Case Study - Defense


Air Defense - SwitchplusIP®


We have been delivering Communications Systems in support of Air Defense Operations for more than two decades. Initially through our Time Division Multiplexed (TDM) Switchplus® product for this environment which provided the fault tolerant design and performance characteristics required for mission critical applications. The intelligence and radio interfaces were housed in a large centralized rack-mounted chassis, requiring fans, redundant power, redundant processors and an interface card(s).  In many deployments we were required to provide a dedicated rack of equipment to allow access to a small number of radio(s) in remote locations which, when networked, provided a large Radio Frequency (RF) area coverage for communicating with Aircraft. This design was state-of-the-art in the 1990s, however due to the inherent design of TDM solutions, required point-to-point infrastructure to be established and maintained from control centers to remote locations.  System modification and system topology changes were therefore an onerous task and generally required significant infrastructure changes to TDM applications.

It was with this background in mind that we designed and developed our End-to-End IP solution – SwitchplusIP®. With the same fault tolerant design considerations and performance characteristics offered by TDM, this new solution was designed to leverage a new distributed architecture; allowing the intelligence to be distributed and co-located with the asset being controlled.  Using an IP network to join various assets together (whether digital, IP or analog), the SwitchplusIP® system allows for a variety of system topologies whilst ensuring the ability for Real Time reconfigurations.  SwitchplusIP® draws from 20 years of robust operation service to provide our customers with the inherent reliability and performance of a TDM system; all whilst being enhanced with the future-proof design flexibility, scalability and interoperability of modern End-to-End IP communications solutions.

Air Defense operators around the world are charged with the mission to manage and co-ordinate task fighter and surveillance aircraft in Real Time situations. Through a combination of systems, Air Defense operators are provided with information pertaining to the environment/situational awareness of air combat - allowing them to make decisions and communicate to pilots.  SwitchplusIP® has been specifically designed to ensure these mission-enabling communications are available to allow operators seamless communication with air crew under any circumstance through a variety of technologies.  The distributed communications solution allows Air Defense operators to access secure Ground-Air assets, including satellite communications and tactical data-link equipment at numerous remote sites with wide area communications coverage. Coupled with the seamless integration of ground-ground communications assets, the SwitchplusIP® solution transcends the traditional regional tactical environment (single zone – line of site communications) to an integrated national air picture and communications infrastructure using a large distributed network incorporating multiple radio sites.

SwitchplusIP® RED/BLACK

 Exelis has developed a variant of its product SwitchplusIP® RED/BLACK specifically for Air Defense applications.  The system provides an integrated command, control and communications platform for communicating to aircraft, ground crews and other Defense agencies through both secure and open networks.  The product provides seamless communications for Air Defense operators to aircraft, troops, other Air Force locations, and government and Defense agencies via any type of communications medium (i.e. digital or analog radios, phones and networked operators).  This level of integration is essential for providing Real Time responses to manage fast moving aircraft or monitoring national airspace.

The Switchplus® Air Defense application was initially designed in the late 1990’s and has been through significant improvements as we have implemented Air Defense Command and Control systems for numerous air forces world-wide.  We have been at the forefront of the Radio over IP (RoIP) revolution and has extended the use of its core SwitchplusIP® technology to provide seamless communications and control with Air Defense operators, remote air force sites and radio farms. In order to provide the complete national coverage these are dispersed around the geographical area of operation.  The solution provides the latest in VoIP technologies to seamlessly integrate secure and non-secure voice and data traffic from aircraft, via a nationally distributed radio network and remote agencies to multiple Operations Centers. This technology utilizes the flexibility and scalability of modern IP-based infrastructure.

The SwitchplusIP® RED/BLACK solution has been designed specifically to address deployable mobile applications as well as large, fixed-site command centers.  SwitchplusIP® equipment has been built ruggedized to suit the requirements of MIL-STD-810F and through the use of the Red/Black configurations allows for encrypted communications to be managed through security accredited communications devices. This provides the ability for operators to communicate in both Red and Black domains concurrently.

The Air Defense system generally consists of a touch screen terminal with intuitive Human Machine Interface (HMI) for coordinating, managing communications, and controlling aircraft communications devices. The intuitive touch screen based system allows for all communications to be performed through a single headset for communicating to other Air Defense operators, pilots, ATC operators, and other Defense agencies involved in missions. By integrating these communications assets, the Air Defense operator can conference various parties to outline missions and situational awareness, patch different pilots together (different radio frequencies or encryption keys), and provide direct link to other Headquartered based personnel responsible for directing missions. The Voice Communications system generally compliments a radar picture, which provides the visual information and situational awareness that Air Defense operators must communicate.

To better understand the SwitchplusIP® RED/BLACK system, we have outlined a recent national Air Defense system delivered in Thailand.

National System

We were engaged to provide a national communications system to support the Royal Thai Air Force at over twenty locations in the country.  The solution utilised the inherent distributed architecture of SwitchplusIP® allowing assets anywhere within the national system to be accessed by operators at any of the Air Force sites.  Operationally this allows an operator at the Air Operations Center (AOC) to take control, assist, or direct air traffic at any location within the countries national airspace.  This networked capability provides the Defense force with the ability to manage local sites and distribute the authority and control of the nation.

The “Radio anywhere” feature allows any radio in the nation’s network to be accessed by any operator at the central AOC.  This networked solution allows radios across a country to be used to communicate with aircraft.  In addition, the system provides features allowing pilots to communicate to each other regardless of what radio communication is available within the aircraft.  C4i provides a retransmission and patching ability for encrypted and non encrypted radios, HF, VHF and UHF radios to promote flawless communication.

Figure 1 illustrates a sample national air Defense system, where operators at the Operations Center and Backup Operations Center are able to access, communicate and manage resources at any remote site. This allows for both remote operations as well as managed central operations of aircraft moving between sectors.

Operational Scenario: Capabilities Provided

The Air Defense Application provides operators the ability to log onto any physical operator position and assume any operational roles and subsequent capabilities.  The role defines the communications assets provided to that position, such as fighter controller, air surveillance, and interface to commercial ATC.  The system maintainer configures roles that determine the assets available to each operator. 

Through a networked system, operators have far greater communications reach to aircraft that are moving between sectors.  Generally line of site determines the radio communications available to pilots, and therefore as planes move out of sectors their communications ability may change.  As a result of networked systems, Command Center operators can work with pilots over various regions as the IP network allows multiple sectors to be accessed by operators either locally or remotely in a Command Center.  This flexibility allows for talented Air Defense operators to be used from any of the airbase locations and to provide Sector and Regional support during missions and quiet surveillance times.


For each of the above scenarios, the system and system components can be configured by C4i applications.  This software application is provided to maintainers of the SwitchplusIP® system allowing ongoing tailoring of the system equipment, radio assets, assignment of cryptographic equipment and loading of Automatic Link Establishment (ALE) onto HF radios. The C4i system has been designed to cater for future modification and enhancement by the technical personnel at Air Force bases on an ad-hoc basis.

Benefits of SwitchplusIP®

SwitchplusIP® uses a variety of specialized, small footprint, fault tolerant, easily configurable and scalable intelligent devices, providing integration of legacy and current technologies. The system can operate in Command Post mode or be extended to cater for large, national Air Defense applications. Through the use of open standards Exelis enables Defense forces to continue expansion of their current communications system to incorporate new and emerging standards.

About Us

We have been designing and delivering Air Defense voice communication systems for over twenty five years.  Our Air Defense systems in use in USA, Australia, Asia, Europe and the Middle East.  In addition, similar SwitchplusIP® technology is running in a variety of other mission critical applications in over twenty countries on a twenty-four hour, seven day a week basis. We have offices in the USA and Australia in addition to many representatives around the world. Please contact one of our offices for more information. 

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