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Dutch military IP-based network

TITAAN is the name of the current Dutch military communications systems, that entered service in the early 2000s. TITAAN is the abbreviation of Theatre Independent Tactical Army and Airforce Network. It replaced the ageing ZODIAC system that was phased out when TITAAN came to life. Within TITAAN, both civil and military equipment is integrated and great care is taken to ensure communication security. TITAAN is partly developed by Dutch research establishment TNO.
In the first stages of implementation of TITAAN, certain parts of the old ZODIAC network, such as the Mucolex II (BVO-M) units, were still in use, by giving them a mid-life upgrade (see below).

The image on the right shows a Dutch soldier operating a computer as part of a TITAAN sub-system. As is clearly visible in the image, the system consists of Commercial-Off-The-Shelf equipment (COTS), such as IP-switches, as well as ruggedized military-grade devices.
TITAAN in use. Photo copyright Netherlands Ministry of Defence (DoD). Click here to go to the DoD website.

TITAAN can be seen as a large robust military computer network that can be used anywhere in the world under any circumstances. It allows fast, reliable and secure exchange of e-mail, voice (phone) and data, independent of the underlying network structure (hardware). Local Area Networks (LAN) can be linked over satellite, line-of-sight radio links (LOS), HF radio and/or commercial IP-infrastructure (internet) into a world-wide network (WAN). In 2004, TITAAN was awarded the Best NCW Program Award by the American Army.
In the first stages of implementation of TITAAN, certain parts of the old ZODIAC network were still integrated. For example the trunk cipher device BVO-M (Mucolex II) was given a new lease of life by replacing its interface with a TITAAN-compatible one developed by TNO-FEL [3].
This interface, the so-called FM-200 Adapter Box, was developed by TNO-FEL [4] and allowed TITAAN sub-networks to be linked using existing FM-200 point-to-point line-of-sight radio links (LOS). The interface is called TC-FEC (Turbo Code Forward Error Correction) [6] and offers improved reliabilty by introducing error correction at the expense of data transfer speed.

The image on the right shows an existing Philips BVO-M (center) with an existing line interface (left) and the new TC-FEC unit for connection to the FM200 radio at the right (green display).

As error correction is always a trade-off between performance and transfer speed, the TC-FEC unit offered three levels of error correction selectable with a switch: FEC 1.0 (1Mb/s, no error correction), FEC 0.793 (793Kb/s) and FEC 0.495 (495Kb/s with maximum error correction).

In 2005, BVO-M (Mucolex II) was still in use with TITAAN, implicating a life span of nearly 30 years! The last BVO unit was decomissioned in 2007, after which ZODIAC became history. Mucolex was a cryptographic device developed by Philips Usfa BV in the early 1970s. More information about this device is available on the Philips Crypto part of this website.
Modified MBV-M as part of FM200 Adapter Box. Copyright Intercom 2005 [6]. Close-up of part of the TNO-developed TC-FEC unit. Copyright TNO 2007 [5].

BVO   Bundel Vercijfer- Ontcijfertoestel
Multiplexed data encryption/decryption equipment. Also known as a Trunk Encryption Device.

COTS   Commercial off-the-shelf
General term for equipment that is readily available from preferred suppliers. Such equipment can be designed to military standards but is often not ruggedized.

FEC   Forward Error Correction
Method for interleaving a data stream with redundant information, in such a way that transmission errors can be detected and corrected.

IP   Internet Packet
Method for defining and transmitting (data) packets over a LAN or WAN, such as the common TCP/IP standard used on the internet.

LOS   Line of Sight
General term for point-to-point radio links (generally operating on VHF, UHF or SHF) with an operating distance up to the (optical) horizon.

LAN   Local Area Network
Small network of computers that are interconnected (commonly by means of IP-switched networks).

MOTS   Military off-the-shelf
Similar to COTS but built to (physical) military standards.

WAN   Wide Area Network
Larger (out-door) network, such as the internet, commonly spanning the globe.

  1. Th. Ent, Het was even stil rondom TITAAN
    Intercom, 2001, Volume 3, p. 24-25 (Dutch)

  2. I. Lempens, Het project TITAAN
    Intercom, 2001, Volume 3, p. 24-25 (Dutch)

  3. A. Regtien & HW Evers,
    TITAAN: Flexibel en veelzijdig, maar ook veilig en betrouwbaar

    Intercom, 2001, Volume 4, p. 58-59 (Dutch)

  4. Geerlof Kanis, Grote rol TNO bij bouw communicatie- en informatiesystemen
    TNO managzine, September 2005. p. 6-7. Dutch.

  5. Floortje Vriezema, Een strategisch partnership
    TNO Defensie en Veiligheid / Turnaround Communicatie.
    Nederlandse Officierenvereniging. Carré 12 - 2007, p. 11-13. Dutch.

  6. Th. Sierksma & A. Bijlsma, Transmissie binnen TITAAN
    Intercom, 2005, Volume 1, p. 41-45. Dutch.

  7. DPGL van de Braak, 1GNC: Een veranderende omgeving, innovatiekansen
    Intercom, 2011, Volume 1, p. 37-41. Dutch.

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