Air Force asks industry to develop self-forming aerial networks to enable combat aircraft to work together

Aug. 11, 2023
Needed are ways to manage and plan today's multi-link based airborne network environment and tomorrow's dynamic ad-hoc opportunistic architectures.

ROME, N.Y. – U.S. Air Force researchers are asking industry to develop on-demand, self-forming, and self-healing aerial communications networks to provide data and voice links to high-performance combat aircraft.

Officials of the Air Force Research Laboratory Information Directorate in Rome, N.Y., issued a broad-agency announcement (FA875023S7002) this week for the Aerial Layer Networking & Transmission Technologies project.

Today’s aerial layer networking requires significant pre-planning, and has limited interoperability, Air Force researchers explain. Instead, the Air Force wants to move to a significantly more on-demand, self-forming, and self-healing aerial layer network.

The Aerial Layer Networking & Transmission Technologies project will capitalize on research in network monitoring and management, robust aerial networks, and proof-of-concept capabilities.

Related: Air Force makes last call to develop enabling technologies for secure airborne networking for combat jets

This project is a follow-on to the Air Force Timely, Secure & Mission Responsive Aerial Warfighting Network Capabilities project, which seeks to develop aerial networking for contested, degraded and operationally limited environments.

The project also seeks to develop capabilities to manage and plan today's multi-link based airborne network environment and tomorrow's dynamic ad-hoc opportunistic architectures using autonomous human-in-the-loop network management and recovery to improve network reliability and survivability.

These new capabilities should enable the Air Force to transform current aerial layer networking a ‘stitched together’ state to one that is truly seamless, adaptive, and mission- environmentally-aware.

Related: Kinetic mesh network brings aerial broadband connectivity, improved communications to UAS

Of particular interest are hardware and software development; validation with model-based design and simulation; and hardware-in-the-loop validation techniques.

Focus areas are airborne network management and monitoring; network technologies to improve network monitoring; self-managing and self-healing autonomic wireless network capabilities; robust airborne networking in apertures, waveforms, and networking; aerial network security; heterogeneous aerial layer networks; next generation mesh networking; ad-hoc tactical edge mesh networking; and enhanced network robustness, resilience, and availability.

This project will involve technology demonstrations using advanced radios, waveforms, networking, and management technologies; as well as low-cost demonstrations at Air Force facilities in Rome, N.Y. Funding will be about $99.5 million, and involve several 36-month contracts.

Related: Harris Corp. radio demonstrates high-capacity airborne communications during CAPSTONE II

Companies interested should email white papers to the Air Force s Timothy Weaver, the Aerial Layer Networking & Transmission Technologies program manager at [email protected]. White papers for 2024 are due by 15 Sept. 2023, for 2025 by 15 Sept. 2024, for 2026 by 15 Sept 2025, and for 2027 by 15 Sept. 2026.

Email technical questions or concerns to Timothy Weaver at [email protected], and business questions to Amber Buckley at [email protected].

More information is online at

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Military Aerospace, create an account today!