SOUTHWEST, Asia -- Imagine a military unit is pushed to the brink of stress.
They’re behind enemy lines, required to relocate from a base in short notice or recovering a crashed aircraft.
Now imagine this same scenario without the ability to communicate for support.
The 386th Expeditionary Communications Squadron trains with a communication fly-away kit for these what-if scenarios.
“We just need power,” said Tech. Sgt. Mathew Eisenbarth, 386th ECS ground radio section chief deployed from the 190th Air Refueling Wing, Kansas Air National Guard. “It’s got a couple of cases in the fly-away kit that we can rapidly set up for quick communications. This is actually a backup to a backup here, and is a deployable unit for command and control and satellite communication capabilities in a deployed location.”
Command and control is the ability to support and coordinate operations using a centralized command, distributed control and decentralized execution. The Air Force operates a variety of communications systems utilizing both radio and satellite technology, including the communication fly-away kit to do so.
The kit provides a non-secure internet protocol router, secure internet protocol router and voice over secure internet protocol communication capabilities for remote locations and can be integrated into established communication networks as a backup system. According to the Defense Information Systems Agency, a VoSIP service provides a cost-effective, reliable, and secure means of classified voice communications, and has direct calling capabilities.
A program office at Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts, was responsible for gathering requirements from the users in the field. Today, the Theater Deployable Communications office sustains the hardware through warranty repairs and annual software licensing support.
“Sometimes, we spend a lot of time getting the requirements right, but we don’t get to see the product when it is deployed to the field for use,” said Capt. Steven Wiseniske, the program manager overseeing the lightweight, deployed communications kit. “In this case, we know it’s used downrange, tested at least weekly, and is a perfect fit for travel or backup communications. It’s there for the Airmen when they need it, even if other communications methods have failed.”
Weighing approximately 45 pounds, the kit can be deployed operationally in less than 30 minutes, allowing operators to quickly communicate support requests if needed.
The capability is crucial to assuring that the military maintains command and control capabilities when operating remotely in situations which would require robust secure network and teleconferencing support. The unit allows troops to communicate real time updates and request anything from additional water and rations, to air support at short notice.
The unit is designed to transfer a lot of information quickly, requiring technicians to accompany it assuring the computer and telephones can smoothly interface with the communication fly-away kit, said Senior Airman Angel Perez, 386th ECS, cyber transport systems technician deployed from Robins Air Force Base, Georgia.
“Without ground radio technicians, we would not have internet at all, we would not be able to make a phone call, we wouldn’t be able to do anything,” Perez said.
“While you never want for this thing to have to be fired up in the real world, we want to make sure that we are there to be able to support it,” Eisenbarth said.
The 386th ECS currently utilizes the unit as a third back up to their established communication network. The kit is setup and tested on a weekly basis to ensure it is fully functional should it be called upon to provide primary communication support.
-Benjamin Newell, 66th Air Base Group Public Affairs, contributed to this report.