by Staff Sgt. Ryan Hansen
Air Armament Center Public Affairs
1/17/2006 - EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFPN) -- Two-way communications with a weapon after it's released from an aircraft is at the forefront of all new weapons technology, and standards for it has become a priority.
Such standards were successfully implemented and demonstrated during a recent series of flight demonstrations here for the Weapon Data Link Network Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration.
The Weapon Data Link Network defines a standard way for aircrew, ground controllers or combined air operations centers to have two-way communications with network-enabled weapons after they're already in flight.
"This Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration came about because Air Combat Command and the Navy were both looking for a capability to exchange information with in-flight weapons," said Ron Taylor, lead engineer for the demonstration. "What we've done in this effort is develop the common messages and transactions that will govern that information exchange."
According to Air Force officials, new technology like this is crucial in today's climate as the military continues to face a diverse and ever-changing threat in the global war on terror. As targets continue to move and change location, the ability to move along with them is vital.
"With the Weapon Data Link Network implementation, you can continue to provide new information to the weapon such as target updates, retargets or abort," said Kevin Sura, flight demonstration integrated product team leader. "Additionally, this allows the weapon to report its status to a controller as well as bomb hit indications by text or video."
The Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration was sponsored by the Joint Forces Command and was led by the Air Force and Navy along with participation by the Army.
"The more eyes you've got looking at it the better, and we had a great deal of innovation because of the diverse group we had," Mr. Taylor said. "They helped keep us on the right vector."
The combined team used a variety of weapons for simulated releases and used the new datalink message standards for each test.
"We looked at using existing messages because that would be a cheaper solution and easier to implement," Mr. Taylor said. "But because we were looking to define this common standard not just for current weapons capabilities, but also for projected weapon capabilities and for future sensors, that drove us to new message implementations."
After more than 140 runs across 12 official demonstration missions, the weapons confirmed their current information, reported their status and provided bomb hit indication information just as testers planned.
"We're pleased with the progress we've made," Mr. Taylor said. "We've done some good work. The standards were implemented and demonstrated by multiple joint service parties, so we don't have a unique solution that only vendor 'A' will be able to use." (Courtesy of Air Force Materiel Command News Service)