A Look at SISFRON, Brazil’s Integrated Border Monitoring System

The Brazilian Army will bring online the large and complex system over the course of 10 years. The system will cover nearly 17,000 km of border with 11 countries.
Roberto Caiafa/Diálogo | 22 February 2017

Capacity Building

SISFRON received the satellite antennas incorporated into the Integrated Military Satellite Communication System for use in border areas. (Photo: Roberto Caiafa)

Brazil’s Integrated Border Monitoring System (SISFRON, per its Portuguese acronym) is not just a military necessity; it is one of the policies outlined in the government’s National Defense Strategy, which went into effect in 2008. SISFRON clearly has a multidisciplinary dimension that includes various government agencies.

As a result of the technologies delivered under SISFRON, COBRA 1.0 includes a rifle, combat camera, night vision helmet mount, Molles tactical gear system, and an exoskeleton that protects the soldier’s limbs and extremities. (Photo: Roberto Caiafa)

SISFRON’s construction and management will be the responsibility of its main user – the Brazilian Army. The Army is the national institution with the greatest penetration across Brazilian territory, especially along the country’s 16,886 kilometers of border, where 87 military units are present. The legal basis for this system is tied to Brazil’s Federal Constitution, which establishes the Armed Forces’ preventive and repressive actions along the border area, against cross-border and environmental crimes as a secondary responsibility. It is also linked to Decree 6703, which established Brazil’s National Defense Strategy.

SISFRON constantly monitors along the border, covering the state of Rio Grande do Sul to the state of Amapá. It is based on an optimization of existing systems, and one of its main features is integrating the Armed Forces’ projects with those of different Brazilian government agencies, particularly the Amazon Protection System, the Brazilian Aerospace Defense Command, the Brazilian Intelligence Agency, the Ministry of Agriculture, the National Weather Institute, the Ministry of Health, civil defense units and border state governments, the Ministry of Justice with the Federal Police and the Federal Highway Police, the Ministry of the Environment and, at the transnational level, the armed forces of neighboring countries.

“SISFRON is aimed at expanding our official presence in the border zones, giving the Brazilian Army the resources it needs to conduct the continuous and permanent monitoring over areas of interest in Brazilian territory, while ensuring the steady and secure flow of accurate and timely data so that command and control can be carried out, and joint actions conducted at all levels,” explained Lieutenant General (R) João Roberto de Oliveira, who has managed this project from the beginning.

Rapid threat response

The system will have appropriate data links for communication at all levels (simultaneous networking), facilitating their responses to any threat or aggression through high mobility tactics and logistical support, irrespective of the different environments where it is installed.

“This also requires the Brazilian Army to prepare its combat soldiers to operate in a highly complex, technological environment — an investment in training specialized personnel — where broader situational awareness predominates, and there is a concept of network-centric warfare, thereby reinforcing Brazil’s capabilities with monitoring, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems,” noted Major General Carlos Roberto Pinto de Souza, who ran the Brazilian Army’s Military Communications and Electronic Warfare Center in 2014.

“These goals involve mobilizing the defense industry and its constituent organizations to ensure technological independence in the maintenance, expansion, and use of this system as an all-encompassing network. All of that planning will serve to ramp up government actions in the interests of national security, public safety, and socioeconomic development,” he elaborated.

The SISFRON Strategic Project is the direct result of two subprojects that have been implemented: “Sensing and Decision Support” and “Infrastructure Projects and Performance Support.” Each of these projects involves specific actions. Sensing includes specialized resources that support surveillance, reconnaissance, and data gathering operations for intelligence.

SISFRON’s Mobile Command and Control System, set up in a container on a lightweight truck, furnishes the data link between soldiers and their command using 100 percent Brazilian technology. (Photo: Roberto Caiafa)

There are plans to acquire air and land surveillance radars, optical and electromagnetic signal sensors in portable, transportable, mobile, or stationary versions, as well as the platforms for their installation. There is even the possibility of using government systems and hardware that have been developed for operating within the special conditions of the Amazon environment, such as synthetic aperture radars that can be operated in X and P bands and can detect targets under the dense cover of vegetation.

As for “decision support,” these are the capabilities of merging data collected by sensors and using data integration segments and information visualization to provide the decisive element at each level an integrated situational awareness in the theater of operations. As a result, a better line of action can be selected, planned, set up, and sent out for execution in real time to those in charge of providing an effective response to current or future threats.

“This is a critical and strategic link that will benefit the use of government systems and hardware that hold core relevance not only for autonomous training and execution but also for the future systems integration with other government agencies, with the new hardware and functionality that they entail,” noted Marcus Tollendal, CEO of Savis, a Brazilian company dedicated to designing, developing, industrializing, certifying, integrating, and installing systems and services in the areas of border monitoring and the defense of strategic structures, as set forth by National Defense Strategy directives.

In terms of “performance support,” the goal is to develop and implement an actuator subsystem that includes platforms, hardware, and other military equipment that a combat soldier needs, as well as providing the soldier a rapid-response capability that is always in synergy with the platforms and resources used by other government agencies (interoperability).

The infrastructure projects are aimed at the construction, expansion, adaptation, adjustment, recovery, and remodeling of the facilities needed for operating the system. Among other architectural subsystems in this project is the “Information Technology and Communications” subsystem, which includes all of the resources needed for enabling tactical and strategic data traffic between elements within SISFRON, and between SISFRON and its related systems.

SISFRON infrastructure will include data and voice communication networks aimed at integrating the various agencies involved while ensuring the uninterrupted and ongoing dissemination of information relevant to the functions and features of each part of the system, whether stationary or in motion. SISFRON will use direct links between terrestrial and space stations.

Works in progress

Within the area of infrastructure, there are innumerable projects being carried out to adapt and improve systems and hardware, as well as the physical facilities for the troops.

“From an industrial perspective, SISFRON represents the best opportunity for viability, integrated development, and project completion related to national defense. The increasingly indispensable unmanned aerial vehicles, command and control systems, information security systems, radars, different types of hardware, optical and electro-optical sensors, and many other instruments are meeting these National Defense Strategy directives,” Tollendal concluded.

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