iPhones, commercial satellites prominent in joint DOD exercise

JUICE stresses flexible networking, new uses for existing technology

A recent U.S. Defense Department interoperability exercise connected participants across the United States and Europe via commercially available satellite terminals. The annual Joint User Interoperability Communications Exercise (JUICE), which wrapped up last week, involved all of the U.S. military services, allied partners, industry and academia working together in a series of scenarios that stressed information sharing and getting the most out of existing equipment and technologies.

This year’s event focused on hybrid communications in complex environments, said John Caruso, chief of the Executive Agent for Theater Joint Tactical Networks, Fort Monmouth, N.J. JUICE participants examined the alternate uses for a variety of devices. For example, Apple iPhones were tied into the global satellite network. Caruso said that the phone’s Global Positioning System capability essentially turned the device into a handheld Blue Force Tracker, the military term for a GPS-enabled device that provides information on troop positions.

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“What we tried to show is that there is technology out there and we may not be using it to the full extent that it’s capable of,” he said.

Another part of the exercise involved the implementation of a complete joint network operations center based on a new construct. Caruso said the idea was to validate the center by defining personnel roles and executing the operational plan behind the center’s concept.

Caruso noted that the current military document outlining the deployment of joint network operations centers is nearly 15 years old. The new architecture updates and changes the old system. The new construct also considers the management of voice and data communications, information assurance and network defense. “We identified 24 [or] 25 positions in it, and developed their roles and responsibilities,” he said. For example, if an information assurance officers detect an event, the new plan works out who they report to and how this information moves up the chain of command.

Satellite communications for JUICE was provided by iDirect Government Technologies, which used Panther terminals from L-3 Communications to provide communications on the move. Caruso described the Panther as a small, portable satellite terminal that is useful for a variety of battlefield communications applications. “It’s a very easy terminal to use, especially when coupled with an iDirect modem tied into a hub,” he said.

Although the Panther terminal does not have the bandwidth to support an entire joint task force, it can provide rapid connectivity for forward operating bases or forces operating in the field. Karl Fuchs, iGT’s vice president of engineering added that the terminals have been forward deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and other locations.

Network security and information assurance were another important part of JUICE. Fuchs observed that the U.S. military has stressed to the commercial sector its need to have security features built into new products and technologies. “It’s not really sexy to demo—not nearly as cool as paratroopers jumping out of airplanes. But nonetheless it’ incredibly important,” he said.

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