WASHINGTON — The U.S. Air Force tapped communications-technology company Persistent Systems to provide seamless networking for security operations at the nation’s three intercontinental ballistic missile bases in a contract worth nearly $76 million.
To link security personnel on the missile fields with faraway operations centers and to keep an eye out for intruders, Persistent is rolling out its Infrastructure-based Regional Operation Network, or IRON, which uses antenna systems on fixed towers or poles to enable widespread sharing of voice and video, as well as sensor and GPS data.
The company this month said some 700 IRON assets will be installed across Malmstrom, Minot and F.E. Warren Air Force bases, in Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming, respectively. The project, part of the Air Force’s Regional Operating Picture program, will connect 75 operations centers and more than 1,000 security vehicles across a combined area of about 25,000 square miles.
“U.S. military bases can sprawl tens of thousands of square miles, and as it stands now, there’s no dynamic, high-bandwidth way for headquarters staff to track, and reliably remain in contact with, the security personnel patrolling this vast area,” Adrien Robenhymer, Persistent’s vice president of business development, said in a statement March 1. “The first step will be to roll out ROP across Malmstrom, Minot, and F.E. Warren Air Force bases with eventually more to come.”
The installations are home to closely protected ICBMs, a segment of the U.S. nuclear arsenal some advocacy groups have called superfluous or provocative. Sensitive facilities like Malmstrom were flown over by a Chinese spy ballon in February, though exactly what information was sought or collected is not publicly clear.
The blanket of connectivity Persistent plans to weave — and the one the military is seeking — is in line with the Pentagon’s Joint All-Domain Command and Control vision, which aims to link once-disparate databases and forces across land, air, sea, space and cyber, according the company.
Robenhymer said IRON has “applications beyond” the improved situational awareness it will ultimately provide the Air Force and nuclear triad.
“It facilitates a fully digital battlespace that links multiple weapon systems and programs in a unified network,” the vice president said, a foundation upon which “a true Joint All-Domain Command and Control system could be built.”
Persistent in 2020 received $25 million to upgrade hardware for the Wave Relay Tactical Assault Kit program, or WaRTAK, which helps Air Force convoys communicate and relay information on the move. WaRTAK is used by the 90th Missile Wing, 91st Missile Wing and 341st Missile Wing, C4ISRNET reported at the time.
Colin Demarest is a reporter at C4ISRNET, where he covers military networks, cyber and IT. Colin previously covered the Department of Energy and its National Nuclear Security Administration — namely Cold War cleanup and nuclear weapons development — for a daily newspaper in South Carolina. Colin is also an award-winning photographer.