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Defense

People Are the Future of Unmanned Systems

August 1, 2013
By Rita Boland

 

The U.S. Army is working to ensure the future of autonomous air platforms by reaching out to the emerging talent in the academic world. Earlier this year, soldiers signed a memorandum of understanding with the University of Alabama in Huntsville to engage students with work in this field as part of their education. The program aims to develop an innovative and prepared workforce in the future. Graduates not only will have had a more specific focus for their studies, but they also will be prepared better for the job market. Shaping studies now helps ensure that necessary skills are available to and even present in the Army later, according to officials from both the military branch and the institute of higher education.

Through the memorandum, the groups will share goals and ideas so students can work on technology while gaining critical skills. Lt. Col. Robb Walker, USA, director of external programs in the Army’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Project Management Office, explains the approach is about talking to each other and explaining to the academics what the Army is pursuing.

Software Increases 
Unmanned Craft Survivability

August 1, 2013
By George I. Seffers and Robert K. Ackerman

 

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is developing new control software to reduce the vulnerability of unmanned systems to cyber attack. This effort is relying on new methods of software development that would eliminate many of the problems inherent in generating high-assurance software.

Unmanned vehicles suffer from the same vulnerabilities as other networked information systems. But, in addition to their data being co-opted, unmanned systems can be purloined if adversaries seize control of them. This problem also applies to human-crewed systems with computer-controlled components.

If the research program is successful, then unmanned vehicles will be less likely to be taken over by an enemy. Warfighters could trust that the unmanned vehicle on which they are relying will not abandon its mission or become a digital turncoat.

This security would extend to other vulnerable systems as well. Networked platforms and entities ranging from automobiles to supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems could benefit from the research. The vulnerability of SCADA systems is well-established, but only recently has research shown that automobiles can be co-opted through their computer-controlled systems. The program’s goal is to produce high-assurance software for military unmanned vehicles and then enable its transfer to industry for commercial uses.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) program is known as High-Assurance Cyber Military Systems, or HACMS. Kathleen Fisher, HACMS program manager, says the program is aiming to produce software that is “functionally correct and satisfying safety and security policies.

“It’s not just that you’re proving the absence of a particular bad property from the security perspective,” she explains. “You’re actually positively proving that the software has the correct behavior.”

Building
 a Bigger,
 Better Pipe

August 1, 2013
By Max Cacas

 

Scientists at the U.S. Defense Department’s top research and development agency are seeking the best new ideas to provide a larger-scale mobile network to support an increasing array of bandwidth-hungry mobile computing devices for warfighters.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has issued a Request for Information (RFI) for new technical approaches that would expand the number and capacity of Mobile Ad Hoc Networks (MANETs) nodes available in the field.

“When we look at MANETs, it’s really tough to deliver networking services to more than about 100 users,” says Mark Rich, program manager, DARPA Strategic Technology Office. Those 100 users translate into approximately 50 nodes on a mobile wireless network operating in a forward location, generally supporting everything from tactical and operational systems to advanced video services. All of these functions are carried on a service that is largely dependent on highly secure digital radio systems. Once that limit is reached, network services begin to deteriorate in quality and effectiveness. To support larger deployments or to cover a greater area, military communications experts usually knit smaller networks using other available means, such as satellites.

Coping With the 
Big Data Quagmire

August 1, 2013
By George I. Seffers

 

Researchers at one of the premier national laboratories in the United States are prepared to hand the Defense Department a prototype system that compresses imagery without losing the quality of vital data. The system reduces the volume of information; allows imagery to be transmitted long distances, even across faulty communications links; and allows the data to be analyzed more efficiently and effectively.

The Persistics computational system developed at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories (LLNL) derives its name from the combination of two words: persistent surveillance. The system is designed to revolutionize the collection, communication and analysis of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) data so that warfighters do not find themselves drowning in a swamp of too much information. The ground-based system has demonstrated 1,000 times compression of raw wide-area video collections from manned and unmanned aircraft and a tenfold reduction of pre-processed images. Standard video compression can achieve only a 30 times data reduction.

The existing data processing infrastructure for national security is not designed for the amounts of information being generated by unmanned aerial systems and other platforms. In addition, the communication bandwidth supporting data transmission for air to ground and the archive storage capability are too slow to support fast-turnaround human analysis, according to LLNL researchers. “These [ISR] cameras are picking up more data than we know what to do with, and there are not enough humans on the ground to analyze every pixel,” explains Sheila Vaidya, deputy program director, defense programs, Office of Strategic Outcomes, LLNL.

Soldiers See Through Steel

August 1, 2013
By Rita Boland

Researchers are developing new ways of enabling troops inside personnel carriers to see their outside environment without increasing their vulnerability to hostile fire. The goal is to provide enhanced 360-degree situational awareness from sensors installed on a vehicle as well as from other off-board cameras in the area.

Service members sitting inside certain armor-protected military vehicles are often similar to sardines, encased in a metal box with no means for ascertaining their surroundings. These all-metal, no-window platforms put troops at a definite disadvantage, unable to eyeball threats or opportunities.

A rapid-development group is working to improve knowledge of the outside environment using a glass-pane alternative that fits onto the back door of such platforms. The team also has created a version that pulls in additional systems for even more data sharing.

The Virtual Window effort is an innovation project at the U.S. Army’s Tank Automotive Research and Development Center (TARDEC). The premise behind such initiatives is to tackle problems through innovative means faster and at less expense than standard, high-dollar research programs. In the case of the Virtual Window, an industrial designer named James Scott drew an image on the back of an infantry carrier that would show occupants the environment on the other side of the ramp. Leadership quickly took to the idea, giving researchers the go-ahead to pursue it. “We looked at how to provide situational awareness visually without putting in actual glass,” explains Andrew Kerbrat, program manager for the effort.

U.S. Air Force Races to Modernize Critical Battle Control System

August 1, 2013
By George I. Seffers

U.S. Air Force officials are upgrading the battle command system used for managing all airborne platforms, including fighters, bombers, tankers, unmanned aerial vehicles, helicopters and cruise missiles. The modernized system will provide warfighters with faster access to real-time operations and intelligence information, better planning and collaboration tools and enhanced situational awareness while dramatically reducing sustainment costs.

The Theater Battle Management Core Systems (TBMCS), which resides within an air operations center, first was fielded about 13 years ago after a five-year development effort. Technologically speaking, a lot has changed since then. The system now is being made over with modern components, improved network centricity and better graphic user interface features that will make the upgraded version faster, easier and less expensive to operate than the original. The upgrade should be completed by March 2015.

At the heart of the overhaul lies the Air Tasking Order Management System (ATOMS), which will allow commanders to plan, organize and direct joint U.S. air operations. ATOMS includes an updated command and control air operations suite that will allow warfighters to perform mission planning and re-planning quickly and efficiently and will completely replace three existing applications within TBMCS: the Theater Air Planner, the Execution Management Re-Planner and the Master Attack Planning Toolkit. “When push comes to shove, TBMCS is the most important software in the air operations center right now. It runs the air operations center. We’re updating all of the TBMCS source code, and ATOMS is the core piece of that,” explains Capt. Scott Gross, USAF, ATOMS program manager, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts.

Contract Protest Does Not Change NGEN Vision

August 1, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

 

The U.S. Navy’s Next-Generation Enterprise Network will introduce a host of new capabilities for users when it is implemented. These improvements will become apparent over time as the system’s flexibility allows for technology upgrades and operational innovation on the part of its users.

The network’s overall goals remain the same despite a protest over the contract award. However the protest is resolved, the program is designed to provide networking at less cost and with more flexibility to adjust for changes that emerge as a result of operational demand or technology improvements. These new capabilities could range from greater use of mobile technologies to virtual desktops dominating user environments.

Terry Halvorsen, Department of the Navy chief information officer, emphasizes that the user community at first will see little change when the Next-Generation Enterprise Network (NGEN) begins operation. The Navy’s goal is for a seamless changeover from the existing Navy/Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI) to NGEN. “The user community initially won’t see any differences as we move forward in NGEN,” he says. “Everything we’re doing initially should be transparent to the user, and we have good plans in place to make that happen.”

NGEN aims to serve 800,000 users, 400,000 workstations and 2,500 locations in the United States and Japan. The Navy’s Fleet Cyber Command/10th Fleet will be operating the network with full command and control. Contractor personnel will perform some hands-on activities.

4G Will Get You 10X

August 1, 2013
By Master Chief Petty Officer Chris Vertin, USA (Ret.), Lt. Col. Scott Brooks, USA, and Lt. Col. Dave Hernandez, USA

 

A new 4G capability known as JOLTED TACTICS offers tactical units up to 10 times the wireless bandwidth, data rate and delivery speed of 3G networks. The Internet protocol-based system is designed to provide robust communications to dismounted special operations forces teams and general purpose forces at the tactical level. The system leverages innovations in 4G Long Term Evolution cellular technologies, software-based encryption and mobile Ka-band spread spectrum satellite communications to rapidly deliver megabits of data to mobile, dismounted teams equipped with specially configured mobile devices such as smartphones or netbooks.

The Joint Operational Long Term Evolution Deployable (JOLTED) Tactical Cellular System (TACTICS) also features the ability for forces to securely interface directly with existing command, control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems. This will not only give them access to previously unavailable mission data but also allow them to input information, potentially giving tactical commanders a far more accurate common operational picture. Using 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE)-based technology, dismounted forces can now use applications such as streaming media, voice over Internet protocol (VoIP), email and instant messaging for immediate situational awareness.

For example, remotely deployed forces equipped with a specially configured JOLTED TACTICS 4G device can exchange large video or imagery files in seconds rather than minutes. Forces operating in urban environments in Afghanistan or other flashpoints can receive and immediately share critical location and indication and warning data in usable formats, such as map overlays of threat locations or video from an unmanned aerial vehicle operating overhead.

Marines Set the Stage for Next-Generation Network

August 1, 2013
By Robert K. Ackerman

 

The steady march toward the U.S. Navy’s Next-Generation Enterprise Network underwent a leap ahead as the U.S. Marines undertook a full transition before the contract for the new system even was awarded. The multiyear effort saw the Corps methodically absorb functions of the Navy/Marine Corps Intranet predecessor so the service was positioned for a smooth adoption of the new network.

This shift to a government-owned network required more than just a change in direction. The Corps had to achieve the transition without allowing any break in services to its Marines concurrent with deployments to Southwest Asia. It had to move network operations seamlessly across a philosophical gulf as well as a logistical one without creating a new infrastructure. And, it had to finish the transition perfectly positioned for the incorporation of the Next-Generation Enterprise Network, or NGEN.

By design, the transition planners had to aim at a hidden target. The entire transition took place before the contract for NGEN was awarded (see page 53), so they had no idea what the network would resemble. They needed to estimate what the winning bidder—whichever team it would be—would configure as a cost-effective, government-owned and -operated enterprise network. Then, the planners had to design a transition that would lead the Corps to that envisioned destination without losing any functionality along the way.

On June 1, the multiyear effort largely was completed. Brig. Gen. Kevin J. Nally, USMC, director of Command, Control, Communications and Computers (C4) and chief information officer (CIO) for the Marine Corps, lauds the results. “The transition effort went very, very well,” he states, crediting the skill of the personnel involved for its successful outcome. Their knowledge, as well as their ability to adapt and overcome hurdles, were key to the transition program.

All Aboard for Joint Information Environment

August 1, 2013
By George I. Seffers

 

Despite small pockets of resistance, officials across the U.S. Defense Department and military services support the convergence of multiple networks into one common, shared, global network. Lessons learned from the theater of operations indicate the need for the joint environment, which will provide enterprise services such as email, Internet access, common software applications and cloud computing.

That was the consensus from a wide range of speakers and panelists at the June 25-27 AFCEA International Cyber Symposium in Baltimore. The Joint Information Environment (JIE) was a major topic of discussion. Lt. Gen. Mark Bowman, USA, director of command, control, communications and computers, J-6, the joint staff, indicated that the joint environment is his highest priority and described it as the way to the future. “We have no choice. We have to be interoperable day one, phase one, to plug into any operation anywhere in the world, whether it be for homeland defense, disaster relief here in the United States or some combat operation somewhere around the world with coalition partners,” Gen. Bowman declared.

Lt. Gen. Susan Lawrence, USA, Army chief information officer (G-6), called the JIE “absolutely essential,” and indicated that it will better allow warfighters to deploy “on little notice into any austere environment.”

Teresa Salazar, deputy chief, Office of Information Dominance, and deputy chief information officer, U.S. Air Force, said she saw the need for the JIE while in the desert, where every service and every “three-letter agency” came in with its own network, which led to vulnerabilities and a host of complications.

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