May 18th, 2008 06:38 EST
Airborne Tactical Targeting Network Technology
LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. -- F-22 Raptor pilots using an experimental version of a Tactical Targeting Network Technology, or TTNT, were able to send and receive information such as command and control messaging, imagery, airspace updates and even free text messages using a cockpit touch-screen color display during the Air Force Joint Expeditionary Force Experiment 2008, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., held April 15 to 25.
Although the download methods are not operational nor planned for operational use, the test demonstrated the F-22's utility for potential information-sharing technologies.
The JEFX 08-3 combined real-world air and ground forces, simulation and technology insertions as a venue for meeting command and control objectives. The transferring of real-time intelligence data between other aircraft and the air operations center was part of the joint experiment in a warfighting environment.
Numerous Army, Navy and Air Force weapon systems participated along with the F-22s.
"JEFX gave us a chance to show we can offload information from the F-22 and how it can enhance the coalition and joint forces," said Col. James Firth, the deputy director of requirements for Air Combat Command.
While the primary mission for the F-22 is to project air dominance, rapidly and at great distances, JEFX highlighted the potential for it to be used to connect all aircraft together to provide the best air picture to ground stations using the TTNT.
TTNT is part of a wider Department of Defense technology effort to find, fix, track, target, engage and assess surface targets using a network-centric capability. The system made it possible for the F-22 to share imagery and information to other aircraft and people on the ground in real time.
TTNT is "a higher capacity and more rapid information tool, basically a wireless Internet," said Col. Jim Firth, the ACC deputy director of requirements. "We were able to essentially strap that on in a way that we probably wouldn't do operationally, but it still was a great stepping stone to show how we could off board information."
The system is only one of several potential systems the Air Force is considering for a new offloading information capability, Colonel Firth said. The new capability, which is anticipated to be in use regularly by 2015, won't be limited to just the F-22.
The Air Force is already using fighters and bombers for providing some level of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance purpose, but such platforms currently lack the ability to send certain information, such as large images, back to a base from the aircraft.
In fact, every fighter and bomber aircraft in the Air Force inventory is an ISR platform, said Lt. Col. Daryl Sassaman, the Global Cyberspace Integration Center Modernization and Innovation division chief.
"Fighters and bombers are closer to the fight," he said. Such aircraft are typically in a position to take an image of an emerging target.
Fighters and bombers used for non-traditional ISR, or NTISR, include the B-52 Stratofortress, B-1B Lancer, F-16 Fighting Falcon and A-10 Thunderbolt II.
Although such aircraft should remain focused on their primary missions, "if they are in an area of opportunity where they can take an image or relay information (sensor data)," they are a great enabler, Colonel Sassaman said.
Traditional ISR platforms don't necessarily operate in threatening environments, an area where NTISR can be most valuable, he said The F-22's combination of stealth, supercruise, maneuverability and integrated avionics, can provide an additional level of ISR capabilities in an environment where U.S. armed forces are denied access.
"There are environments where there's advanced defensive systems that the enemy has where (only) the F-22 can go in and operate," Colonel Firth said. "And, by virtue of being there, it can collect information that's of great value to a lot of other users."
That makes the F-22 not just an air-to-air platform but an air-to-air platform that can also conduct a vast array of ISR and attack capabilities, he said.
However, the focus for future technologies is not just on any single aircraft but rather on combining the information sharing capabilities from multiple platforms to create an overall perspective, Colonel Firth said.
"Nowadays a lot of platforms have great sensors that have the ability to pick up good information in the battle space," he said, "and we really want all those platforms to be able to share so that you basically collect and combine the best information that everybody has to offer."
Because this technology is emerging, DOD leaders are working with the Air Force and other services to determine the best and most cost-effective way to meet airborne networking future requirements.