The European Defence Agency (EDA) has selected Thales to lead the large-scale Softanet (Ad Hoc B) project on network programming and orchestration technologies, the company announced on 11 March. Softanet will provide closer insights into use of the latest virtualisation technologies for communication networks. It is a major step in preparing forces for developments in deployable and tactical networks, and for the adoption of programmable network technologies, software-defined networking (SDN) models and 5G.

Softanet is the first project at the European level to focus on network programming and orchestration technologies for defence applications. It is a collaborative project by France, Germany, the Netherlands and Poland. Led by Thales, the project brings together major European defence players, including Airbus, Radmor and Rohde & Schwarz, as well as SMEs and research institutes, and aims to strengthen defence industry cooperation between European nations.

The project will assess the contribution of network programmability based on virtualisation technologies, and quantify the operational benefits in terms of ease of deployment, network infrastructure responsiveness and efficient use of resources. Networks incorporating virtualisation technologies can be reconfigured faster as operations unfold, and the ability to deploy a programmable, dynamic, resilient and secure IT and network infrastructure is a prerequisite for achieving information superiority in theatre.

As project lead, Thales is providing an experimental infrastructure with programmable network technologies in configurations that reflect real-life operational contexts. The objective is to facilitate the deployment of communication systems in theatre, particularly for coalition operations, by making them simpler and more intuitive to configure and reconfigure. The solution will also automate communications, enabling dynamic adaptation to new node locations, resource availability and operational communication needs.

The three-year project will be conducted in three stages. In the first six months, the project partners will define a deployable network architecture based on virtualised network technologies. The following 18 months will include technical studies of resilience, security and orchestration. The final year will be dedicated to the validation and testing of the system as part of a Coalition Warrior Interoperability Exercise (CWIX).

Thales’ leadership of the programme will undoubtedly draw heavily on the Group’s expertise and experience in it communications networking solutions for multiple domains – including the naval communications world. (Image: Thales)

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