Viasat UK moves ahead with NATO award for next-gen command post

Allied Rapid Reaction Corps to gain a rapidly deployable and highly secure command post


Viasat and CDW have been selected to provide NATO’s Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC) with a next-generation command post featuring innovative solutions to sustainably resolve many existing restrictions associated with the contemporary operating environment.

Viasat, which was awarded circa GBP1.7m contract on 27 October to lead the two-year program, will equip the UK-based ARRC with a new agile Staff Working Environment (SWE) — a highly secure command post capable of supporting multi-national operations anywhere in the world.

The ARRC comprises a rapidly deployable and flexible headquarters that can act as a joint land or corps HQ for operations and crisis response at short notice.

Located at Imjin Barracks in Gloucestershire since 2010, the ARRC comprises the UK’s contribution to NATO’s High Readiness Force capability, which falls under the command of the Supreme Allied Commander Europe.

Viasat’s winning solution, dubbed “Programme LELANTOS” (after the Greek Titan god of hunting and moving unseen), will provide the ARRC with a more agile command and control (C2) solution, making it highly survivable and modular. It will be designed to be scalable to accommodate more than 500 connected personnel up to the appropriate security classification.

According to Viasat UK’s Chief Technology Officer and Experimentation Lead, Andrew Dobson, the program will enable agile experimentation to develop new and innovative capabilities in the Land C2 domain.

“This is a really exciting time for all those involved, where we get to challenge the status quo and drive innovation across NATO and its partners,” Dobson said. “We will demonstrate and deliver enhanced battlefield C2, decision-superiority, cross-domain integration and survivability in a peer-to-peer context and demonstrate multiple capabilities to transform the ARRC’s Staff Working Environment.

“This is going to be an iterative rotation of investigate, evaluate and record evidence to enable procurement over four iterations” he added. “This will be massively different to the usual procurement cycle of the UK’s Ministry of Defence [MoD].”

An agile and innovative approach

Programme LELANTOS will design a new solution for the ARRC’s headquarter components, based on Viasat’s commercially and technically agile approach.

Viasat, as part of it continual defence industrial base approach to mission empowerment, has brought in four sub-contractors to support the program. Those include shelter manufacturer Weatherhaven; Zero Alpha, which will provide a hybrid energy solution; CDW, responsible for digital transformation and virtualization; and Cervus, tasked with customer service assurance and evidence collection. Additionally, software developer UniVirtua will be on hand to create any additional software requirements.

“This is how we ended up winning the bid,” Dobson said. “It wasn’t just about building a tent and putting some equipment within it. We are moving and tracking the staff and conducting a deep analysis of data to understand how we can drive productivity.”

He added: “Viasat is bringing its agile and DEV-OPS culture into defense, more like a Californian startup than a monolithic integrator that is severely constrained by commercials and fixed process. This is a million miles away from the way the MoD normally delivers a capability.”

Dobson described how Programme LELANTOS aims to reduce the cost, establishment time and resources in creating a headquarters, irrespective of where it resides on the battlefield. The project also aims to minimize energy requirements from 2KW down to just 200W per person.

“LELANTOS is all to do with speed and agility and how the headquarters can remain engaged throughout an operation and maintain an uninterrupted battle rhythm,” Dobson said.

It is hoped the SWE solution will be demonstrated and fielded across a variety of NATO exercises by the ARRC. Upon completion of the two-year program, the ARRC will be provided with a better understanding of preferred requirements for a modern SWE, which will then be added and consumed from the MoD’s catalogue.

New services and partners to come

Viasat continues to consider how to bring onboard additional industry partners to make the SWE forward compatible.

“Viasat will be embedded with the NATO team to get feedback and develop future solutions,” Dobson said, before highlighting a series of potential future partners which include BAE Systems, Cisco, Cyviz, GetSat, Kymeta and Paradigm.

“We are designing a ‘sandpit’ environment outside of the ARRC’s core system, which will allow us to bring new services and emerging technologies on board much more quickly,” Dobson said.

Examples include the streaming of open-source intelligence feeds into the HQ; emerging call management systems and unified communications platforms; enhanced speed of service; and greater collaboration with other headquarter elements.

Viasat is also planning to create a NATO standard to allow LELANTOS to be adopted by partner forces across the NATO Alliance.

“We are moving commercially at speed,” Dobson said. “Viasat is a company that customers can come to in order to see immediate results focused on mission needs, who are able to experiment and integrate with additional industrial partners to deliver what is of interest to the customer objectives.”

Watch a video from the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps about Project Lelantos