Technology Today

2012 Issue 1

Crew Comm: The World's First Multi-level Secure Real-Time Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) Mission Crew Collaboration System

Crew Comm: The World's First Multi-level Secure Real-Time Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) Mission Crew Collaboration System

Insurgents have increasingly adopted quick-strike attacks to surprise Coalition forces and cause critical mission delays. To counter these threats, and even to prevent them, requires real-time voice collaboration — often spanning continents — among intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) crew members and soldiers in hostile environments. Raytheon’s Crew Comm (short for Crew Communications), provides such a collaboration capability, enabling users to connect from different communications networks, to exchange information among themselves, to identify friendly forces in the area, and to coordinate sensor and shooter resources within the theater.

Crew Comm in Action

The Figure illustrates the use of Crew Comm to enable voice communication and coordination among team members during a troops-in-contact event. Figure 1

A convoy bound for a remote forward operating base deep inside contested territory travels a familiar route, but at a heightened state of alert because of increased enemy activity. As the convoy enters a valley, insurgents attack from the steep hills above and from the road ahead. The convoy commander orders his troops to establish a defensive posture and calls the area command post for ISR and close air support (CAS).

Moments later, the Combined Air Operations Center (CAOC) in theater receives a call from the command post. ISR and CAS support are needed for the convoy’s troops in contact with insurgents.

To task a surveillance asset, the CAOC coordinates with the Air Force Distributed Common Ground System (AF DCGS). Currently composed of multiple geographically separated, networked sites, the AF DCGS is an enterprise intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance system. The DCGS produces intelligence information collected by various sensor assets. DCGS hosts the Crew Comm voice communications capability.

The Predator Operations Center (POC) is tasked, by the CAOC, to redirect a nearby drone to the battle location. When the drone reaches line of sight with the convoy, a secure virtual communications network enabled by Crew Comm is established among the convoy commander, AF DCGS and the POC.

Supporting the convoy through voice communications with the convoy commander, the drone’s pilot and the asset operator maneuver the drone into position and focus the sensor to locate enemy locations.

While analyzing the drone’s sensor data, The AF DCGS ISR mission commander and imagery analysts monitor the discussion between the convoy commander and the POC.

It is determined that the distribution and positioning of enemy forces would be vulnerable to an A-10 attack. This is quickly coordinated with the CAOC and, within minutes, the tasked A-10 roars above and precisely strikes enemy’s positions. The drone, which carries Hellfire missiles, joins the battle.

Through persistent reconnaissance, AF DCGS analysts immediately conduct a battle damage assessment. They confirm that the threat has been eliminated and the convoy can proceed. Later that night, with continued overwatch support from AF DCGS and the POC, the convoy arrives safely at the base.

Collaboration on Demand

At the heart of AF DCGS ISR centers is the Crew Comm enterprise system which, as illustrated in the scenario, enables AF DCGS crew members to collaborate securely in real time among themselves as well as, and more importantly, with other warfighters in the theater. Crew Comm’s enterprise architecture is highly scalable and extendable which allows direct station-to-station operation without the need of centralized services.

Built on commercial communication Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) standards and off-the-shelf hardware and software, Crew Comm provides simultaneous bi-directional and uni-directional connections between end-points. In addition, crew members can establish multiple conference calls while maintaining the point-to-point calls. These calls can be at the same security classification level, or span across multiple levels. This is achieved through the use of a controlled voice communications interface. Crew Comm provides a comprehensive call capability that allows connections to be made anywhere in the enterprise. The system features a Web services graphical user interface (GUI) to support a variety of host workstation environments. Visual indicators provide the operator with real-time security level awareness of the connections.

As a mission enabler in AF DCGS, Crew Comm links a variety of mission support entities and allows them to perform as a single integrated team from sensor to shooter. It leverages COTS technologies and a defense-in-depth security approach to provide improved situational awareness, knowledge sharing and exchange.

Crew Comm demonstrates how Raytheon has leveraged its experience and expertise in mission systems integration to combine COTS, government off-the-shelf practices, procedures and tools to enable geographically diverse participants to collaborate seamlessly for mission success. Crew Comm is a Director of Central Intelligence Directive (DCID) 6/3 Protection Level 4 (PL4) accredited enterprise system and has been fielded and operational since September 2009. “PL4” means that the system provides services with the following characteristics: high confidentiality (information is not shared with unauthorized entities), high integrity (information is protected and not modifiable by unauthorized entities) and medium availability (the system is usable when needed).1

Crew Comm is a mission-proven technology. As the warfighter’s mission has grown, so have Crew Comm’s capabilities. It is readily adaptable to a variety of mission applications. In recognition of its successes, Crew Comm was named in the top five of the C4ISR Journal’s 2010 technology awards for networked systems.

1Level 4 describes a system that controls data up to and including that having top secret classification and appro priately compartmentalizes and protects that data from unauthorized access

John Masiyowski, Contributor: Monica Bal

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