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Airbus was able to successfully demonstrate their connected airborne battlespace scenario – the Network for the Sky (NFTS) programme – during a first test flight. During this flight the aircraft became a secure high-speed communications node, delivering the necessary communication capabilities for modern military operations.

NFTS integrates 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, unified, secure, highly interoperable, mesh network. Therefore the technology tested within the NFTS programme will enable aircraft, UAVs, and helicopters that currently use networks with limited bandwidth and interoperability to form an integral part of high-speed military networks in the future.

The demonstration was deployed on an Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft, and simulated the establishment of multi-Mbit/s wideband communication links between the MRTT, ground forces operatives, a fighter jet, and a combined air operations center (CAOC) on the ground.

For the demonstration an MRTT aircraft was equipped with Janus, Airbus’ new tri-band (Ku-Ka-MilKa) satellite antenna, the latest version of the Proteus satellite modem, which is highly resilient against interference and jamming, and Airbus’ aircraft links integration management system (ALIMS). ALIMS is based on the safety certifiable BET processor system, which is itself based on rugged commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) open architecture modules supplied by Curtiss-Wright. The BET system includes Curtiss-Wright’s DO-254 and DO-178C safety certifiable processing and graphics modules as well as network switching and routing capabilities.

“We are very pleased to congratulate Airbus on the recent milestone test flight of its Network for the Sky solution for secure battlespace connectivity,” said Lynn Bamford, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Defense and Power, Curtiss-Wright. “We are proud to support Airbus on this important program, and supply them with a rugged cost-effective size, weight and power-optimized processing solution based on our cost-effective COTS technology.”

Dorothee Frank