Since 1933, Rockwell Collins has specialized in enabling communications on the battlefield with the development of shortwave radio equipment. As the battlespace has evolved, Rockwell Collins has met the challenge in developing high integrity communications and navigation solutions for both military and commercial use. Recently Troy Brunk, Vice President and General Manager of Communication, Navigation, and Electronic Warfare for Rockwell Collins shared more about the challenges in the battlespace and how the company has prepared to address these challenges today and into the future.
The Modern Battlespace (TMB): Tell us about the long-standing history of your company in addresses communications challenges.
Troy Brunk (TB): Rockwell Collins has a long history of delivering robust communications systems to solve our customers’ problems. This includes delivering the first messages from the Moon and fielding the most widely-installed military airborne radio in the world. While our focus on building trust with our customers hasn’t changed, the threats that many of our military customers are concerned about today have changed.
The ability to communicate securely, in a contested environment, presents challenges that we are helping our customers solve. Our expertise in software-defined radios, modern cryptologic systems, advanced networking communication protocols between ground and air assets, and waveform development allows us to create solutions that solve our customers hardest and most worrisome problems. Our deep understanding of modern communications and the incredible engineering talent and experience we have, gives us tremendous ability to create solutions that ensure our customers can communicate securely in challenging environments.
TMB: As the battlefield becomes increasingly multi-domain, what are the biggest challenges today?
TB: One of the biggest challenges is that increasingly, all of the military’s networks have to function together to ensure critical information needed by the warfighters flows seamlessly between different networks. This means that dissimilar, small-scale tactical networks running on handheld radios, larger mid-tier networks running on vehicle-based radios, airborne networks running on UAS, rotary wing and fixed wing platforms and beyond line of sight (BLOS) must all connect and share data seamlessly with one another. This needs to be accomplished in an architecture where there are multiple levels of security, a multitude of waveforms being used, and a variety of data pipes, all in a contested environment where our adversaries are trying to control our use of the spectrum.
That’s a tremendous problem to solve. No single government program or company alone can solve that problem by themselves. The only solution is through greater cooperation and closer coordination between government offices and defense communication solution providers. Establishing coordination measures and advisory groups that ensure things like the development and implementation of waveforms and the roadmaps for new capabilities are clearly understood by all participants are key to solving this multifaceted problem.
TMB: How can cybersecurity be addressed on the battlefield to protect our warfighters?
TB: We see everyday that there are increasingly dangerous cyber threats facing our warfighters. In the face of this threat, we also see a desire to leverage more and more commercial communication technology to solve warfighter problems. I do believe we should take advantage of developments in the commercial communications market, such as new waveform technology, spectrum utilization, directional antenna technology, beam-forming technology, but we should evaluate and implement these new technologies in a thoughtful way. The security of the information moving across military networks is paramount, so every time a non-secure commercial device is in a military network because it’s “good enough,” lives of our warfighters are at risk.
A good example is the need for a training system that allows fighter pilots to train with each other without the information they need being compromised. Our adversaries know where all our training ranges are and they target those ranges for collection of information about our tactics, techniques and procedures. Most of those ranges are on or near a coastline, off of which an enemy can sail a signals intelligence ship. Without a robust, multi-level security solution to safeguard the information flowing from an F-35 fighter to the ground station, or to another fighter they are operating for or against in the training mission, that information is at risk.
That particular problem is one that Rockwell Collins has developed a solution for on the U.S. Navy’s Tactical Combat Training System Increment II (TCTS II) program. Our solution will provide a means for F-35’s to communicate securely with any other live, virtual or constructive participants, simultaneously at different levels of security.
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