AERALIS awarded £9 million digital engineering contract from UK Ministry of Defence
The UK Ministry of Defence has awarded AERALIS, the transformational British military jet developer, a £9 million contract for digital engineering support services. The contract was awarded by the UK team within the new Global Combat Air Programme, which was announced by the Prime Minister on 9 December. Titled ‘Digital Aviation Learning from Experience,’ the contract will allow the MOD to access information that AERALIS will generate using its innovative, smart integrated digital enterprise system
AERALIS has developed the system to enable the company to develop a family of light military aircraft in shorter timescales and at reduced cost using a fully integrated digital approach to design, development and certification. As such, MOD will use the learning from AERALIS’s approach to reduce cost & risk for a range of other development programmes including UK Combat Air and the Future Combat Air System.
This contract from the MOD to AERALIS follows on from AERALIS’ successful contract with the RAF Rapid Capabilities Office (RCO) to support PYRAMID, the RAF’s Open Mission System Architecture (OMS). Awarded in February 2021 and ongoing, the PYRAMID OMS is planned to form the core of the AERALIS modular avionics and mission system.
The MOD contract award highlights that AERALIS is the only known UK-based company that has adopted a clean-sheet approach to digital engineering to design, manufacture, test and certify a crewed, fixed-wing air system on the military register within the timescales required.
This landmark contract marks an important step in the Company’s growth and maturity, signifying that AERALIS’ unique design engineering approach has been recognised as fulfilling an essential requirement for the future of affordable military aircraft design and development in the UK.
AERALIS has seen significant successes in the last year, including opening its Enterprise Hub in Bristol as well as seeing substantial growth in its workforce. There are now over 135 people involved in the development of the aircraft, across 16 organisations in the UK. The contract from the MOD will allow AERALIS to create and sustain a further 250 highly skilled jobs and many more in the supply chain.
Richard Berthon, Director Future Combat Air for the Ministry of Defence, said: “I am delighted that the Future Combat Air System will benefit from the transformational digital engineering services of Aeralis. The learning that we will get from Aeralis will support digital engineering across our FCAS enterprise; providing us with the information we need to be able make informed decisions on this programme as it progresses.”
AERALIS’ Founder & CEO, Tristan Crawford, commented: “We are incredibly proud to be able to announce this agreement. This MOD contract is another exciting step towards rejuvenating the UK’s sovereign ability to develop whole aircraft ready for the future. We are looking forward to exploiting our digital foundation to boost innovation, create jobs and drive the progress of AERTEAM. It proves that AERALIS is truly unique - we are the only company in the UK taking this pioneering digital engineering approach as part of a new economic model that supports the development of more capable and ultimately affordable light military aircraft, marking an important milestone in the development of the first wholly British crewed aircraft since the 1970s.”
DroneShield successfully completes Canadian Military exercise
DroneShield has successfully completed the Counter Uncrewed Aerial Systems Sandbox 2022 exercise in Alberta, Canada. The Canadian Joint Operations Command (CJOC) has lead the exercise, coordinating with the Canadian Army, Royal Canadian Navy (RCN), Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), and Canadian Special Operations Forces Command (CANSOFCOM). The exercise represented a blending of requirements and characteristics of interest to one or more of the services, as well as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).
The US Department of Defense’s Irregular Warfare Technical Support Directorate (IWTSD) has also participated in the CUAS 2022 Sandbox as an official Application Evaluator and Observer, giving international exposure, expertise, and feedback the participants.
DroneShield CEO, Oleg Vornik, commented: “North America is the single largest market for DroneShield, and Canada represents a growing segment, where we already have an existing customer base along with a pipeline of further projects. This exercise was a valuable opportunity to connect with key decision-makers at a number of Government agencies, and demonstrate our latest C-UAS capabilities to these existing and prospective customers.”
INTEGRASYS and UltiSat team-up to provide improved visualization management for tactical satcoms
UltiSat and INTEGRASYS have signed a collaborative agreement to provide improved visibility, management, and resiliency for deployed communications systems for the US Defense Department and NATO.
The approach combines the capabilities of both companies to provide the user with a centralized dashboard of communications and networking tools to maximize situational awareness and real-time decision-making for deployed systems in tactical and battlefield operations.
UltiSat brings over 25 years of experience developing complex satellite and wireless communications systems for defense, civil government, humanitarian aid, and critical infrastructure markets. With a core strength in engineering development, systems integration, and field support for satellite communications systems, UltiSat provides a wide range of customized solutions from small man-packable communications kits to mobile command vehicles to large-scale permanent earth stations.
INTEGRASYS brings over 32 years of experience specializing in the engineering and manufacturing of radio frequency and satellite spectrum monitoring systems and software for the telecommunications and broadcast media markets. Their solutions are tailored to enable advanced management and control and improve protection for field communications in contested regions at potential risk of interference from electronic warfare tactics.
‘’We are pleased to take the opportunity to work hand-in-hand with UltiSat as a leading company in the integration of systems and technologies with great impact in the defense market. The partnership is part of our strategy to integrate our full product portfolio through key players within the SatCom industry’’, said Alvaro Sanchez Integrasys CEO.
“UltiSat is excited to add the INTEGRASYS portfolio of capabilities to augment and enhance our range of advanced satellite communications systems,” said David Myers President & CEO of UltiSat. “INTEGRASYS has a great reputation for ingenuity in satellite spectrum management, we look forward to working together.”
Optimizing secure multi-transport networks for the military and the DoD
We are at a point with satellite technology and 5G, that is both exhilarating and hugely challenging especially as applied to military users. Security, resiliency, redundancy, and diversity are all critical to the success of communications networks that support defense operations. Rajeev Gopal, Vice President of advanced defense systems for Hughes Network Systems explains how both technological expertise and the ability to partner are key.
Crispin Littlehales, Executive Editor, Satellite Evolution Group
Question: What are the main advantages that LEO and 5G can deliver to the US military?
Dr. Rajeev Gopal: Historically, the government has used wide-beam and high throughput GEO satellites from commercial satellite operators. Although these have provided powerful, capacity density — which works very well — we now need global low latency capabilities. This is because threats are coming at a much faster rate and we need to observe, to detect, to decide, and to act within a much shorter timescale.
LEO satellites provide communications with low propagation delay which means that users can quickly see, and act based on near real-time information access. 5G has similar advantages. It is a lot faster than 4G both in terms of data rates and latency. The combination of these two advanced communications technologies is just the right solution so we can take care of all sorts of threats. Adding a strong security posture to the LEO and 5G capabilities makes for very resilient communications solutions.
SATCOM and 5G are being tightly integrated so that you have added resiliency across networks using multiple LEO constellations and GEO satellite systems. This way 5G takes care of local networking with high data rates and low latency. When you have to reach a different continent, or if you are on a ship, or a forward base and you have to reach headquarters, you can do that over resilient SATCOM.
The automated orchestration of these transports makes the big difference. If there is too much traffic, you can distribute it across transports, and if you have priority traffic, you can send it over the best transport for the fastest routing.
All these things used to take weeks to accomplish. Now, with software using AI, machine learning, and rules learning, you can do these things in a fast, automated fashion. The software stores policies from the network’s enterprise management and control (EM&C) capability and is able to decide what to do with the traffic, based on quality, cost and available transports. Monitoring the network traffic and transport paths and making decisions about threats can be done at lightning speed.
Question: Has it been challenging to get the DoD to embrace LEO and 5G as part of multi-transport networks? Dr. Rajeev Gopal: The Department of Defense (DoD) has done well with respect to assessing what is needed. They have known for several years that LEO constellations could be much more resilient and they also provide redundancy and diversity which greatly benefits the DoD’s applications. For example, if you have different service providers and one company cannot be used, you can turn to another company. This orchestration of multitransport hybrid networks is key. It enables the right transport at the right time and at the right place.
For the last several years we have been working on an enterprise management and control (EM&C) prototype for SATCOM. The prototype includes the Hughes Flexible Modem Interface (FMI), which enhances interoperability across military and commercial SATCOM networks to form this unified hybrid network architecture. This interoperability is very important because the government will benefit from multiple providers that have demonstrated that you can use multiple satellites and modems together, working cohesively as one hybrid network.
In addition to embracing multi-transport capabilities the DoD is investing US$600 million to demonstrate 5G wireless networks at military bases nationwide. By doing so, the government is reaching out to many non-traditional players. The commercial side of the industry is already investing heavily in the
development of 5G, so the government can leverage those efforts and accelerate the secure version of those technologies while promoting the advantages of this 5G ecosystem which has additional security, accommodates satellites, and has the edge cloud.
Question: Obviously, security and resiliency are key to any military operation, particularly in warzones; what makes space-based communications superior to what the military already has in place?
Dr. Rajeev Gopal: Space-based communications are essential to delivering communications anytime, anywhere and under any threats. For the DoD, we have to be prepared for all sorts of threats and that’s why we must have space-based redundancy, diversity, and resiliency.
There is also the need for information security and 5G technology provides more security from the start since it has better authentication and encryption. We can take a commercial solution, which is secure to begin with, then we add governmentspecific security layers. There are two kinds of descriptors: zero trust architecture (ZTA) and Commercial Solutions for Classified (CSfC) which is the National Security Agency’s (NSA) commercial cybersecurity strategy.
ZTA means don’t trust it, even if something is inside the perimeter; authenticate it and encrypt all channels. That security posture exists everywhere in our system. CSfC means that you can use the general-purpose internet or any wireless network where you don’t trust who is running it and encrypt it twice. One encryption is end-to-end, and another is on top of it over the untrusted network, so that you can protect against that uncertainty. This is a very nimble way to secure a public network and so we have that as part of our architecture.
Question: Do you think the DoD will want its own proprietary systems and networks or do you envision them purchasing LEO 5G solutions and support from commercial operators?
Dr. Rajeev Gopal: Over the last five or six years, the government has made it very clear that in order to leverage the best solutions, they have to interoperate with commercial solutions. To address
this requirement and support the country’s economic strength and national security, the DoD needs to pursue a variety of methods to access 5G – including both proprietary and commercial systems.
Question: How do you see a changeover to this kind of approach unfolding?
Dr. Rajeev Gopal: I think it is definitely a lot faster compared to where things were 10 years ago. There is a big push on the part of the government to inject funds into research and development. Fortunately, there is a vehicle, the Other Transaction Authority (OTA) which enables the government and industry to develop a pilot system that the government can try out. Instead of taking years and years to come up with requirements and a program, you produce a short list of needs so that industry can be guided quickly. These timeframes are six months to two years. This means that the government can actually test an application as opposed to just looking at a Power Point presentation. All the branches of the US military are injecting more funds and more projects along OTA lines.
These efforts are programs of record and facilitate solutions that can be deployed, maintained, documented, and operated. You can come up with an approach quickly, find the right partners, and get started.
Question: What role does Hughes intend to play in all of this?
Dr. Rajeev Gopal: Hughes is positioned as a value-addedintegrator. We have our own organic capability in that we design,
develop, deploy, and run innovative satellite and 5G systems. But we are not just pitching solutions from Hughes, we also provide honest feedback and value-added recommendations to our customers.
Hughes has already developed prototypes and we have done multiple demonstrations for the US Navy, the US Air Force, US Army, and the US Space Force. We are also working with the DoD on automated resilient networks across multiple LEO constellations to deliver mission-critical connectivity with reliability and flexibility.
Hughes was awarded a contract through an OTA issued through the Information Warfare Research Project (IWRP) to deploy a standalone 5G network at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island in Washington State. The project is part of the ongoing DoD 5G experimentation. The infrastructure provided by Hughes includes a packet processing core, radio access, edge cloud, security, and network management. It will demonstrate how the 5G infrastructure can power the resilient networking necessary to transform base operations.
In addition, Hughes deployed a LEO network at Thule Air Base, Greenland which is situated less than 1,000 miles from the North Pole. We are currently in the process of enhancing our offering because now we have multiple new satellites from OneWeb for which we provide the ground segment. Using LEO connectivity, the 600 men and women in residence can use high-speed low latency broadband for Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) and to conduct experiments, connect securely through private networks, and handle emerging high velocity threats.
ESG objectives in defense
The energy crisis brought on by the ongoing situation in Ukraine has invited many conversations around the sustainability implications of geopolitical events and defense entities, even inviting conversations about defense ESG (ethics, sustainability, and governance). Cvete Koneska, Head of Advisory at security intelligence firm Dragonfly has been fascinated by the evolving debates and was keen to discuss the future sustainable and ethical landscape of the defense industry.Laurence Russell, Associate Editor, Global Military Communications
Question: The war between a NATO-inclined country and a fossil fuel giant has exposed some stark realities between modern defense and global sustainability goals. Could you recap how these themes have intersected over the course of the Ukraine conflict?
Cvete Koneska: The immediate layer to address is that geopolitical tensions have shown us that political will is not compatible with sustainability aims in wartime and there’s no escaping that.
That’s the headline that’s been impossible to ignore, but the conversation is more nuanced than that under the surface. It’s not to say that all sustainability goals have been abandoned wholesale in the interest of satisfying geopolitical objectives. The campaign in Ukraine and its ramifications for the world can be seen as an opportunity to disrupt the complacency of our fossil fuel status quo, galvanizing the transition away from our reliance on them.
Of course, these transitions were always going to be painful, and the shock of war doesn’t make the culture change go down any easier. In the stressed economic situation, the global economy finds itself in, governments are cautious and slow in introducing potentially painful policy changes, but of course, as so many scientists have explained, the more deliberation and delay we insist upon today will only hurt us worse tomorrow.
Question: Europe has long stated enthusiasm for climate action, but its states have found a consensus challenging to reach. Has the situation in Ukraine bolstered the will to follow solutions, or simply reiterated the need for larger-scale national fossil fuel production?
Cvete Koneska: There’s really no binary answer to something like that. We’re talking about very different economies and cultures among the EU members. Of course, the European Union as a whole has stated its deliberate aims, and academia worldwide is in unanimous agreement, but there remains some convincing to do.
There is a lot of unity among European leaders. We’ve seen a very strong will regarding Russia’s punitive sanctions and the efforts to untangle supply
chains from Russian oil. There have been suggestions that some EU members may have been interested in watering these commitments down or even opposing them, but beyond rumor, this simply hasn’t been the case.
This kind of agreement among European states is quite rare indeed, and so a very precious thing. Whether that will translate into broader policy and joint energy strategy is yet to be seen. Some EU members have thought to act now rather than wait to see what the European Commission might come up with. For instance, Germany came up with their own package of policies which made quite a splash.
Of course, that isn’t to say that the EU won’t come up with effective support, especially for its more vulnerable countries and economies.
Question: In the current climate, what are the quick and sensible solutions to remedy global energy needs?
Cvete Koneska: I don’t think there are any options that are both quick and sensible at the moment. Rather, there are quick solutions that do the most to stabilize the existing economic situation, that aren’t at all future-minded, like re-opening coal mines. Then, there are sensible, unpopular decisions that will let the existing economic difficulties deteriorate as we work towards a state of stability some time down the line, like green transition or building more liquified natural gas (LNG) terminals to restructure fuel lines independent of Russia.
Generally, we’ve seen a trend toward a set of quick options, but there are simply very few tools to soften the blow of such a sudden and comprehensive crisis as the one northern Europe will be contending with this winter.
On the bright side, all this furor provides precedent to reinforce European defenses for dealing with the energy crisis that comes after this one, because it will by no means be our first, nor worst, of the 21st century. Just as with the COVID-19 pandemic, the lessons we learn through this crisis will make us all the more capable against similar challenges in the future.
Question: How would radical solutions play out if they went ahead? If we saw a complete Russian oil & gas embargo tomorrow combined with emergency renewable and nuclear solutions, how would Russia’s former customers fare?
Cvete Koneska: They wouldn’t fare very well at all. Even in the best-case scenarios for the European Winter fuel crisis, we’re going to see some uncomfortable circumstances indeed. Of course, in a vacuum, a radical solution like the one proposed would be excellent for the long-term outlook, but it’d likely be politically very costly for whoever delivered such a policy, because of massive requirements of political and economic
capital. Worse still, in the short term it would likely increase poverty, reduce equality, and leave a historic black spot-on whatever party delivered the policy.
Question: Modern military forces have been accused of significant emissions abuses for decades. Are existing green initiatives enough to change that reputation?
Cvete Koneska: They could always do more of course –particularly in the realm of early adoption. As you can imagine, the military has heavy research and development departments, which puts them far and away at the cutting edge of technology. They’re positioned perfectly to be the pioneers of green technology, and there really is no good reason at all why they should be behind the sustainable capacity of the average leading tech corporation.
To their credit, militaries are huge ecosystems that do not change quickly, and transitioning their energy and fuel infrastructure would be far from cheap, which means they don’t have the same agility as smaller businesses, but that doesn’t change the fact that they have all the right tools at their disposal to be role models in this field.
Question: Some commentators might imagine that defense and ESG priorities are a disingenuous combination, particularly ripe for accusations of greenwashing. What exactly does authentic ESG in military institutions look like?
Cvete Koneska: Militaries do not make commitments to sustainability the way businesses do, so they’re far less focused on the topic. T+ypically, defense institutions aren’t held to the same ESG standard in this regard, despite militaries being responsible for a wide swathe of emissions. They don’t tend to greenwash because by and large, there isn’t much pressure for more environmental militaries.
This doesn’t mean we can’t talk about authentic ESG in defense. To that end, the prominent starting point in that arena probably isn’t environmental but rather in governance and social risk issues. There have already been a number of high-profile issues around the topic of gender and LGBT issues in militaries as well as poor data protection points. Of course, these cultural issues can be smoothed out in concert with strong environmental goals, but in terms of what we’ve seen the public value, social conversations have taken precedence.
Question: How can enhanced defense spending on ethical investments bring about defense industries and militaries that experts could conclude were definably more moral?
Cvete Koneska: This question alone could easily be the subject of several years of research in a top academic center. To that end, I’ll have to engage at a more surface level than the concept may require.
For years financial providers have been screening out defense developers from their portfolios on principle, especially in terms of ethical funds to the point where you wonder where ethical change could come from in this industry. However, this subject will likely be forced in some degree by the onset of how artificial intelligence technologies relate to defense development
We are on the cusp of seeing AI-driven weaponry in our world, a sea change, crucial to how militaries can operate in future. This change has real potential to empower a more comprehensive ethical movement in the space, hopefully driving a more responsible and ethical era of peacekeeping and the resolution of hostilities.
A wave of unregulated AI-enabled military technologies would be disastrous for mankind no matter whether your goals are moral or economic. The engendering of these AI-enabled tools to international codified conventions of engagement would be imperative if we are to avoid unintended consequences.
I cannot say how such conversations and others like it will develop through academic, mass media, and public mainstream channels, but I can be certain that it’ll be critical to the world to come, and certainly bears watching.
Sharpening eyes, ears, and teeth in a dangerous subsea environment
Dominance of the undersea domain – the underwater battlespace – will be achieved by the side best able to understand and exploit the environment and maintain superior situational awareness. Maintaining that network requires reliable and flexible data exchange.Justin Hains MBE, Business Development Manager, Forcys
In the 21st century, combat divers pose significant threats to sailors and their assets. A well-trained team can execute an attack on unsuspecting and unprepared navies. Divers will use their environment to cover their tracks by swimming alongside harbour walls and hiding their signatures by using the high returns from those walls, or swimming erratically in an attempt to confuse trackers.
Elsewhere, unmanned, Underwater Vehicle Systems (UUVs) have significantly evolved. Capable of moving faster than divers, many UUVs will stay below the detection threshold of active sonars at longer ranges due to their negligible returns.
We know that, to counter these threats, tools are needed to help detect, track, and identify targets in harbours. For example, active and passive sonar technology can be used to help classify targets, distinguishing between UUVs and divers using opencircuit or closed-circuit breathing equipment. Using passive signals either alone or combined with active sonar, a tracker will obtain precise bearing observations of a threat like a diver or a UUV by listening to the noise they make and analysing the behaviour of the contact.
The majority of navies have some sort of homeland defence requirement so that they can maintain and prepare ships for operations. They also have a requirement to enter or leave their bases at the time of their choosing. Freedom of manoeuvre, to be able to do what they need to do, is key. In expeditionary terms that means going through choke points like the Bab el Mandeb or Straits of Hormuz and being able to operate and defend in proximity to a hostile shore and likewise being able to defend a foreign harbour used for maintenance and resupply.
The ability to monitor ports and harbours is required both at home and away. Many potential adversaries can interfere withHains MBE, Business Development Manager, Forcys
GPS signals, but to some extent, the subsurface environment has always been GPS-denied. A fixed installation of a diver and UUV detection array can be augmented by an acoustic positioning network to ensure that there is no impact on operations in a GPS-denied environment. The UK Royal Navy for example is showing keen interest in this area.
Responding to new threats in a networked battlespace In the Second World War, we were worried about U-Boats stopping the transportation of food, ammunition, and medical supplies. Now, however, we are worried more about an interruption of global commerce if communications cables are corrupted. Oil and gas attacks remain a threat, as highlighted by the recent events on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. Whilst in the end it seems to have had a minor impact on overall supply, the attack shows capability and intent, and capability plus intent equals threat. Imagine the various stock exchanges not being able to talk to one another at the speed they require. In that scenario it would be about sitting on the data, hoovering it up and then potentially manipulating it rather than just cutting it off. The threat has been recognised, and it is real.
Meanwhile, advances in drone use in the air environment are driving navies to look again at the art of the possible underwater, namely submarines operating or being supported by UUVs as either offboard active sensor platforms or weapon carriers; the next generation of micro-processor-controlled sea mines; kamikaze autonomous Unmanned Surface Vehicles; and hyper-enabled combat divers operating at greater ranges and depths, enhanced with propulsion devices and better environmental protection. All of this is evolving a challenging and risky operating environment into an adversarial one.
Until now, the subsea environment has been treated in a piecemeal fashion and the subsea picture as a separate entity. Air-surface integration, however, has been achieved at pace because the technical challenges, I would argue, are lower in
the air and the nature of conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan focused money and development in that direction.
Underwater networking for the communication of data is significantly harder. In basic terms, data transmission rates are lower, and signals are attenuated faster underwater, leading to reduced operating ranges.
However, improvements in technology mean there is now an increasing ability to transmit large data packets through water with confidence. Assured communication links are improving and this delivers the ability to have a networked battle space. The next trick, however, is to give it a better range, and to improve the level of cryptographic security possible with higher bandwidth
radio transmissions, as well as improve the data update rate to fuse with the above-the-water environment.
Working with defence, science, and technology laboratories Forcys is working with Defence, Science and Technology Laboratories (DSTL) to further improve the security aspects of underwater communications. The step change now, however, is the high-level encryption required to provide security of throughwater communications, an area where the UK MoD is driving change. DSTL has developed Phorcys, an open standard for secure acoustic communications that will enable navies to collaborate and interoperate, assuring secure transmissions and communications. Similar work is taking place at the Centre of Maritime Research and Experimentation (CMRE) in the Italian port of La Spezia – a NATO facility.
So, while the air-surface domain is benefiting from secure networks to exploit the possibilities of drones and conventional forces as a synchronized capability, the focus of this work underwater is to ensure that we can replicate similar operations as in the air. The ultimate step is to reduce underwater data latency to an extent that there is a truly real-time multi-domain picture, in which a distributed network of Autonomous Underwater Vehicles and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles work in support of larger, possibly crewed, platforms to deliver battlewinning effect while being capable of withstanding higher levels of attrition than a small number of crewed platforms can do today.
This is why going forward, being able to establish a network that communicates with everyone is vital. Interoperability is a key theme for a networked battlespace, and most maritime operations are conducted by coalitions, either of the willing or under pre-established defence agreements. Anything we can do to enable that is ideal.
The key is being able to establish a network that communicates with everyone and everything. Being at the centre of that technological development is exciting and demanding, but ultimately rewarding, as we put greater capability in the hands of our armed forces and security agencies.
Why improving communications within the Royal Navy needs a digital approach
The Royal Navy is on a digital transformation journey with an ambition to be a fully digital organization by 2025. But breaking free of manual processes was never going to be an easy task for a centuries-old organization steeped in legacy and tradition.David Chandler, Division Director, Great State
With the COVID pandemic spurring on a digital revolution, it was clear the Royal Navy needed to get up to speed in creating a digital solution for personnel to control the direction of their service career more effectively, communicate more efficiently, and create better engagement.
Working in a highly collaborative manner with digital program partner Great State, the Royal Navy launched employee engagement tool MyNavy, designed to improve retention, streamline processes, and enhance the lived experience of all Navy personnel, reservists, Royal Fleet Auxiliary, and civil servants.
As an internal communications platform for the whole service, MyNavy is a valuable tool for Navy personnel to access relevant communications, receive individual support, be recognized, and feel valued – all critical for ongoing employment and retention.
Improving internal communication processes
One of the main challenges the Royal Navy faced was maintaining consistent and timely communications with a
geographically dispersed workforce, many of whom rarely sit behind a desk.
MyNavy is transforming the way Navy personnel engage and communicate with each other. Whereas in the past, internal communications was limited to MoDnet email addresses which could only be accessed through military issued laptops. Not everyone was issued a laptop or had access to one. Now, serving personnel can access MyNavy on their personal devices from outside of the military network, meaning they can keep in touch from anywhere at any time.
Amongst its many new features are notifications which send personalized actions and reminders to individual’s devices, such as upcoming deployments or the expiration of qualifications or vaccinations. For the third COVID vaccination booster, for example, thousands of Navy personnel were notified of, and then able to submit details of, their vaccination booster directly through the app creating a far more efficient way to submit personal data.
The announcements feature allows Navy personnel to access relevant and targeted communications securely with focused messages accessible to different groups or units all the way down to individuals, branches, specs, and trades. The
app also has the ability to include images, documents, and video content such as the ’60 Second Update’ which is posted every two weeks.
For Lt Cdr Morgan (Mogsy) Long, Senior Product Owner of MyNavy, this was a critical feature to the initial design based on research and insight on what users needed and how they wanted it to work. “I use it daily to receive pertinent, personalized information for the day, from topdown messaging to updates on course booking, health status, uniform collection and deployablility” notes Lt Cdr Long. “It’s utility and empowerment save me time every day, providing me with control over my military life, and a feeling that the Royal Navy is investing in their people.”
Communicating securely Built as a Progressive Web Application (PWA), the app has been specifically designed to work in low-data or bandwidth areas and to use local connectivity services.
And because the rest of the page (and the code needed to make it) are already downloaded and running in the browser, the page can display a user-friendly loading spinner to inform the user about the pending data rather than just showing a blank screen.
Once the app, which is in the form of a large upfront download, has been downloaded and saved to a chosen device, each page visit only requires small API requests to access relevant pieces of data, instead of an entire page full of HTML.
On high-latency low-bandwidth network connections – like a satellite connection from a navy ship –this means the app feels much more responsive by downloading a fraction of the data
of a full website, meaning no more blank screens whilst data is trying to download.
Accessibility is key Another feature, born out of user research and utility, is the ability to use a personal email address and phone number for notifications and messages. Whilst most personnel are issued with a MoD email address, many are not issued with a MoDnet laptop, meaning they have no access to emails from home or out of hours.
One of the key issues that Lt Cdr Long hoped the app would resolve was the uniform ordering process from new recruits right through to those already serving in the Navy. The manual centuries-old process of collecting uniform from an out-of-theway stores warehouse was replaced with a digital click-andcollect service allowing personnel to browse an online catalogue of clothing on the app and place orders at an on-base clothing store run by logistics support in a location convenient to the user.
By adding this as a feature on the app, Navy personnel can
view and order uniforms online and receive progress updates to their personal email addresses or via the app, rather than their designated MoDnet email address, thus creating a smoother and more efficient service.
Positive digital adoption
Available to more than 35,000 Navy personnel across 27 countries worldwide and with more than 168,000 monthly visits – the positive digital adoption is clear to see with more than 60 percent of serving personnel regularly using it. With 85 percent of users coming from smartphones, MyNavy ensures personnel across the world remain connected and supported from wherever they are, all from the palm of their hand.
Following the success of MyNavy, the RAF has launched its own employee engagement tool – MyRAF – designed to improve the lived experience of their own personnel.
Lt Cdr Long believes the internal communications platform which MyNavy provides is the future. His hope is that one day all defence personnel will use a digital product for all their internal communications.
Will Telesat Lightspeed prove the capability for optical in missioncritical comms?
Optical inter-satellite links have been discussed optimistically across the NewSpace market for a few years now as one of those emergent makeor-break possibilities that haven’t quite charmed the breadth of the industry but promise enviable results on paper. As one of the few players invested in the rewards of taking the risk on new technology, Telesat and its Lightspeed project has certainly been one to watch. J.J. Shaw, Vice President of Information, Security and Operations for Telesat Government Solutions spoke to us at MilSatCom 2022 to discuss the system’s capability.
Russell, Associate Editor, Satellite Evolution Group
Question: For those uninformed, could you summarize Telesat Lightspeed for us?
JJ Shaw: Telesat Lightspeed is a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) constellation that’s designed for the commercial aspirations of enterprise with the security standards fit for a government user.
It was designed as a mesh network with on-orbit processing capability which allows it to dynamically and flexibly route traffic to endpoints. Each platform possesses four optical heads which establish laser inter-satellite links. This allows users to skirt potential congestion at a landing station by transmitting the information they’re looking for to an adjacent satellite and fast-tracking it down from a connection that’s being constrained, which makes for a more agile solution for mission-critical requirements where you need plans B through Z.
Question: What are the use cases that you see in the polar regions? How will those demands develop?
JJ Shaw: Geostationary (GEO) coverage today only reaches a certain latitude –at best about 70 degrees north and 70 degrees south. At an inclined GEO orbit you can reach a little higher, sometimes even getting to the poles, however, you can usually only reach mid-80 degrees latitude to the poles.
With LEO polar orbit, we can serve that region all the way up to the poles as a matter of course. We can support Canada’s northern communities, which are beyond the range of conventional satellite service. This also serves government users via Arctic and Antarctic coastguard missions and patrols, along with supporting NORAD and the US and Canadian North Warning System (NWS). In addition to creating faster awareness from their more remote nodes, the LEO polar orbit can support the US National Science Foundation, The Department of Energy, and The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in their scientific goals. Of course, this also serves maritime across polar shipping routes and aeronautical connections for polar flights, supporting safe operations and broadband connectivity for passengers.
Through the inter-satellite space relay capability, we can also support other nearby satellites, such as those providing sensory data for intelligence or climate monitoring applications which gather information over remote areas and can benefit from getting that data back to their respective processing centers as fast as possible.
Question: Certain true believers swear by optical as the future of satellite connectivity. Why has it not become a mainstream standard? What unique capability does it afford?
JJ Shaw: Optical inter-satellite links are currently systems still being tested in laboratory settings under many DoD programs. For example, in our contract for DARPA’s Blackjack Croupier satellites, we’re working with companies like Mynaric, Tesat, and SA Photonics, who are currently at about technology readiness level (TRL) six, which we want to advance to level nine – the operational environment. The US Government is
currently invested in studying the interoperability of these technologies, seeing how Mynaric tech is processed by SA Photonics, and how Tesat systems are handled by Mynaric architecture and so on.
As we deploy nearly 800 Optical Inter-Satellite Link (OISL) terminals in the Telesat Lightspeed network, we’re helping advance and mainstream the technology alongside SpaceX and other tech giants. The bleeding-edge operations we’re financing today could become a very common technology for the DoD in the future.
Question: You were keen to assure us of the cybersecurity in the Telesat Lightspeed project from the ground up. To that end, was on-board processing performed in light of the DoD’s JADC2 strategy, which suggested a need to disaggregate and decentralize information centers and processing functions?
JJ Shaw: With onboard processing, you’re not dependent on gateway hops - bringing information down to a teleport or DoD gateway site or such, which means that if there’s a problem with the gateway, such as denied services, you can bypass that compromised architecture by instead going terminal-to-terminal through the space mesh network. That’s another layer of vital robustness.
What we’re trying to do is create pathways that aren’t conventionally messy attack vectors. Hostile agents are looking at fiber rings, switching centers, and undersea cables first because it’s where they can affect the most traffic through disruption. By having another option in orbit that isn’t conventionally understood, you have an ace up your sleeve that most actors won’t be aware of, let alone prepared for.
Question: Could you discuss your involvement in the DoD’s Blackjack program? Do you anticipate it may be transferrable to the ambitions of allied government projects?
JJ Shaw: Telesat Government Solutions was awarded a contract to develop concepts and demonstrate capability in orbit, and, as a result of that, we’re now working with Airbus to put government payloads on board with optical technologies to transmit between satellites and back to the ground. That’s a proof of concept to show what we can do so they can be incorporated for the Space Development Agency and other government users and allied nations.
Telesat will be offering its Telesat Lightspeed satellite bus for government-hosted payloads. We call that a hosted satellite capability. We expect this will be able to help allied nations put sensors in space that can aid situational awareness, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR), or whatever suits their needs while making use of our transport layer to get data to its final destination.
Question: What’s the future of Telesat Lightspeed?
JJ Shaw: Looking further ahead, we don’t want to just support enterprise and government, we also want to enable those users to bring applications that require low latency.
Over the last 30 years, we’ve gone from big C-band transponders and broadcast down to Ku-band for regional and even tighter beams like those under Inmarsat Global Express or the ViaSat capability. But now low latency along with greater throughput down to individual users is needed to support cloud applications, 5G, and in the future 6G. We’re aiming to achieve that through the agility of our partners, acting as the hub-spoke, as we collect and transmit data on top of their infrastructure.
We will scale the Telesat Lightspeed network from 198 satellites to 298, then 518, and then 1,672. The timelines for each jump depend on the trigger points in the market, whether it’s commercial or government. We’ll be making deliberate, intentional steps in line with the supply and demand we see, building out bigger and bigger capabilities without overreaching in such an emergent space.
UAVs in defense: as usage grows, the spotlights fall on maintenance and sustainment
For the defense industry, developments in drones and unmanned systems are moving forward at an increased pace —from relying on manual input and electrical control to progressively autonomous operations. As Advanced Air Vehicles (AAVs) evolve in intricacy and operational capacity, support and maintenance are becoming a priority. Vital processes are needed to escalate the full capabilities of AAVs as are supportive operating systems capable of sharing information among different collaborators of OEMs, defense forces, and defense contractors.Medley, Industry Director, A&D Manufacturing, IFS
We’re already seeing drones and unmanned aerial vehicles being used on the frontline of military operations, varying in size and scale, but each playing a vital operational role—from tiny handheld surveillance drones to large-scale remotely controlled UAVs with large payload capacity. Looking forward, we can clearly see the next key phase in UAV development will be autonomously operated air vehicles such as the Boeing Loyal Wingman project aircraft capable of both flying alongside manned aircraft for support and performing autonomous missions independently using artificial intelligence.
Autonomy in the air reduces risks on the land Manned-unmanned teaming (MUM-T) is a key development that we will hear more about in next-gen military UAVs. MUM-T represents autonomous aircraft collaborating with a crewed plane, in which each aircraft in the formation performs its own unique mission as defined by the US Army Aviation Center as: “The cooperative employment of unmanned assets with
traditional manned platforms, providing the unique capabilities of each system to be leveraged for the same mission. The primary benefit of this employment concept is to transmit live intelligence captured from the unmanned system to the manned asset, providing the manned operator with improved situational awareness without placing them at risk.”
Protecting personnel with improved agility
As well as removing human soldiers from harm, autonomous unmanned systems also bring about other important operational advantages. For instance, being unencumbered by life support systems such as breathing apparatus and ejection seats, means ‘uncrewed’ aircraft can carry larger payloads with sensors for improved intelligence and reconnaissance, or carry more fuel which in turn allows for longer trips. As defense forces move to a more distributed operational model to counter wide-reaching threats, there are budget and logistics benefits to be gained too.
Expendable drones such as the European-produced Black Hornet micro drones will have a much lower price point than the more advanced systems. These are very small, 16cm in length and a mass of only 32g, and are designed to fly within feet of enemy soldiers and enter buildings to spy on positions without being detected—and come with a price tag of around $10,000 US$ per unit.
Unmanned systems, whatever their size and role, not only make delivery quickly and easily, but also open up many new deployment options. Fully autonomous equipment has the ability to return to base for reuse after each mission, and the locations of these bases can be more dispersed to address a changing threat environment. This would include setting up rugged, dispersed forward-operating bases, in some cases using rough runways that would be too unsafe for a manned landing.
Defying the impossible – with a reduced logistical imprint
These widened deployment options are completely in line with the US Air Force Agile Combat Employment initiative that ultimately aims to “reduce the number of Airmen in harm’s way in austere environments.” Consider the maintenance sustainment associated with the MQ-9 Reaper – labelled “The Most Dangerous Military Drone on Earth” – an unmanned aerial vehicle capable of remotely controlled or autonomous flight operations.
A fully operational MQ-9 Reaper system comprises a sensor/
weapon-equipped aircraft, ground control station, Predator Primary Satellite Link, and spare equipment along with operations and maintenance crews for deployed 24-hour missions. The basic crew of two personnel consists of a rated pilot to control the aircraft and command the mission, and an enlisted aircrew member to operate sensors and guide weapons. Furthermore, the remotely piloted aircraft can be disassembled and loaded into a single container for deployment worldwide.
Prioritizing organization and maintenance activities
Unmanned systems will only continue in their maturity and become a key component of a modern fighting force. The inevitable result is that sustainment, support, and maintenance become key considerations to keep these assets available throughout their lifecycle—wherever they’re deployed.
Maintenance support must ensure services are provided for optimal performance of the unmanned platforms, payloads, and related components throughout the asset’s lifecycle A quick look through recent unmanned systems RFPs and SOWs from various military forces shows the complexity of UAV logistics and sustainment activities.
The requirements are many and wide sweeping. Actions may include, but are not limited to:
• Ongoing support issues: lifecycle sustainment, supply support, depot-level support.
• Repair and maintenance issues: repair and refurbishment, alteration installation, logistics and sustainment analyses, maintenance planning, management, and services, packaging, handling, storage, and transportation.
• Training and obsolescence management: maintenance training and support, obsolescence management, Diminishing Manufacturing Sources and Material Shortages (DMSMS) support, inventory, and sparing management and much, much more!
Connecting UAVs through life support calls for an essential digital footprint
Whether these UAVs are supported and maintained by the OEMs, third-party defense contractors, or defense forces themselves, a next-generation military asset requires nextgeneration software to manage maintenance throughout its
lifecycle. There needs to be an end-to-end digital thread to link all data sources and stakeholders in the military UAV ecosystem. This means unmanned system design, manufacturing, supply chain, and aftermarket services need a digital backbone capable of supporting sustainment now and into the future.
From that long list of Request for Proposal (RPF) and Scope of Work (SOW) requirements around UAV maintenance and support, it’s clear that breadth of functionality will be a key component—and this breadth needs to be reflected in supporting software as well. Data collection, analysis, and execution will be vital to ensure the readiness of UAVs, and a lot of this can be achieved with the right underlying software support to ensure the right maintenance tasks are assigned at the right time for every UAV—for planned instances, but also unplanned scenarios using advanced data analytics and forecasting.
Stepping up on cybersecurity
With remote and autonomous assets also comes the increased vulnerability to cyber-attacks—so a key requirement throughout UAV RFPs and SOWs is the need for underlying software to adhere to the highest levels of cyber protection. This means containing the ability to identify, report, and resolve security violations and ensure that all information systems are functional and secure, it also means that information assurance is defined and validated.
To this end, supporting maintenance software should be a strategic enabler for information assurance and cybersecurity. It should be designed from the ground up with security in mind, and address risks and threats throughout all phases of the software development lifecycle.
Readiness remains constant for new assets
The undeniable development of AAVs and UAVs in defense has placed the maintenance of these military resources in the hot seat, specifically due to their rising complexity and operational influence.
Each phase of the AAV and UAV lifecycle with defense OEMs, forces and contractors can be brought together to boost their availability through a digital information thread.
Any military resource, including AAVs and UAVs, should be prepared and available for each occasion, regardless of time or location.