Sanders uses COTS, open architecture to eavesdrop on the enemy

NASHUA, N.H. -Engineers at Sanders, a Lockheed Martin Company in Nashua, N.H., are using an open architecture and commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components in a new airborne intelligence system to monitor enemy RF communications.

by John McHale

NASHUA, N.H. -Engineers at Sanders, a Lockheed Martin Company in Nashua, N.H., are using an open architecture and commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components in a new airborne intelligence system to monitor enemy RF communications.

The new system, the Joint SIGINT Avionics Family (JSAF) Low Band Subsystem (LBSS), which integrates a reconfigurable module set, will go aboard four kinds of U.S. military intelligence aircraft.

Sanders officials tout the new system as a platform-independent, modular, reconfigurable suite of hardware and software that can address several mission scenarios aboard a variety of aircraft.

Not only is it designed to enhance the ability of reconnaissance aircraft to detect and locate modern enemy communications systems, but it also can provide real-time intelligence on enemy intentions and capabilities, Sanders officials say..

The system`s architecture is based on the U.S. Joint Airborne SIGINT Architecture (JASA), and is interoperable between platforms.

The key technologies that enable the system to work across different platforms is a software intelligence bridge and the adaptable hardware modules, says Jerry Ryan, manager of business development for Air Force programs at Sanders.

The intelligence bridge uses algorithms that have logical addresses that insulate the application from physical topology, explains Rance Wallaston acting director of business development at Sanders.

On the RF side, a preselector switch routes the radio signal from the platform antenna to two devices called dimensional tuners from Radix Technologies Inc. of Mountain View, Calif. Next, the signals go to the reconfigurable modules, Ryan says.

The tuners use advanced interference-cancellation technology, to filter out unwanted signals on a given frequency from the signal of interest.

The tuner monitors as much as four times the bandwidth per box compared to prior systems and as much as 10 times more throughput, Ryan says.

Officials at Radix and at Applied Signal Technology in Sunnyvale Calif. - the designers of some JSAF signal-processing subsystems, - declined comment on the specifics of interference cancellation, citing security restrictions.

The system is all digital, using a 6U VME printed circuit boards, Ryan says. COTS hardware no longer supports it, but designers expect to be able to upgrade the system with COTS components as they become available, he explains. The system integrates a large amount of COTS software and hardware, Sanders officials say.

JSAF uses high-speed Texas Instruments 320C40 and Analog Devices 21060 SHARC digital signal processors on the single-board computers. The dataflow network on the system is Fibre Channel, and the LAN is a 100-megabit-per-second Ethernet. The boards are VME64. Ryan declined to comment on the actual specifications of the boards.

Engineers at TRW in Redondo Beach, Calif., will be responsible for infrastructure software and the control interface. They will also work on the datalink and integration of COTS hardware.

The objective of JSAF is to create an open-systems family of signals-intelligence sensors with standardized interfaces and multi-platform applicability based on the JASA.

JASA is an open, interoperable , architecture with compliant payload and processing equipment. Due to an emphasis on modularity the former Joint Airborne SIGINT System (JASS) has been renamed Joint SIGINT Avionics Family (JSAF). As SIGINT payloads are actively developed for UAVs, they will be made JASA-compliant.

JASA-compliant systems must be interoperable, interchangeable, mature technology, and have reasonable market support for hardware, software, and development tools.

Initially, the system will deploy on U.S. Air Force RC-135 Rivet Joint aircraft and other special Air Force platforms as well as the U.S. Army`s RC-7 (Airborne Reconnaissance Low) and the U.S. Navy`s EP-3 aircraft. JSAF LBSS will also be capable of deployment on unmanned air vehicles in the future.

Delivery of the first development unit will be completed by June 1999. The program is sponsored by the Pentagon`s Defense Airborne Reconnaissance Office and will be administered by the U.S. Air Force`s Aeronautical Systems Center, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, in Dayton, Ohio.

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