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Five Eyes nations turn to software to boost interoperability

27th September 2018 - 15:00 GMT | by Grant Turnbull in London

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Interoperability between the Five Eyes nations is likely to be significantly enhanced in the future as connected devices integrate more software-defined features, including radio waveforms, although industry is still expecting challenges along the way.

‘Communications interoperability continues to be a significant issue for the allied nations of the Five Eye Coalition,’ said Preston Johnson, strategy development director at communication specialists Rockwell Collins. ‘Rarely have we seen a significant military operation that did not involve support from all of the Five Eyes at some point.’

Johnson told Shephard that as all the nations move toward fielding modern software-defined radios, the question of interoperability will change significantly.

‘Now the question of interoperability will be a function of using interoperable waveforms on disparate sets of hardware,’ said Johnson. 

‘This presents a new set of challenges as now you have to ensure the compatibility of waveform software operating on different hardware platforms. You have issues of version control, implementation, crypto system interoperability that haven’t existed as acutely previously.’

While those challenges may be daunting, it means interoperability and information sharing across the Five Eyes alliance will be ‘at much wider scale than previously’.

Rockwell Collins provides a broad spectrum of defence electronics to the Five Eyes nations, with notable technologies being the Defense Advanced GPS Receiver used in a variety of applications including by dismounted troops, as well as the ARC-210 Airborne Radio utilised across a variety of platforms

‘The ARC-210 provides a great example of the benefit of the Five Eye Coalition nations derive from using our product. We typically export ARC-210 radios through the Foreign Military Sales programme,’ explained Johnson.

‘By doing that the Five Eye coalition countries that get the radio benefit from the technology advancements we continually spiral into the radios that we build for the US DoD, as well as the economies of scale associated with buying a radio that is produced in large quantities for the US,’ he explained.

‘Inherent in that product is a suite of waveforms that interoperate with the radios we supply to the US DoD. That’s interoperability as its most risk-free and assured level.’

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