Home >> January 2012 Edition >> Intel: The Impact Of Airborne Technology
Intel: The Impact Of Airborne Technology
by Karl Fuchs, Vice President of Technology, iDirect Government Technologies (iGT)

Looking back on 2011, the advances in speed and throughput of SATCOM signals have resulted in significant breakthroughs for airborne satellite communications. Similar to when battery technology enabled smaller military communications packs in support of the warfighter, technological airborne innovations are adding value to help the military meet its missions for both homeland security and disaster support. Airborne’s achievements include the ability to upload full-motion video while in flight, giving the military a bird’s eye view for intelligence, surveillance and recognizance. Airborne communications can be used for command assignments, target information imagery, and imagery of natural and man-made disasters.

FuchsFig1 Successful airborne testing with the leading government agencies and the military this year has paved the way for next-generation, secure airborne video, voice and data communications. This year saw many organizations deploy airborne missions that standardized on iDirect Government Technologies (iGT) network equipment to provide service. Feedback from customers indicates that they are amazed with the technological advances that have led to such high data rates approaching 14Mb/s off a moving aircraft.

Since airborne SATCOM was used in 2010 to send video images of the extent of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and to track where the oil was spreading in the Gulf of Mexico, made possible by an iGT secure satellite communications backbone, more improvements have been made. These include the release of version 3.0 of iDirect software that encompasses a sophisticated Communications on the Move (COTM)/airborne set to support full-motion video, increased data transmission speeds, and antenna control for automatic beam switching and the building of an iGT airborne platform.

Along these lines, iGT will deliver two e850mp series satellite router airborne enclosures — a standard 19-inch rack-mount unit and an ARINC 600 enclosure — that will enable the e850mp Series Satellite Router Board to integrate with satellite data from various Ku-, Ka- and X-band airborne antennas. The e850mp router will provide a much-needed performance increase across all band communications throughout the military aircraft fleet to meet the growing demand for airborne communications.

In addition to airborne, the massive Joint User Interoperability Communications Exercise (JUICE), an annual worldwide exercise sponsored by the Executive Agent Theater Joint Tactical Networks and hosted by the U.S. Army CECOM Life Cycle Management Command Software Engineering Center at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, and the Coalition Warrior Interoperability Demonstration (CWID), a Joint Chiefs of Staff-directed event that evaluates cutting-edge technologies and capabilities for information sharing, highlighted many MILSAT technologies in a joint task force environment. COTM demonstrations showed how military vehicles can be transformed into high-speed broadband-enabled networks, capable of supporting Internet, voice, data and video services, and bringing that same functionality to troop ruggedized laptops and IP phones.

AVL_ad_MSM0112 At JUICE, iGT focused on the four tiers of the tactical edge of the joint information environment: Fixed centers, mobile centers, mobile platforms and dismounted users. Testing in which iGT participated included:

• United States Army Pacific Command (USARPAC) validation of network operation and communications interoperability while on the move

• Air Force, Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard operation of Theater Deployable Communications (TDC) Initial Communications Element (ICE) v3.0 Hub/Spoke Satellite Architecture

• National Guard Joint Incident Site Communications Capability (JISCC) system participation

• Riverbed and LifeSize third-party product interoperability and performance testing

This year saw iGT debuting new transmission security (TRANSEC) version 2.3 software, which is architected with guidance from National Security Agency requirements and includes over the air re-keying.

This latest edition provides the highest level of security available in modems. Additionally, iGT released a FIPS 140-2 Level 2 hardware platform. These routers meet government and Department of Defense (DoD) requirements for security, providing fast, reliable, quality of service-enabled connections for COTM.

The iGT router “single box” solution includes a satellite modem, Internet Protocol (IP) router, optional encryption, transmission control protocol optimization over satellite and quality of service/prioritization. The e850mp easily integrates into a portable, very small aperture terminal solution, delivering always-on broadband capabilities into smaller form factors that support data, voice and video connectivity in highly mobile military and government applications.

Managing Today’s Networks
An inroad in 2011 was the introduction of SatManage web-based software tools that integrate, monitor and automate hybrid networks and Network Operations Center (NOC)-based applications. For integrated, satellite-based military and emergency response networks, such tools enable agencies to transform how they manage complex deployments, resulting in stronger network performance, faster response times and more secure communications.

FuchsFig2 SatManage Standard and SatManage Enterprise editions enable any network operator to streamline NOC operations, enhance customer visibility and provide a higher level of service and responsiveness, improving the overall efficiency of their network operations. NOC technicians can easily and proactively identify problem areas and initiate automated trouble-shooting and fault-management activities to solve network performance issues in real time. A comprehensive range of visual correlation tracking and reporting tools, and a centralized monitoring dashboard, provide immediate visibility into network performance so operators can rapidly identify, respond to and prevent service degradation. SatManage offers intuitive customer management tools and portal interfaces that provide enhanced communication, reporting and network visibility to customers to improve satisfaction.

Across the MILSAT industry, new hardware is making a difference in security as well as TRANSEC and FIPS being incorporated into offerings. Also evident is the increase in bandwidth and higher data capabilities. These improvements industry-wide will help the military in the battlefield and when responding to disasters such as hurricanes, flooding and other events.

On The Horizon
Within the next year, iGT will be positioned to better serve MILSATCOM customers with the development of smartphone applications for the commissioning of remotes in the field. What this means is that the workload of soldiers in the field will decrease as they will be able to bring remotes into a network without a full options file.

This mobile application for remote configuration and management speeds the deployment of remotes and simplifies the commission of them as well as the monitoring of them. Called iCommand, this new app will be used to manage iDirect satellite routers and provide remote operators with the capability to monitor statistics and perform various remote functions from a smart phone. iCommand functions include:

– Downloading/uploading options files
– Creating basic options files
– Upgrading/downgrading software
– Remote commissioning
– TRANSEC key configuration
– Manual beam selection capabilities

iCommand allows a remote operator to commission an iDirect satellite router without the use of a PC. The remote commissioning function allows the remote operator to put up a continuous wave carrier or a pseudo noise carrier at a designated frequency and power. The remote commissioning function also includes a signal meter and a look-angle calculator. The operator can upgrade or downgrade the software on the remote modem, as well.

As can be seen by the MILSAT accomplishments achieved this year, and as the solutions gained through iGT technology progress, advances are helping warfighters to improve their tactical and communications skills in the battlefield environment.

FuchsHead Author’s Bio
Karl Fuchs is Vice President of Technology for iDirect Government Technologies (iGT), a wholly owned subsidiary of VT iDirect, Inc., that delivers secure satellite-based voice, video and data applications with anytime and anywhere connectivity in the air, at sea and on land. iGT’s satellite IP solutions are used for critical communications ranging from force protection, logistics, situational awareness, disaster recovery and emergency response; www.idirectgt.com. Fuchs can be reached at kfuchs@idirectgt.com.