EDF-2021-C4ISR-D-COMS: Robust defence multi-dimensional communications
Information superiority is key to achieve operational advantage against the enemy. Today, EU Member States (MS) armed forces use a variety of specialised communication means to coordinate and share relevant information during operations. In the tactical domain, to comply with the very demanding environment in high-intensity combat, radio communications systems have been designed with advanced mechanisms for discrete and robust communications, which results in limited data rate capabilities.
Current tactical data links and communications systems have operational and coalition limitations including vulnerabilities that need to be addressed. Wideband and reliable communication for operational interoperability, mobility and security that is robust against detection, acquisition and jamming are key capabilities for defence operations and electronic warfare, including far from the battlefield. However, robust, resilient and performant communications and software defined based network architectures will be a key competence to build and deploy next generation military communication systems.
In the context of collaborative warfare, sensors’ data must be shared and collectively analysed, including by means of big data analytics and artificial intelligence, in view of an efficient operational decision-making. This requires ad-hoc, any to any, ubiquitous, broadband, secured and low latency connectivity, which 5G technology could provide in certain operational scenarios.
An integrated tactical 5G bubble could offer a complementary and interoperable broadband capacity at the tactical level to increase information sharing, possibly speeding up the deployment of command posts, enhancing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) data sharing and contributing to improve bases’ logistics and security.
Therefore, it is needed to study 5G technologies with the target to integrate them (or a subset) in tactical CIS (Communication and Information Systems) to supply additional capabilities supporting specific missions and operational scenarios. A standardized and interoperable joint communication system or network is needed. Industry already has formulated flexible standards, like 5G and SDN solutions and network architectures potentially based on software-driven approaches, edge computing and slicing, that pave the way for next generation networks.
The specific challenge of this topic is to assess identified use cases, whereby 5G will bring improved operational capacities and build corresponding interoperable 5G solutions matching the military constraints in terms of robustness, resilience, security, sovereignty and manageability, and at the same time ensuring efficient interoperability of the 5G solutions with military networking technologies.
The proposals must address the development of a LTE/5G integrated tactical bubble based on a robust defence multi-dimensional communication design, using commercial and military secure hardware, software and architecture, digital transceivers, considering multi-functional digital antenna systems, all with a SWaP-C (Size, Weight, Power and Cost) approach.
In particular, the proposals must lead to the identification and assessment of operational use cases where 5G will bring benefits, analyse the merits, the implementation guidelines, including eventual modifications, and prototype selected use cases, and the area of hardening, if necessary, will be identified and the militarisation/customization tasks will be further defined and assessed. The objective is to help optimising the 5G solutions for the intended military user taking care of the best combination of operational constraints and available 5G computing power.
The proposal must provide tested solutions covering all aspects from devices, infrastructure, security and orchestration of the overall system providing an optimized solution, in order to best integrate 5G solutions with other military network types that might be present in the use cases.
Among others, examples of potential military 5G use cases should possibly consider to:
- Provide secure and robust command, control and communication providing information relevant at C2 (Command and Control) level for ISR and, in the future, for cyber situational awareness.
- Remotely control unmanned vehicles and robots g. For surveillance and reconnaissance information.
- Integrate 5G network enabling augmented/virtual reality for mission planning, training and operational use.
Integrate 5G network enabling smart warehouses, smart field health care and supply/logistic solutions.
The proposals must cover the following activities as referred in article 10.3 of the EDF Regulation, not excluding possible upstream and downstream activities eligible for development actions if deemed useful to reach the objectives:
- Studies, such as feasibility studies to explore the feasibility of new or improved technologies, products, processes, services and solutions;
- The design of a defence product, tangible or intangible component or technology as well as the definition of the technical specifications on which such design has been developed which may include partial tests for risk reduction in an industrial or representative environment;
- The development of a model of a defence product, tangible or intangible component or technology, which can demonstrate the element’s performance in an operational environment (system prototype);
- The testing of a defence product, tangible or intangible component or technology. The proposals must address in particular the following objectives:
- EU Member States defence forces use case analysis for Homeland defence and Expeditionary operations with an emphasis on interoperability (land, maritime and air domains).
- Evaluation of 5G standard and SDN systems to answer to the different use cases (including gap analysis) and new operational concepts (g. tactical cloud).
- Analysis of concepts for adoption of an appropriate industry standard to military needs of EU Member States.
- Definition of requirements for 5G military systems, considering also interoperability with other military radio networks.
- Study on how to combine 5G systems with other network types that might be present in an operation
- Analysis on use case needs according to 5G system constraints to select underlying network architectures.
- Analysis on how to improve cyber-resilience capabilities and, in general, 5G robustness against detection, acquisition and jamming (g.. using ad-hoc resources management procedures, specialized antenna systems).
- Presentation of the study results and execution of a demonstration with use cases, also to permit to evaluate the gaps in the 5G technologies for a secure integration with the tactical networks.
- Definition of 5G solutions (including tactical bubbles) and SDN solutions applicable to centralised and distributed systems.
- Definition of the system architecture, subsystems and interfaces, and guidelines for implementations, etc.), considering also interoperability with other military radio networks.
- Definition of the security environment and solutions, considering secure overlays exploiting existing military standards.
- Selection of a subset of use cases for demonstration, simulation and prototyping.
- Definition of the scope for adoption of an appropriate industry standard to military needs.
- Definition of the system architecture for adoption of an appropriate industry standard to military needs.
- Definition of a testbed for the adoption of an appropriate industry standard to military needs.
- A proposal for potential subsequent projects that should be generated according to the operational needs of the EU Member States.
Prototyping for implementation of selected use cases (to be consolidated along the implementation):
- Development of a prototype consisting in multiple integrated tactical bubbles in military networks including demonstration and/or prototyping of different interoperable tactical bubbles and end-to-end tactical networking, also integrated with military assets.
- Presentation, if possible, of the study results and execution of a demonstration with use cases.
Testing of the supported operational capabilities and present solutions for life cycle management, with the aim of increasing efficiency and cost-savings.