July 10, 2016

Eurofighter vision of upgrading communication speeds for all planes and drones to create a SKYNETwork system of systems

Modern fighter jets can take decades to develop. New airplanes just now entering military service, like the F-35, are part of the fifth generation of jet fighters, which are expected to serve into the 2030s and 2040s. The airplanes beyond that, the sixth generation, are being conceived in boardrooms right now.

Airbus has a twin-engine, twin-tail, twin-seat stealth design according to Alberto Gutierrez, Head of Eurofighter Programme. The second crewmember may be especially important for the FCAS concept of operations, which would see it operate in a wider battle network, potentially as a command and control asset or UCAV/UAV mission commander. The second person would be dedicated to managing the drone swarm flying with the future fighter.

AirbusDS foresee it is not a strike aircraft in itself - but rather part of a 'system of systems' - with this strike manned platform networked with Eurofighter, unmanned bomb or missile 'mules' and even UAV swarms. FCAS, says AirbuDS, conceptualized is to be a platform incendio into slot scalable system.

This vision aligns closely with the US Pentagon latest predictions on future air combat - where manned platforms such as F-35 and B-21 would operate as networked nodes, controlling missile 'truck' UCAVs and drone swarms in Contested airspace.

Airbus Defence and Space's FCAS concept will inform potentional Bundeswehr plans for a successor to the Tornado. (AirbusDS)

Though the future strategy has yet to be completed, the FCAS systems of systems Provides a clue to AirbusDS's vision. "Connectivity not platforms," ​​says Alonso, will be the way forward, arguing That the challenge and opportunity for the company will be "how to connect Those platforms together".

Other presentations During the two days of TMB supported this vision of legacy platforms being enhanced with networks. For instance, in the JRE (Joint Range Extension) Link 16 capability is now September to be added to French A330MRTTs currently on order. This will turn into tankers Link 16 data relay nodes - boosting situational awareness for platforms operating beyond line-of-sight. Australia, too, is reported to be interested in this capability for its MRTTs.

AirbusDS Also in September is to take high-speed Further even with data transfer in high-speed optical communications test later this year. This will see the European Data Relay System (EDRS-A) to use lasers to connect with a modified A310 test aircraft equipped with a prototype laser terminals. Optical laser communication promises to 1-2 orders of magnitude INCREASE in air-to-satellite data speeds, Compared to normal satcom links. Laser communications could then offer ultra-high speed, secure communications - especially suitable for the vast Amounts of video, imagery and data That now need to flow around the battlefield.

Another illustration from AirbusDS shows how the network would FCAS 'stairs' upwards. Notes external fuel tanks and Meteors. (AirbusDS).

SOURCES - Royal Aeronautical Society, Popular Science

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