BAE demonstrates enhanced fighter datalink

Washington DC
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BAE Systems and SRA International have demonstrated a faster and more flexible airborne networking system than link 16 for three different fighter types, the former company announced on 15 August.

A laboratory test showed that the flexible access secure transfer (FAST) design can connect the Link 16 systems used on the Boeing F-15, Lockheed Martin F-16 and Boeing F/A-18, says Steve Dinome, FAST programme manager. The success follows an in-flight demonstration in March 2006 aboard an F-15 flying with three surrogate aircraft.

The F-15 operates the multifunction information distribution system-low volume terminal-3 (MIDS LVT-3) box for link 16 communications, while the F-16 and F/A-18 both operate using MIDS LVT-1 terminals.

The laboratory test connected both systems in the same network for the first time, demonstrating that FAST is capable of forming a network of multiple aircraft types.

FAST uses software to enhance the throughput and network management of the existing link 16 system in a manner similar to digital subscriber line technology for telephones. With the FAST system, users can achieve burst throughput rates up to 1Mb/s, and can log-in to the network on an ad hoc basis.

The US Air Force and Navy may eventually convert their entire aircraft fleets to high-bandwidth datalinks, with the Rockwell Collins tactical targeting network technology focused on the high-end of the fleet and FAST dedicated to fourth-generation fighters.

BAE expects to receive a follow-on contract to continue enhancing and broadening the FAST network in advance of a formal system development and demonstration phase.