Casting a Wide Net: Creating Secure Mobile Networks While on the Move

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1. Challenge Statement

The Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces (DND/CAF) are seeking secure, mobile wireless networking capabilities for deployed Brigade group headquarters.                 

2. Background and Context

When Canadian Armed Forces are deployed today, it tends to be Brigade-sized tactical military formations comprising 3,200 to 5,500 personnel in order to allow for the type of mobility and flexibility that is needed to respond to new types of missions and emerging threats. Each brigade has a self-contained headquarters (HQ) and staff that are responsible for planning and conducting operations, as directed by the Government of Canada, anywhere in the world.

The collection, analysis, fusion and sharing of information is vitally important for exercising command and control, and new capabilities are needed to better support modern network-enabled applications. The military has relied on wired networking (i.e., fiber optics) for communications, which provides a high bandwidth as well as the required level of security, but there are number of drawbacks including the cost, time and resource requirements for set-up and take-down.

Wireless networking offers the promise of significant benefits over wired networking in relation to cost, flexibility and mobility. However, at present, there are unacceptable trade-offs related to performance and security that prevent its adoption within a deployed HQ. Wi-Fi uses radio frequency (RF) technology to broadcast signals that can be detected by adversaries and used to gain unauthorized access to the communication system or as a vector for a cyberattack. The electromagnetic emanations can also act as a beacon that reveals the location of the HQ to adversaries.

3. Desired Outcomes

The DND/CAF is looking for innovative solutions for a mobile wireless network that includes, but is not limited, to the following capabilities:

  • A secure wireless network with sufficient speed, capacity and bandwidth to permit the simultaneous connection of up to 50 users within a 200 meter coverage radius;
  • A network capable of operating at peak performance and efficiency;
  • Effective wireless network security measures, including, but not limited to the following:
    • Ability to protect the wireless network from cyberattacks and jamming;
    • Means of detecting possible intrusions and breaches to the network;
    • Ability to mitigate risks associated with the need to connect to other networks;
  • A set of tools to help isolate and quickly resolve problems with the network;
  • Non-Line-of-Sight (NLOS) transmission capabilities for operating across paths that are partially or fully obstructed, including vehicles, buildings, trees, and hills;
  • An electromagnetic barrier for the containment of the wireless network in order to prevent the detection and identification of the HQ based on its electromagnetic emanations;
  • A compartmentalized and ruggedized system that is easily transportable by sea, land or air; one that is easily and quickly installed and dismantled; as well as easy to use and manage.

4. Supplementary Information

Security concerns prevent the installation of a tower over the surrounding landscape within a deployed camp for the mounting of electronic communications equipment and antennae. 

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