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TECHNOLOGY PROFILE – Situational Awareness on the Battlefield

TECHNOLOGY PROFILE – Situational Awareness on the Battlefield

BY JAMES CARELESS

Situational Awareness on the Battlefield

 

No matter what the scale or nature of military operations, establishing networking and situational awareness (SA) on the battlefield are essential requirements for gaining and maintaining strategic advantages. Without accurate SA, it is difficult to make the best-possible command decisions and to see their outcomes in real-time, if not downright impossible.

Unfortunately, most Battlefield Management Systems (BMS) are based on radio networks/LTE cellular networks, which can suffer from degradation due to either the terrain blocking signals and/or a lack of tower infrastructure to carry signals past ‘line of sight’ (over the horizon).

Ottawa’s NORTAC Defence®, a 2022 CDR Top Canadian Defence Company, has a solution to this problem called TITAN BY NORTAC®. It uses global Low Earth Orbiting (LEO) satellite networks to provide commanders with constant Command and Control (C2) and SA capabilities irrespective of ground terrain and built infrastructure. With this secure signal path in place, the TITAN BY NORTAC platform integrates all communications links and data sources used by a military client into a secure, consolidated display of their total operations in real time. 

“TITAN BY NORTAC not only provides SA from HQ to each combat element through means of Blue Force Tracking (BFT), but also enables quick updates and reports using Short Burst Data (SBD),” said Andrea Strawbridge, NORTAC Defence’s Director of Strategy and Business Development. “The strategic advantages we deliver include maintenance of SA under all operating conditions, dispersed operations, low probability of detection (LPD) due to low power transmission levels, and financial advantages due to the low amount of data being used.”

According to Strawbridge, TITAN BY NORTAC is favoured by Special Ops groups

AVAILABLE ON RADIO & SMARTPHONES 

As noted above, radio’s shortcomings in Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) theatre conditions is the raison d’être for TITAN BY NORTAC. But as radio remains in widespread use for military operations, NORTAC Defence has created NORTAC HERMES™ a native Windows application that can package and secure datafrom any offline asset such as a gateway radio that can connect, physically or over a LAN, to the computer or tablet on which the NORTAC HERMES software is running “NORTAC HERMES packages and secures radio-originated data, enabling interoperability with any assets that are integrated to the TITAN BY NORTAC platform,” Strawbridge explained. “When the radios are GNSS-enabled, NORTAC HERMES enables tracking of these offline assets. The interoperability afforded by NORTAC HERMES also includes messaging between the radios (if they have messaging capability) to TITAN BY NORTAC and to other assets that are integrated to the platform and also capable of ‘text’ messaging.”

With NORTAC Hermes in place, commanders can maintain C2 and SA even when radio silence is required. When radio traffic is allowed, NORTAC HERMES can free up the radio network for priority communications, using LEO satellites for routine traffic such as situation reports and troop/asset locations.

“NORTAC HERMES’ usefulness is not limited to radio networks,” Strawbridge noted. “Its ability to parse data to a form suitable for the TITAN BY NORTAC platform opens up a multitude of Machine to Machine (M2M) opportunities, including adding sensor alerts and UAS data to the common operating picture.”

NORTAC Defence has also added 4G/LTE commercial wireless capability to TITAN BY NORTAC by creating the NORTAC ORION™ app, which works on Android and iOS. NORTAC ORION transforms cellphones into encrypted tracking and messaging devices, allowing them to communicate with all other messaging-enabled assets on the TITAN BY NORTAC platform.

The takeaway: TITAN BY NORTAC can provision an entire battlefield C2/SA communications system.

A COST-EFFECTIVE SOLUTION

NORTAC Defence’s approach has always been to use proven Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) products wherever possible. This allows the company to build solutions that are less expensive than custom systems built from scratch, as well as being easier and faster to deploy.

Using COTS products protects NORTAC’s clients from being tied to a single Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) and their proprietary technology/software.

“Governments don’t want to spend multi-million dollar budgets on solutions that cannot continue to evolve or whose evolution rests solely with the OEM,” Strawbridge told CDR. “By offering the source code for customized TITAN BY NORTAC solutions to governments and providing them with the training and capability to undertake further development themselves, those clients can adapt and grow TITAN BY NORTAC for future needs using their in-house engineers.” 

AVETM mobile device - a rugged, Iridiumconnected tracking device that shows SA information

A DIGITAL BUILDING BLOCK

As the world’s satellite network grows to more than 20,000 satellites over the next ten years, many countries will be seeking to use them in defence communications applications.

According to Andrea Strawbridge, TITAN BY NORTAC can serve as a “digital building block” to help countries build C2/SA applications tailored to their specific needs. “As a digital ‘hub’ it interfaces with various communications bearers not normally existing within conventional BMS including integration of UAVs, sensors, MANET radio, HF/VHF/UHF radio, short burst data and broadband satellite,” she said. “Data feeds can then be provided to higher level BMS or C2 platforms if required.”  

This wheel illustrates the versatility of the TITAN BY NORTAC platform

THE CHOICE FOR SPECIAL OPS

In the military arena, a ‘Spec Ops’ unit is an elite special operations force tasked with highly dangerous and extremely important military assignments.

“As a ready to deploy solution for remote and austere environments TITAN BY NORTAC is favoured by Special Ops groups,” Strawbridge said. “The evolution of the solution to its current versatile state has broadened its appeal and Nortac is seeing adoption of the solution by Tier 2 countries at the national level. It has also spread to mainstream defence groups both within Canada and other NATO countries, plus civil defence groups and agencies responsible for national security.”

Clearly, TITAN BY NORTAC and its scalability and device and bearer agnostic approach offers a future proofed solution from smaller agencies up to national level defence.This is why NORTAC Defence has become a name to watch in the tech defence industry. 

James Careless is CDR’s Ottawa Bureau Chief 

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