December 20, 2011

Contemporary airborne battle management systems

A remarkable review of contemporary airborne battle management systems has been issued by Jane's, which illustrates how modern technologies have evolved to aid the fight by increasing situational awareness, facilitating mission execution and suppyling tactical information quickly to commanders.
Although the technologies involved have advanced massively since their inception, current activity in the field has its roots in American, French and Soviet air-mobile doctrine and the Vietnam War where there was a need for effective, near-realtime management of close air-support assets. The air-mobility requirement has generated a number of helicopter applications that are capable of acting as airborne and ground-based command posts, with fixed-wing assets such as America's EC-130E Airborne Battlefield Command and Control Center (ABCCC) handling the air-support management role.
Among the key systems and platforms that underwent to Jane's review we mention the following ones:
  • The Airborne Battlefield Command and Control Center Capsules (ABCCC) that are embarked on U.S. EC-130s. As an Air Combat Command asset, ABCCC is an integral part of the Tactical Air Control System. While functioning as a direct extension of ground-based command and control authorities, the primary mission is providing flexibility in the overall control of tactical air resources. In addition, to maintain positive control of air operations, ABCCC can provide communications to higher headquarters, including national command authorities, in both peace and wartime environments.
  • The Racal (subsequently Thales) Airborne Mission Support System (AMSS), deriving from derived from its carry-on Light Mission Support System (LMSS), equipped aboard three UK E-3D aircrafts, which provides a two-star commander with tactical information such as air-tasking orders, combat search-and-rescue plans, area weather reports and intelligence updates in near-realtime.
  • The Direct Air Support Center - Air (DASC-A) C2 architecture exploited by U.S. Marine Corps' KC-130 transport/tanker aircrafts, which is capapble to process immediate air support requests; to coordinate aircraft employment with other supporting arms; to manages terminal control assets supporting Ground Combat Elements and combat service support element forces; to control assigned aircrafts, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and itinerant aircraft transiting through DASC controlled airspace.
  • The rail-mounted French Army's HM-PC Valorisé helicopter-based airborne command post system, designed for installation aboard legacy Cougar and Puma helicopters, which is expected to become operational in 2013 at the conclusion of technical and operational field evaluations. The system provides the staff users with voice links and data connections from platform level all the way up to divisional headquarters, interlinking the battle-management system terminals installed in individual reconnaissance and support helicopters.
  • Northrop Grumman's Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN), already installed in three E-11A Global Express aircrafts and two Global Hawk UAVs, which enables essential situational awareness from small ground units in contact up to the highest command levels.

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Other References: (1), Northrop Grumman (2)

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