The Navy tactical chat community has used Internet Relay Chat (IRC) since the 1990s. Over the years, it’s become a mission critical capability, supporting coordination, integration and execution of missions, including everything from maneuver and logistics to intelligence, fires and force protection. Despite its utility, the decades-old IRC protocol has inherent security flaws that need to be addressed. The challenge is that the typical tactical chat network environment is disconnected, intermittent, high-latency (DIL) and low bandwidth. After a great deal of study, it was determined that XMPP, the designated Department of Defense Enterprise protocol for chat, could not provide adequate functionality in the DIL environment.
WWT began a research project for the Navy to develop a tactical chat solution that would add a layer of encryption and authentication to augment IRC, while retaining the resiliency and function of the protocol. This work led to the creation of “Mako Chat,” providing client and server technology designed to meet both Information Assurance (IA) requirements and the critical needs of the Naval Afloat user.
MAKO supports requirements for low-bandwidth operations, making it ideal for in-theater submarines, airplanes and moving vehicles. MAKO servers are connected in a global federation, enabling server and clients to automatically reconnect with full chat history availability. There is web-based user administration across the federation simplifying administrative support of a distributed, federated server infrastructure. IRC does not seamlessly capture a record of war logging, while MAKO implements full requirements for recording war logging.
For existing instant messaging clients leveraging the IRC and XMPP protocols, MAKO seamlessly appears as an appropriate server allowing cross-platform interoperability; it seamlessly supports both IRC and XMPP, including Defense Connect Online (DCO) Chat. MAKO provides features not supportable by traditional IRC and XMPP instant messaging environments. Many of these features were developed in response to the Navy shipboard user’s specific needs. They include operation in a low bandwidth, high latency environment with frequently interrupted satellite connectivity. MAKO uniquely addresses these requirements, such as providing an automatic reconnecting federation capability that fosters reliability while operating in Forward Areas.