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A SQEP in the Right Direction…

Dave DavisBy Dave Davis, Sr. Systems Engineer, VT iDirect

Last week saw IET MilSatcom 2017 come to London. It was a fantastic event with big hitters from industry, Ministry of Defence (MoD) and academia joining together to share a vision of the future of MilSatcom in the near and medium term.

It was also the first time the event incorporated a second day with a series of workshops on day 1. The workshops provided an opportunity to discuss threats, countermeasures, management and spectrum issues. The workshops produced some interesting takeaways:

  • There is the potential for over-reliance on MilSatcom
  • There is a lack in training to be able to operate in a denied or degraded environment
  • There is a lack of suitably qualified and experienced personnel (SQEP) in the military
  • Effective management is key

Reliance is a big factor in MilSatcom. Yes, there is a built-in resilience and technology is far more reliable than it once was, but could a modern battlefield commander operate without MilSatcom providing the large data rates required? Training in a degraded environment is key to understanding how the systems operate under stress and what contingencies are there. There is still a requirement for non-Satcom, i.e., HF capability and an ability to fall back where required. Luckily there is a plethora of Satcom available, so if MilSatcom is denied or degraded, having another satellite system available is likely, but data rates will probably be reduced. Read More

Jam Tomorrow And Jam Yesterday – But Never Jam Today?

Dave DavisBy Dave Davis, Sr. Systems Engineer, VT iDirect

There is definitely a feel of summer in the air of London. And this week, where better to enjoy the London sun, than the North bank of the river Thames? Savoy Place has been the home of the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) and its forebears since 1909. The building is steeped in history, with famous names of engineering legends all around you everywhere you turn. If you look closely you’ll notice a discreet plaque on the wall outside; this was also once home of the British Broadcasting Company, before it got too big to be a tenant and had to find its own space to fill. Just looking at the past Presidents in the foyer, some names leap out; Siemens, Swan, Kelvin, Ferranti and Fleming. From the guardian outside, the statue of Michael Faraday, to the modern roof terrace with views to die for, the recent £30M makeover has made IET Savoy Place a flagship building to be proud of.

Savoy Place is host to IET MilSatcom 2017, which is expanded this year to a two-day event. The first day is a series of workshops, aimed at an open forum to discuss threats and countermeasures, digital security and managing MilSatcom. It is hoped that these workshops will provide an interactive platform for all attendees and presenters to learn from each other. I will be leading the threats and countermeasures workshop alongside Sqn Ldr Van Halteren and am really looking forward to it; we’ll be talking about jamming, locating, interception, etc. as you’d expect, but we’re also trying to pull out some of the other “softer” threats that may not be quite so obvious on first inspection.

The second day is a really good blend of presentations from solo presenters, double acts and panel discussions, involving commercial and military experts in the field. We will also learn about a range of sectors within the industry; the defence view, the commercial/sovereign mix, the need for throughput, the balance between the frequencies, the use of Global Xpress and L-Band, building satellites, welfare provision, border security and the future of MilSatcom. All in all it promises to be an outstanding couple of days. Read More

From HQ to My Hometown (#DCtoUK)

By Dave Davis, Sr. Systems Engineer, iDirect Europe

American Football. I’ll hereafter refer to it as “football”. The other kind of football, I call soccer. Let’s not get hung up on the name; if you want a real debate on this, I’m a Rugby fan, so that’s the “Real Football” in my eyes. And then there’s a debate on which code of Rugby…

Dave Davis RedskinsLet’s just leave it there…

I’ve been a Washington Redskins fan since I was a young lad. In the 1980s, football was first aired on Channel 4. It was at the time a new channel, added to the other 3 we had available. Oh how things have changed. It was then that the Redskins caught my eye. The skill and grace of Joe Theismann, the speed and agility of Art Monk, the raw power of “The Diesel”, John Riggins and the metronomic reliability of Mark Moseley’s kicking. All under the watchful eye and the management of the Legend Joe Gibbs. *sigh* Those were goooood days. Since then, it’s been pretty slim pickings to be honest, but I’ve stuck with them through thick and thin. At this point, if I’ve lost any soccer fans, think of supporting Liverpool in the 80’s and then sticking with them ever since. Or Moseley if you’re a Rugby fan…

Wind forward *cough* years and here I am working for a company based just a short metro ride from the FedEx Field, home of the Redskins. I’ve been lucky enough to be over in my HQ when a home game’s scheduled and I’ve been able to get to the FedEx to see them up close and personal. It was an amazing experience and I was fortunate enough to be there when they came back to win from the biggest deficit they’d ever fought back from.

On Sunday 30 October 2016, The Redskins are coming to the UK, Wembley (home of soccer) to play the Cincinnati Bengals. Read More

Stirred, Not Shaken

By Dave Davis, Sr. Systems Engineer, iDirect Europe

Global MilSatcom was a real success last week with more people than ever gathering to learn about developments in the MilSatcom world. As predicted, the Airbus evening event on day two was a real highlight and this year the choice of venue was inspired. Just after the release of the latest James Bond Film, Spectre, we went to the London Film Museum and had a reception in the thrilling Bond in Motion exhibition.

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Bond is known for his love of Martinis, shaken, not stirred. But after Global MilSatcom, I felt the other way around – Stirred, not shaken. I’ll explain.

I wasn’t shaken because there wasn’t really anything to be shaken by. One of the main themes was the need for greater collaboration between the defence organisations and the commercial satellite sector. Not a groundbreaking observation really. Partnerships are nothing new to iDirect and we’ve been working hand-in-glove with defence organisations for decades, developing products and platforms that have the defence and security community’s needs at their heart.

With market leading security features, Network Management System (NMS) and Quality of Service (QoS), iDirect have engaged with the defence users to provide a capable platform, which is resilient and affordable. The QoS options allow separation of welfare traffic and operational traffic and allows managers to distinguish between a myriad of levels of priority and allocate valuable resources as needed, guaranteeing the levels of service required. The NMS is the most powerful in the industry, allowing commercial partners and end users varying levels of control and monitoring. And the security with TRANSEC and FIPS-140-2 protection is second to none. With the introduction of the 9000 series remotes, the separate TRANSEC module allows for fast re-certification, meaning defence forces can keep pace with the technological advances and stay abreast of features the commercial sector enjoys, whilst maintaining security and accreditation. Read More

Blend It Like Beckham

Dave DavisBy Dave Davis, Sr. Systems Engineer, iDirect Europe

The recent IET MilSatcom conference was an excellent event, attended by most of the industry’s key players. It was an outstanding opportunity to hear the perspectives of the UK MOD and several of the industry’s satellite providers, integrators, and partners, chaired by the charismatic Gerard Donelan. What is really good about the IET MilSatcom event is that there are very few sales pitches and plenty of insight, opinion and prediction, with the odd contentious point thrown in to make for good discussions in the breaks. And during those breaks, we had some great networking opportunities. All finished off with a final putting the world to rights session in the nearest local watering hole.

As usual at such conferences it didn’t take long for some common threads to become clear. These were increased data rates, a need for flexibility and the fact that one solution cannot fit all requirements.

It was generally accepted that data requirements are growing at an ever increasing rate. There has been an explosion of applications and devices which are either producing a massive throughput increase, such as ISTAR or a large amount of devices generating burst data, such as sensors…then add Autonomous vehicles, aircraft and maritime platforms…and mobile command platforms…and cell backhaul…and BYOD…and Big Data….

These data requirements are also very hard to predict going forward. It was generally accepted that increases in demand range from 10 to 30 percent annually. The soon to be released 12th edition of the NSR Global Satellite Capacity Supply and Demand report will make for interesting reading. Read More

Another Glorious Day In The Corps

By Dave Davis, Sr. Systems Engineer, iDirect Europe

Dave DavisA good friend of mine is an artist and has a passion for science fiction. He’s produced some incredible artwork based on franchises such as Star Wars, Terminator, Firefly and Alien. A recent piece features the Aliens Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) that takes pride of place over my desk at work. It was while looking at this piece recently that I started to realise that we’re not that far away from this sci-fi vehicle becoming reality.

In the film, an all-connected squad of colonial marines are kept informed of what’s coming their way with a range of sensors and live communications links. The APC then acts as a mobile HQ, linking the marines to their mothership and chain of command. We’re starting to see this now on the modern battlefield, with APCs not only delivering troops, but then acting as ad-hoc mobile command centres.

Reading through the latest AFCEA journal, gives the reader a good sense of how technology now dominates the battlefield. So much of this technology relies on connectivity; much of it is autonomous, but most of it is bandwidth-hungry with sensors, cameras, tracking devices, etc. Soldiers and Marines on the ground are now more connected than ever with sensors and biometric collection devices commonplace. The devices are becoming ever more sophisticated and more autonomous, with a strong trend towards pushing more data back to central command points.

At the forward edge of battle most of this connectivity still uses short-range technology, such as Wave Relay, but it then needs to be collated and relayed back to a central point, normally over satellite. As the number of users increase and the throughput demands become more intensive, there is a drive towards higher throughput satellites. This central point could be an APC, as in the film, but also could be a static VSAT in a Forward Operating Base (FOB), or an aircraft: either manned, or an unmanned aerial system (UAS). Read More

Bordering on Bad Behaviour

By Dave Davis, Sr. Systems Engineer, iDirect EuropeDave Davis

At the recent Counter Terror Expo (CT Expo) in London there was a lot of focus on the physical side of security, like barriers, fences, etc.; this is to be expected. Let’s face it, barriers and fences are the first things most people think of when they are trying to control access to an area.

The area that is being secured could be anything from a small perimeter of tens of metres, such as a forward operating base, all the way up to a national border spanning hundreds, maybe thousands, of kilometres.

There are obvious limitations to fences. They can be easily breached if they span across uninhabited areas. Quite often, by the time you realise they’ve been breached, the trespasser is long gone. The traditional solution to this problem is to have lookout points, or watchtowers, posted at regular intervals. These dramatically increase costs. Another solution is to have regular patrols up and down the fence. Patrols are cheaper, but less effective and over time it can be easy to avoid these patrols as they can become predictable. Any amateur that’s watched any movie that involves getting into or out of an area through some sort of fence knows to wait until the patrol has passed so they have the maximum time to breach the fence and make an escape before the breach is discovered.

One of the technologies on display at the CT Expo was a type of electronic watchtower. By installing remote sensing technology, movement or some other trigger can be used to start the transmission of live video or data to a central control point, and quick reaction forces can be used to intercept any potential intruders. These systems require the use of some form of backhaul technology to link these remote sensors to the central point, and because of the remote nature, satellite technology is the obvious solution. Read More

Space Plays a Vital Role in Relief

By Dave Davis, Sr. Systems Engineer, iDirect Europe

Airbus recently announced that Skynet 5A will be re-clocked to 97 East; this Dave Davisannouncement comes at a time when talk of the western strategic reorientation towards China (known as the “pivot to Asia”) has become a key issue in international politics. It also comes at a time when there are increasing concerns over response to humanitarian crises, with recent emergencies in the area.

In June of 2015, the AIDF Asia: Aid and Response Summit will see over 400 senior representatives from the industry, with governments and international bodies coming together to discuss how technological innovations can improve aid and development work in the Asia-Pacific region. I am certain many of the options will be satellite based.

So what could these technological innovations be? I can foresee this coming in two areas primarily: early warning and communications post-event.

Early warning systems based around satellite technologies, to detect and give advanced notice or tsunami, earthquake, cyclone, crop failure, etc., are becoming mature to the stage that they are starting to have a real impact and saving lives. Further development and innovation in these technologies is a must.

As far as communications goes, by its very nature any technology that is designed to work in a defence and security environment is also very suitable to be employed in disaster relief and humanitarian aid operations, so I see the defence focused products being key in this discussion. The discussions will no doubt be focused across all elements; air, land, sea and the lesser known littoral or coastal element, where specialists in amphibious operations come into play. Read More

From the Floor of Satellite, Day 2

Day two of Satellite 2015 proved as busy as ever. Here’s another Dave Davis video from the floor of Satellite 2015:

iDirect & Ultra GigaSat Discuss the micro VSAT terminal:

From the Floor of Satellite 2015, Day 1

Satellite 2015 is underway and is already proving to be another fantastic and exciting show! If you’re attending Satellite 2015, stop by iDirect’s booth, #4000, to learn more about our products and markets. Check out these videos taken during day one of Satellite 2015.

For those who cannot make the show, take this virtual tour through the iDirect booth:

iDirect’s Dave Davis met up with XipLink’s Andrew Pether and discussed how to use the iDirect and XipLink platforms together to maximize your maritime deployment: