iBLOS paints clearer picture for CAF and allies
By Capt Maël Roy-Richard, DAEPM(R&CS 5-5-2)
The interim Beyond-Line-of-Sight (iBLOS) capability, initially fielded in 2014 on several CP-140M aircraft when the Royal Canadian Air Force deployed for Operation IMPACT, was intended to deliver an immediate operational effect. Its fielding accelerated the implementation of a complex onboard satellite-based Beyond-Line-of-Sight (BLOS) capability that was to be delivered as part of the Aurora Incremental Modernization Project design. To expedite the delivery of this crucial capability for the limited quantity of aircraft deploying, support decisions for iBLOS had to be made quickly.
The initial architecture supporting the BLOS capability on the ground used domestic and centralized classified networks to bear the CP-140M full-motion video feed to the coalition, as this was the most flexible option for a quick implementation. However, over the course of a few Op IMPACT rotations, it proved to be less efficient than expected. The traffic travelled from the aircraft in the area of operations, across the Atlantic Ocean to different networks in Ottawa, and back to reach decision-makers at the Combined Aerospace Operations Centre (CAOC) in theatre. This complex architecture and loopback had a negative impact on the quality of the video where it mattered most.
As Canada redefined its mission role in 2016 with the removal of the fighter detachment, the Canadian Joint Operations Command (CJOC) raised the requirement to the RCAF to enhance the quality of the video feed. Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) was becoming one of our primary contributions to the Coalition against Deash. As a result, Assistant Deputy Minister (Materiel) was tasked in April 2016 to re-engineer part of the iBLOS capability with the goal of providing a better quality video to the war fighter.
In only a few months, a team from Director General Aerospace Equipment Program Management(DGAEPM) – Radar and Communication Systems worked with theatre personnel and the Weapon System Manager CP-140 team to design and obtain approval for a transformational network architecture. The initiative resulted in the ground segment of the iBLOS capability moving from Ottawa to the Deployed Mission Support Centre (DMSC) within the CP-140 detachment in theatre. This ensured an optimal path was being used to transmit the video feed directly to deployed users alongside the detachment. A technical assistance visit was conducted in theatre in October 2016 to implement the new solution.
As theatre personnel now had direct access to the video source, further enhancements were made over the following months to inject the feed into the coalition’s network. This milestone defines the current and final state for the iBLOS capability in theatre. Crisper and enhanced video has brought the CP-140M back into the list of high-priority ISR assets used for intelligence gathering, as well as dynamic targeting within the coalition. This achievement was highlighted by the satisfaction of the Canadian Liaison Officer in Qatar when presenting the result to coalition commanders.
As the RCAF and ADM(Mat) work on the implementation of the BLOS capability across the remainder of the fleet, lessons learned from the iBLOS experience in theatre have been captured and were considered in the final network architecture. The foresight of engineering staff within DGAEPM and the outstanding contribution of multiple L1s during this endeavour will ensure that the joint BLOS capability delivers high quality video to future end-users domestically and abroad, and will benefit the Canadian Armed Forces for years to come.
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