PacStar Building Rugged Components for Marine Network-on-the-Move Program
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
QUANTICO, Va. — Size, weight, power — the iron triangle governing electronics systems — is the key driver in adapting systems to mobile applications rather than static structures. PacStar, a company based in Portland, Ore., has addressed that concept in developing hardware and software to give Marines a network-on-the move (NOTM) capability in its tactical vehicles and aircraft — and even individual Marines — to enable them to be more effective as command and control platforms and to rely less on stationary command centers.
PacStar was awarded a $10 million contract on Sept. 12 to provide PacStar 400-series modular networking and communications systems to the Marine Corps’ NOTM. The small, 2.5-pound components perform the same functions as racks of servers inside tent-based operations centers but are small and light enough for easy carriage in vehicles and even in the pockets of cargo pants, Jeff Sinclair, PacStar’s vice president for sales, said Sept. 21 at the Modern-Day Marine exposition in Quantico.
Sinclair said Marines need to communicate in real time while on the move, rather than at the halt, on a mission in the battlefield. PacStar has taken traditional technologies like a 12- to 15-pound Cisco switcher/router/server of an enterprise network and “reduced the size and weight and ruggedized it so it is something they can employ in these very small [platforms], in rugged environments,” he said. “These modules can be used to build networks in the field.”
The servers and switches can be stacked in a case, if needed, and be powered by the same battery used by the tactical radios carried by individual Marines. The capabilities include Secure Internet Protocol, non-Secure Internet Protocol and mission-specific networks. The power requirement is less than for a stack of conventional servers and switches.
“It’s a significant step forward from the way they [Marines] were traditionally operating,” Sinclair said.
PacStar also is using leading technologies such as firewalls, including a “Microsoft upgrade to Windows that is meeting all of their security standards,” Sinclair said.
He also said the NOTM systems are easy to use for an individual Marine and do not require a team of data system technicians to operate and maintain. This is accomplished using a software interface that is run with the networking devices in that field that is Wizard-based and “automates all of the complex functions in the background.”
The NOTM program is two years old and PacStar is currently retrofitting Generation 1 NOTM systems to the latest technology. Increment 2 of the program will be a refresh for many tactical vehicles. The MV-22B Osprey assault transport aircraft and the command variants of many types of tactical vehicles will be modified with the latest NOTM systems beginning in 2018.
The PacStar 400 is being installed on tactical vehicles include the AAAV7 amphibious assault vehicle, the Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected All-Terrain Vehicle and the High-Mobility, Multi-Wheeled Vehicle.
“There will be follow-on task orders [under the September contract] that will outfit a variety of other platforms,” Sinclair said.