Communications and Information Systems Loom Essential for Alliance Operations

January 2000
By Col. Hans-Joachim Recke, GEA (Ret.)

Future North Atlantic Treaty Organization missions will rely extensively on information interoperability among member and nonmember nations. This will encompass combining existing military and commercial systems with emerging capabilities to provide rapidly deployable communications links.

These topics were discussed as part of the AFCEA TechNet Europe '99 symposium and exposition held in London in late fall. Military, government and information technology professionals from 31 nations, including seven Eastern European nations and Australia, Brazil and Malaysia, gathered to discuss the many aspects of communications and information systems in North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) coalition and peace support operations. In addition, two key addresses were presented by video link.

Parallel to the symposium, more than 40 companies presented technical solutions at the exhibition, which was formally opened by Lt. Gen. O.L. Kandborg, DAA, director, international military staff, NATO headquarters, Brussels, Belgium.

The exhibitor wares covered the spectrum of communications and information systems, or CIS, services and included displays from British Aerospace Defence Systems, Cisco Systems, Sun Microsystems, Litton, Lucent Technologies, Lockheed Martin, Marconi Communications, Unisys, British Telecom and Siemens. Many smaller companies were also represented such as Hardigg, Systematic, and C & S Antennas.

The general manager of AFCEA Europe, Rear Adm. Dr. Sigurd Hess, GE N (Ret.), opened the conference by recognizing the wide-reaching reforms that had taken place in the alliance as well as the fast-paced advances it has made in the field of information technology. Adm. Hess reminded the crowd that 1999 had been much less a year of anniversary celebrations than a year of important events and drastic change.

The accession of Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic as new NATO members, a new strategic concept, and a streamlined organizational structure not only provided an opportunity to reflect on 50 years of successful peacekeeping, but also an occasion to recognize the new challenges in a changed world with a growing European sense of identity, Adm. Hess suggested.

NATO's first shooting war and its presence in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo for an unforeseen amount of time were examples of the increasing emphasis on peace support operations. They also underlined the necessity for assured, timely and secure communications and information systems for NATO's coalition joint and combined operations. Despite its successful outcome, the Kosovo conflict demonstrated that the technology gap between the United States and its allies has grown to the extent that the interoperability of their forces is severely endangered. Reduced or lack of interoperability of military forces may result in operational and logistical inefficiency and failure. This eventually affects and hampers alliance member participation in the command and control process.

Adm. Hess also chaired the opening session during which he and Dr. Davras Yavuz, head of radio systems, Communications Systems Division, NATO Consultation, Command and Control (C3) Agency, looked back at 50 years of NATO history and its and information CIS evolution as well as the air defense ground environment and radar developments.

According to Gen. Kandborg in the first keynote address, as a consequence of the military missions emanating from NATO's new strategic concept and the requirement to deploy capable and interoperable forces both within and beyond the treaty area, it is essential to acknowledge the growing importance of ensuring operational interoperability within CIS.

Digitization of the battlespace was a theme that ran through many speakers' remarks. Maj. Gen. Anthony J. Raper, CBE, British Army, chief executive, U.K. Defence Communications Services Agency, related that e-commerce was merely a business application of digitization, and he took the opportunity to stress the need to demystify technology. During this session, a live video link brought Vice Adm. Sir Ian Garnett, KBE, RN, chief of joint operations at the Permanent Joint Headquarters in the United Kingdom, into the discussion. He concluded that war would always be uncertain, and military judgment would always be required to resolve those uncertainties. However, modern command, control, communications, computers and intelligence, or C4I, systems offer the potential to aid the commander. Adm. Garnett was particularly supportive of videoconferencing, which he acknowledged had become one of the most widely used and effective methods of command at the strategic and operational levels.

Nick Reffold, academic leader of the course on systems engineering for defense at Cranfield University, Royal Military College of Science, Shrivenham, United Kingdom, spoke about the application of systems engineering to organic systems, looking at joint battlespace digitization, or JBD, from a systems point of view. He concluded that JBD is an organic system for which interface between systems is key.

Adm. Manuel Acedo, SPN (Ret.), spoke about new technologies for C4I interoperability, emphasizing the need for cooperative management procedures and for a close integration of command structures, C3 processes, and CIS architectures from the beginning of the planning process.

Taking a look at NATO beyond 2000, Brig. David Lynam, MBE, British Army, director, operations requirements, U.K. Ministry of Defence (MOD), chaired the third session. Brig. Chris Holtom, commandant, Intelligence and Security Centre, U.K. Defence Communications Services Agency, examined how the provision of intelligence, particularly at the strategic level, might be enhanced by the development of an alliancewide open source program and the necessary steps for its establishment. Brig. Holtom concluded that such a program would provide a significant confidence-building measure for Partnership for Peace nations and would allow them to participate at an early stage in the alliance intelligence process. Lt. Col. Bernie Hewitt, British Army, project manager in the acquisition division of the NATO C3 Agency, spoke about the differences between planning for exercises and operations, particularly in the area of deployable CIS. From his experience in Bosnia and Herzegovina, he concluded that, "On exercise, you generally have to make do with what is in the plan. On operations, particularly if they go on for a protracted period, you tend to get more and more." One lesson from this was that new systems deployed for the first time on operations must be backward compatible with those already deployed.

Col. Dewar Donnithorne-Tait, British Army (Ret.), head of U.K. operations, Sun Microsystems Government, discussed how to connect NATO's knowledge networks and defense devices to provide decisive knowledge superiority by looking into overall design issues, architectural approaches and technical parameters.

AFCEA Southern European Regional Vice President and Hellenic Chapter President Rear Adm. (LH) Panos G. Mavraganis, HN, director, Western European Armaments Group Chair, stressed that it is essential for Europe to have a modern, efficient and competitive defense industry supported by a strong defense technological base. Presenting the second keynote speech on the common European armaments perspective, he noted that a successful follow-on is dependent on real progress in a number of areas such as the development of a common foreign and security policy, the harmonization of policies and regulations among European nations, and the establishment of a fully functional European armaments agency. This agency would take into account the interests of both large and small nations, he explained. However, Adm. Mavraganis posed the questions of whether a Europewide arms procurement agency could be set up and, if so, on what basis. "How far should we rely on Europe's own armament industry to fulfill our distinctly European operational needs, and is it capable of meeting them?" he asked.

The most probable threat to world peace today is one of instability for reasons such as modern media, lack of natural resources, a resurgence of tribal nationalism, globalization of financial markets, aspirations for a better life, and a concomitant reluctance to accept the status quo, according to Cdre. Peter Swan, RN, director, communications and information systems (Navy), U.K. MOD. In his introductory presentation as chairman of the session, Cdre. Swan set the scene for the discussion on challenges that face military CIS in the 21st century.

Cdre. Swan related that the aim must be to remove the causes of the trouble. In a conflict, the "coalition of the willing" would not be the first on the scene but would need to interact with many organizations such as the media, the United Nations High Command for Refugees and other nongovernmental organizations, rather than just the military forces. Therefore, C4I capability must be adaptable to allow for the integration and free flow of information and intelligence across political, military and civil boundaries and not be stovepiped into dedicated unique systems, he stressed.

Brig. Gen. Martin Roberts, British Army (Ret.), managing director, Cogent Defense Systems, United Kingdom, in looking at the harsh reality of unified networks for the new NATO, described some of the shortcomings in the alliance during the recent Kosovo campaign and suggested solutions that might meet the future C4I needs of the new members. He concluded that the remarkable operation of bringing 19 nations together and keeping them together required leadership and political courage. Instant, secure and reliable communications were the key elements that enabled such political and military unity.

Elbert Wells, a MITRE Corporation employee assigned to the U.S. mission to NATO, described the NATO common operating environment as a keystone for NATO interoperability. Wells is the chairman of the NATO Common Operating Environment Ad-Hoc Working Group. The NATO C3 board endorsed the NATO policy for C3 interoperability in May 1999. Its stated purpose is to "provide nations, NATO military authorities and other NATO bodies with the C3 element of the NATO interoperability framework that will support their efforts to enhance C3 interoperability and achieve standardization objectives within a coherent manageable program."

Anthony D. Patterson, managing director, Systematic Software Engineering, United Kingdom, chaired the next session on the defense industry's challenge. The first speaker, Lt. Col. Stephen D. Shively, USAF, commander, U.S. Defense Information Technology Contracting OrganizationÐEurope at Sembach Air Base, Germany, reported on his own experiences and challenges in procuring and employing commercial communications for Balkan operations. Col. Shively offered 10 contracting lessons learned that should be applied in future communications build-ups in regional conflicts.

Thomas J. Hansen, project manager, Systematic Software Engineering A/S, Denmark, spoke about extensible markup language, or XML, for military applications. He concluded that XML and its associated technologies appear to be the information exchange standard of the future, providing a foundation on top of which more complex standards can be built. XML is at the beginning of its life cycle with a number of XML-enabled commercial off-the-shelf products to become available and new XML-based standards to emerge.

Steven M. Coles, technical consultant in CIS procurement, Crew Services Limited, United Kingdom, addressed the issues of interconnection to legacy systems, collocated deployment and the need to support an ever-changing information exchange requirement. He defined a legacy system as one that has not been designed with the ability to provide a flexible external interface but that has been built only to interface to a limited number of prespecified systems. Coles described the U.K. operational joint system, which embodies the attributes of a flexible and scalable system but would not fully support coalition or NATO led operations. He concluded that the architecture of communications and information systems must converge.

Andy Trayler, director of European operations, CommPower Incorporated, United Kingdom, spoke on handling messaging migration in the 21st century. He developed a military messaging upgrade model showing the role of gateways in the modernization process and modernization efforts currently underway.

Air Cdre. Gerrit Schoonderbeek, RNLAF, deputy general manager of the NATO C3 Agency, defined the requirements for NATO CIS, which must support both political consultation and military command and control processes by secure means. This includes exchanging classified information of all forms among various national and coalition capitals and military headquarters and among military headquarters at all levels. He described the NATO CIS planning guidelines, technical features of NATO's future CIS, and CIS interoperability requirements. He concluded that traditional military command and control concepts were equally applicable for peace support operations. A tightly coupled network of joint operation centers, including deployable headquarters, must be established. To maximize the ability of technology and for cost-effectiveness reasons, commercial off-the-shelf products should be used to the maximum extent when implementing both strategic and tactical CIS. This would also include commercial services where feasible.

Lt. Col. Dr. Kim A. Langdorf, USA, project manager for the acquisition phase of the NATO post-2000 satellite project, NATO C3 Agency, reported that the current NATO IV satellite constellation will expire sometime in 2003 or 2004. NATO working groups, subcommittees and committees are busily debating the nature and shape of the future NATO satellite communications system, and the discussion within these groups is leaning toward "joining with a national program." This could take the form of purchasing outright one or two military satellites, sharing the use of military satellites or transponders, or leasing capacity from national programs.

Barry Brown and Michel Desbois, both scientists at the NATO C3 Agency, introduced the air command and control and surveillance integrated testbed developed at the NATO C3 Agency. This testbed was set up to provide a capability to develop and evaluate techniques for integrating NATO air defense systems in the new NATO nations. The testbed would provide a means to ensure interoperability and a capability for the evolution and assessment of operational capabilities. Einar Thorsen, also a scientist at the NATO C3 Agency, spoke about connecting NATO's domains, with a particular view to recent NATO operations. He described the solution deployed in the Dayton Accords Stabilization Force as well as general information about related NATO C3 Agency activities and the challenge still facing NATO in this area. Keywords included firewalls, mail guards, electronic mail, file server access, public key infrastructure and military message handling.

Cdre. Robert Howell, RN (Ret.), chaired a session concentrating on use of modern technology. Klaus Voelker, head of sales for army and information technology systems at Rohde & Schwarz GmbH, Germany, discussed a multiband, multimode, multirole tactical radio, or M3TR, as an entrance into the digital battlefield covering the whole spectrum from short wave to ultrahigh frequency band (SIGNAL, November 1999, page 55). Through optimized protocols and waveforms M3TR attained high data rates for digital voice, real-time video and visual display data. In command systems, this allowed automated data exchange.

Alex Umansky, marketing manager for NEC Australia, spoke about xDSL in specialist applications with a particular focus on unlocking the full bandwidth potential of copper. He presented an xDSL technology overview, examined strategies for its successful deployment and introduced new directions for portable xDSL systems. Umansky demonstrated that, with xDSL technology, data rates in the order of 8 megabits per second for one direction and 1.5 megabits per second in the other could be achieved in telephone copper cables. This would transform every telephone line into a powerful, multimedia-capable system offering a wide range of services, including full motion video and a multitude of fast Internet applications.

Dr. Yavuz reported on a breakthrough in non-line-of-sight secure voice tactical communications single-tone modems and 600-bits-per-second speech coding. He presented recordings of various coded speech samples, including actual off-the-air transmissions. Yavuz concluded that single-tone modems and 600-bits-per-second codecs integrated in small tactical configurations, such as manpacks developed by Harris for the Netherlands army, would now enable low-cost, non-line-of-sight communications with NATO-approved security devices. With this technology, ionospheric high frequency systems have become an important option for tactical communications. Philip McIndoo, a member of the senior technical staff at The MITRE Corporation, United States, presented an additional paper titled "NetworkCentric Warfare." He summarized the results of a publication produced by the Center for Advanced Concepts and Technology under the auspices of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for C3I. The program, focused on the national security implications of the information age, "develops the theoretical foundations to provide DOD [Defense Department] with information superiority and highlights the importance of active outreach and dissemination initiatives designed to acquaint senior military personnel and civilians with these emerging issues."

The final morning of the conference featured two additional keynote speeches. The first was from Air Chief Marshal Sir Peter Squire, RAF, air officer commander in chief, Strike Command, and commander, Allied Air ForcesÐNorthwestern Europe, who covered the national activities that need to take place before deployment, with an emphasis on the systems that he has at his disposal. These included the U.K. MOD's corporate headquarters office technology system, known as CHOTS. He explained how the system had gone beyond its initial requirement, noting that it is now deployed throughout operational sites in the United Kingdom, providing, at the very minimum, a wide area e-mail facility.

The second speech was delivered through a live video link with Adm. James O. Ellis, USN, commander in chief, Allied ForcesÐSouthern Europe, and commander in chief, U.S. Naval ForcesÐEurope, from his office in Naples, Italy. No stranger to videoconferencing, he stated that his record at the start of the Kosovo crisis had been six in one day. He drew attention to the requirement for connectivity that allowed levels of operational interoperability among the forces under his command. He added that this was particularly important for maritime forces from Partnership for Peace countries. He noted that there is still a way to go on the commercial front as well as within the military. He demonstrated this by displaying his handheld telephone that gave him Internet access in New York but not even a signal in Naples.

The first of two morning sessions was chaired by Edward Chandler, systems engineering consultant, Linkabit Wireless Incorporated, United States. Col. Peter Bingel, GEAF, chairman, NATO Frequency Management Sub-Committee, spoke about "Spectrum Pricing: A National Frequency Management Tool and a Challenge to NATO's Military Readiness." He showed that spectrum pricing in accordance with regulations from the International Telecommunications Union and the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administration offered many positive improvements to the management of and access to the radio spectrum. However, he warned, it had consequences that could pose a clear and present danger to the common defense of NATO if not properly implemented. The NATO C3 board had developed a firm position supported by both civil and military frequency managers of NATO nations to provide visiting NATO military forces and visiting national military forces of NATO nations access to radio spectrum free of charge on the basis of reciprocity. However, a question remains to be answered. Would nations follow the recommendations and enter into bilateral or multilateral agreements?

Maj. Bojidar D. Pelteshki, BUA, a research scientist at MOD Bulgaria's Defense Advanced Research Institute, presented a paper on "The Potential of Knowledge-Based Decision Support Systems for Crisis Management and Peace Support Operations." He proposed a theoretical framework to collate the real experience from peace support operations with the capacity to convert information into superior knowledge. He discussed the potential of this framework for common understanding of peace support operations based on real experience accumulation and knowledge acquisition. In the next presentation, Alex Pomphrey, business development manager, CIS Group, BAe Defence Systems, United Kingdom, and Tony Styles, head of communications systems and services, British Aerospace Defence Systems, United Kingdom, spoke about "Management of Military Communications and Information Systems for the New Millennium." While Pomphrey, an ex-naval warfare officer, represented the military user's view of communications and information systems, Styles covered the technical aspects.

In a final session led by symposium Technical Chairman Col. Hans-Joachim Recke, GEA (Ret.), four paper presentations covered interoperability and security. Andrew Graham, Systematic Software Engineering A/S, Denmark, demonstrated, that information technology interoperability is largely a planning exercise. He showed that a key challenge today is application integration with the technical ability to connect, physically and logically, different applications and transfer information from one system to another. Instead of point-to-point integration, one central integration component between applications that could handle all tasks related to creating the connections, including the transfer of data, is much more rational and flexible. Graham described a message broker providing connectivity, conversion, security, integration, interaction and process integration services. Lt. Col. Dr. Milan Lokay, CZAF, faculty member, Military Academy Brno, Czech Republic, presented a paper on "Interoperability, Security and Information Warfare" with a view to the impact of the information revolution on organizations where amorphous networks are replacing traditional hierarchies. Martin Schweisser, senior project manager, Siemens AG, Germany, spoke about "Security in Communications Networks" with an emphasis on cryptography, chip cards, a FingerTip system and firewalls. His basic findings were that with the global use of the Internet as an information highway, security strategies are indispensable. He noted that information collection is not only threatening military technology, but also civilian technology, propriety information and trade secrets, and that intelligence services are now also focusing on the collection of economic secrets, which need to be secured.

The final paper, presented by Christopher J. Rhodes, business development manager and principal consultant on information warfare for MAIT International Limited, United Kingdom, dealt with the topic "Achieving Interoperability." Rhodes effectively summarized the basic theme of the symposium, reiterating that in light of today's operational needs, improved methods for integrated system interoperability must be achieved while at the same time providing CIS with the necessary protection against information warfare.

In his closing remarks, Adm. Hess stated that the 20th TechNet Europe conference had been a success, not the least because of the venue that lent itself as much to networking opportunities as to formal conference sessions and effective layouts for the exhibitors. Highlights were the keynote speeches by Gen. Kandborg, Adm. Garnett, Adm. Mavraganis, Air Chief Marshal Squire and Adm. Ellis. As a first in TechNet Europe history, two of these speeches were transmitted via video link. Adm. Hess invited the audience to the 21st TechNet Europe, October 18-20, 2000, at the Conference Center in Prague, Czech Republic, under the general theme "Bits and Bytes--Satisfying the Essential C4ISR, Training and Simulation Systems Needs for the Atlantic Alliance and its European Defense and Security Initiative."

Col. Hans-Joachim Recke, BEA (Ret.), is technical symposium chairman for AFCEA Europe events.