Hanscom lays groundwork for comms at Tyndall

  • Published
  • By Benjamin Newell

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – Hanscom is supporting Air Combat Command in their reconstruction of Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, following a direct hit by Category 4 Hurricane Michael in October.

Program managers in the Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence and Networks Directorate here are exercising every one of the words in their five-word title by reconstituting a communications network almost totally wiped out by winds, flooding and infrastructure damage. First responders have set up interval communications systems relying on a few existing nodes, coupled with generator-powered satellite truck systems. The Air Force’s long-term goal is to build an organic communication infrastructure from scratch using an as-a-service model.

“Once we award a contract, everything from the Air Force laptops and mobile devices users are issued to the intranet, to on-base servers, to secured communications systems, to the communications node linking the base to external internet and networks will be provided by a single vendor,” said Lt. Col. Bradley Panton, who is spearheading the contracting effort for Tyndall’s replacement communications network. “This is a similar as-a-service effort to what we’re setting up at other bases, but Tyndall is unique because it will be, in nearly every sense, new from the ground up. Almost everything except the in-ground fiber optic infrastructure will be replaced. Everything replaced will be as-a-service.”

C3I&N has led Air Force efforts to establish as-a-service contracts for portions of the Air Force communications ecosystem, but these experiments are in the early stages. It is possible Tyndall will be fully up and running before the division completes a separate effort to test two private contractors’ as-a-service networks for multiple bases of varying sizes and mission sets.

“Seeing the damage and devastation at Tyndall was an emotional event for me,” said Maj. Temesha Christensen, Air Combat Command’s Tyndall recovery IT functional and operational lead, assigned to Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. “I was actually assigned to Tyndall during Hurricane Katrina. We were tasked to provide recovery support to civilian agencies during that time, so to see a hurricane inflict this level of damage again is terrible. However, ACC is working with the program office at Hanscom to establish a communications infrastructure that is resilient, and we’re currently delivering the communications needed during recovery.”

Air Force Life Cycle Management Center is responding to Gen. Mike Holmes’ declaration of an “urgent need” for recovery at Tyndall, where many buildings and infrastructures were either totally destroyed, or unusable. Despite that damage, Airmen worked fast to salvage useable communications equipment, or bring in emergency equipment to get communications up to aid physical recovery efforts.

“We’ve traveled down there once already with Maj. Christensen, and will go down again soon,” said Panton. “This is a long-term effort and what we want to see is not just a replacement of the past system, but a total modernization of the entire network in order to provide reliable, secure and adaptive service, which will grow as more infrastructures and missions return to Tyndall. We’re here for the long haul.”

Panton said he expects the contract to be in place in a matter of months and physical work to begin in early 2019.