Fresh Tactics: A Common Airborne Military Comms Network


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In 2015, the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff issued a mandate, "for the production, distribution, and use of Link 16 Communications Security (COMSEC) keying material for legacy and crypto-modernized Link 16 systems." Simply, the order requires interoperability of allied and coalition defense operators using Link 16 military tactical data link terminals for two-way communications in addition to the sharing of sensor data to update those terminals to a new cryptographic subsystem by 2022. With Link 16, aircraft, ships, and ground forces can exchange their tactical picture securely, in near-real time.

The mandate will bring different generations of airborne platforms onto a common communications network, while modernizing communications so they can be easily adapted in the field. MIDS JTRS will enable this modernization and create more stable communications gateways in the most contested environments.

Data Link Solutions (DLS), a joint venture between BAE Systems and Collins Aerospace, is a market leader in tactical airborne networking. The DLS team is delivering next-generation capability today to help the Department of Defense meet the tactical mandate, supplying cryptographic modernization terminals for the platform transition, and providing advanced airborne networking to improve effectiveness, ensuring connectivity and smart flexibility to tailor networks to mission needs in real time.

One of those terminals is DLS' Multifunctional Information Distribution System Joint Tactical Radio Systems, or MIDS JTRS, which is used to process communications data without occupying too much bandwidth. The Department of Defense (DoD) is fielding MIDS JTRS on the F-15, F-16, F-18, and F-22 aircraft, as well as ship and command and control assets.

"MIDS JTRS was one of the most important advances in airborne networking technology," said Alan Dewar, director of Communications and Navigation Solutions at BAE Systems. "Our innovations in the military communications market have made radios more reliable, reducing downtime and maintenance costs for the DoD and coalition forces."

MIDS JTRS is a four-channel radio designed to run the complex Link 16 waveform and up to three additional communication protocols, enabling enhanced operational effectiveness without consuming additional space, weight, or power. It also includes the Tactical Air Navigation System, or TACAN, which provides bearing and range information to the warfighter.

The team has ramped up MDIS JTRS production to meet the requirements of the mandate to enhance battlefield situational awareness and mission effectiveness with jam-resistant, line-of-sight voice, video, and data communications for ground, air, and sea assets.

As we near the deadline for the crypto mandate, DLS will continue to apply its operational excellence to the increased demand for updated MIDS JTRS terminals.

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