Middle East receives massive IT upgrade
16 May 2017
When most people sit down behind a computer to get on with the day’s work they probably don’t think about the equipment running in the background.
Just like a home computer, the back-end equipment for deployed networks needs to be replaced as it ages, but it’s a much larger job than simply buying a new computer.
In the Middle East region, replacing this equipment is one of the largest, most complex and most technically challenging Computer Information Systems (CIS) refresh ever conducted by the ADF.
Luckily, Defence has a team who is experienced in refreshing these systems.
Enter Force Installation Team 31 (FIT-31), a team of 26 Signallers and support staff, drawn primarily from the 127th Signal Troop as well as the wider Army and RAAF.
Since March the FIT-31 team has been travelling wherever Australian forces are deployed to plan, design and install new CIS networks.
The Commanding Officer of CO FIT-31, Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Ilic said upgrading computers and their associated infrastructure works are absolutely essential to ensuring operations in the region continue running.
“Our mission is to support the Middle East region CIS refresh program by replacing the aging fleet of GIGASAT Satellite Terminals, the current computer systems and refreshing or replacing the wide area networks which support them,” he said.
“This is made possible because we are well supported by the Defence Strategic Communications Branch, who are part of the Chief Information Officer Group.
“They have a team of military personnel and civilian staff working long days to design networks, configure equipment and support us as we cutover each circuit to the new equipment.”
Throughout the project, the FIT-31 team will be transporting more then 50 tonnes of sensitive CIS equipment into theatre, as well as disposing of or returning the replaced equipment to Australia.
Lieutenant Colonel Ilic said the effort required in moving the team and their equipment into and around the Middle East region is tremendous.
“There is a significant weight borne by our administrative and support staff, who are drawn from the wider Army and RAAF, then integrated into Force Support Element 7 and the Expeditionary Airbase Operations Unit,” he said.
“Our support members then build relationships with those units to assist us in the timely provision of stores, our movements and any other support we may need.”
127th Signal Troop is a highly-specialised unit which sits within the 1st Division as part of the 1st Signal Regiment.
They provide Defence with the technical expertise in CIS hardware planning and maintenance, and are regularly involved in performing antennae maintenance around Australia at Defence’s base radio facilities, assisting with the Army Aboriginal Community Assistance Program and Defence Cooperation Programs.
Lieutenant Colonel Ilic said it would take 18 months to achieve the mission in the Middle East.
“We’re responsible for one of the biggest refresh programs the ADF has ever conducted, and we wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,” he said.