January 24, 2012

Contract Award: Rockwell Collins and BAE Systems to support UK MoD Tactical Data Link Systems

News Report

As announced in a recent press release, Data Link Solutions (DLS), a joint venture between BAE Systems and Rockwell Collins, has been awarded a $29 million contract to provide Link 16 sustainment and engineering services to the United Kingdom (UK) Ministry of Defense (MoD) Tactical Data Links Delivery Team.

The DLS Waddington Support Facility, located at Waddington, Royal Air Force Base (RAFB), will provide sustainment, engineering and design support services to the UK MoD, for a period of five years. The agreement includes DLS support for the application and integration of Link 16 Joint Tactical Information Distribution System (JTIDS) terminals, Multifunctional Information Distribution System (MIDS) terminals and the AN/URC-138(V)1(C) Information Distribution System.

The Technology

Tactical Data Links involve transmissions of bit-oriented digital information which are exchanged via message formats used in support of joint and combined operations. Link 16, in particular, provides real-time, jam-resistant secure transfer of combat data, voice and relative navigation information between widely dispersed battle elements. Participants gain situational awareness by exchanging digital data over a common communication link that is continuously and automatically updated in real time, reducing the chance of fratricide, duplicate assignments or missed targets. Each participant in the communication link is able to electronically see the battle space, including assigned targets or threats.

Link 16 has been developed and integrated in the United States of America, and the first units fitted with were in the Unites States Navy in 1994.

Link 16 operates on the principle of Time Division Multiple Acess (TDMA), wherein 128 time slots per second are allocated among all participating units for oroginating and receiving data. Link 16 temporal units, called time slots (TS) are organized into multiple functional Network Participation Group (NPGs). This functional groups permit to organize the Link 16 Network capacities by functions, like position and navigation, electronic warfare or command and control, and so to define the participants needs in TS with the functions needs.

Link 16 uses the Joint Tactical Information Distribution System (JTIDS) which is the communications component of Link 16. JTIDS terminals are thus capable to constitute a pool of weapons, sensors and command information which is continuously updated by each participant. The participant simultaneously taps the pool for tactical data and is provided with information and commands for force management and co-ordination. Each member in the JTIDS network is assigned a sufficient number of time slots to accommodate the number of messages in accordance with mission requirements. During their assigned transmit time slots, each user broadcasts data into a commonly accessible communications datastream. All other elements can extract information of the type they require by continuously monitoring and sampling the database. Participants who have information will broadcast that information routinely into the net without needing to know who the recipients may be; tactical elements needing the data will extract it from the net without needing to know who furnished it.

The Multifunctional Information Distribution System (MIDS) is the NATO name for the communication component of Link 16. MIDS terminals are thus used by platforms to participate in a Link 16 communications network, and they can be also considered as the next generation terminals following JTIDS, designed to decrease size, weight, volume, and cost.

The Multi-functional Information Distribution System Low Volume Terminal (MIDS/LVT) is a five-nation cooperative program that provide a third generation Link 16 system that satisfies U.S. and Allied requirements. The MIDS program was inaugurated via a Memorandum of Understanding amongst the founding MIDS nations (Germany, Italy, Spain, France, and the United States). It is managed by the U.S. Navy MIDS International Program Office. MIDS Low-Volume Terminals (MIDS LVTs) are on most U.S. Air Force fighters, bombers and tankers, most U.S. Navy aircraft, ships, and U.S. bases and air defense systems. Other NATO countries, including UK, have generally been slower and less comprehensive in their implementations, but Link 16 is often installed on fighters, surveillance and patrol aircraft of all types, and air defense systems.

DLS's AN/URC-138(V)1(C) Information Distribution System provides anti-jam protected, encrypted, high throughput data distribution that is compatible with existing Link 16 systems and thus provides Link 16 interoperability between the U.S. tri-services and NATO forces. The terminal provides full stacked net capacity, up to 128, and full Link 16 data throughput. The system can automatically exchange information from a variety of platform sensors. This can include functions such as IR and optics scan, target identification and steering commands. Real-time data updates can also be used to provide landing cues. In addition to robust data communication, the AN/URC-138(V)1(C) terminal also provides two voice ports to enable secure voice communication in a jamming environment. Terminals have been in production since December 1999.

References: Rockwell Collins (1,6), FAS.org (2), Defense-Update (3), Jane's (4), Defense Industry Daily (5)


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