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Airbus announced a successfully completed flight demonstration of a connected airborne battlespace scenario, centred on a MRTT aircraft. The test was carried out as part of the development of Airbus’ Network for the Sky (NFTS) programme. This follows on from last August’s demonstration in Canada of secure mobile communications using a stratospheric balloon to simulate a HAPS (High Altitude Pseudo Satellite), such as Airbus’ Zephyr UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle).

NFTS combines various technologies – satellite and ground communications, air-to-ground, ground-to-air and air-to-air tactical links, 5G mobile communications and laser connections – in a resilient and interoperable mesh network. For this demonstration an MRTT aircraft has been equipped with Janus, Airbus’ new tri-band (Ku-Ka-MilKa) satellite antenna, as well as the latest version of the Proteus satellite modem, which is highly resilient against interference and jamming, and Airbus’ aircraft links integration management system (ALIMS).

This 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. Network for the Sky (NFTS) sets the foundation for the connected airborne battlespace, with the objective to offer a full operational capability by 2020. The NFTS programme is part of Airbus’ Future Air Power project and is fully aligned with the development of the European Future Combat Air System (FCAS).

Dorothee Frank