaps, described as ‘selective solutions’ in the JTF; and to provide a systems-level overview and detailed path for the overall program as part of the project definition study.

As the BCS(L) title suggests, the JTF would typically be a largely army-based formation. This will be required to support a tailored force that, at its peak, would comprise a deployable joint force headquarters (DJFHQ)—a subordinate brigade headquarters, the Australian Defence Force’s three brigade headquarters—commanding a flexible number of subordinate units and overall logistics support. Reflecting its joint mission, phase one also will support the tactical communications for a deployed airbase. A key operational concept that the JP2072 must support is the Amphibious Maneuver Operations in the Littoral Environment program.

These requirements reflect recent levels for deployments of Australian forces. A JTF headquarters, which is exerting national command of maritime, land and air elements deployed in the Middle East, leads the ongoing operation Catalyst in Iraq. It commands the 850 troops supporting operations in Iraq, additional assets in Afghanistan and Kyrgistan, and naval patrols in the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean. In initial operations in East Timor in 1999, Australia deployed a force comprising a DJFHQ for an ADF force of 4,500. The following year, the JP2072 requirement was included in the ADF white paper titled “Our Future Defence Force,” designed in part to address the shortfalls identified by the deployment in East Timor.

Initial capability will consist of three core capabilities: a tactical combat network radio system, which today comprises the Wagtail, Raven and MBITR; a tactical trunk system initially based on the incumbent Parakeet solution; and a local area subsystem covering headquarters operations in fixed or on-the-pause rather than on-the-move operation. The subsystem will provide network access to key battlefield applications, including the army’s Battlefield Command Support System, Air Command Support System, the Standard Defence Supply System and Project Ninox assets, which cover manned and unmanned night vision sensor and systems and ground-based surveillance capabilities.

With a budget of roughly $100 million, there is no immediate plan for the complete replacement of current infrastructure under phase one. Ultimately, however, replacement radios will improve the tactical intranet through a variety of capability upgrades. These will include improved networking, a greater data throughput and the inclusion of an automatic location reporting system via an embedded global positioning system module. This is expected to be a foreign military sales Selective Availability Anti-Spoofing Module. Specific improvements over current high frequency capabilities include an automatic link establishment facility. The JP2072 briefings state an interest in the U.S. Joint Tactical Radio System for future growth but make no firm commitment to its eventual adoption.

In later phases, two additional capabilities are planned for the transmission system: a tactical data distribution system, reflecting the predicted need for real-time data, and a tactical airborne system, which could comprise manned and/or unmanned platforms operating as range extension relay nodes.

The project team has identified stovepiped systems as the source of current shortcomings. In particular, it has criticized either deficient or nonexistent network management of systems in place today. These systems will be replaced under the JP2072 with a single system for all subsystems and will be capable of dynamic bandwidth management.

Phase two may refresh some technologies introduced in phase one and could begin delivery in 2008 or 2009. However, it also will build on the capability and will incorporate throughput improvements to cope with greater demands for data as applications grow. Phase two will introduce the new capabilities to other high readiness elements of the ADF in addition to 3 Brigade.

Phase three will continue the spread of new technology throughout the ADF and refresh technologies introduced in earlier phases. Another goal is to include a tactical data distribution system for the first time.

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