Swift and Sure Future Communications

In recent months Australia’s spy agencies had intercepted and analysed messages from within the Kamerian Defence Force, (yes, it’s that old foe again!). There seemed to be a plan evolving for Kamerians to take control of the Ord River region of Western Australia to relieve shortages of fresh water and land for food in their homeland. On October 31st, just after midnight, the JORN receiver site at Laverton WA received over-the-horizon radar reflections from the Leonora JORN transmitter, indicating a highly unusual number of vessels close together in Lombok Strait. Those radar images were immediately sent to RAAF Base Edinburgh. An RAAF Triton UAV, flying at over 50,000 feet, was re-directed and took infra-red images which identified that it was a seven ship fleet passing through the Strait. Acoustic analysis on board a Collins Class submarine in the waters off Lombok Strait suggested these were Kamerian Navy ships. The sub surfaced to periscope depth in early dawn and took visual images of the Kamerian task group moving south. It comprised a lead destroyer, three frigates, two large amphibious support ships and a combat supply ship.

This joint sensor information and analysis was fused to form a Common Recognised Operational Picture (CROP) at HQJOC Bungendore, NSW. An ADF command decision was taken to deploy assets immediately in defence of the Ord River region. Orders and the CROP were sent to HMAS HOBART, an AWD transiting from Singapore to Fleet Base West, HQ 1Bde at Robertson Barracks, NT and RAAF NORTHROC at Tindal, NT.

HOBART was diverted at full speed to intercept the Kamerian task group. A forward based RAAF 2 Sqn E-7A Wedgetail was despatched to exercise Command and Control over the potential area of operations. A flight of four F/A-18G Growlers for electronic warfare jamming, supported by a KC-30A tanker, was put on 15 minutes notice at Tindal. 6 Sqn Super Hornets, armed with anti-shipping missiles, were instructed to deploy from their Amberley base to Tindal, supported by another KC-30A tanker. Troops from 1 Brigade were loaded into 5 CH-47F Chinooks to move them closer to a potential amphibious landing site. C-27J and C-130J air lift planes loaded with extra troops, limited vehicles, ammunition and supplies were to be despatched to selected airstrips. The CROP from all sensors and networked communications gave all personnel, assets, and headquarters, the same real-time information and their orders in readiness to execute command decisions.

As a Kamerian ship’s helicopter finally detected the submarine’s presence, HOBART came within their radar range, and a Wedgetail aircraft overflew their task group, they realised they had lost all element of surprise and slowly turned, heading back home through Lombok Strait.

Unlikely? Hopefully yes, as a real life threat. But the ADF is aiming to have all of these communications networked capabilities within a few short years.

In a hundred years we have gone from trench warfare to network-centric warfare (NCW). Instead of the call to attack, by ‘going over the top’, being a whistle blown in the deafening silence following the lifting of an artillery barrage, today’s warfighter receives his or her orders through headphones or on a screen via secure radio communications.


Swift and sure communications are the key to NCW, which relies on a secure information network. The hypothetical Kamerian example above demonstrates the three basic NCW building blocks.

First is the range of land, sea, air and space real-time sensors whose information is analysed, local knowledge added, and fused to create a CROP. This is the key to future combat advantage and enables Australia to prosecute asymmetrical warfare.

Secondly, this CROP is taken into a Command and Control (C2) point for the commander and staff to evaluate against available assets, and to make rapid manoeuvre and target allocation decisions. Allocation of targets to assets will be based on the best ‘shooters’ available, regardless of whether they are at sea, on land, or in the air. Key criteria are location, sustainability of posture, and likely effectiveness.

Thirdly, those designated assets allocated targets and tasks, will execute the C2 decisions.

Although it is appealing to think of autonomous systems doing most of the work, this ignores all important human factors.

Specifically, mission commanders may need to take decisions in the absence of processed information. Personal mastery of systems allows leaders to apply their skills, background knowledge and attitudes to successfully complete an assigned mission with its multiple tasks.

Australia has had an NCW Roadmap for some years, outlining the stages by which each Service and jointly will become fully network enabled. Progress has been made in each of the three Services, with much work and many DMO projects now contributing towards realisation of the full NCW vision.

By 2020 the ADF aims to have all secure and capable networks in place. New concepts of operation (CONOPS), tactics, techniques and procedures will have been developed. Partnerships will have evolved and there will be integrated systems and balanced forces. There will be unsettling organisational change, requiring new skills and attitudes. But a key factor will be ‘learning by doing’, supported by appropriate introduction of new capabilities through current and future DCPs.

The decade from 2020 to 2030 will be primarily devoted to development and exploitation of the new technologies, in an information rich environment, and the ability to fight asymmetrically within a joint and combined networked battlespace.


The most recent unclassified NCW Roadmap Timeline available to APDR provides a comprehensive view of the major components and date ranges from their commencement through to achievement of operational capability.

With allies and coalition partners, the ADF plans to participate in Networked Coalition Domains after a period of development during 2016-19. This will be either as a contributor to a Coalition Combat Force, or with the ADF leading a Regional Coalition Combat Force. Interoperability is the key here, which means in practice following established US network protocols.

In the Joint Force Domain the Deployable Joint Task Force HQ is given priority 2014-16, with deployable Joint Task Forces to follow 2016-19.

In the Maritime Domain, individual Fleet units are already in the network, with work going on to network task groups 2014-17 and the Fleet 2016-19.

Special Forces are already networked for operations in the Land Domain, with work well advanced in Army to field a Networked Battle Group soon. Development of the first Networked Brigade has started, to be complete by the end of 2016, while the plan is for a Networked Land Force by 2020.

In the Air Domain there have already been significant achievements with an initial networked
Air Combat Force based on evolving Wedgetail capability. Combat Support will be networked during 2016-18, with the aim of completing a Networked Air Combat Force during 2017-19.

The Information, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) Domain is already well advanced, with progressive enhancements planned through to 2020.

There are a number of current NCW enabling DCP projects funded by the 2013 Defence Budget and with proposed funding in the Forward Estimates.


At Bungendore NSW, at the new $60 million Head Quarters Joint Operations (HQJOC), contractors CSC Australia and Lockheed Martin Australia have been delivering a cohesive and integrated Joint Command Support Environment (JCSE), through JP 2030 Phase 8, which will coordinate major Defence operations on land, air and sea.

According to Defence “During 2013-14, this project will deliver two additional capability releases of software infrastructure and application solutions for Head Quarters Joint Operations including enhancements to Situational Awareness Common Operating Picture capability, improvements to Joint Planning capability, and enhancements to the Defence Preparedness capability. This project will also deliver the Special Operations Combat Net Radio Interface capability into operational service. “

JP 2030 Phase 9 will further establish the framework for the JCSE that will continue to consolidate existing Command Support Systems into a single integrated environment linking all elements of the ADF. It is proposed to extend the JCSE to include Battlefield and Maritime command support requirements.

Defence’s terrestrial communications are receiving major enhancements to enable the information network to improve the preparation for, and conduct of, military operations and improve the management of Defence business. JP 2047 Phase 3 has recently received Second Pass Approval and is now proceeding to contract. The project is expected to deliver one network connecting fixed and deployed locations built on a single set of standards and products.

A project has just been completed at HMAS HARMAN which extended the existing Defence Network Control Centre. This centre controls and monitors communications activities within Defence, as well as providing additional data storage for other capability projects.

JP 2069 Phase 2 High Grade Cryptographic Equipment has received Second Pass Approval in the last few months and is proceeding towards Initial Material Release. The next phase of JP 2069 is due to receive First Pass Approval (FPA) during the current financial year.

Future phases of JP 2089Tactical Information Exchange Domain (TIED) (Data Links) are contained in DCP 2012 (DCP 2013 had not been released at the time of writing this article.) Already complete, Phase 1 defined “TIED requirements to ensure all current and future ADF platforms can seamlessly exchange tactical information across the battlespace.”

Phase 2 implemented variable message formats for F/A-18 Hornets and ANZAC Class frigates. Anzac FFH Multi Link Upgrade Combat Management System Software upgrade development and Lead Ship Software installation was completed in early 2013. Sea trials commenced mid 2013 with Initial Operational Release planned to be achieved in late 2013.

Clearly the wide-ranging nature of ADF operations requires access to satellite communications. During 2013-14 JP 2008 Phase 3H, which has just received Second Pass Approval, will be in contract and deliver the initial tranche of wideband satellite terminals to ADF units. According to Defence “51 medium sized transportable satellite terminals will be distributed with associated on-site spares kits, spares and support and test equipment. These satellite terminals will allow early use of the Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) system.”

Six other Joint Projects, which will help enable NCW, have received First Pass Approval and are working their way through DMO’s complex project management systems.


Defence provided this information to APDR on progress towards NCW in the maritime domain. “SEA 1442 is a multi-phased Program that will enhance the Royal Australian Navy’s maritime communications capability in support of the Australian Defence Force’s Network Centric Warfare (NCW) concept. The Program will make significant contributions towards a ‘Networked Navy’ to support the Navy’s objective of fighting and winning at sea.

“The SEA 1442 Program aims to develop standards based open and evolvable architecture that will provide the foundation for future maritime communication systems integration and implementation.

“The Program will upgrade and automate systems to deliver a greater level of useability and flexibility to the warfighter at sea. It will integrate existing and new communications bearers and information systems into a coherent system to transfer information within and between ships at sea, and shore. The SEA 1442 program will enable increased level of utilisation of those capabilities being delivered to maritime platforms by other projects.

“12 Major Fleet Units are now operational with SEA1442 Phase 3 System (Maritime Tactical Wide Area Network (MTWAN) and upgraded Message Handling System (MHS)).”

SEA1442 Phase 4 tender evaluation was completed in 2012 with Second Pass Approval expected during the current financial year. This has been the usual drawn out DMO process since tenders closed in August 2011 for a prime contractor to design, develop, integrate and install mission systems in ANZAC Class ships. The mission systems include wideband and networked radio communications; communications management; communications switching; secure voice and tactical intercom; plus high data rate line-of-sight radio communications.


Exercise Talisman Saber in July 2013 was the testing ground for an Army Battle Group using LAND 75 Phase 3.4 command post systems delivered by Elbit. Interoperability development and testing with LAND 125 Phase 3A (dismounted systems) and JP 2072 Phase 1 (Combat Radio System) will be completed during the current financial year. By mid-2014 there should be sufficient equipment delivered to Army for at least two motorised infantry Battle Groups.

Moving on from there, JP 2072 Phase 2B, which has First Pass Approval, aims to provide improved C2 services including enhanced trunking and switching infrastructure to deployed ADF Headquarters in the land environment. This phase is key to achieving the ADF’s Network Centric Warfare (NCW) milestone of the Networked Brigade. Phase 3, which has First and Second Combined Pass Approval, will equip further brigades and their supporting elements.

According to Defence “LAND 75 Phase 4 Battlefield Command Systems will continue the acquisition and provision of enhancements to the Australian Army’s BMS already procured. Phase 4 will seek to deliver BMS to additional brigades as well as other elements of Army and the ADF; potentially RAAF Airfield Defence Squadrons, Special Forces elements and training establishments, whilst updating the existing fleet to maintain commonality. Phase 4 will fund major software releases to support the Land command and control functionality with a focus on enhancement of situational awareness and interoperability up to joint and coalition levels.”


The Vigilare system has already provided the RAAF with an enhanced Air Defence Ground Environment (ADGE) command, control and communications capability.

APDR discovered from Defence that “The next phase will maintain the effectiveness of the Vigilare capability in an evolving Network Centric Warfare (NCW) environment and to assure long term supportability. It will incorporate emerging technologies, which could include Variable Message Format (VMF), Link 22, Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC), and integrated Electronic Support Measures (ESM) and intelligence sub-systems.”


Defence has advised APDR that in the ISR Domain they have many projects that deliver platforms and capabilities that contribute to the supply of Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) data. Allied systems and other ADF initiatives are also adding to this volume. The achievement of an information edge in a networked force requires that this information is managed and mustered to best affect Defence’s command and decision making.

In their words “Project JP 2096 is to provide the means of managing and delivering information in a timely manner. It will enhance Defence ISR through the efficient management, analysis and integration of ISR assets into a Defence-wide architecture. The project focuses on the provision of the means by which ISR assets across Defence are integrated into the Australian Defence ISR Integration Backbone (ADIIB) architecture and decision making. The intent of this project is to provide the means of managing and delivering information in a timely manner.

“The use of ADIIB with appropriate communications and IT infrastructures will ensure that the right information is provided to the right person at the right time to provide Defence with information advantage over adversaries. This project will seek to ensure that ISR resources and information are effectively utilised by enabling coordinated tasking and exploitation of all ISR assets and effective dissemination of ISR data.”


During September APDR had the opportunity to visit Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company (SSC) at Santa Clara, California, and experience the excitement leading up to the successful launch of their AEHF-3 satellite from Cape Canaveral on 18 September.

This was the third in a contracted six satellite program. A single AEHF satellite, operating at a frequency of 22 GHz, provides greater total capacity than the entire legacy five-satellite MILSTAR constellation. Individual user data rates are increased five-fold, permitting transmission of tactical military communications, such as real-time video, battlefield maps and targeting data.

The AEHF system provides vastly improved global, survivable, highly secure, protected communications capabilities for strategic command and tactical warfighters operating on ground, sea and air platforms. The system also serves international partners including Canada, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. As yet there has been no public comment from Defence in Australia about joining the program, but there must be obvious attractions in doing so.

While at the technologically advanced SSC facility, APDR was also briefed on the successful THAAD anti-ballistic missile test just conducted at the Kwajalein Atoll (see APDR October 2013) and the initial successful testing of the ADAM laser weapon to destroy small low-level missiles. SSC briefed APDR on the US Navy’s Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) which “vastly improves current secure mobile satellite communications. It links mobile users for the first time to a powerful voice and data system that delivers high speeds and streaming data, similar to consumer smartphone capabilities. The complete constellation of four spacecraft plus on-orbit spare will provide global coverage with prioritised voice, video and data services”.

SSC said MUOS operates at 40.216 Mbps and can provide 16,332 simultaneous accesses. The ADF’s Geraldton, WA satellite ground station is an important part of this network.

To meet the needs of more than one billion GPS users worldwide, the U.S. Air Force and Lockheed Martin SSC are developing the next generation system, known as GPS III. This has already undergone non-flight testing with launch systems at Cape Canaveral.

APDR was told GPS III will improve position, navigation and timing services, and provide several times more advanced anti-jam capabilities yielding superior system security, accuracy and reliability. The first GPS III satellites will deliver signals three times more accurate than current GPS spacecraft and provide three times more power for military users, while also enhancing the spacecraft’s design life and adding a new civil signal designed to be interoperable with international global navigation satellite systems.


According to DSTO “ADF’s NCW concept of sharing information involves more than providing a Common Operating Picture. It includes the ability to ‘tailor’ a shared situational awareness for local operations and augment it with local knowledge. It also requires appropriate cooperative human behaviours based on sound education and training.”

The ADF’s future warfighters of the 2020s will come from a generation reared on computer technology and thoroughly comfortable with interactive gaming consoles. To them, NCW will seem a natural way to be directed in ADF operations.

For the ADF as a whole, NCW means more effective use of the highly capable resources and trained personnel coming into operational service. NCW will provide advantage over adversaries, improve defence effectiveness and reduce risk for its personnel. It will also help deliver more timely and appropriate humanitarian aid and disaster response in our region.

Swift and sure future communications? The author, a former RNZSigs officer, remembers with pride the Latin words certa cito , which translate as ‘swift and sure’. This is the motto of Royal Signals, RASigs, RNZSigs and no doubt other signal corps in the British Commonwealth. For now it only applies to Army, but should it really become the motto for communications and information systems units throughout the whole future ADF?

(APDR visited Lockheed Martin SSC as a guest of the Lockheed Martin Corporation. Special thanks to Trevor Thomas and his colleagues.)


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