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Aerospace and defense missions require rugged data networking

September 08, 2014

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Military organizations look to outfit myriad vehicles with compact, yet feature-rich networking equipment able to withstand harsh environments.

Demand for information at the edge, often in harsh environments and in vehicles traversing rough terrain, is driving the need for rugged data networking systems and devices. Aerospace and defense organizations the world over are tapping into the product portfolios and engineering design services of high-tech industry firms to architect, test, implement, and modernize information networks within and among myriad military vehicles, as well as across the network-centric battlefield.

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Consolidation consideration
Aerospace and defense systems integrators are increasingly investigating the consolidation of functionality into single boxes, solutions, and appliances, says David Jedynak, chief technology officer of the Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions Division in Ashburn, Va. "In the past, customers had federated architectures where they had many, many different line replaceable units (LRUs). There is a push to reduce SWaP and, in that effort, customers are looking to consolidate the functionality of what used to be separate devices into a single box.

"The DuraWORX product is a perfect example of that, according to company officials. By leveraging a mechanical design and an electrical design that are modular, Curtiss-Wright engineers can mix and match both computing and networking functions in a single box. They married a Cisco router with an Intel Core i7 processor and the ability to add additional I/O and additional switches in one package.

The Parvus DuraWORX 10-10 SWaP-optimized, commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) subsystem is designed to provide system designers with "a scalable, all-in-one computing appliance that simplifies the integration of tactical computing, Internet Protocol (IP) networking, and situational awareness applications, while significantly reducing SWaP and enabling LRU consolidation," according to Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions, a Cisco Systems Solution Technology Integration (STI) partner.

The DuraWORX 10-10 integrates the capabilities of Curtiss-Wright's DuraCOR 80-40 mission computer and DuraMAR 5915 network router LRU subsystems, Intel Core i7-based processing, and Cisco 5915 Internetwork Operating System (IOS)-managed secure network routing in a single, rugged enclosure for extended temperature, high shock and vibration environments. Parvus DuraNET 30-2020 or DuraNET 20-10 Ethernet switches can also be integrated in the system to increase Ethernet port count and add managed Layer 2 switching capabilities.

Consolidation of features is driven by multiple applications, including unmanned air systems and tactical ground vehicle applications, Jedynak says. "The U.S. Army wants to get rid of stove-piped devices that are isolated from each other and that cannot talk over a common network. The VICTORY initiative is eliminating stovepipes, getting all interfaces out to an Ethernet network, and allowing for scalability. One of the big things that the Army is trying to accomplish: not getting backed into a one-size-fits-all solution, but rather to have solutions based on standards and the scalability to adapt and add on over time according to what each application requires. It is very much that value proposition of scalable I/O architecture, mixing and matching functions in a modular way."

Internal and external data demands
"If you look within military vehicles-whether aircraft, ground vehicles, or shipboard-you're networking various different systems together so they can share data and interoperate," says Curtiss-Wright's Jedynak. "It really is analogous to local area networks (LANs) in a home or office environment. Then there are all the connections on and off these different platforms.

"There are a lot of different ways for the data to move from that platform out to larger networks, whether that is satellite communications, over the air, wire, fiber, or things like dismounted soldier mobile networks," Jedynak continues. "They are all communicating back to a vehicle with networking technology, and enabling soldiers to communicate over that network.

"Routing ends up becoming very important: keeping track of what connections are live, where can you send data, where are you allowed to send data from a security context, all these different things. It really puts a lot of emphasis to be able to not just switch on a platform, but being able to route data on and off that platform," Jedynak says.

"If you have a vehicle platform and on that vehicle you have various types of sensors that are monitoring the actual vehicle itself in terms of maintenance, fuel, or navigation information, those different sensors onboard the vehicle can now be linked together for sharing situational awareness, typically through Layer 2 Ethernet switches," says Mike Southworth, product marketing manager  at Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions in Salt Lake City. "If that information needs to be sent to another vehicle, aircraft, or command center, then you need Layer 3 router functionality.

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Read the entire article by Courtney Howard on Military & Aerospace Electronics' website.

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