Network defense now a reality

During recent decades, the telecom revolution has made in-depth changes to nearly all areas of society, including defense politics. Sweden for example – which after the Second World War and for many years after maintained a traditional defense structure that included a relatively large army – ignored the need for fundamental change to both the goals and means of defense after the end of the Cold War in 1989 and the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991.

In the Swedish military – and even partially in politics and the Swedish defense industry – there was little preparedness for the sudden end of the Cold War and the major changes this necessitated. Old ideas and approaches were well-entrenched. As an example, the Swedish Parliament's defense decisions in 1996 were still based on a traditional invasion from Russia representing the greatest threat.

Mobile telephony and development of the Internet during the 1990s however, made it clear that the often slow, complicated and insufficient communications paths common in the armed forces both could and had to be shortened. This to improve any future military missions and to make them more effective. And Ericsson became an important participant in work to create a new, more contemporary defense organization. SENI – a company made up of Saab, Ericsson, IBM and Boeing – was among those to contribute ideas for how a more modern network-based defense could be configured and developed.

Ericsson had already collaborated with and delivered materials to the Swedish armed forces in the past. But during 2003, a partially new epoch began when SENI and the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration negotiated an entirely new form of agreement that did not constitute a traditional supplier-client agreement. Both parties instead agreed to jointly begin developing structures, methods and design models for a defense model that at the time was far from known. And even less, developed to the deployment stage.

The new network-based defense that was the result came to be built largely on the existing civil communications network. This to avoid both the costs and the vulnerabilities that would have accompanied the establishment of a special "military intranet". Swedish soldiers are now connected to the "network of networks" that makes up the regular Internet. And they can therefore be assured that if and when a critical situation arises, they can send and receive necessary information in real-time as quickly and as securely as possible.

Author: Anders Edwardsson

© Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson and Centre for Business History

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