Rockwell to make combat waves

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TTNT wideband networking technology chosen by Pentagon to connect US aircraft heads for integration programme

The US Department of Defensehas selected Rockwell Collins’ Tactical Targeting Networking Technology (TTNT) to serve as the core capability to connect US Air Force and Navy fighters, bombers and command-and-control aircraft with a low-latency, wideband network dubbed the airbornenetworking waveform.

Jointly sponsored by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the Air Force Research Laboratory, TTNT will resolve a critical part of making network-centric aviation operations a reality.

The selection of the Collins technology over an emerging rival waveform called FAST was confirmed on 14 October by Lt Gen William Hobbins, deputy chief of staff for warfighting integration. “TTNT is a technological solution that enables network-centric operations among our airborne assets,” he says.

Combat aircraft require a highly flexible and fast network and the wideband networking waveform currently being developed for the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) was deemed inadequate for airborne applications. TTNT is able to transmit data at a rate of 2Mb/s over 185km (100nm), requires less than 5s to add a new aircraft to the network and will experience a transmission delay of no more than 2milliseconds.

The TTNT capability was demonstrated last month using six aircraft types and four ground-based nodes, capping a $54 million Phase 3 development programme. The effort is now transitioningout of DARPA’s control and could join the JTRS programme office by next year.

TTNT’s selection clears the way for a three-year process to integrate the waveform into communications equipment in aircraft cockpits, says DARPA programme manager Lt Col Stephen Waller. The USAF’s Lockheed Martin/Boeing F/A-22 Raptor is likely to be the first integration candidate, with its Rockwell B-1 and Boeing B-52 bombers also in the running for early integration. The air force’s Boeing E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft is another high priority.

However, “there are still a number of challenges to overcome in fielding an airborne networking capability”, says Hobbins. One of these includes obtaining global frequency clearance to use the TTNT waveform. Clearancein three regions has been received and a final approval is expected to be in place before 2009, says Waller.

TTNT will also expand into weapons datalinks under a new DARPA five-mode “Quint” (QNT) networking technology programme, which seeks to develop a miniature version of the waveform hardware for installation in precision weapons. Harris and Collins are competing for the development contract.