Spain Boots Up Military Network

September 2008
By Henry S. Kenyon

The Spanish army is upgrading its command and control systems with an integrated set of capabilities. The ne.on system, developed by Amper Systems, Madrid, will provide the military with battlefield management, blue force tracking and virtual training.
Battle management applications, tools, provide land forces with greater interoperability, combat capability.

A multifunction command and control system is providing the Spanish army with increased operational flexibility. The software application contains several discrete applications that form a network-centric information sharing battlefield network. Parts of the system are already in service, with new tools and components readying for deployment.

The ne.on family of command, control, communications, computers and intelligence (C4I) systems is designed to provide an integrated set of tools and capabilities for warfighters. Developed by Amper Systems, Madrid, Spain, ne.on consists of several components: ne.on C4I, the overarching software architecture environment in which the other applications operate; a battlefield force tracking (BFT) system for blue force identification; a battle management system (BMS) for command and control of mechanized units; an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capability; and SIM, a battlefield training simulator.

Gonzalo de Arechaga Tarruel, Amper’s C4I product marketing manager, notes that ne.on C4I is still in development. He says the first version of the system will be ready by the end of the year but cautions that the Spanish Ministry of Defense (MOD) will probably delay its deployment. The system’s core software framework is scheduled for completion by the end of the year. It will be fused with software tools and a synchronization mechanism. Arechaga explains that ne.on C4I and its various applications were built to Spanish and Swiss military specifications. He adds that Amper also developed the Swiss army’s command and control (C2) system.

Ne.on C4I consists of hardware and software designed to serve all echelons from the strategic level down to brigades. The application’s synchronization mechanism is a self-organizing and self-repairing tool that allows units to share tactical and operational data for enhanced situational awareness. It creates a common operational picture by consolidating information from other units and sensors. The capability is designed to ease the command and control burden of simultaneously managing several operations. Ne.on C4I is designed for use in headquarters environments via a local area or wide area network. It runs a variety of distributed applications and tools across a service-oriented architecture. A Web portal consolidates incoming information for analysis and distribution.

The system provides a set of applications and tools to manage a range of missions, such as operational planning, order of battle, mission tasking, logistics, fire support and intelligence. Additional features include a situational map with an integrated geospatial information system (GIS), a common directory for all applications, an integrated military message handling system for headquarters needs and a set of system administration tools.

Amper has developed a new software framework with supporting tools and applications, Arechaga explains. He says the framework helped develop the architecture for the C4I system. This new system includes tools and a services capability to design small components and their interactions. Amper has used the architecture to develop applications such as the BMS. A higher-echelon version of BMS also provides C2 for deployable and fixed headquarters.

A version of the ne.on battle management system (BMS) is already in service with the Spanish army. The BMS provides Spanish Leopard II main battle tanks with a command and control capability and enhanced situational awareness.
The BFT application is designed to reduce fratricide by integrating identification, friend or foe and tracking information from the Spanish army’s Thales PR4G tactical radio-based Fastnet networks. The tracker can operate over low-bandwidth links and can use almost any Internet protocol-based data or combat radio network. Vehicle commanders can access data via a touch-screen terminal. The system provides geographical map data and friend-or-foe identification from all other ne.on BFT nodes. It is interoperable with other force tracking systems. The system features an embedded text messaging capability plus predefined and configurable alarms.

Tactical C2 and situational awareness for vehicles is provided by the ne.on BMS. The first versions of this system were fielded in 2003. It operates by providing vehicle commanders with force tracking data, information exchange capabilities, vehicle status data and immediate target information. Two versions of the BMS are available, one for mobile operations and the other for static command posts. Operating on ne.on’s C4I network, the BMS can access and use many of that system’s applications and tools.

Intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance (ISTAR) functions are integrated via Amper’s ne.on ISR application. A NATO network-enabled capability-based system, it allows ISTAR sensor platforms to share information with each other and with command posts. Developed for use in both military and civil emergency missions, ISR has a publish and subscribe mechanism that collects data from sensor platforms and publishes it for a set of subscribers. Requested data can be programmed by time or activated by events. Information collected from the system can appear in near-real time or be recorded and processed.

A network-enabled training capability is provided by the ne.on SIM application. SIM allows units to conduct training in a virtual environment. The simulation system has three modes: planning, exercise and after-action review (AAR). The planning mode is designed for a single user and is intended to help commanders analyze a course of action while planning an operation. The exercise mode is a multi-user online simulation that allows several command posts to fight each other simultaneously. Arechaga notes that Amper is developing new types of unit movement and other options such as a tool to calculate combat losses for simulated battles. A referee can modify battlefield conditions during the course of the exercise. The AAR tool permits commanders to debrief personnel after a completed operation. It can be used to evaluate decisions made during the exercise.

The BFT force tracking system is also awaiting delivery to the Spanish army. Arechaga says that Amper plans to deliver the entire system in early 2009. Amper is also applying Spanish MOD requirements for the BMS, C2 and force tracking systems. The company is working with Switzerland to modify the BMS and SIM systems for that nation’s requirements. Ne.on is designed to comply with a range of NATO standards. Arechaga notes that the BMS and the C2 system were tested at the Combined Endeavor and Coalition Warrior Interoperability Demonstration exercises this year. Both meet NATO interoperability requirements, he adds. 

The latest version of ne.on replaces older versions in use by the Spanish military. Several Spanish army applications, such as an artillery fire support system, also are connected to the C4I network. This connectivity allows the artillery system to share data with Amper software tools, Arechaga says. 

He adds that the Spanish MOD would like to rebuild its existing C2 systems or completely insert them into ne.on. He explains that the insertion would include a variety of old stovepiped systems that cannot fully interoperate without being embedded into C4I. However, he cautions that the Spanish MOD has not made a formal decision on this matter.

Sometime in the next three to four years, Arechaga predicts that the Spanish MOD will need a new C2 system for joint operations. This new architecture will require maritime and airborne systems to be completely interoperable with the land and joint C2 systems. He says Amper’s goal is to increase this future system’s functionality so that it can reach the highest echelons for C2 and joint operations. The company is already working on this effort, he notes.

Amper has supplied the Spanish military with C2 systems over the years. Earlier versions of the BMS, called SIMACET (Spanish command and control system for the land army), are in service with the Spanish army. A version of the system also exists for the Spanish marine corps. The company also developed another BMS version, called LINCE, for the Spanish army’s Leopard II main battle tanks. This system links the vehicle’s weapons system into a C2 network.

The latest version of ne.on C4I incorporates all of these existing systems in an interoperable architecture. The company also has designed a new framework that allows the military to create a more accurate data model. This plug-and-play capability allows users to select a variety of models to include in the system without a major rebuild of the architecture every time a new application is inserted. Arechaga adds that clients can buy the source code for the system. This choice makes it easier for customers to troubleshoot their software themselves. Customers also can buy the software tool Amper uses to design new components.

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