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Work on 'LANs' proves airworthy

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- A C-135C Speckled Trout takes off from here during a test mission of the local-area-network system recently installed.  A six-month test was launched to see if this commercial off-the-shelf system can provide high-speed Internet, e-mail voice-over Internet protocol and video teleconferencing capabilities.  (U.S. Air Force photo by George Villarino)

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- A C-135C Speckled Trout takes off from here during a test mission of the local-area-network system recently installed. A six-month test was launched to see if this commercial off-the-shelf system can provide high-speed Internet, e-mail voice-over Internet protocol and video teleconferencing capabilities. (U.S. Air Force photo by George Villarino)

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- A C-135C Speckled Trout began six months of flight testing on the new local-area-network system recently.  The antenna, located on the tail of the aircraft, is about the size a home television satellite dish.  (U.S. Air Force photo by George Villarino)

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- A C-135C Speckled Trout began six months of flight testing on the new local-area-network system recently. The antenna, located on the tail of the aircraft, is about the size a home television satellite dish. (U.S. Air Force photo by George Villarino)

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFPN) -- A C-135C Speckled Trout crew recently tested an airborne local-area-network system designed to provide global broadband communications via satellite.

A year in the making, the flight test launched a six-month initiative to prove this commercial off-the-shelf system can provide high-speed Internet, e-mail, voice-over Internet protocol and video teleconferencing capabilities, officials said.

"The aerial LAN requires an antenna and Global Positioning (System) satellite receiver mounted on the tail of the (aircraft)," said 1st Lt. Dick Wong, 412th Flight Test Squadron flight test engineer. "Inside the aircraft, there's a joint-control unit, which controls the tail-mounted antenna (and) a computer server -- the brains of the airborne network. Right now we are working with four onboard laptops, or workstations, but we should be able to add more if needed."

The antenna is about the size of a home television satellite dish, and although it provides 360 degrees of unobstructed view, the design of the protective radome needed to be assessed for airworthiness, Wong said.

“These first flight tests evaluated the structural integrity and handling qualities," said Capt. Julie Elenbaum, 412th FLTS test and engineering flight commander. "We needed to guarantee the overall changes … would not affect the pilots' ability to control the aircraft. The design is very streamlined; very smart. So far our preliminary data show no (affect on) flying."

About two years ago, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John P. Jumper said he wanted high-speed data capability on board aircraft transporting senior leaders, said Master Sgt. Scott Shapbell, 412th FLTS noncommissioned officer in charge of test and engineering.

The Speckled Trout has a unique mission with three primary roles, said Lt. Col. Rich Stuckey, 412th FLTS commander.

"We provide airlift to senior leaders in the Department of Defense, conduct avionics and communications testing and support (Air Force Flight Test Center) assets with air refueling," he said.

The tests are scheduled to continue through March. The final report on the tests is scheduled for publication in April.

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