CIO

Tech firms on high alert as NZ Cabinet prepares for multi-million dollar Defence decision

The New Zealand cabinet will make a decision this year on a major communications capability refresh to meet Defence requirements for the next 15 years, expected to cost several hundred millions of dollars.

The New Zealand cabinet will make a decision this year on a major communications capability refresh to meet Defence requirements for the next 15 years, expected to cost several hundred millions of dollars.

Defence has issued a request for information and says that information received in response will be used to assist it in the development of a project business case detailing potential options for government approval.

The Strategic Bearer Network – Phase 2 is potentially a massive project, which sources tell Computerworld New Zealand could run into hundreds of millions of dollars - it appears to be linked to the Network Enabled Army project.

The size of the project and the technologies involved would be an attractive target for multi-nationals such as Lockheed Martin, Talus and Northrop Grumman with sources telling Computerworld that only one local company, Tait Communications would be in the running.

Defence currently operates a high frequency radio communications systems installed late in the 1980s, based around six geographically separated centres and consists of 49 transmitters and 77 receivers.

The system is managed by a common control network, allowing transmitters that are local or remote to be controlled from multiple centres - the RFI says the system is reaching the end of its economic life, the failure rate is increasing, and the availability of parts for their repair is decreasing.

The communications system is used to communicate with NZDF’s deployed forces - these forces may be deployed on land or in ships or aircraft, often deployed forces will use satellite-based communications.

The RFI says deployments may be south of 60° S, in areas where conventional satellite communications is difficult while the deployments could also be in other parts of the world and they might not be able to access satellite-based communications.

The preferred solution will provide for a portfolio of sufficient transmit and receive assets so that a designed service availability can be provided – this may provide geographical diversity for disaster recovery, and spatial diversity allowing continuity of service:

• Automatic Link Establishment (ALE) and management;

• a common control infrastructure; and

• compliance with the interoperability standards.

All networking involving control of transmit and receive network elements and transmission of traffic will occur using use Internet Protocols, this traffic would normally transit the NZDF Wide Area Network.

Page Break

According to Computerworld sources, Defence will consider the relative cost-benefits of many possible solutions which are likely to range from a reduced, rationalised footprint of HF services providing services similar to that already deployed, through to latest generation HF services, providing wide-band packet data over HF radio - different ownership models will also be considered.

These may include Defence owning, operating, and maintaining the equipment through to a Public Private Partnership where Defence uses the service/bandwidth but does not own, operate or maintain the equipment.

The RFI seeks responses from companies that have the requisite skills, knowledge and experience to provide either portions of or a complete HF capability solution, including but not necessarily limited to:

a) System Design

b) Provision and installation of equipment

c) Design and build of the control system

d) Installation and introduction into service

e) Provision of ongoing support to maintain the HF capability at a contemporary standard through-life

f) Logistics support

g) Removal and disposal of the existing HF communication assets

The Network Enabled Army (NEA) programme is planned to modernise the NZDF tactical command and control systems in the land environment, together with supporting computers, communications and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance networks which support deployed land forces.

Until Cabinet approval to initiate, NEA remains in the “pre-acquisition” phase. Lead-in activities for transition to the acquisition phase are in place. NZDF and Ministry of Defence analysts are continuing research of the market place and of systems in use or under development in other defence organisations.

Submissions to achieve Cabinet approval for both projects are scheduled for the first half of 2015 - the current procurement concept is based on four tranches spread over the period 2015 to 2026 and will be implemented in accordance with New Zealand Government Rules of Sourcing.

Each tranche will inform the one that follows it. This concept is now the basis of the Ministry of Defence Acquisition Strategy.

The structure of Tranche 1 is still under development. The methods of MOD acquisition of programme support, such as provision and operation of a Test and Reference Centre and professional services, are still to be determined.

Three projects within Tranche 1 are emerging as likely to proceed rapidly into acquisition. These are still under development, subject to Cabinet approval.

Projects

Command Post Environment provides IT systems and software in a task group HQ, a dismounted rifle company, and a Special Forces element.

Furthermore, Universal Bearer Network provides common access nodes for communications at a task group HQ, a dismounted rifle company, and a Special Forces element.

Also, Mobile Tactical Radio System provides combat net radios, and battle management system and software for a task group HQ, a dismounted rifle company, and a Special Forces element.