Networking existing combat aircraft could become easier following demonstration of the ability to send Internet Protocol (IP)-based data via the Link 16 terminals now used in thousands of platforms.

The US Air Force, with BAE Systems and SRA International, has test-flown a new IP-based waveform, dubbed Fast Access Secure Transfer (FAST), that allows low-latency, high-throughput data, such as urgent target video, to be transmitted via narrowband Link 16. “We are looking at the retrofit of 3,000-4,000 existing Link 16 terminals so that they can become nodes in an IP-based network,” says BAE’s FAST programme director Jeffrey Adams. The terminal must be modified, but the existing cabling and antenna can be retained.

Following the 29 March demonstration involving the Fighter Data Link unique to USAF Boeing F-15s, FAST will be expanded to the Multifunctional Information Distribution System (MIDS) low-volume terminal fitted to a wide range of platforms. Adams expects the waveform to be ready for deployment by the service by late 2008 or early 2009.

For forward-fit applications, a Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS)-compliant version of the MIDS terminal is under development. BAE/Rockwell Collins joint venture Data Link Solutions and Viasat have just received contracts to add an IP-based wideband waveform, the Tactical Targeting Networking Technology, to MIDS JTRS.

In a related development, a high-speed version of the widely used 1553B avionics databus able to carry broadband data, including video, over existing aircraft wiring has been adopted as a new military standard, clearing the way for its use in upgrade programmes.

Developed by Canadian company Edgewater Computer Systems, Extended 1553 (E1553) increases databus capacity from 1Mb/s to 200Mb/s by sending data along existing wiring at a higher frequency. The USAF is modifying a Lockheed Martin F-16 to demonstrate full integration of the E1553 interface into avionics line-replaceable units (LRU).

“Rewiring a fighter can cost $2 million and take a year. E1553 allows the incremental upgrade of only those LRUs that need it,” says Edgewater chief executive Duane Anderson.

Source: Flight International