Current Australian Military Communication Projects

The concept of Revolution in Military Affairs [RMA] has become a key driver behind technological change and the requirement for achieving the knowledge edge, as essential elements of successful waging of modern warfare.

5th Oct 2009


Current Australian Military Communication Projects

Current Australian Military Communication Projects

The concept of Revolution in Military Affairs [RMA] has become a key driver behind technological change and the requirement for achieving the knowledge edge, as essential elements of successful waging of modern warfare. RMA explores embracing technological and organisational change as drivers behind critical, modern war-fighting capability.

One principle of RMA is that those with superior technology will likely achieve dominance over others who have greater numbers. Environments might change rapidly and the ability to recognise the change, adapt and adequately respond is both a challenge and a key to successful 21st Century war-fighting.

Many strategists view technology as an important means of directing defence planning. This is particularly relevant when exploring issues of planning, force structure, capability and joint doctrine. RMA explores the integration of the computer age into weapons systems, command and control networks.

Regardless of the ongoing challenges of RMA, the knowledge edge and the more recent challenge of asymmetrical warfare, the Australian Defence Force [ADF] is embarking upon a number of projects to enhance its ability to communicate with its forces in the field, regardless of where they are located.

Joint Project 2072 Battlefield Communications

Communication on the battlefield and obtaining the knowledge edge has long been the dream and a must of military commanders. In military speak, it is often referred to as situational awareness, or the ability to know what is going on around you and being able to respond quickly and decisively. C4I (command, control, communications, computers and intelligence) seek to have every soldier and every vehicle connected and situated. The ADF recognised this requirement and is seeking to meet many of the common objectives as found on the modern battlefield, one of which is in the form of Joint Project 2072 Battlefield Communication Systems (Land). JP2072 is a multi-phase evolutionary design; incremental acquisition program, budgeted at approximately AS$3.5 billion over ten years, which will deliver the next generation communications architecture and systems for the ADF land element. One might consider that JP2072 is the Telstra, or communications provider, of the modern battlefield that will enable the communication of voice, data and video throughout the battlefield, and to and from headquarters wherever they might be situated.

What this actually means for the ADF is that soldiers and vehicles will be networked and linked back to headquarters via personal- and vehicle-mounted secure communication systems, laptop computers and other digital systems. One way to look at it is that the modern Australian soldier in the field will be able to broadly communicate securely in real time with fellow soldiers in the field, including senior staff almost anywhere in the world – depending upon the mission and command and control requirements.

Phase 1 will deliver the initial high priority communication infrastructure, including the use of software defined radios in the battlespace. It is closely aligned with two other projects, these being LAND 75 Phase 3.4 Battlefield Command Support Systems which seeks to provide battlefield management systems for a brigade-sized force, and elements of special operations and the Royal Australian Air Force’s [RAAFs] air field defence guards. LAND 125 Phase 3 – soldier enhancement or future soldier – is seeking to move the soldier into the digital age through embracing various technologies from futuristic uniforms, webbing, enhanced space aged weapons, day/night image intensifiers, personal communications and navigation devices.

These phases of the projects have been aligned to assist the Australian Army achieve its goal of network centric warfare brigade by 2013, with 7th Brigade (Brisbane) expected to start taking delivery of these systems from 2011.

Phase 2A is similar to Phase 1 and will be rolled out to the next army brigades, being the 1st (Darwin) and 3rd (Townsville) Brigades. One goal of Army for some time has been the hardened and network army, and JP2072 is an element ensuring this objective. Vehicles to be networked under Phase 1 include Bushmaster PMV, M113AS3/4, G-Wagons, combat support and B-Vehicles – such as Mack heavy and 4x4 Unimog trucks. Phase 2A will continue this roll-out, but will also deliver to armoured personnel carriers, ASLAV and MIA1 AS tanks.

Phase 2B is the Phase that delivers the trunking and switching infrastructure at brigade and below level, which will provide the strategic link capability with Australia for those deployed overseas. Basically, it enables the extensions of civilian, coalition and indigenous networks, such as Australia’s defence restricted and secret networks into the battlefield.

Phase 3 and 4 will take advantage of technological changes and expand the system in joint support operations.

The significance of JP2072 is such that it is further closely aligned with over 50 other projects including ships and aircraft - which adds to its complexity.

JP2072 is linked with LAND 121 Overlander which is seeking to replace almost all of the aging vehicles currently in-service with the Australian Army. JP2072 is set to digitally network all vehicles with the first vehicles to be equipped, being the Mercedes G-Wagon replacing the Land Rover series of vehicles, which have been in service since the late 1980s.

JP2008 Military Satellite Communications project is providing access to wideband gap filler satellites, and UHF military satellites, which are the transport mediums for much of the beyond-line-of-sight [BLOS] communications. JP2072 (in conjunction with JP2008) will provide varieties of satellite terminals, from small satellite communication [SATCOM] on the move terminals to high capacity strategic capabilities.

From an international perspective, the project is staying abreast of allied programs such as joint tactical radio system, future combat systems, BOWMAN, warfighter information network – tactical and land command support systems to name but a few. These programs are delivering similar capabilities, and the project will be conducting multi-national experiments to help define and prove interoperability requirements.

One perspective is to view JP2072 as providing an electronic tether for individual dismounted soldiers to their vehicles, and their vehicles to other platforms and associated networks. It is planned to provide communication with aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles and ships. The reality is that the more mobile you become the less range and capacity you are provided, hence the challenge for JP2072 is to provide a robust mobile system capable of meeting the demands of highly mobile modern forces. These self-forming and self-healing networks will not only provide secure voice communication, but also the ability to send data and in-time video.

The project will use technologies covering the full range of the radio spectrum including HF, VHF, UHF and SHF bands so communications of one form or another can be maintained, even within the most hostile environments.

The architecture is fundamentally an IP network that supports a service-orientated architecture, enabling plug-and-play of different systems, but also takes into account other unique protocols. As a project, JP2072 is driven to providing a pathway which will embrace technological advancements and developments within this field. Whatever, modern radio systems are eventually decided upon for the ADF, JP2072 will provide the system architecture upon which they will operate.

Joint Project 2047

Phase 3 Wide Area Communication Network Replacement

Joint Project 2047 Phase 3 is a Defence Capability Plan project, designed to provide major enhancements to the defence strategic communications network [DSCN]. This means improvements to the preparation for, and conduct of, military operations and the management of Defence business.

Defence requires effective communications for the conduct of military operations and for the management of its business. For development purposes, the Defence communications network is divided into two components: specialist military tactical networks and a DSCN. The DSCN includes networks at 330 defence sites throughout Australia and at selected overseas sites. This is the wide area network which links these sites and the interfaces to tactical networks and to external partners.

The 2009 Defence White Paper: Force 2030 gives priority to information superiority capabilities including strategic communications. The White Paper on Defence notes that a high-speed communication system is a key aspect of the networked force and of a fully-integrated command support system.

JP2047 Phase 3 will deliver to Defence an enhanced information communication technology [ICT] capability that supports war-fighting and business requirements.

One component of this project is its ability to be deployable. What this means is that it will be available in places where the ADF is deployed, and requires access to information as held on the DSCN. Typically, this would be at the headquarters of deployed forces. Defence uses the DSCN to support the conduct of military operations and for the management of Defence business. Defence is a complex environment where corporate systems supporting logistics, personnel and financial management, as well as strategic intelligence information have interfaces to the tactical networks or are used in supporting operations.

Notwithstanding, these systems are also used for payroll, government e-business and to support the management of a large commonwealth department.

The core of the Defence network, which links the major Defence sites, is working effectively in supporting current operations. But networks on Defence bases and establishments will soon need replacement, the interface to the tactical networks is not optimised and many projects and Defence initiatives delivering capabilities from 2012 will increase network demand. An effective network is critical to all aspects of Defence business, and improved ICT capability, efficiency and effectiveness has been incorporated into Defence’s strategic reform program. JP2047 Phase3 will deliver an enhanced DSCN by addressing these challenges from an end-to-end perspective.

JP2047 Phase3 is an enhanced network capability systems developed specifically for deployment which would connect to, and access information held on the DSCN provided by JP2047 Phase3. JP2047 Phase3 is not yet in solution development; the acquisition model and technical solutions available have not been determined.

JP 1771 Phase 1 Geometric Support

Refurbishment of Army topography

JP 1771 seeks to modernise the ability for land forces to conduct geospatial collection, production, survey operations, geospatial data management and presentation of geospatial information. This will largely be undertaken by 1 Topographic Survey Squadron, which is part of the Corps of Engineers – which has its lineage in the now disbanded Army Survey Corps.

1 Topo Survey Squadron remains the Australian Army’s primary asset for map production. In an environment where global positioning satellites are the enabler for most navigation, paper maps will still have a future within the ADF. However, many maps are now being produced as “soft” maps or geospatial “data” that allows them to be utilised electronically. It is likely that much of the future direction of dissemination of geospatial products will be as soft products. Future map production will need to address provision of both “soft” products and “hard” media like paper maps. It is likely that the need for paper maps will continue for the foreseeable future for tactical and practical reasons. JP1771 seeks to address both the need for soft and hard products across the land forces.

This capability seeks to provide the ability for land forces to produce and disseminate both digitalised or soft maps, as well as paper based maps. It is likely that many of the future command and control capabilities used by land forces will consume soft copy maps, including soft copy map products produced by the future land force survey elements. Soft copy maps and geospatial information produced by land force survey elements will also be published on standard Defence information networks, most likely as web services.

Survey work is traditionally a labourious task undertaken through the use of geometry, engineering, trigonometry, mathematics and physics thought to have originated with the ancient Egyptians when undertaking annual reviews of land after the flooding of the Nile. Large scale surveying of the land is a necessary prerequisite to map making.

JP1771 seeks to modernise the field survey equipment and geospatial data collection capability by the ADF. Use of appropriate modern technology will improve speed, accuracy and increase the automation of tasks. Whilst not all survey activities will be able to be automated, efficiencies in surveying and geospatial data collection can be achieved. Increased use of computerised modern technologies will enable survey and geospatial data to be rapidly disseminated, thus increasing the efficiency of the land forces surveying capability.

It is intended that JP1771 will deliver a variety of geospatial data collection and survey equipment that will provide appropriate capability across the range of threat environments likely to be encountered by ADF elements.

Whilst modern map making is comparatively rapid compared with the past,when the turnaround times from collection to dissemination will vary depending on the types of products, the types of task, accuracy requirement and so on. JP1771 intends to deliver a capability that provides seamless collection, production and dissemination systems that minimise delays resulting from transport, administration and manual production activities. Depending upon the task and user needs, some collection to dissemination activities are intended to be in terms of minutes and hours – rather than days and weeks.

Joint Project 2008 Phase 3H and 5B

The Australian Defence SATCOM capability consists of space-based communications payloads, the supporting payload control and monitoring systems and terminal equipment used by deployed land, aerospace and maritime forces. Additionally, Defence maintains SATCOM terminal and SATCOM anchor station infrastructure in Australia at several Defence facilities. These SATCOM capabilities are complemented by the use of commercial SATCOM services providing access to commercial payloads and the use of terminals where needed.

Defence continues to invest in SATCOM to maintain and develop both wideband and narrowband capabilities. Narrowband capabilities focus on systems operating in the UHF and L-Band spectrum. Defence wideband systems exploit Ku, X and Ka-band spectrum, and when necessary Defence complements this capability with similar commercial systems, in support of mission-specific needs.

The Australian White Paper 2009 and the Australian Defence Capability Plan highlights government’s intent to provide for Defence’s identified capability need for BLOS communications. This requirement is further defined in proposals to enhance both narrowband and wideband systems including space-based and land-based components. Joint Project 2008 is a multi-project program which will deliver the space, ground and control segments of the Australian Defence SATCOM system.

Narrowband systems are viewed as effective, in that they provide for small terminal equipment which in turn supports the high mobility requirements of land forces and air platforms. The UHF spectrum used in narrowband systems remains important because of its utility in complex physical terrain.

The information exchange requirements of deployed forces in all environments continues to increase, therefore enhanced bandwidth in wideband communications remains essential to meet this increasing need.

Accordingly, Defence has invested in the wideband global satellite [WGS] communications system in partnership with the United States. Operating in X and Ka-bands WGS will provide land, maritime and air forces with wideband SATCOM coverage over the Pacific Ocean region, throughout continental Australia and over the Indian Ocean region from now to beyond 2027.

ADF communications units employ a range of vehicle-mounted and transportable wideband terminals. These range from fully militarised or hardened systems to commercial off-the-shelf [COTS] systems and provide commanders and communications specialists with the flexibility to tailor SATCOM solutions to meet specific Defence missions. Systems include the hardened satellite terminal assemblage of the Army’s battlefield telecommunications network, which can be mounted on Army 6x6 Land Rover vehicles and are operated by specialist signal regiments and RAAF’s communications units. The gigasat compact multi-band satellite terminal is an example of a COTS transportable terminal currently employed by signal regiments and RAAF’s communications units. These terminals are complimented by a range of smaller COTS terminals and systems, such as those certified for the Inmarsat constellation. The Royal Australian Navy operates wideband SATCOM terminals on major war vessels. These systems operate in X and Ka Band.

In narrowband, the ADF employs platform-integrated L-band and UHF systems. In addition, the ADF makes increasing use of man-portable terminals across the land force in a wide range of army and air force units.

SATCOM will remain a key communications bearer supporting ADF deployed forces. As the primary BLOS bearer, SATCOM enables information exchange supporting command and control, situational awareness, logistic support, and intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance functions.

APDR at a glance