Fiber link headed to desert

FARWANIYA, Kuwait — Coalition forces in southwest Asia are almost completely reliant on satellite links for communications and data connectivity, but soon the first fiber link will be in place to help solidify the sometimes overloaded systems.

"The biggest challenge in this theater is that it's still such a satellite-centric theater, and inherent with that is that you do have bandwidth constraints," said Army Maj. Gen. Rip Detamore, commander of the 335th Theater Signal Command at Camp Doha, during a phone interview. "You can't upload stuff onto fiber links like in Europe because there's no backbone to do that."

But help is on the way. Within the next two weeks, a fiber link will be established to connect Camp Doha with the Theater Command Communications Center in Bahrain, which is run by Central Command, and finally back into "the large fiber connections in the European infrastructure," Detamore said.

"This will give us a bigger, more reliable pipe for a lot more bandwidth that we don't have to push through satellites," he said, declining to provide specific details on the size of the "pipe."

In addition to the new fiber link, Central Command has been working for the past few years on systems that can work with commercial satellite feeds. A lot of those systems have come "just in time," and are helping keep soldiers connected on the battlefield and back to camp, Detamore said.

Detamore, a 57-year-old reservist, retired from active duty in 1997 and has been in Kuwait since November. His command supports all Army land component communications as well as the Coalition Forces Land Component Command and all of its subordinate elements here. It also manages the vast array of technology at the Theater Network Operations and Security Center at Camp Doha.

"This is one of the largest telecommunications networks ever assembled in wartime," and it is completely joint, with the Marine Corps, the Air Force, the National Imagery and Mapping Agency, the Defense Information Systems Agency and numerous other Defense Department entities working to integrate traditionally stovepiped systems, he said.

"Interoperability is better than it ever has been. We still do have stovepiped systems out there because the services procure systems independently," Detamore said.

But the increasing powerful influence of the Army's chief information officer and the new Network Enterprise Technology Command, which manages the service's information technology and networks enterprisewide, is greatly helping the Army's integration, he said, adding that the other services are working on similar initiatives.

"The challenges are principally in databases, not so much transmission systems, and we can work through those because of the agility of the technology and the brilliant young soldiers that do it on the fly," Detamore said.

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