354th AEW, DAF evaluate EdgeConnect during ACE training

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Zade Vadnais
  • 354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

The 354th Air Expeditionary Wing worked with the Department of the Air Force’s Chief Architect Office to evaluate an innovative communications system called EdgeConnect during an agile combat employment training event at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, earlier this month.

“The EdgeConnect system is designed with the ACE concept in mind,” explained Maj. William Hamilton, DAF/CAO intel team lead. “It can provide secure communications through pretty much any type of communication network available on site. Long-Term Evolution (LTE), military satellite communications, commercial satellite communications, traditional cable internet: all of that can be plugged into our system and through some technology that we’re testing out, we can provide classified and unclassified internet access to deployed units with potentially very high bandwidth availability and a lot of resiliency. If one means of communication goes down, the system will automatically correct over to an alternate means of communication, thus ensuring the warfighters don’t lose their ability to get reports and data to and from headquarters when they’re out in a contingency type location.”

The kit, which consists of one pelican case each for classified and unclassified networks, takes approximately ten minutes to set up. Users plug the kit into a power source then plug in Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) cards, cable internet, or another method of communication before plugging in a computer. Three easy steps are all that stand between a U.S. service member in an austere location and a secure line of communication.

“We don’t really care what type of internet sources we have,” said Jordan Nagy, DAF/CAO network engineer. “We can utilize whatever Internet source is available and provide seamless failover to users to enhance their flexibility.”

Part of the capability EdgeConnect provides is a routing system that wraps information coming out of various military systems in a protective digital “envelope” and pushes it securely through commercial systems. Though this technology has been used by the Department of Defense for years, the EdgeConnect system is able to accomplish this without the large footprint of previous systems. Hamilton explained that even units without attached communications support can quickly access their secure systems using the mobile kit.

“One of the functions with the classified side of this system is to be able to access whatever applications you require to be able to both receive and issue command and control messages and run through your processes,” explained Hamilton. “The intent is EdgeConnect is the conduit for C2 data that would traditionally travel over a device that would require a much larger footprint and maintenance tail.”

Joint All-Domain Command and Control prioritizes designing, building and procuring systems that connect through all domains. EdgeConnect aligns with that priority by modernizing C2 for the joint force as well as mission partners.

“With EdgeConnect, even if you don’t have the ability to get communications personnel out to a site, whatever unit personnel are localized to an ACE location will be able to operate the kit successfully,” said Hamilton.