DB - Digital Battlespace

Airbus advances SMART MRTT connectivity

14th June 2019 - 10:30 GMT | by The Shephard News Team

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Airbus has carried out a flight demonstration of a connected airborne battlespace scenario using an A330 MRTT aircraft.

Carried out as part of the development of Airbus’ Network for the Sky (NFTS) programme, the demonstration scenario simulated the establishment of multi-Mbit/s, wideband communication links between ground forces operatives, a fighter jet, a MRTT, and a combined air operations centre (CAOC) on the ground. Both the operatives and jet fighter had to send video in real time to provide enhanced real-time situational awareness and receive instructions from the CAOC in return.

NFTS combines various technologies, including satellite and ground communications, air-to-ground, ground-to-air and air-to-air tactical links, 5G mobile communications and laser connections, into a resilient, unified, secure, highly interoperable, mesh network. It will allow aircraft that currently use networks with limited bandwidth and interoperability, and often little resilience, to form an integral part of high-speed military networks.    

During the demonstration, the operative located in Getafe, Spain, was equipped with a standard Rover handheld radio for NATO forces. The fighter was deployed to obtain imagery of the area of interest and act as a communications node between the operative and the MRTT flying at 30,000ft within a 150km radius in secure airspace. Communications were relayed between the fighter jet and the MRTT, via a wideband line-of-sight data link. The MRTT then routed the video along with its own communications via a wideband satellite link to a space teleport near Washington, DC. The communications flow was then returned to Europe via a terrestrial link to the CAOC.

For this demonstration the MRTT aircraft was equipped with Janus, Airbus’ new tri-band satellite antenna, as well as the latest version of the Proteus satellite modem, and Airbus’ aircraft links integration management system.

The exercise paves the way for the development of the core capability for SMART MRTT connectivity, which will allow the MRTT to act as a high-end communication node.

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