by Patty Welsh
66th Air Base Group Public Affairs
8/17/2010 - HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. (AFNS) -- An Electronic Systems Center team is scheduled to complete work on a project by the end of August that lays the backbone for communication and connectivity for the Iraqi air force.
The Iraq Information Technology Infrastructure Project, or I3P, uses new local area, base area and wide area networks to connect four Iraqi air bases to one another and to the country's defense and intelligence network. It's a key project to enable U.S. servicemember withdrawal. The work is being directed by the Command and Control, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Directorate Foreign Military Sales Team for Iraq.
The development and fielding of this system faced the challenge of working in a war zone. When the I3P team of government, and advisory and assistance professionals made its most recent trip to Iraq, the team's flight landed after a mortar attack.
"Although there was a sense of tension and stress, I was able to refocus the team around the mission," said Capt. Wesley Crawley, the program manager. "The team is always aware of the inherent dangers of the in-country environment, but is able to look past the conditions to what we are accomplishing."
I3P will be used as the foundation for all future command and control systems throughout the country, providing a vital Iraqi air force capability that will allow Iraq to reach its minimum essential capability, officials said.
To reach their MEC, Iraqi officials are working to have foundational capabilities in place that will allow their military forces to provide external defense prior to U.S. forces departing at the end of 2011.
"The current conditions in Iraq are rudimentary," said Richard Dellovo, a network engineer. "They currently have 'sneaker communications,' meaning they are running notes to one another. Through the I3P, we're providing them with services that we take for granted."
Items included as part of the I3P are Voice over Internet Protocol phones, radio and command and control, or C2 equipment, along with several hundred miles of fiber cabling to connect the various areas.
Members of the team are instructing Iraqi air force members on the systems through a train-the-trainer concept.
"All the would-be teachers are receiving training to use the system, educate the other operators, and maintain the system," said Paul Risotti, the project manager.
With information transmitted through the I3P equipment, the Iraqis will be able to perform air management and strategic air reconnaissance through direct communication with aircraft and the Iraqi Air Operation Center.
As the Iraqis work to re-establish their air force, I3P is the framework that will provide a level of security so they can maintain their own protection, said Philip Steele, an acquisition specialist.
In addition to working in a war zone, there have been a number of challenges the team has had to work through. They had to deal with extreme weather conditions, logistics issues and cultural differences.
Lack of electricity is another problem team members have had to face. Currently, only three hours of electricity per day are provided for the local population.
"We're trying to install modern-day technology but it is running on antiquated systems," said Mr. Steele, adding that the equipment is still being run off generators. "We keep trying to emphasize the great need to have full-time electricity to keep the equipment we're providing up and running."
The next step for the team is to establish a Sector Operations Center and Long Range Radar.
"As an acquisition officer, it's highly unusual that we are working with the Iraqis in a constant terroristic and combat situation," Captain Crawley said. "In this case, we're able to see the immediate impact in a war zone. We're helping the Iraqis build a robust C2 capability to sustain themselves and their country while decreasing the reliance on U.S. troops."