Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board




Military Systems...

With imminent war approaching, I was wondering how multi-nationed military units coordinate their actions with one another?  Communication Systems, Target Acquisition, Tracking, etc.  I can't imagine there's an ANSI standard for this type of stuff ;-) Anyone know how this is done?

GiorgioG
Tuesday, March 18, 2003

I've worked on the periphery of this stuff at different times. Boy, you've got me! Military communications protocols (at least in the US) are a stewpot of different standards.  And even the different branches each have their own pet standards. There has been a general trend in DoD to COTS stuff and use of standardized protocols since the late 80s.  But the lead time from development to deployment is literally years.

Maybe that Universal Business Logic Adapter that IBM is advertising recently can help. :-)

Bored Bystander
Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Pure speculation:

I imagine that there is the minimum possible in-the-field communication, for just this reason. It seems to me that each involved nation would use a whole squad, so all members needing coordinating would use the same hardware.

I think the bulk of the communication would be strategic and tactical stuff at a higher level of abstraction, generals plotting on the large scale, etc.

This seems the likeliest scenario to me.

Again, pure speculation.

Mike Swieton
Tuesday, March 18, 2003

why don't they use bulk e-mail for the soldiers?

everyone@worldarmy.com

na
Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Bulk email? I can see the spam now:

Get your penis enlarger with bayonet attachment!

Sign up for www.gunchicks.com now, and get 1 month of *FREE* naked-guns-with-chicks porn!

Ack, the possibilities are too bad :)

Mike Swieton
Tuesday, March 18, 2003

More:

There is a common interconnect standard for shipboard, plane, and other military systems called the 1553 bus. It defines signaling as well as protocol and packet addressing and data formats. This, however, is simply the equivalent of a LAN in civilian life and isn't for long haul use. And devices need to be coded explicitly to interact with each other over 1553. 1553 is also used (so I am told) in the coal mining industry.

And a few years ago I interviewed locally for a contract that consisted of implementation of a prototype logistics system in Java using XML as the transport - this was for DOD research.  It was actually kind of an AI thing. Last I heard the project was suspended.

Bored Bystander
Tuesday, March 18, 2003

The 1553 bus comes from the avionics end of the military; I know that a lot of the shipboard systems use something called NTDS (Navy Tactical Data Standard). I once worked on a box that had three DIFFERENT interfaces in use simultaneously - RS-422 (a serial port like RS-232, but uses differential signalling), 1553, and PDC (some other oddball serial interface).

Working on the 1553 interface was a real trip. 1553 is a really odd beast. Physically it's wired like coax ethernet - a bus architecture. However, one of the nodes on the bus is the Bus Controller. Nobody can send on the bus unless the bus controller says so. As a result, you don't have the collision property of ethernet, but you're also limited to what the bus controller lets you do. Plus, of course, then you need all sorts of complicated stuff to handle passing off the bus controller function if the original box crashes (or has a hole blow in it, this is the military after all). A very complicated architecture for a very slow interface.

Chris Tavares
Tuesday, March 18, 2003

For the US military, most communications are legislated under MIL-STD-188 which discusses just about every form of telecom (http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/MIL-STD-188).

Of course, this standard only applies to the US.  Other forces in the field may use equipment based on similar standards, but they are not necessarily interoperable.

For this reason, deployments of allied forces are normally segmented in such a way as to provide optimal communications while limiting friendly fire.

!
Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Chris: on slowness of 1553, isn't it supposed to be 1 megabit/sec? Yes, this is dog slow compared even to today's low end networks. But a friend worked on avionics using 1553 back in the early 1980s and he states that 1553 was considered bleeding edge technology for its time.

Bored Bystander
Tuesday, March 18, 2003

I don't remember the actual bit rate. However, I worked on 1553 in the mid '90s. Trust me, it was WAY slow by then.

Chris Tavares
Tuesday, March 18, 2003

I heard that in the previous Gulf war in 1991 the Air force and Navy used such different systems that they had to send floppy's  out to the air craft carriers.  I don't know the thruput of that approach but it has be slow!

I hope that has been fixed.

John McQuilling
Wednesday, March 19, 2003

<<
I heard that in the previous Gulf war in 1991 the Air force and Navy used such different systems that they had to
send floppy's  out to the air craft carriers...I hope that has been fixed.
>>

They've probably developed some type of advanced floppy disk projectile delivery system by now ;-)


Wednesday, March 19, 2003

That sounds like a variation of "Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes hurtling down the highway"

A.T.
Wednesday, March 19, 2003

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home