This year marks the 4th anniversary of Airbus managing the Land Systems Reference Centre (LSRC) for the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD). The contract, which is to service manage a Communication and Information System (CIS) Test and Reference facility located in Blandford Camp, Dorset, enables an operating environment which underpins the delivery of assured test services for the MoD’s deployable networks and end-user systems, it is now 4 years into its 5-year tenure.

Continual service for our customers to ensure satisfaction

The last 4 years have been significant in the history of the Centre and whilst at times certainly challenging, the Centre remains a foundation stone for Defence Test and Reference Services.  Since the beginning of the contract we have received almost 300 operational Service Requests across a diverse customer base, including requests from UK Strategic Command, the three Front Line Commands (Army, Navy and Air), Communication and Information System (CIS) Delivery Programs, and even directly from Industry. The breadth of support is also as wide as ever, with requests ranging from assistance with priority fault resolution, application characterisation, release and deployment testing, modification instruction assurance and also operational readiness evaluations.

With such a high level of operational tasks each year it would seem obvious that the Centre continues to build on previous successes. However, the Centre is fully committed to continuous service improvement to ensure that the services offered remain world class. To do this we always seek feedback from our customers and over the last 12 months this has been universally positive with a 100% satisfaction rating received.

Our culture of being a centre of excellence is not curtailed to only post task feedback. Our efforts are much wider than this, constantly seeking validation of our practices and procedures and, wherever possible, improving for the future. We achieve a high level of customer satisfaction through our Suitably Qualified and Experienced Personnel working within an effective Quality Management System (QMS). As a test and reference house, high levels of quality and assurance are crucial, the LSRC’s approach is to aim for high fidelity when it comes to test rigour, as exhibited by the outcomes of the Centre’s ISO9001/2015 surveillance audits. Over the last 12 months we have conducted two external audits with DNV, an accredited certification organisation, neither of which identified any non-conformances; a fantastic outcome that validates the Centre’s QMS and the staff’s ability to use it in an effective way.

Wide and diverse service operations to support defence exercises

As ever, the call on the LSRC’s services remains as diverse as ever, across a wide range of systems at all levels of security. This delivery might best summarised over the last year through our use of the MANNA Service, the evolution of Medical Information Systems (MedIS) and support to the Land Cyber and Electro Magnetic Activities (CEMA) development.

The MANNA Service provides an unclassified deployable Experimentation Support Network (ESN) designed and delivered by the Airbus LSRC team to support UK MoD Innovation, Research and Evaluation (IRE) initiatives, a requirement that was first identified for Army Warfighting Experiment (AWE) 20.  By providing an independent communications network for experiment participants to operate across, vendors can focus on showcasing their technologies rather than spending time resolving communications issues. Over the course of the last year the joint MoD Defence Digital/Airbus LSRC team has further evolved the MANNA system to improve its resilience and therefore improve its availability, reducing any possible impact to an innovation experiment due to network outages. This has been extremely successful with the system being deployed on three separate commitments, AWE Exercise Urban Understand on the Blandford Airfield, exercise ARMY Expo on Salisbury Plain and AWE Sustain and Protect, at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. On each of these deployments the LSRC engaged with the Customer to deliver a deployable solution that met their defined needs; not exactly core test and reference activities but certainly building on the experience held by the Centre in relation to customer engagement, requirement definition and planning to meet customer requirements in agreed timeframes.

An area of great pride within the facility is the continuing support that we provide to Headquarter Surgeon General’s drive to improve MedIS, an essential support function for healthcare for deployed personnel, primarily through Project LARA. While we will never be able to quantify the tangible benefits that the LSRC’s testing might have helped deliver, it’s clear that any advances that improves the care of our war fighters, whether for primary health care or for battlefield trauma, must be of great value.  Over the last year we have supported early look characterisation testing in three areas:  MedIS over Raven, extending medical services across a new bearer system, Battlefield Assisted Trauma Distributed Observation Kit (BATDOK) a point of injury software application and Vision Anywhere, a potential replacement for a primary Healthcare application.

The last area of note is one that has ever increasing importance within Defence, that of cyber warfare. With the current troubles in Ukraine there is almost a daily reminder of the need for physicality with tanks, artillery platforms and air support to deny ground to an aggressor.  This is the very real face of warfare but just as important is the unseen threat brought about by cyber effects.  Over the last 4 years the LSRC has supported the British Army with its annual war gaming event, challenging personnel from across the Armed Forces to build their skills within the cyber and electromagnetic domain. Initially Army Cyber Spartan, this year’s event, Defence Cyber Marvel 2, was for the first time controlled from a overseas HICON in Estonia, with participating teams from Other Government Departments and Industry Partners, in addition to teams from countries, such as Japan, Singapore, Kenya, and Oman either travelling to Tallinn or remoting in from their home location. The LSRC’s continued support to the Land CEMA development released two engineers supporting the exercise whilst deployed in Estonia, joining the ‘Green Team’ de-risking the delivery of the range on which the war games were carried out with specialist support. As well as ensuring an accurate capture of various data sets so that they could be more reused at less cost in the future.

And looking forward

There is an adage that success breeds success, and in the case of the LSRC, the future looks rosy.  The next 12 months will see changes to the services offered by the Centre and will position the capability for years to come.  Some of the internal systems are of an age where they would benefit from a mid-life technical uplift and the plan is that obsolescence will be removed from the LSRC’s internal systems in the coming months. This is a fantastic opportunity to ensure that these systems deliver value for money for the MoD and are fit for purpose for the next half decade, with architectures that are secure by design and built using modern technologies.  We are also anticipating a change of the deployable CIS systems that the Centre holds, significant modifications to the Falcon Wide Area System held in the facility, and early engagement with the Project Team who will deliver its successor.  One thing is for certain, the next year will be as exciting as the last.

Successful delivery supporting our Defence clients

Ian Rutherford, LSRC Head of Service Delivery for Airbus, said ‘Having only recently joined the LSRC team, I’m eager to work within a fully committed, joint UK MoD/Airbus Project Delivery team.  There are some exciting challenges ahead as new systems are introduced into the Centre, these will present all of the team with opportunities for personal development and also with an opportunity to help position this essential UK MoD capability as a Test and Reference Centre of Excellence’.