Traditional command posts are tent-based with a large physical footprint and an easily located Electromagnetic (EM) presence. One factor tethering command posts to a static site is reliance on fixed network infrastructure which is the organizational center for Command and Control (C2). For future command posts to be more survivable against near-peer adversaries, forces must move away from the traditional tent-based command post to a vehicle-based command post with a distributed, mobile network.
A distributed, mobile command post (CP) will reduce and fragment the overall CP footprint, confounding enemy attempts to locate, identify, and defeat the CP. With redundancies and distributed functions, neutralizing one or even a few nodes in the CP structure will be insufficient to defeat the overall CP. Mobility decreases the risk of always-on emitters needed to sustain network connectivity between CP nodes. Band agility further decreases the risk of continuously operating the network by better evading detection. An interoperable gateway will bridge disparate waveforms to allow for C2 of Joint and coalition forces from the CP while on the move.
In summary, as a concept, a mobile, dispersed CP solves myriad problems presented by a fixed infrastructure:
- Reduces physical footprint
- Dilutes EM presence
- Enables redundancies
- Inherently transportable
- Provides for bridging disparate technologies
- Enables a “system of systems” for sensor ecosystem connectivity
- Provides democratization for data intelligence
While a distributed, mobile CP is more survivable and arguably more effective, the concept also introduces operational challenges that do not exist with a fixed site CP:
- Equipment power source availability, capacity, and reliability
- Vehicle platform form factor constraints
- SWaP, variety, transportability, and management complexity of equipment needed for communications interoperability with Joint and coalition forces
- Frequency management while moving through an ever-changing RF environment
Banshee Mobile Radio (BMR) / Battlefield Edge Network
This blog describes a method to enable a fully distributed, mobile CP to improve survivability and ensure mission success based around COBBS’ partner Fenix Group who has create the Banshee Battlefield Edge Networks. Specifically for this purpose, we deep into the Banshee Mobile Radio (BMR) battlefield edge network.
The BMR is an open standards Modular Open Systems Architecture (MOSA) compliant platform for voice, data, video streaming, sensor integration, and Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance (ISR) control in austere, contested environments.
The BMR also provides a crucial nexus to bridge networks, link commanders to sensors in multiple domains, and maintain continuous connectedness with warfighters at the tip of the spear.
Available today in 4G/LTE, and with 5G in proto- type, Fenix Group’s battlefield edge network provides multi-modal, carrier-grade, private, secure, connectivity for end points; a Mobile Adhoc Network (MANET) backbone between nodes; gateway to bridge disparate networks and legacy radios for interoperability; and backhaul to reach back.
Picture 1: Battlefield Edge Network: bridging disparate networks and providing connectivity to a wide array of systems.
Built for Networking in Motion
SWaP Optimized for Portability
Unpacked, BMR’s form factor literally fits within commercial airline carry- on dimensions. Packed for transit, the BMR kit – including gateway, antennas, and cables – occupies no more than 2 cases and is easily transported by a single individual. The BMR operates from standard A/C power. It can be connected to shore power, generator power, or powered by a vehicle or other portable battery system using an A/C converter.
Vehicle-to-Vehicle Networking in Motion up to 7 km Radius
BMR’s MANET backbone extends vehicle-to-vehicle connectivity up to 7 km radius with tested range at the halt (with LOS) up to 30 km. This provides a reliable pipeline for sharing or replicating data and communications across CP nodes. The backbone automatically self- forms and self-heals a constantly adapting mesh network between CP nodes.
Local 3GPP Network Coverage
BMR’s inherent coverage is 4G/5G/LTE to connect a wide variety of handsets and Internet of Things (IoT) sensors to the mobile CP. This capability not only increases utility in the present, it also future-proofs investment to accommodate in-process and upcoming initiatives leveraging cellular modalities for military applications.
Bridges Networks and Disparate Legacy Radios
BMR also communicates with legacy radios through their native waveforms. Traffic is received over one modality – which could be UHF, VHF, SATCOM, DDL, etc. – routes through the gateway, and is sent out over the applicable IP-based destination modality. In this way, users with devices operating over completely different waveforms are able to directly communicate with one another. This translation is seamless, transparent, and “feels” to the end user as if communication is taking place over the same RF channel. Since BMR is a standards-based, IP- flat system, it can interconnect with and route traffic to/from any IP-based network, regardless of ownership.
By adding optional Core services, BMR accommodates devices roaming freely between the private Banshee network and commercial carrier cellular networks. This allows end users to bring their own devices and grants military end users access to commercial carrier bandwidth when desired.
Band Agile for EW Resistance and Resilience
BMR operates over two independent frequency layers simultaneously; each layer is configurable to a variety of bands. If one frequency layer becomes jammed (or generally non-operational), end devices will continue communicating using the remaining frequency layer. Meanwhile, the first layer can be tuned to a free channel to restore connectivity over a new frequency. This property is called band agility. Access to wide spectrum and separating frequency layers far apart makes it extremely un- likely a jamming event will be able to affect both layers simultaneously, making BMR highly resilient in the presence of enemy jamming attacks.
Picture 2: Complete and undisrupted connectivity for every unit
Picture 3: BMR in the back of the Polaris MRZR
Operation in GPS-Denied Environment
Another way adversaries target military networks is by disrupting or denying access to GPS signals. Conventional wireless networks may be disabled or degraded without access to GPS information. Banshee battlefield edge networks have an integrated alternative timing system that calculates locations based on the position of devices relative to the node itself. With this alternate method of geolocating, BMR continues operating in a fully GPS-denied environment.
Decentralized Command Post
BMR extends CP deployability and improves survivability by replacing the fixed location CP with a vehicle-based implementation. BMR sustains the network while the vehicle is in motion to enable a decentralized, mobile, never offline command post. BMR is a gateway to weave communications and data from disparate systems into a single data fabric.
There is no theoretical limit to the number of nodes supported in BMR’s battlefield edge network. The network self-creates a massively meshed hub-and-spoke architecture. Traffic routing and device connection handoff is handled automatically and dynamically based on serving cell attractiveness, with the capability to maintain connectivity among nodes in motion.
BMR has multiple layers of security. By default, data is encrypted using the strongest commercial algorithms available today and encryption can be upgraded to National Security Agency (NSA) standards. Optional equipment can create multiple classification enclaves operating simultaneously on a single node, including Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) and Secret, as well as TS network over inline third party encryptors. Optional equipment implements Zero Trust Architecture (ZTA), which defines the future direction of all network security.
Bottom line, with its modular architecture, BMR gives flexibility to configure the network with exactly the security required for the operational environment – as little or as much as necessary – with the ability to easily upgrade as needs change. This allows networks to be deployed with minimum complexity and cost while maximum security is an available option.
Computing at the Edge
The Banshee battlefield edge network combines communication, computing, and video encoding in a single device. With an onboard industrial-grade processor and storage, Banshee is built with an integrated, native Team Awareness Kit (TAK) server and can be configured to host additional Virtual Machines (VMs) for other applications and storage needs. Banshee brings compute resources straight to the tactical edge to support mission critical combat applications to provide unprecedented functionality where it is needed the most.
Versatility-Built for Military Applications
With a meshed hub-and-spoke architecture for scalability, redundancy, and resiliency, BMR sustains continuous connectivity under the most extreme contested combat conditions. Built to MIL-STD 810G, BMR stands up in austere environments (such as the harsh Norwegian winters). With a small form factor, low weight, and multiple power options, BMR can go literally anywhere a vehicle can go. In its smaller, lighter, man-portable variant (Banshee Tactical Radio (BTR)), warfighters can take the Banshee network anywhere a human can go, anywhere a robot can go.
Picture 4: BMR during Exc. In Norway (-22°C)
High Speed Voice, Data, Streaming Video, and Backhaul.
Banshee provides connections for voice, data, and streaming video between end points at network speeds never before seen on the battlefield. BMR also provides high speed backhaul to any in-range IP network via MANET (or optionally when feasible, wired connection).
Collaboration Across Distance.
The Banshee battlefield edge network is meshed and massively scalable. Mission groups are able to communicate across vast distances for collaboration, C2, and to share Situational Awareness (SA). Each 4G/LTE BMR node supports up to 800 connections, high speed broadband, with a range of up to 15 km diameter (LOS-dependent). BMR-5G will support 1000s of connections with high throughput and a range up to 6 km diameter. The man-portable Banshee Tactical Radio (BTR) supports up to 256 connections with a range up to 2 km diameter.
The BMR 4G/5G/LTE battlefield edge network node is TRL 9, just as the BTR and TALON PUC. Variations in technical maturity afford opportunities for immediate test and evaluation to develop TTPs with concurrent R&D for next generation functionality. Please contact our team on how we can best assist your challenge.
Picture 5: 5G LTE Bus
Banshee Edge Network solutions
Banshee Tactical Radio
The BTR is a man-portable LTE radio that will have all the capabilities as the BMR has, with the benefit of taking it into action. The BTR provides over 1km coverage and connects to many legacy radios. 256 connections can be connected to the radio, offering around 300 Mbps download speed. It’s form factor allows to take an edge network into any austere environment.
Picture 6: BTR in backpack
Talon - Personal Ubiquitous Communications
The Talon is a single-user MANET radio aimed at reducing risk, burden and cost by equipping units with intuitive, easy-to-use solutions that bridge disparate technologies. Talon ensures having flexible comms by enabling smartphone voice, text app, data share and mission-critical applications (such as ATAK) as primary mobile ad-hoc network. It’s interoperable with any IP-based network, sensor or device.
Picture 7: Talon – PUC
Fenix Group’s Banshee battlefield edge networks furnish a reliable, resilient, interoperable platform to dis- tribute communications throughout the battlefield. Banshee networks provide a cohesive, high throughput infra- structure for multi-domain operations. Banshee networks provide a crucial integration point to converge intelligence, SA, and C2 among disparate systems to link sensors and warfighters operating at the tip of the spear to put the right firepower on the right target at the right time.