Tech Briefs

One of the US Air Force's goals is to reduce the time needed to strike timesensitive targets, thus minimizing the adversary's perceived mobility advantage and leaving concealment as that enemy's primary defensive measure. One potential way to meet this challenge relies on a capability to redirect and update weapons with new target coordinates while they are in flight—a solution that requires weapons developers to outfit weapons with a data link enabling communications between warfighters operating in the air and on the ground. This Weapon Data Link (WDL) approach would allow the warfighter to directly communicate with and control air-launched weapons to strike moving or otherwise time-sensitive targets, while continually gathering information about the weapon's performance against those targets. The scenario could involve something as simple as a weapon communicating its position and system status back to the release aircraft, or something as complex as a weapon operating in the Global Information Grid (GIG), wherein a secondary ground/air controller assumes the weapon's control after a positive handoff from the release platform, with the weapon's sensor and video information autonomously distributed throughout the GIG.

Figure 1. Depiction of WDL
AFRL engineers recently accomplished a critical step in demonstrating the WDL approach. Held at Langley Air Force Base (AFB), Virginia, the demonstration's primary objective was to show that two WDL terminals, connected to Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) laptop computers, could successfully transmit and receive J-series messages within a Link-16 network (see Figures 1 and 2). The network included a legacy Fighter Data Link (FDL) terminal provided by the 46th Test Squadron (Eglin AFB, Florida), two WDL terminals, and local aircraft equipped with Link-16 radios.