C4I: Saab connects with NATO | ADM Nov 09
This is what is happening in the comms standards area.
Daniel Caon | Adelaide
The land-line telephone is the ultimate expression of interoperability.
Over the years, most countries have agreed on standards so you can now talk to almost anyone in the world.
However from a military perspective, these standards are insecure, controlled by a third party and only available on land.
Radio communications can fill this gap, and in the commercial world, mobile phones have filled some of the gaps, yet continue to suffer the same constraints.
If you were to bring your own secure radio so you could talk to anyone else who had the same secure radio, you would have overcome the previously mentioned issues, but created others:
• everyone needs the same encryption;
• everyone needs similar radios;
• everyone has to be within range of each other.
We can solve some of these issues by spending money to purchase equipment and integrating it.
But the use of voice is prone to errors as there are fallible humans at each end and humans can only process a small amount of information within a given time period.
While voice is unlikely to be replaced, some aspects of the information transfer can be passed to mission systems or command-and-control (C2) systems.
This is where an interoperable Tactical Digital Information Link (TADIL) can help.
For decades now, the Saab 9LV C2 architecture has been flexible enough to allow various forms of TADILs to be integrated.
The Swedish origins of 9LV meant that Swedish national data links were the first to be integrated.
Other specific TADILs were later integrated for various customers, again underscoring the flexibility of 9LV.
However, the path to US and NATO interoperability began in the early 1990s when Saab was awarded the Anzac-ship combat management system contract.
The Anzac-ship contract was to integrate Link-11 only, which at the time was the most commonly used TADIL and the one best suited to the Navy.
It was widely used by the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and partner nations.
Furthermore, personnel were well trained in its use.
And moreover, its use of high-frequency (HF) radio waves meant the signal could travel beyond line of sight (BLOS), as far as 400 nautical miles.
However, Link-11 had, and still has, several shortcomings:
• it has a low bandwidth, about 2 kbit/s;
• it can be easily jammed as it uses a single frequency;
• it requires a central controller that must be within range of all participants;
• the data definitions are not rich enough to convey the higher information content available today;
• the number of participants is limited;
• a higher accuracy of data is now desired.
In the 1990s, a new TADIL, Link-16, was defined that overcame all of these limitations.
But the three advantages listed above for Link-11 were not fulfilled:
• Link-16 was not widely used within the ADF nor partner nations;
• few ADF personnel were trained in its use;
• Link-16's use of the ultra-high frequency (UHF) band meant it could not communicate Beyond Line Of Sight (BLOS).
So Link-11 still has life in it and is expected to be in full operational use well beyond 2015 despite being scheduled to be phased out from that point by the US and other nations, including Australia.
But more was needed.
To address these issues, between 2002 and 2008, Saab in Australia as a member of the Anzac Ship Integrated Materiel Support Alliance, was involved in studies and investigations into the best method for upgrading the Anzac ship fleet to be multilink interoperable.
Saab conducted a worldwide market survey in August 2004 and promulgated a request for information (RFI), the responses to which allowed Saab to establish relationships with most of the international suppliers of TADIL equipment including Northrop Grumman (USA), Aerosystems International (UK), TCG (USA), ISI Hellas (Greece), Rockwell Collins/ANZUS (USA), IBM UK/ATOS Origin (France), Ultra Electronics (UK) and ViaSat (USA).
Since then, Saab has partnered with ISI Hellas to perform interoperability testing on the Göteborg Class for the Swedish Navy, with TCG to perform Link-16 demonstrations of our systems, and with ANZUS to perform variable message format (VMF) demonstrations.
Saab maintains contact with these suppliers through international forums such as the NATO Data Link Working Group and the International Data Link Society.
More data avenues
The requirements for a multi-link Anzac ship were extensive and included not only Link-11 and Link-16, but also VMF as this was an emerging TADIL message standard that was being used more and more by the Army.
And since Link-16 cannot transmit BLOS due to its use of UHF, range extension via satellite was desired.
Thus the Joint Range Extension Application Protocol (JREAP) was added as a requirement.
Due to the depth and breadth of the requirements, and the outcome of a Saab-funded research-and-development program, a decision was made to purchase specialist TADIL hardware and software, realised by a data-link processor (DLP).
This DLP would then interface to the ship's combat management system (CMS).
The Royal Australian Navy was aware that to be truly interoperable, a DLP is not enough - a fully integrated CMS would also be required (the current Saab CMS onboard the Anzac ships has a fully integrated Link-11 capability and has been in-service since 1996).
This ensures not only the interoperable exchange of messages according to recognised joint standards, but also that the human machine interfaces and capabilities of the CMS complete the end-to-end interoperability chain.
So while Saab would upgrade the 9LV CMS, a request for tender (RFT) for a DLP for the Anzac class was issued and responses were received in February 2006.
After an extensive evaluation that included Government and Military stakeholders, Northrop Grumman was selected as the preferred supplier and subsequently contracted in March 2009.
The upgraded Saab 9LV CMS, together with the Northrop Grumman DLP, will likely make the Anzac and Canberra classes of ships the only fully integrated platforms in the world with this list of TADIL capabilities - on a par with the US's Common Link Integration Processing program which includes:
• Link-11 for legacy and BLOS comms;
• Link-16 for coalition interoperability;
• VMF for interoperability with land forces;
• JREAP-A and -B for full reach-back via satellite;
• JREAP-C for connectivity to Global Command and Control System;
• JREAP-C for connectivity to other on board common operating pictures;
• Link-22 expandability to meet future requirements.
While the two classes of ships will have equivalent equipment, they will be utilised for different missions.
For example the Anzac class will utilise VMF for Naval Gunfire Support, whereas the Canberra class will use VMF as an aid to controlling the Army's watercraft.
So what of the future?
In 2005, in Sydney, at the International Data Link Symposium, CMDR Mick Stewart, RANR, stated that Australia would make no decision on Link-22 until 2010.
In October 2009, the US was to make a major funding decision to commence work on Link-22 in 2010.
Both Finland and Greece are now specifying Link-22 as a requirement on their naval upgrade programs.
Where does that leave the RAN's Anzac and Canberra classes?
The Northrop Grumman DLP can install the Link-22 System Network Controller (SNC) software; the Data Terminal Set supplied by DRS to both classes of ships is able to take a Link-22 Signal Processing Controller (SPC) card; the HF radios are already compatible with the Link-22 waveforms and the Link-22 crypto, the Link Level COMSEC (LLC) device can be purchased by the RAN.
It appears 2010 will be a busy year for Link-22.
Daniel Caon is a Systems Engineering Manager at Saab Systems.
History of Interoperability for RAN Anzac Ships
When the Anzac Ship program was awarded to Saab in Australia in the early 1990s, Saab was responsible for provided an integrated Link-11 solution in accordance with the US Navy's OPSPEC 411.2 standard.
This became operational with the first ship, HMAS Anzac, in 1996.
As Saab in Australia provides the in-service support for the Anzac ships, the ships were subsequently upgraded to OPSPEC 411.3 (and parts of MIL-STD-6011).
This made the Anzac Ships completely interoperable with all US Naval Link-11 platforms.
In 2003, the Link-11 component was upgraded to support the operational use of the long range Harpoon Surface-to-Surface Missile.
The On Board Training System was also upgraded to include Link-11 operator training, to support simulated scenarios when the Harpoon is used.
The integrated Link-11 Combat System solution used on the Anzac and Tarif-45 became part of Saab's global library of capabilities within the 9LV product architecture.
This allowed Saab to respond rapidly to an urgent request in late 2005 from the Swedish Navy to make their Göteborg Class vessels NATO interoperable, whereby a Link-11 solution was installed inside six months to allow the Swedish navy to participate in a Mediterranean task force.
In support of these programs, a Saab R&D program in 2003 produced a Link-11 Simulator, consisting of Data Terminal Set and Participating Unit simulators, to assist in software development, Man-Machine Interface requirements and pre-delivery system testing.
This simulator can also be connected to real time hardware to provide system installation testing and troubleshoot integration issues.
An ongoing program at Australia's Defence Science & Technology Organisation (DSTO) is their Virtual Maritime System.
In 2003 Saab provided a High Level Architecture (HLA) compliant variant of the Link-11 Simulator for the Virtual Maritime System which allows DSTO to model operational scenarios with multiple interoperable platforms.