Podcasting for Network Centric Warfare

Seminar for the Department of Computer Science, The Australian National University, 6 September 2006.


First presented at the Defence and Security Applications Research Centre, UNSW, Australian Defence Force Academy, Canberra, 21 August 2006.


  1. Introduction
  2. About the Speaker
  3. JSF Program
  4. Network Centric Warfare
  5. Podcasting
  6. Research Areas
  7. F-35 UAV?

    See Also

  8. Fire Tracking Demo
  9. Home


Podcasting is the distribution of media files using web based syndication to hand-held devices. This presentation outlines how podcasting works and could be used in Network Centric Warfare. The possible use of podcasting with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning & Control aircraft and Landing Helicopter Dock Ship will be discussed.

About the Speaker

Tom Worthington and other Defence personnel on the USS Blue Ridge

Tom on the flagship of the U.S. Seventh Fleet

Tom is an Information Technology consultant with 20 years experience in the ICT industry in Australia. He is a Visiting Fellow in the Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology at the Australian National University. Tom is a former IT advisor at Headquarters Australian Defence Force. He is a past President of the Australian Computer Society, Fellow and Honorary Life Member.

It is now six years since I left the Department of Defence. Much of my nine years there involved ways to adapt readily available and cost effective information technology for defence purposes. Recently, Air Commodore John Harvey (Director General NACC) and Dr Bruce Brown toured Australian Universities inviting participation in the Joint Strike Fighter Project.

To help my research colleagues, who are unfamiliar with defence projects, I prepared a web page about the JSF project and suggested some current IT research which could be applied. However, I only know of one research proposal which has been prepared as a result of the recent invitation. So to show how relatively simple IT could assist the project, I have prepared this example on podcasting.

F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter Program

JSF Image from Lockheed Martin Corporation

The Australian Government is looking to replace the Royal Australian Air Force's F/A-18 Hornet and F-111 military fighter aircraft with the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). In 2002 joined the System Development and Demonstration (SDD) phase of the JSF program. This allows Australian industry to compete for JSF work, and also Australian researchers to assist in the project.

The aircraft will conduct net centric operations, using information fusion, with features such as a wide screen 8 by 20 inch cockpit display. Radios on the F-35 can be software programmed to provide a wide range of communications capabilities (including Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System - SINCGARS, HAVE QUICK and JPALS).

JSF Part of a System

More so than previous aircraft, the F-35 is intended to be part of a system. This allows for areas of research by companies, research organizations and universities beyond those previously involved in aerospace and defence applications. In particular the JSF project has a high information technology component, with its integrated sensor suite for fused situational awareness. The integration of the F-35 into a Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (C4I) will require research in a number of disciplines.

The US version of the F-35 is intended to use Link-16 protocols to communicate with other aircraft and Air Defense Assets, satellites for Beyond Line of Sight communication, PHM Datalinks to ships, and the Joint Variable Message Format (JVMF), Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS), to army land elements.

... the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) is merely the tip of the iceberg. Indeed, it is misleading to consider the JSF in isolation from other air capabilities, notably airborne early warning and control aircraft (AEW&C), the Jindalee Over-The-Horizon system, air-to-air refuelling platforms, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and the network of forward-operating bases situated across northern Australia.

A Perspective on Australian Grand Strategy, General Peter Cosgrove, Australian Army Journal, Land Warfare Studies Centre, 2005, Volume III, Number 1

Network Centric Warfare

"On the surface, Network Centric Warfare (NCW) is a simple concept that involves the linkage of engagement systems to sensors through networks and the sharing of information between force elements. Consequently, much of the discussion and early development of the concept revolved around connecting information systems and creating software applications that allow people to use the available data. However, NCW is also based on the idea that information is only useful if it allows people to act more effectively: this makes the human dimension fundamental to NCW."

From: "Science and Technology for Australian Network-Centric Warfare: Function, Form and Fit", Tim McKenna, Terry Moon, Richard Davis and Leoni Warne, Australian Defence Force Journal, July 2006

JSF and Wedgetail AEW&C Aircraft

Boeing Wedgetail photo from Wikipedia

Boeing Wedgetail

A major task for Australia will be to integrate the F-35 to the new Boeing Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C) aircraft.

The Boeing Wedgetail is an aircraft designed in response to Australia's RFP to vendors for an Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C) aircraft (and supporting segments) for the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). In 1997, Boeing Integrated Defense Systems was awarded a contract to supply four AEW&C aircraft (whose design is based on the 737-700IGW), with Australia having the option to increase the order by three additional aircraft. ...

The aircraft uses the Northrop Grumman Multi-role Electronically Scanned Array (MESA) radar and control systems. ... The cabin features eight operator consoles with sufficient space for four more; the Australian fleet will operate ten consoles with space for two more.

From: "Boeing Wedgetail", Wikipedia, 2006

JSF and Landing Helicopter Dock Ships

Navantia Landing Helicopter Dock ship, Copyright Navantia, 10 August 2005

Navantia LHD

In addition to integration with Wedgetail, the F-35 will require to be interfaced to Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and other Defence systems including the Project JP2048 Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) ships. Even if the ships are not equipped to operate the aircraft it is likely their Project SEA 1442 Phase 3 Maritime Communications and Information Management Architecture Modernisation (MCIMAM), communications system will need to be able to receive information from the aircraft.

Australia has not made a decision as to which variant of the F-35 to purchase. In the past Australia has purchased longer range US carrier aircraft for land use, suggesting the F-35C. The design of the F-35C was changed, further extending its range.

One recent change to the CV aircraft was an increase in wing size to reduce carrier recovery speed. This and other changes to increase fuel capacity and reduce drag pushed the F-35C's radius of action close to 1,300km (700nm) - "100nm more than the requirement" ...

From: "Future fighter, Graham Warwick, Flight International, 27 June 2006

However, the Australian Defence Force is planning to have the first of two LDH ships in-service by 2012, at around the same time as the F-35. These ships look to the lay person like small aircraft carriers. While no decision has been made, these ships could be equipped to operate the Vertical Takeoff, Short Landing (V/STOL) F-35B version of the Joint Strike Fighter. The July 2003 Australian Defence Capability Brief discusses the suitability of the F-35 for carrier based operation.

Possible Research Areas

X-35 screen

X-35 Screen

Australian universities and research organizations have the opportunity to participate in the JSF Project through the Australian Department of Defence managed project team. Defence staff have been briefing Australian universities on JSF participation during July 2006.

Funding is available to universities, research organisations and private companies. The capabilities of the Cooperative Research Centres (CRC) Programme will be access via their university partners.

  1. Software Metrics and Engineering
  2. eScience and Digital Media
  3. Advanced Networks
  4. High Performance Cluster Computing
  5. Web Based Systems
  6. Artificial Intelligence
  7. Military Strategy and Public Policy
  8. Operations Research
  9. Services Sciences, Management and Engineering

Adapting web pages for Smartphones, PDAs and Ultra-Mobile PCs

Sahana home page

Sahana home page on a desktop web browser

Sahana home page

Sahana home page on a mobile phone

An example of the application of research to an operational use is the deployment of the open source Sahana Disaster Management Systems for Jogjakarta Earthquake. While designed for a conventional desktop PC, some modifications to the user interface also allowed it to operate on a smart phone.

Podcasting for Network Centric Warfare

An example of the use of available IT would be to transmit radar and images from the F-35, to the Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C) aircraft, Landing Helicopter Dock Ships and personnel on the ground. In the situation envisaged by F-35 designers, the aircraft would be tightly integrated with communications links to other aircraft and forces.

However, the F-35 may not have the needed communications, at least in the initial version and other Australian forces may not have compatible links or terminals. Also this hi-tech approach may not be suitable where the forces on the ground are civilian aid workers, or other nations peacekeepers, who cannot be equipped with specialized terminals.

The radar and other sensors on the F-35 will be capable of producing data at a far higher rate than can be transmitted by the digital radios on the aircraft. As an example tests indicate a 72 MB synthetic aperture radar image will take 48 minutes to transmit over the Link 16 connection at 26.88 kilobits per second.

In the conventional scenario, the F-35 would transmit data in real time to a headquarters, then that data would then be sent to the personnel on the ground. However, this assumes the F-35 is within line-of-sight to a receiving system, or has a working satellite link. It also assumes the personnel on the ground have the equipment to receive the information, can be cleared to use it and can afford to purchase it.

An alternative would be for the F-35 to be equipped with its own data processing and distribution system. Authorized stations within range could request a catalog of information available and download it as required. Stations could be on the Wedgetail Airborne Early Warning & Control (AEW&C) aircraft, the Landing Helicopter Dock Ships and personnel on the ground with hand-held terminals. Civilian personnel and those from other nations may use ruggedized commercial equipment, such as smart phones, and receive limited amounts of lower resolution information.

A system could be built from the ground up using military protocols and software, it would be a slow and expensive process. An alternative would be to use existing podcasting and web technology. Free open source software would allow low cost commercial equipment to be issued to those users who could not be authorized to use, or could not afford to buy, specialized military equipment.

Scenario 1: Air to Ground

Personnel on the ground activate the GPS function of their hand-held terminal and request surveillance data on that location. The next time a F-35 is in range, a list of available data is sent to the terminal. The terminal selects data the operator's location and requests a download. The terminal display the data.

Scenario 2: Air to Air

A Wedgetail operator has requested surface data on a particular area. The Wedgetail system automatically interrogates an F-35 in the area and finds it has SAR data. Bandwidth is limited so the Wedgetail only requests the small segment of data applicable to the request. This data in fused with the Wedgetail's own radar display for the operator.

Scenario 3: Air to Ship

Headquarters staff aboard the Landing Helicopter Dock Ship are planning a resupply by sea. The operator requests the system provide the latest images of two possible landing sites. During the final mission briefing an F-35 over flies one site, and the briefing display on ship is updated a few seconds later, showing the wharf has been destroyed at that site. The mission is immediately re-tasked to the other site.


RIM BlackBerry 8700g

BlackBerry SmartPhone

Podcasting is the distribution of audio or video files, such as radio programs or music videos, over the Internet using either RSS or Atom syndication for listening on mobile devices and personal computers. The term podcast, like "radio", can mean both the content and the method of delivery. Podcasters' websites also may offer direct download of their files, but the subscription feed of automatically delivered new content is what distinguishes a podcast from a simple download or real-time streaming (see below). Usually, the podcast features one type of "show" with new episodes either sporadically or at planned intervals such as daily, weekly, etc. In addition to this, there are podcast networks that feature multiple shows on the same feed.

From "Podcasting", Wikipedia, 28 March 2006

The term "podcast" came from the iPod produced by Apple Computer, but applies to other portable digital media players. It also applies to playing the audio files with a personal computer, without the use of a portable device. It also applies to devices which can play video files. The term has more loosely been applied to any downloading of audio or video files to a computer, but in this document applies only to automated download.

Preparing Content

The media files for podcasting are usually thought of as being music, but can be any audio or video, including spoken word books. In the military context, the podcast could contain digitized radar images, maps, briefings or orders. A podcast can contain binary data, formatted messages, map coordinates and word processing documents as well as audio and video.

... a lecturer starts the DLD application on the Windows PC in the teaching venue and accepts or changes some information (course code, lecture name) that is automatically retrieved from the ANU central timetable system, then starts recording using the microphone in the teaching venue and at the end of the lecture, stops the recording process. That's it.

An mp3 recording is saved on the teaching venue PC behind the scenes. Some short time after the lecture, the mp3 is automatically transferred to a processing server ...

From: "How does the DLD Lecture recording work?", Program Leader, Teaching and Learning Environments, STS, ANU (undated)

Podcast content is prepared as other digital content. For music a sophisticated recording studio and complex post processing may be used. For spoken word a microphone and PC will do. For military purposes, the content may need to be converted to a format compatible with the display device and the file made small enough for the available commutations channel. It should be noted that with the content already available, a simple conversion may be all that is required. As an example digital audio of a briefing could be recorded and sent along with accompaning Power Point slides.

Podcasting Feeds

Once the digital audio, video and other data is prepared, Podcasting uses RSS or Atom syndication, popularized with blogs (web logs) to distribute content. The syndication uses small XML files which provide an automated catalog of material available using standardized metadata elements. The user can subscribe to an RSS (or ATOM) "feed" and then receive podcasts automatically to their PC. The data downloaded to the PC can then be automatically loaded into an iPod or similar hand held player. A hand-held device with a wireless Internet connection, such as a PDA or smart phone, can combine the functions of the PC receiving the podcast and the portable player. In the military context a hand-held terminal can be used.

An example is the RSS2 feed for Radio National's "All in the Mind" program. The URL for the feed is http://www.abc.net.au/rn/podcast/feeds/mind.xml. The file starts with a comment to identify it for those who see the raw file (it is intended to be read by an RSS reader, not a web browser. There is then a heading to identify the feed:

<rss version="2.0">
<title>All in the Mind</title>
All In The Mind is Radio National's weekly foray into the mental universe, the mind, brain and behaviour - everything from addiction to artificial intelligence.
<copyright>Australian Broadcasting Corporation</copyright>
<itunes:author>ABC Radio National</itunes:author>
All In The Mind is Radio National's weekly foray into the mental universe, the mind, brain and behaviour - everything from addiction to artificial intelligence.
<itunes:link rel="image" type="video/jpeg" href="http://www.abc.net.au/rn/podcast/feeds/mind.jpg">All in the Mind</itunes:link>
<itunes:category text="Science"/>
<itunes:category text="Health"/>
<itunes:category text="Public Radio"/>
<itunes:category text="Australian"/>

Each Item in the Feed

Each item in the feed is then described:

<title>2006-03-25 The starving brain</title>
SUMMARY: The pressure to be thin is more intense than ever &#150; and with around 80% of teenage girls choosing to diet &#150; some slide down the slippery slope into anorexia nervosa. While our knowledge of this puzzling disorder is still limited, some inroads of understanding are being made into what occurs in the starving brain. In this week's program we hear some of the latest scientific research into the mechanisms of anorexia, and a young woman who's on the path to recovery gives a moving insight into what she's been through.
<pubDate>Sat, 25 Mar 2006 00:00:00 +1000</pubDate>
<enclosure url="http://www.abc.net.au/rn/podcast/feeds/mind_20060325.mp3" length="14476330" type="audio/mpeg"/>
2006-03-25 The starving brain - Sat, 25 Mar 2006 00:00:00 +1000
<itunes:author>ABC Radio National</itunes:author>
SUMMARY: The pressure to be thin is more intense than ever &#150; and with around 80% of teenage girls choosing to diet &#150; some slide down the slippery slope into anorexia nervosa. While our knowledge of this puzzling disorder is still limited, some inroads of understanding are being made into what occurs in the starving brain. In this week's program we hear some of the latest scientific research into the mechanisms of anorexia, and a young woman who's on the path to recovery gives a moving insight into what she's been through.

It should be noted that the RSS file does not contain the actual digital audio, just a reference to it (metadata). This makes for a small file.

ATOM Syndication Format

The RSS format was originally defined for distributing text based news items ("Blogs"). This was then adapted for podcasting music. Apple defined their own additional (non-standard) elements. Even with these additional fields, the feed format does not suit non-entertainment applications. As an example the text of ABC talk radio items is included in the "Lyrics" element. The Atom format was created to be more flexible than RSS.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<feed xmlns="http://www.w3.org/2005/Atom">

  <title>Example Feed</title> 
  <link href="http://example.org/"/>

    <name>John Doe</name>


    <title>Atom-Powered Robots Run Amok</title>
    <link href="http://example.org/2003/12/13/atom03"/>

    <summary>Some text.</summary>


From The Atom Syndication Format, IETF Network Working Group, The Internet Society , December 2005

The ATOM Syndication Format was defined to provide a more standard and flexible format than RSS. The Atom format is defined in IETF RFC4287 (December 2005). It uses XML standard definitions and so can be more easily incorporated in web based systems than RSS. Particularly relevant for military use is Atom's provision for XML digital signatures to authenticate the content and encryption to protect it.

Atom allows Extension Elements to add extra details to the feed. In addition as it is an XML format, other XML markup may be included in Atom. This allows extra detail to be included. Standard Atom software may ignore the additional content. As an example this would allow location data (longitude and latitude) of radar images to be included in a feed. Specially designed feed software could read the location and decided if to download the radar image. Standard Atom software would ignore the location and download the radar image regardless.

ATOM Publishing Protocol

The ATOM Publishing Protocol (June 23, 2006) is a proposed companion standard to the ATOM Syndication Format. In its most basic form a news feed is simply a document on the web which must be checked regularly by the user's client software to find updates. APP provides a more active way to interrogate the news source and obtain new items.

APP includes the concept of "Introspection documents", which describe the locations and content of available data.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding='utf-8'?>
<service xmlns="http://purl.org/atom/app#">
  <workspace title="Main Site" > 
      title="My Blog Entries" 
      href="http://example.org/reilly/main" />
      href="http://example.org/reilly/pic" >

  <workspace title="Side Bar Blog">
    <collection title="Remaindered Links" 
      href="http://example.org/reilly/list" />

From The Atom Publishing Protocol, Network Working Group, The Internet Society, June 2006

APP is not yet a standard and there may be changes to it. Also it does not use the available Web Services protocol, which might be better for specific applications. Google have their own variation of APP called gData.

Fitting Podcasting with Existing Military Standards

While podcasting would be relatively simple to implement for military purposes, the difficult task would be integrating this with existing military IT standards. However, new military standards are evolving, such as the NATO C3 Technical Architecture.

The NATO Air Command And Control System (ACCS) is intended to combine, and automate, at the tactical level the planning and tasking and execution of all air operations.

  1. V1 - NATO C3 Technical Architecture Management
  2. V2 - Architectural Descriptions and Models
  3. V2-S1 - Domain Architectures
  4. V2-S2 - Emerging Technologies
  5. V3 - Base Standards and Profiles
  6. V4 - NC3 Common Standards Profile (NCSP)
  7. V5 - NC3 Common Operating Environment (NCOE)
  8. V5-S1 - Interface Definitions
  9. V5-S2 - Service Descriptions
  10. V5-S3 - Role of Ontologies in Transformation to NNECT
  11. Rationale - Rationale for the Selection of NCSP Services and Standards
  12. IHB - Implementation Handbook (NC3TA-IHB)

NATO C3 Technical Architecture

Role of Ontologies

NATO suggests adopting RDF (Resource Description Framework) and ontoltogies. These XML based web standards offer the prospect of intelligent documents which would allow reasoning from the data. However, exactly how these can be used in real systems, and how much they offer over traditional databases is not yet clear.

... A prerequisite for widespread use of ontologies is a joint standard for their description and exchange. RDF(S) (Resource Description Framework Schema) ... ontology representation language that emerged from work under DARPA's Agent Markup Language (DAML) initiative ...OWL-S provides "a core set of markup language constructs for describing the properties and capabilities of Web services in unambiguous, computer-intepretable form."

VOLUME V - Supplement 3: Role of Ontologies in Transformation to NNEC , NATO C3 Technical Architecture, Version 7.0 [15 December 2005] - ISSC NATO Open Systems Working Group

Students at the ANU are investigating the use of the semantic web.

F-35 UAV?

P-38 Lightning

P-38 Lightning

The F-35 is not particularly suited to network centric warfare, being a conventionally piloted fighter aircraft (in the spirit of its namesake the Lockheed P-38 Lightning of World War 2). The F-35's pilot, weapons and sensors are all on the one airframe and cannot be deployed separately. A network centric warfare design would use separate aircraft for the pilot, weapons and sensors. Some studies of unmanned derivatives of the F-35 have been carried out.

Lockheed Martin has taken the wraps off studies of unmanned derivatives of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) as it mounts a concerted campaign to establish itself in the unmanned systems market. Concepts studied by Lockheed's Skunk Works include both optionally piloted and dedicated unmanned versions of the JSF. ...

To reduce cost, Lockheed has developed a concept of operations in which four unmanned JSFs would be controlled by two manned F-35s, or F-22s, sharing sensor information via an airborne datalink. This would allow the sensors to be removed from the unmanned F-35s, which would be used as weapon carriers, reducing cost to about 72% that of the manned aircraft - "30-35% of the cost is in the sensors" ...

Pilotless F-35 breaks cover, Graham Warwick, 22/08/06, Flight International

Aerosonde UAV

Aerosone UAV

The Atom protocols are capable of running on a small computer platform. As an example podcasting could be done from a small UAV, or a pocket size manually deployed sensor. Low cost devices could use RFID and Smart network technology.

Coalition Warrior Interoperability Demonstration

Some of these capabilities are demonstrated at CWID events (Coalition Warrior Interoperability Demonstration).

... CWID is the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff's annual event enabling the COCOMs and international community to investigate command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR) solutions that focus on relevant and timely objectives for enhancing coalition interoperability. U.S. Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM), on behalf of the Chairman, is responsible for the oversight of CWID.

The intent of CWID is to investigate C4ISR technologies capable of being placed into an operational environment within 12-18 months following the execution period. Interoperability Trials include evaluations of hardware and/or software solutions. C/S/As are highly encouraged to conduct further investigation into the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP) using CWID as a vehicle. While the focus of CWID is on new and emerging technologies, CWID is also an appropriate venue for spiral development or validation of fielded/near-fielded commercial and/or DoD systems when appropriate to reduce fielding costs or transition timelines. The USJFCOM Capability Development Process will be the primary method used to identify candidate technologies that meet warfighter requirements.

Coalition Warrior Interoperability Demonstration 2007 (CWID2007)

Optional Piloted Surveillance and Reconnaissance System

Diamond DA42

Diamond DA42

An example of a flexible network centric warfare platform is the German built Diamond DA42 OPALE "Optional Piloted Surveillance and Reconnaissance System". This is a civilian twin engine light aircraft adapted for surveillance. It can be flow with, or without, a pilot and has a similar range to the F-35.

The OPALE system is represents a new generation in aerial sensor platform technology. Due to the fact that flying UAVs in controlled airspace is bound to civil aviation regulations, many applications are not practicable at the time being. Being able to fly either piloted or unmanned OPALE offers solutions for a broad spectrum of tasks e.g. reconnaissance, surveillance, border control, agricultural monitoring and more.

From: DA42 OPALE "Optional Piloted Surveillance and Reconnaissance System" , Diamond, 2006

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