Boeing highlights Currawong progress, eyes Five Eyes alliance
This week Boeing Defence Australia sent the last of 56 nodes to the Australian Defence Force (ADF) as part of its A$650 million ($468 million) contract under Project Currawong, which is replacing Parakeet equipment via Project JP2072 Phase 2B.
These nodes are part of Release 1 of the overall Currawong project, which is delivering a deployable battlespace communications system to the ADF. This Integrated Battlespace Telecommunications Network (IBTN) provides all the communications infrastructure necessary to connect unit nodes with each other and to a central headquarters.
Ian Vett, program director of Currawong C3I solutions at Boeing, said Release 1 should be achieved by the end of 2018, this supplying Network Access Modules (NAM) that create a scalable network when joined together. Around 250 NAMs are being supplied to the ADF, enough to equip five deployed headquarters.
The NAM is a computing platform that provides routing, switching, networking, video, data and voice capacity, as well as management software. This equipment is mostly man-portable, fitting into three-rack 19-inch deployable transit cases.
The NAM uses Tactical Services Routers (TSR) that provide secure voice, data and video transfer between the army headquarters and deployed forces.
There are three node types being provided: a force node for the headquarters (typically eight NAMs), a formation node for the brigade level (typically four NAMs) and a unit node (usually one per unit) for battalions. This Currawong network sits above the Land 200 network.
Initial material release occurred in December 2017, and an initial operating capability was achieved in April.
The NAM interfaces with a bearer network such as high-capacity line-of-sight Harris radios, long-haul fibre and satellite terminals. Currawong makes use of wideband small, medium and large satellite terminals provided by the ADF under Project JP2008 Phase 5B.
Release 2 is the next phase of the Currawong project, and it will offer mostly vehicle-based equipment. A detailed design phase for this is now under way, which should be complete by year’s end. Release 2 will provide approximately 250 extra NAMs for 56 nodes, with this phase due to end in 2021.
In addition, Release 2 will supply beyond line-of-sight troposphere communications and greater security levels. Boeing is also developing a trailer-mounted Medium SATCOM Terminal with 2.5m-diameter dish to be towed by a Hawkei.
Another capability coming under this tranche is a satellite on-the-move capability for Bushmaster vehicles to give commanders complete situation awareness whilst on the move. Another service to be added is video conferencing using deliberately low bandwidth.
Another Release 2 initiative is a rugged Radio Interface System (RIS) that can connect up to six analogue radios with phones via radio over internet protocol. The RIS thus allows potentially worldwide communications. External Network Access Points (ENAP) also allow connections to civilian internet infrastructure whilst maintaining secure communications.
Vett noted that a new phase has been added since the inception of JP2072 Phase 2B. Release 3 will upgrade the network, and it will add an additional 12-18 months to the entire project.
Vett summarised that the Currawong system is scalable and flexible. It is also attracting interest from other Five Eyes members. For example, Boeing Defence Australia is bidding in New Zealand’s efforts to initially equip a light task group by 2022.