ICBM Minuteman III in the mine. Source: nature.com
Wi-Fi for strategic forces
In early March, the United States Air Force awarded a $75,5 million contract to develop a dedicated high-speed information network that links the nuclear arsenal's systems. To clarify the essence of events, let's dive into the intricacies of technology. The executor of the contract is a small company Persistent Systems, which, nevertheless, has already managed to become famous. In particular, for the development of the military Persistent Wave Relay network for the air force. What is this network and what is its advantage? It is a peer-to-peer structure with no central element. For example, we can cite the usual cellular communication, in which communication between subscribers is carried out through communication towers or repeaters. Hence its name - multi-rank system. Such schemes are quite vulnerable, especially in combat conditions, since the destruction of one or two towers practically guarantees the disconnection of cellular communications in the district.
The peer-to-peer system does not have this disadvantage, since there are no "decision centers" and servers. In some ways, there is a similarity with traditional radio communications, only each station simultaneously acts as a transmitter and a repeater. That is, a package of information (video, photo or voice message) from one subscriber to another can go tens of kilometers through the nearest stations. The downside is that if there are breaks in the transmission chain, then the packet will remain waiting for the next “connection” in one of the nearest transmitters. Or the algorithm will start looking for a new, longer path to the recipient. The scheme works here - the more working stations, the more reliable the connection.
By the way, cell phones can work on a conditionally peer-to-peer principle when they communicate with each other via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. A particular example of a peer-to-peer network is MANET (Mobile Ad hoc NETworks) or mobile ad hoc network. Various variants of this design can be found in search and rescue missions, in providing conferences and other mass gatherings of people, as well as on expeditions to remote corners of the planet. There is no Internet and cellular communication, but MANET users can share content within their location. And if one of the users connects to the satellite Internet, such as Starlink, and starts distributing it over the network, then the whole structure will immediately turn into a multi-rank structure. Such systems work not only between animated users, but also in the “machine-machine” chain. For example, Vehicle-to-vehicle or V2V automotive systems allow vehicles to exchange information about road conditions, traffic jams, and other nuances with each other. There are V2V projects based on cellular communication, i.e. multi-rank, and those working on a wireless network, i.e. peer-to-peer.
The Americans have been using the Persistent Wave Relay network for several years, linking the MANET devices of Air Force combat aircraft. Developers immodestly call Wave Relay "the world's most advanced mobile peer-to-peer communications". Pilots can chat with each other in real time, share photos, videos and GPS coordinates. The whole idea is built around achieving the notorious situational awareness, without which modern combat operations are noticeably more complicated. The example of a Russian special operation illustrates this perfectly.
The Air Force also has another system of collective peer-to-peer communication - IRON (Infrastructure-based Regional Operation Network) or "Infrastructure-based Regional Operational Network". In order not to load the reader with complex terms, it is enough to say that the network is designed to provide wide-angle surveillance of all objects at air bases. It covers not only stationary objects, but also mobile observation points. Naturally, wireless communication channels are encrypted.
Approximate structure of the future largest wireless network in the world. Source: persistentsystems.com
The above $75,5 million will be used to create a massive peer-to-peer communications network that brings together four hundred silo-based Minuteman III nuclear missiles under its umbrella. The difficulty is that the base areas are scattered throughout America - in the states of Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota and Wyoming. In total, high-speed "military Wi-Fi" will have to cover almost 65 thousand square kilometers. This is approximately 0,7 percent of the entire territory of the United States.
In anticipation of World War III
Evil tongues claim that the Americans decided to deploy the largest wireless network on the planet because of fears for their nuclear potential. After all, the doomsday clock is now 90 seconds before the global apocalypse. It would not be superfluous to strengthen the internal security of the nuclear arsenal in the continental part of the country.
According to the plan, the new network will unite more than 1,7 thousand stations capable of transmitting various information packages. Of this number, about a thousand repeater transmitters will be made in a stationary version, and the remaining 700 copies will be in the form factor of MPU5 radio stations. The product is made on the Android architecture and is equipped with a 1 GHz quad-core processor, 2 GB of RAM and 128 GB of flash memory. The system allows you to track colleagues using GPS, shoot and transmit full HD video. A user on one device can view up to four video streams simultaneously. Through the USB and HDMI interfaces of the transmitter, you can connect a computer and use it as a full-fledged station. MPU5 are fully functional radio stations that have been on sale for a long time and are available to a wide range of users. At the request of the military, the entire system is simply integrated into a highly specialized network for the United States nuclear forces. The all-seeing eye of the Pentagon will make it possible to close the internal borders from sabotage attacks both from the air and from the ground.
Radio station MPU5. Source: persistentsystems.com
MPU5 and all related infrastructure is not the first time in the army. Tested military wireless during Marine Corps exercise Green Dagger in 2021. According to some reports, the British Marines then utterly defeated their American colleagues. They also worked with systems at the White Sands test sites and Nellis Air Force Base, and also mounted on experimental drones Pegasus II. The question arises - why all these difficulties, if there is a fully functional Starlink Elon Musk? Which, among other things, has proved its high efficiency in Ukraine. It's all about the waywardness of the head of SpaceX - at any moment he can cut down all the terminals simply because he got up in the morning on the wrong foot. Therefore, all rights to the future "all-seeing eye" of nuclear forces should entirely belong to the government.
Adrien Robenheimer, vice president of business development and marketing for the Air Force and the intelligence community at developer Persistent, comments on the possibilities of the future system:
“We have more bandwidth than required. In this way, we can help combine data from multiple sensors. The patrol can also put a pin on the map, noting where there was a problem or where a suspicious backpack was left.”
Robenheimer's main hope is a potential order for the development of the long-suffering Joint All-Domain Command and Control, or JADC2. This is a global "military Internet" for the Pentagon, uniting all US Army units around the world without exception. If it works out, then a modest IT company from New York can get an order for several billion dollars.