The United States is the main military power on the planet. According to the World Bankspends billions of dollars every year on maintain and upgrade your war systems. This results, among other things, in authentic technological prodigies, among which we find the Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter and the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) aircraft carrier.
However, not everything that falls under the umbrella of the Department of Defense shines as brightly as the aforementioned examples. One of them, surprising as it may seem, is its nuclear weapons system, the same one that until recently required 8-inch floppy disks and 1970s-era computers to function.
Although the floppy disk issue is a solved problem (four years ago), the country continues to rely on the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) platform, which has been in operation for more than 50 years and whose 400 silos are distributed in different strategic points. America now wants to make it more secure.
Objective: improve the security of the US nuclear arsenal
Today’s security solutions in the US arsenal are made up of different pieces: a large number of military personnel, a fleet of surveillance vehicles, radar and cameras. But, as Persistent Systems points outdistances and multiple geographical features are a major communication obstacle.
On occasion, secure links can go offline, immediately resulting in a critical-level security weakness. To address this, the United States Air Force has awarded a $75.5 million contract to the aforementioned company to have the world’s largest wireless ad hoc network at its service.
The figures for the project are truly staggering. This network will be in charge of maintaining stable and secure communication within the 40,233 square kilometers in which the nuclear silos are located. The main advantage of a network of this type, like the one we can set up in our homes connected to two computers wirelessly to transfer files, is that it has a “decentralized” nature.
In other words, it doesn’t rely on managed infrastructure like routers or access points to function. Each node is responsible for participating in routing by forwarding data to other nodes on the network, providing a most reliable system than the one currently used, which is based on centralized base stations that can fail and disrupt communications on a large scale.
Persistent Systems says its technology uses an algorithm called WaveRelay that automatically retransmits data through the nearest node on the network in case the recipient is out of range. It also has a security add-on that can recognize attempts to intercept and sabotage communications.
The new ad hoc network will be made up of 700 directional antennas, 75 operations centers, 1,700 smart radios that will be used by security personnel and that will be capable of transmitting voice, video, messages and positioning data (GPS). The surveillance vehicles, for their part, will be equipped with MPU5 radios, which are like small computers certified for use in military communications.
A key point of this contract is that the administration and ownership of the network will be in charge of the Air Force, a move that is totally understandable when talking about a key piece in maintaining the security of the US nuclear arsenal. The project is already underway and should be completed in about a year and a half.
Images: Defense Department | Persistent Systems