DOD looks for IT 'golden nuggets'

A globe-girdling wide-area network that connects participants in eight nations serves as the core technology for this year's Defense Department demonstration for new and emerging commercial computer and communications technologies that could shape the battlefield of the future.

Planners for Joint Warrior Interoperability Demonstration '97 (JWID) which began this month and will end Aug. 1 have focused on technologies that enhance real-time collaborative planning in a multinational task force of the type used in Bosnia and in Operation Desert Storm. The JWID '97 network called the Coalition Wide-Area Network (CWAN) is the first military network that allows allied nations to participate as full and equal partners not isolated by multilevel security devices or firewalls.

The Pentagon uses every JWID to uncover "golden nugget" technologies that can quickly make the jump from concept or demonstration to use by active-duty forces. Navy Capt. Dennis Murphy director of JWID '97 believes CWAN could emerge as this year's prime golden nugget.

"What we put together is not the final solution and we still have more things to do " he said. "But we intend to use it for follow-on exercises."

Darryl Henry a Defense Information Systems Agency engineer who serves as the chairman of the network operating group for JWID '97 said "To my knowledge no such coalition network has even been built before. Previously the allies have been isolated by security devices...but CWAN has no such devices no firewalls. This means they can take part in the collaborative planning process just like the U.S. components.... Instead of us tasking a British fighter to a strike they take part in the planning."

Murphy said such "real-time [collaboration] sets the tone for the whole demonstration and CWAN has really driven everything in this JWID. We've hooked together different services different countries different computer systems and different software all into one network."

CWAN serves JWID participants at 45 sites in eight countries - the United States Australia New Zealand the United Kingdom Canada France and Spain as well as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization headquarters in Belgium - over a number of satellite systems. These systems include the Defense Communications Satellite System Navy satellites and satellite systems operated by Spain and NATO with additional capacity obtained from commercial providers.

Henry said that in addition to developing CWAN DISA provided the core network services to all the participants. "We're the [America Online] of JWID " he said. "We do everything you would expect from an Internet service provider."

CWAN ties together headquarters organizations ground forces - primarily the Marines at Camp Lejeune N.C. - as well as ships from several of the participating countries including the United States Australia and New Zealand. Murphy a career submariner takes a special interest in the role of two submarines - the USS Atlanta and the USS Scranton - as full-fledged participants in JWID for the first time. No longer members of the so-called "silent service " both submarines sport advanced satellite communications terminals that provide them with a minimum of 128 kilobit/sec connectivity a quantum increase in performance over older submarine communications systems that provided less throughput than the average PC user can get using a low-end modem and phone line.

JWID '97 will involve the submarines as players in joint operations Murphy said. "One of the scenarios calls for the submarine to control an [Unmanned Aerial Vehicle] to detect targets on shore.... The submarine then calls the Navy brass who assigns the target to the Army."

JWID '97 does not neglect ground forces. It taps cellular telephone technologies to tie battlefield communications systems into CWAN. Wheat International has set up a portable analog cellular telephone system at Camp Lejeune that feeds into a small satellite uplink said John Craighill Wheat's assistant vice president of research and development.

The complete cell site including an eight-channel base station from Ericsson capable of serving 65 users and a Timeplex multiplexer fits into a case easily carried in a Humvee. Wheat has equipped its cell phones with an add-on security module based on the National Security Agency's Skipjack algorithm Craighill said.

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