Rockwell Collins has taken the lead role in an emerging US Air Force programme to develop miniature target update datalinks for its growing inventory of smart munitions, writes Brendan Sobie.

The Weapons Data Link Architecture programme, formerly known as Banshee, was awarded to Rockwell Collins earlier this month, and is intended to deliver a prototype multi-channel weapon datalink terminal with a volume of just 164cm3 (10in3).

The company's first task is to develop a 820cm3 prototype - around one-tenth the size of the standard Link 16 multifunction information distribution system terminal installed on tactical fighters, says Rockwell Collins programme manager Lowell Buckholz.

The goal is a datalink terminal set which is small enough for integration on the 250lb (115kg)-class Boeing Small Diameter Bomb, and able to receive target location updates in flight, and perhaps serve on a battlefield network as a communications relay or sensor node.

The first, 18-month phase of the effort, valued at $5.4 million, will see delivery of the prototype and provide guidance on developing a concept of operations, says Buckholz.

Separately, the US Department of Defense is to commission a study to identify the most likely weapons candidates for datalinks. "Is it range-dependent? I don't know. It probably is," says John Wilcox, assistant deputy undersecretary of defense for advanced systems and concepts, addressing the Precision Strike Technology symposium on 14 October in Maryland.

High-speed datalinks are seen as a priority by air force officials looking to improve weapons performance, but development funding remains a problem, says Buckholz, who is concerned that only the larger prototype system is funded in the datalink programme.

Source: Flight International