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23. June 2015

Final interoperability event in the ESSOR Programme: Far more than a technical milestone

Following the first and the second successful Interoperability Functional Qualification Reviews (FQRs), a final interoperability event was conducted 23 - 25 June 2015 in Gdynia (Poland). This event involved radio nodes from the 5 different nations that decided to port the ESSOR High Data Rate (HDR) Waveform (Finland, France, Italy, Poland and Spain).

This last interoperability event, especially concentrating on the significant heterogeneity of the involved SDR radio equipment, was the ideal demonstration of the ESSOR motto: Interoperability through waveform portability. Besides this, all the waveform features verified in the previous FQRs were demonstrated once again: MANET (Mobile Ad hoc Network) features, self organising / self healing with and without GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System), data traffic, video streaming, connection with external networks, VoIP (Voice over IP) capabilities, QoS (Quality of Service) management, power and data rate adaption, OTAD/R/Z (Over The Air Distribution, Rekeying and Zeroize) operations, etc. All these features were demonstrated along with all the waveform security mechanisms (COMSEC, TRANSEC and NETSEC).

Now the ESSOR Programme is moving towards its next phase, which will initially focus on the deployment of ESSOR HDR Waveform on the field, always ensuring the interoperability between the different tactical radios involved. In addition, the activities to promote the ESSOR HDR Waveform as the most suitable candidate solution for the NATO Wideband Waveform STANAG will continue in 2015.

Background:

One of the main characteristics of the operations during the last 25 years has been the need to deploy coalition forces from different nations together. In such coalition deployments the need to have interoperability between radio platforms has become critical to ensure joint command, to avoid friendly fire and to share a common operational picture etc.

Traditionally, the only way to overcome this problem has been through the usage of the same tactical radios provided by one of the nations participating in the mission (either borrowing the radios or acquiring them). This ad hoc solution has several drawbacks and constraints: limited number of radios to be shared with other nations (and therefore limited number of interoperability points), difficulty to integrate the tactical radios from a third party nation with the national information systems and platforms, impossibility of using such radios to transmit classified national information, etc.

Around ten years ago a new technology arose in the military environment: the Software Defined Radio (SDR). The SDR technology promised to solve the radio interoperability problem in a different and much more efficient manner. The radio interoperability would be achieved through the usage of a common waveform software application to be executed on the different national SDR radio equipment. Therefore each nation could use its own national radio, avoiding all the aforementioned problems related to the usage of tactical radios from third party nations.

Bearing in mind all the potential benefits of the SDR technology, six European nations (Finland, France, Italy, Poland, Spain and Sweden) decided to launch the ESSOR Programme in January 2009 with the aim of developing a common waveform software application to be ported onto the different national SDR radio equipment and thus ensuring the cross interoperability among them. After some fruitful years of cooperative efforts between the six national sub-contractors (Bittium Corporation – former Elektrobit, Indra, Radmor, Saab, Selex ES and Thales Communication and Security), and led by the main contractor (a4ESSOR S.A.S.), several and exhaustive Interoperability Functional Qualification Reviews (FQRs) demonstrated that the interoperability in military radio-communications is achievable through the SDR technology. These milestones of paramount importance are unique as no other cooperative military radio programmes have ever obtained such results.