Getting meshy: BAE scores £89m deal with MoD to build new battlefield network
It'll replace the old one, also built by BAE, on a very tight schedule: The old junk's due to be ripped out in 2026
The UK military is set to get a new tactical wide-area network from BAE Systems just in time for the decommissioning of the old one from BAE Systems, for which BAE Systems will bank £89 million ($113 million) for its efforts.
Details regarding the new battlefield network, dubbed "Trinity," are scarce from both the Ministry of Defence and BAE itself, which don't go far beyond describing the system as a series of nodes that maintain operational resilience by being able to take over for other nodes that are damaged or destroyed, a la a mesh network.
"If a number of nodes are damaged in warfare, the rest automatically re-route to maintain optimum network speed and flow of information, making it highly effective," the MoD said. The US military is similarly investing in mesh network-style resiliency for military networking, though it's focusing on a large constellation of cheap satellites for its efforts.
"Trinity is a land based, tactical wide area network and in that sense is not to dissimilar to a space based wide area network," Mark Todd, BAE Systems Digital Intelligence head of products told The Register. Todd said the US military's new satellite network is similar to what the UK MoD hopes to build through its Skynet program launched earlier this year. The "family" of military communications satellites, currently operated for the MoD, "provides strategic communication services to the UK Armed Forces and allies."
Beyond the basics, both the Defense Ministry and BAE were mum on details of the five-year Trinity contract, possibly because BAE and its partners in the consortium for the project have yet to design the new system, with such tasks mentioned as being part of the contract.
Based on what's known about Falcon, the predecessor system that Trinity will replace, and an infographic [PDF] BAE published alongside its Trinity announcement, the platform appears to cover everything from secured satellite communications to inter-operation radio signal towers and secured internet running from various headquarters to the field.
To support interoperability, Todd told us Trinity will be compliant with NATO's Federated Mission Networking Protected Core Network standard, "enabl[ing] greater collaboration with partners and allies, resulting in a truly interoperable solution for information sharing," Todd said.
Trinity will also be built on BAE's NetVIPR technology, which Todd said will bring orchestration and automation capabilities to Trinity, "reducing complexity for the user."
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Trinity itself is just one portion of the UK's larger Land Environment Tactical Communications and Information Systems programme, which includes several initiatives with the aim to give military leaders "the means to make informed and timely decisions enabled by agile Communication Information Systems," the MoD said.
BAE has perilous little time to get its new system designed and deployed – Falcon, which entered service in 2012, is slated to go offline in 2026, and the MoD wants Trinity delivered from December 2025.
BAE didn't directly answer our questions about whether it believed it could meet the MoD's tight deadline, or whether Falcon could end up in service beyond 2026, but Todd did tell us that BAE would keep delivering Falcon while Trinity development continued.
"We are in a new era of increasingly information rich warfare and Trinity is designed for this changing and complex nature of the modern battlespace as an extension to Falcon," Todd said.
We have asked the MoD for comment. ®