The sensor and communications networks are being developed for the U.S. Air Force Electronic Systems Center. The ESC's mission is to provide the Air Force with the latest in command, control and information systems. Sandia National Labs' system will be compatible with the recently announced open-standard mesh-networking infrastructure that the Defense Department calls the Common Data Link. CDL will be supported by major military contractors, including Cubic Defense Applications (San Diego), Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems (El Segundo, Calif.) and Rockwell Collins (Cedar Rapids, Iowa). For more information, search www.eetimes.com for article ID: 164903960.
The ease of use associated with Sandia's version of UWB, combined with AES, enables a traditional Internet Protocol network to operate in a completely secure manner, even during the "fog of war" that prevails in battlefield conditions.
IP networks divide messages to be communicated into separate byte-size packets that can be sent separately and then reassembled by the receiver into a coherent whole. This is why the Internet is not typically a real-time communications system separate packets might take different routes, and thus not all be available for reassembly when needed. The result is the sluggish performance typical of Internet connections.
Sandia's particular flavor of IP adds "rotating" encryption to the messages before dividing them into packets. Because no two packets are necessarily encrypted with the same code, even if a hacker cracks one 256-bit encryption key, the individual still has to crack the other keys before he or she can even begin to reassemble the secure message.
The hardware-based system requires no maintenance at all, said Cooley, because it has a built-in self-recovery feature that protects it from transmission interruptions, missing packets and even complete sensor breakdown. Also, because the encryption/decryption process is performed in hardware, it can be run on any network infrastructure, such as the Defense Department's recently announced CDL.
Sandia contracted with Time Domain Corp. and KoolSpan Inc. to independently test its system. The KoolSpan Encryption Laboratory (Santa Clara, Calif.) tested a Sandia-supplied wireless UWB network bridge with real-time 256-bit AES encryption. KoolSpan concluded that the system could handle even live streaming-video images from remote surveillance cameras as well as night-vision thermal imagers. According to KoolSpan, the tested system required only microwatts of transmission power that were over a thousandfold less powerful than the typical power radiated by a conventional wireless Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11b) port.
Sandia National Labs is operated by Sandia Corp., a Lockheed Martin company, for the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration.