Military Embedded Systems

Open-architecture comms testing by USAF, Marines brings "military Internet of Things" a step closer


December 15, 2020

Lisa Daigle

Assistant Managing Editor

Military Embedded Systems

Open-architecture comms testing by USAF, Marines brings "military Internet of Things" a step closer
U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. James Cason

U.S. ARMY YUMA PROVING GROUND, Ariz. U.S. military forces "took another step toward achieving a military Internet of Things" -- according to a news release from the U.S. Air Force -- when tests run with fifth-generation aircraft overcame longstanding connectivity issues to share actionable operational data in their native secure digital “languages” with and through multiple sources for the first time. This early-December 2020 test was the latest demonstration run with the open architecture underpinning the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS).

The joint testing effort included a Marine Corps F-35B variant and the Air Force F-22 Raptor and F-35A Lightning II variant flying for the first time with an attritableONE XQ-58A Valkyrie for the first time. 

Lt. Col. Kate Stowe, gatewayONE program manager at the Air Force Lifecycle Management Center, said that the exercise laid out 18 test objectives and successfully achieved nine. “Testing is all about pushing the limits of what’s possible, finding out where the toughest challenges are, and adapting creative solutions to overcoming difficult problem sets,” Stowe said. “The real win of the day was seeing the gatewayONE establish a secure two-way translational data path across multiple platforms and multiple domains. That’s the stuff ABMS is all about.”

The news release revealed details about the testing effort: Fifth-generation fighters are typically limited to communicating with each other and to command-and-control centers via legacy tactical data connections, but these communications are achieved using incompatible digital “languages.” The gatewayONE translation and communications device both translated and moved data -- normally relegated to an operations center or tactical ground node -- instead to the cockpit at the edge of the multidomain battlespace for the first time. Moreover, Air Force officials reported, the test pushed the position data of each platform outside of the aircraft’s close-proximity formation through gatewayONE, thereby enabling battle managers on the ground or in the air to better orchestrate operations. During the tests, the gatewayONE payload also passed tracks or cues from ground operators to both fighters and passed a cue from the F-35A to the F-22 for the first time, sending the bidirectional communications in the platforms’ native digital “languages” and displaying the data through the aircrafts’ organic systems.

“The gatewayONE payload really showed what’s possible and helped us take a big step towards achieving (Joint All-Domain Command and Control),” said Lt. Col. Eric Wright, a 59th Test and Evaluation Squadron F-35 pilot. “This critical capability provides additional connections between our advanced fighters and other forces and battle managers across all domains. The future is promising, and gatewayONE will allow the F-22 and F-35 to connect to and feed data sources they've never before accessed. Those future connections will bring additional battlefield awareness into the cockpit and enable integrated fires across U.S. forces.”

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