Satellite phones obsolete; DISA looking for a new, secure capability

With some Iridium satellite phones in use by the military now more than 15 years old and going out of production, the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) has issued a Request for Information to procure a Follow-On Secure Handset (FOSH).

DISA serves as the primary telecommunications service provider for the Department of Defense, to include satellite communications services. The Enhanced Mobile Satellite Services (EMSS) Division utilizes Iridium Satellite’s Low Earth Orbit constellation to provide global secure/unsecure voice, data, paging and Short Message Service to all authorized users.

Since 1996, DISA has awarded sole-source contracts to Iridium to provide the handheld, wireless communications devices—including the Iridium 9505A handset—that place voice calls over the Defense Switched Network. Secure voice capability is achieved using the Iridium Security Module (ISM), a National Security Agency (NSA) Type 1 approved device that attaches to the back of the 9505A handset and allows calls to be encrypted up to the Top Secret classification level.

The EMSS Program Management Office (PMO) currently offers the 9505A handsets and a compatible ISM, and manages provisioning and distribution of the 9505A, as well as the newer 9575 Iridium phone. The 9505A handsets are no longer manufactured and have reached end of life.

“The EMSS PMO seeks new end-to-end secure handset capability to take advantage of new capabilities and emerging technologies,” states the RFI. “The EMSS PMO is seeking the development of an ISM module that can be incorporated into a 9575 satellite phone. The ISM module is a follow-on to the ISM that exists with the Iridium 9505A phone. The EMSS PMO requests information on potential solutions for a production-ready end-to-end secure FOSH prototype ready for NSA and DISA certification and testing.”

The communication requirements are the following: establishment of a secure connection between two Iridium handsets (9505A); secure communication between Iridium handsets and Secure Terminal Equipment/ Secure Communications Interoperability Protocol that bypasses the Red Interworking Function; and compatibility with existing devices.

DISA requires that encryption for the handsets meet NSA Type 1 encryption requirements and be compatible with current EMSS DOD gateway components. The FOSH must have the capability to deliver secure voice between two like devices and provide true end-to-end capabilities.

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