Communications Critical to Icelandic Intercept and Surveillance Mission

A soldier secures an inflatable satellite antenna system during strong winds.
Aerospace Telecommunication & Information Systems Technician Master-Corporal Daniel Demedeiros, a member of Air Task Force-Iceland, secures an inflatable satellite antenna system during strong winds at Keflavik Air Base, Iceland, on May 29, 2017 during Operation REASSURANCE.

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By Air Task Force-Iceland Public Affairs

“I love the wide variety of tasks here; it’s rewarding— but you have to know everything,” said Aerospace Telecommunication & Information Systems (ATIS) Technician, Master Corporal Daniel Demedeiros, as he secured an inflatable satellite antenna system against a stiff Icelandic wind. “You have to know not only how to set up all the different communications systems, but also know all the administration to make it work across Canada and the world.”

Eight members of 8 Air Communication and Control Squadron (8 ACCS) recently deployed to Keflavik Air Base. They have deployed as part of Air Task Force (ATF)-Iceland from the first week of May to mid-June 2017. The ATF provides continuous air surveillance and interception capability with six CF-18 fighter aircraft. These aircraft can be launched to meet and identify unknown airborne objects within, or approaching NATO airspace.

However, CF-18 fighter operations, and the aerospace control they require, cannot happen without highly-advanced networks and equipment to support the advanced communications they depend upon. Packed into large, green, air-transportable containers, the Communication and Information Systems (CIS) kit is always among the first to be offloaded from Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) transport aircraft when they arrive in a theatre of operations.

“We activate the airfield. Once the main body of the deployment arrives, all CIS assets, computers, mission-specific networks and voice communication devices are in position and ready to be used by the ATF,” said Captain Natasha Dargan, the ATF Communications and Information Services officer.

In this case, activation meant stringing kilometers of cabling through operations buildings, inflating and adjusting radio and satellite antennas, and ensuring that the mission-critical secure networks and systems were verified and functional.

“Our team worked really hard to reach initial operational capability before the advance party’s arrival,” said Captain Dargan. “This was in order to ensure that operations would be enabled when the fighter aircraft and aerospace control elements arrived, and that everyone would be provided with the level of services they required.”

As part of 2 Wing, the RCAF’s air expeditionary wing, the ATIS Technicians and Communications and Electronics Engineering (Air) Officers of 8 ACCS, maintain a high-readiness state and are known for their frequent and rapid deployments. They have elements in Bagotville, Quebec and Trenton, Ontario. Also joining the team at Keflavik were ATIS Technicians from 3 Wing Telecommunications and Information Services Bagotville to support 433 Tactical Fighter Squadron’s mission planning.

ATF-Iceland’s short mission reinforced the need for reliable communications to ensure there was no time lost on establishing or re-establishing links between the task force and Canada. “There have been no major interruptions of communications, and that is certainly satisfying,” said Captain Dargan. “As specialists in deployable communications, it’s our job to understand and anticipate the operator’s needs and make the deployment from Canada to theatre as seamless as possible.”

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