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Neil's Blog Delivering Enterprise to the Edge
18th Aug 2020
“Delivering the Enterprise to the Edge….”
Enabling Contingency Planners, High Readiness Units and Small Teams
Most of my military career was spent leading organisations delivering communications services. As a provider I understand what matters to commanders and users at many levels. But I was also a user and, for example, spent a busy period as an Operational Planner / Team Lead in the high readiness UK Joint Force Headquarters (JFHQ), deploying across the globe reviewing contingency plans and exercising for rapid operational deployments – including to the Lebanon, Malawi, the Falkland Islands and across Europe.
NSSLGlobal's Deployable Multi-Domain Flyaway Node (MD-FAN) shown with the new AP100 (Ku/Ka/X) one button operated terminal
Key to these roles were two main things in command and control terms:
- Firstly, being able to deploy as a small team (maybe 2 to 5 people) with enough equipment to be able to access defence information securely from anywhere – whether it be hotel rooms, embassy buildings, or old airfields – and to do so in a relatively low-profile way to reduce any local frictions etc especially if travelling in civilian clothes.
- Secondly, being able to convert the above rapidly into a small-scale military deployment or to deploy from the outset as a military early entry HQ which might require fully ruggedised capability and more “tactical” comms, and perhaps also lead to multiple “points of presence” such as the establishment of mounting bases and areas to collect evacuees etc.
Both these tasks clearly need the delivery of IT able to access multiple networks for connectivity “back to” the UK (or relevant other nation). These operational planning roles usually also involve wider government engagements and working with in-country organisations, so access to the internet and strategic information is key, as are communications for the team to operate safely in a local area, or more widely and to communicate to in place embassy teams and other organisations. So satphones and Push to Talk (PTT) systems have a part to play potentially alongside classic military radio systems.
These requirements are the same for many nations operational planning teams, or indeed several government departments who need to deploy teams at home or abroad with secure, easy to use communications solutions.
The systems we offer at NSSLGlobal are tailored to these demands, developed to meet defence needs and being further developed due to our engineering teams deep experience with defence and government customers. These include:
- The Multi-Domain Flyaway Node (MD-FAN) - a small form, ruggedised communications solution that includes WiFi and 4G connectivity (via a tablet device), telephones and secure access for internet, operating at Official-Sensitive, Mission-Secret and Secret, all in one TEMPEST approved box at 21Kg (without the satcom terminal). It can be used securely over local internet access (eg in a hotel or embassy), or via L band (which can be carried in the lid). Together with the required defence laptops, it is a one stop solution for a small recce or planning team.
- For early-entry tasks Size, Weight and Power (SWaP) is a key factor, but greater throughput is needed to cater for more users and greater information demand. For this the AP100 broadband satcom terminal, capable of up to 40Mbps, with a built in SatLINK modem and significant flexibility of mode offers one button set up, auto-point, can be remotely supported over built in 4G and can work in Ku, Ka and X band, all in a 19kg solution (so able to be carried between a couple of users/operators backpacks or in an airline checkable case)
These small form factor, high capability packages can be augmented by Radio over IP (RoIP) or wider secure mobility solutions, and offer training teams and smaller units robust and reliable communications without the need to deploy lots of specialist people and equipment. This is a key factor when defence engagement and training tasks are on the increase, as is pressure on manpower, and teams need to keep well informed whilst not being exposed to hostile intelligence action by relying on local services or insecure solutions.
The UK specific versions of these deployable nodes are now widely used by UK MOD, and the MOD have recently taken delivery of our first batch of AP100s to provide a complete capability package. We also field lightweight MissionLINK systems using the Iridium Certus® service, offering truly global LEO connectivity and a number of lightweight and handheld satphone solutions.
Looking at the challenges I faced as a communications provider and also operational user, and at the challenges facing defence users today, these systems are both so much more advanced, user friendly (and smaller!!) than the systems of the past.
Director – Defence and Space Programmes
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