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Defense Programs Carry On Norse Explorer Tradition

October 2000
By Clarence A. Robinson, Jr.

Vikings set sail into the digital realm.

A new Internet protocol military encryption system from Norway is being targeted for marketing to Scandinavian and new North Atlantic Treaty Organization nations. Developed for Norway’s Ministry of Defense, this system provides end-to-end communications security using an Atlantic alliance algorithm and features a smart card removable cryptographic ignition key, operator password and tamper-proof protection.

Known as the TCE 621 IP cryptographic device, this system is believed to be one of only two such systems available in the marketplace. However, the other one, from General Dynamics, is not available for export outside the United States, according to Norwegian officials. They add that delivery of the TCE 621 recently got underway to some North Atlantic Treaty Organization nations.

“With a shrinking defense budget in most European nations, there is less money available to develop cryptographic equipment. This means that fewer countries are developing their own encryption systems,” Svein Barlund says. He is a senior systems engineer for NORCOM, an Oslo-based division of Thomson-CSF. Most of the division’s work is accomplished in cooperation with Norway’s Ministry of Defense and in nearby Scandinavian countries.

The TCE 621 is designed to provide low-cost security to individual users or groups connected to Internet protocol (IP)-based networks. The system allows users to operate at different classification levels sharing the same wide area network, Barlund explains. The encryption device supports both current Ipv4 and future Ipv6 protocol standards. This system protects communications between end and intermediate systems by adding end-to-end security to the transmission control protocol, or TCP. All of the security services are provided by a specified encapsulation security protocol (ESP), which rides on top of IP.

Online, over-the-network security management of the TCE 621 can be performed from a TCE 671 security management center. This center supports functions that include key generation and distribution, access control management, audit and alarm collection. When the TCE 621’s smart card key is removed, the equipment becomes unusable and unclassified.

NORCOM also produces a multifunction terminal (MFT) for Norwegian army forward observers and command, control and intelligence. This is a pocket-sized, handheld multifunctional terminal designed for tactical applications and developed in concert with the Norwegian Army Materiel Command. The MFT, which has already undergone field trials, is considered state-of-the-art rugged equipment for the digitized battlefield, Barlund claims.

Designed to meet the technical and operational requirements of front-line users, the MFT offers real-time information for control of sophisticated weapons systems. Key features include a graphical user interface, a graphical information system and an embedded global positioning system receiver.

In addition to the encryption system and the MFT, NORCOM also furnishes the Series 9000 army tactical network, the principal tactical field communications network for the Swedish army. The company’s Norwegian defense digital network is a countrywide secure infrastructure for national defense. A compact autonomous tactical switch, called the TAS300, is part of a third-generation family of switches designed in accordance with the EUROCOM D/1 standard. This is the only standard for tactical area networks.

The tactical area network is based on the TAS300, a robust nonblocking switch with operational integrated bulk encryption. With the TAS switching system, it is possible to establish meshed networks of several hundred switches. With the flexibility of the TAS300, Barlund explains, both small trunk nodes with three to four radio links and large nodes with more than 10 links can be established. The switch contains up to eight time division multiplexing ports and can be easily installed in several trunk node vehicles to distribute the switching function and increase survivability and mobility of the node. One part of the node can move to a new location while the other keeps existing links open.

Available trunk bit rates for TAS300s are 256, 512, 1,024 and 2,048 kilobits per second. Packet switch functions are integrated, and connections between these integrated packet switches are automatically established on all trunks with bit rates of up to 512 kilobits per second. Forward error correction is used on these packet switched trunks with effective bit rates up to 307.2 kilobits per second. Trunks are mainly established using multichannel line-of-sight radio relay equipment.

SYSCOM is the overall network management system for the TAS tactical network. It provides a hierarchical structure for full control of the communications network at node, brigade, division and corps levels.

NORCOM also provides an array of related network switching, tactical mobile communications, information security, network management, infrastructure communications and message handling systems to a number of customers in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Technologies include asynchronous transfer mode, multimedia, IP, X.25 and X.400 protocols, cryptographic algorithms and sensor processing. The emphasis of NORCOM is on systems architectures, switching, information processing and security that leads to military decision support, fire control and network management.