US Air Force awards $75.5 million contract for world's largest wireless ad-hoc network

The IRON network will cover 25,000 square miles to protect the US's nuclear missile silos.
Chris Young
Military convoy.
Military convoy.


The U.S. Air Force's Global Strike Command awarded a new $75.5 million contract to New York-based firm Persistent Systems.

The aim is to build a unified security system for 400 operational Minuteman III intercontinental-range nuclear missile silos secured in remote areas throughout the U.S.

It will be the world's largest wireless ad-hoc network, helping secure the U.S.'s nuclear arsenal amid growing concerns over global nuclear security.

An easy-to-deploy security network

Persistent Systems will roll out its Infrastructure-based Regional Operation Network (IRON) offering across three Air Force bases as part of the Regional Operating Picture (ROP) program. According to the company, the new security network will cover an area of 25,000 square miles (64,750 sq km), making it the world's largest wireless ad-hoc network.

The IRON offering is an easy-to-deploy Integrated MANET Antenna System on fixed towers and poles. It will allow the U.S. Air Force to connect 75 operation centers and more than 1,000 Security Force vehicles.

"U.S. military bases can sprawl tens of thousands of square miles, and as it stands now, there's no dynamic, high-bandwidth way for headquarters staff to track, and reliably remain in contact with, the security personnel patrolling this vast area," explained Adrien Robenhymer, Persistent's V.P. of Business Development. "Should personnel run into problems in the field, they wouldn't have effective support from an operations center."

Seamlessly sharing critical data

The ROP program will allow constant communication to an Operations Center via the towers. Meanwhile, the personnel at that Operations Center will know the exact location of any Security Forces on a digital map. Both will be able to share critical data seamlessly.

"The first step will be to roll out ROP across Malmstrom, Minot, and F.E. Warren Air Force Bases with eventually more to come," said Robenhymer. "But IRON has other applications beyond situational awareness. It facilitates a fully digital battlespace that links multiple weapon systems and programs in a unified network. It provides the foundation on which a true Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) system could be built."

The ROP Program has already started deploying IRON systems across the U.S.'s missile fields and aims to deploy the systems over the next 36 months entirely.

The news comes a month after reports showed the nuclear bombs and missile market is growing alarmingly and is expected to reach $126 billion by 2030. That and the fact that the doomsday clock was moved to 90 seconds from midnight provides a little context as to why the US is expanding its nuclear missile silo security.