Douglas Barrie/LONDON

THE ROYAL AIR FORCE is studying the possibility of equipping its Panavia Tornado GR4 strike-aircraft with the Joint Tactical Information Distribution Systems (JTIDS) data-communications network.

Funding for fitting RAF combat aircraft with the JTIDS so far covers only two squadrons of Tornado F3s, along with the Boeing E-3D Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft, Lockheed L-1011 TriStars and Vickers VC10 tanker/transports.

The JTIDS provides a high-capacity, secure, electronic-countermeasures-resistant, line-of-sight datalink, allowing all assets of a network to share data in real time.

In the case of the F3, for instance, a friendly and hostile track and targeting picture could be provided by an E-3D AWACS, without the need for the F3 crew to use the aircraft's Foxhunter radar - potentially providing a tactical advantage.

Fitting the GR4 with the JTIDS would provide the crew with improved situational awareness, giving a display of potential threat aircraft in the target area, either from escorting F3s, or relayed from the E-3D.

The JTIDS also provides location and identification information for all aircraft on the network, providing an adjunct to identification-friend-or-foe systems.

The RAF also has plans in the near term to equip a third squadron of F3s with the system.

The RAF regards the JTIDS as an important element in its future air-warfare command-and-control architecture. Residing above the JTIDS net will be the RAF's future air command-and-control system, preliminary development of which is now under way. The UK air-command-and-control system (UK ACCS) will eventually replace the Improved UK Air Defence ground environment integrated command and control System, and will be deployed in support of out-of-area operations.

Under the auspices of Staff Requirement (Air) 1303, the Ministry of Defence has begun a series of pilot acquisitions intended to feed into the eventual UK ACCS architecture.

Minor Equipment Requirement 6/95 covers the acquisition of a pilot Joint Force Air Component Com-mand, while MER(A) 4/93 is a re-quirement for a Tactical Air Con- trol Command (TACC) system.

The TACC is now in the definition phase. An invitation to tender is expected to be released by the end of the year.

Source: Flight International