Air Force eyes layered airborne networking for degraded, outmanned, and outgunned conditions

ROME, N.Y., 20 March 2014. U.S. Air Force researchers are asking industry for ideas to improve military airborne networking that involves mid-altitude aerial layered voice and data communications in contested and operationally limited conditions.

Airborne networking when forces are outgunned
Airborne networking when forces are outgunned
ROME, N.Y., 20 March 2014. U.S. Air Force researchers are asking industry for ideas to improve military airborne networking that involves mid-altitude aerial layered voice and data communications in contested and operationally limited conditions.

Officials of the Air Force Research Laboratory Information Directorate in Rome, N.Y., on Monday issued a presolicitation (BAA-RIK-14-06) for the Aerial Layer Communications program, which seeks to develop multi-tiered aerial communications networking in difficult conditions.

The Aerial Layer Communications program is asking industry for enabling technologies suitable for airborne networking in contested, degraded, operationally limited (CDO), and anti-access area denial (A2/AD) environments in which U.S. and allied forces not only may be unable to maintain communication, but also outnumbered and outgunned, Air Force researchers say.

Today's military airborne networks are platform- and link-centric, self-contained, preplanned, and wired or static, researchers say. Instead, Air Force commanders would like to evolve to airborne networks that are network-of-networks-centric, open, flexible and ad-hoc, and wireless and dynamic.

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From industry, Air Force researchers also would like ideas on managing and planning not only today's multi-information link based airborne network environment, but also tomorrow's heterogeneous based architectures.

Air Force officials are asking industry for white papers aimed at improving the network, and enabling the network to become a force multiplier, such that when added to and employed by a combat force, increases combat potential.

Air Force researchers chiefly are interested in secure, dynamic, ad-hoc, adaptable, and programmable aerial mesh networks with routers and security devices, software-defined networking, reconfigurable protocols for self-healing, and network coding.

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Also of interest are approaches to network resource management involving joint network situational awareness, integrated network operations, deliberate, pre-mission, and crisis planning, and machine-to-machine control interfaces.

This kind of airborne network should have modularized and open-architecture information links with waveform, network, security, and information-management modules.

Networks should have Internet Protocol communications networking, distribution and range extension, a high-capacity backbone, airborne connectivity, cooperative control, and command and control of directional networking.

The Aerial Layer Communications program has funding of about $10 million over the next three years, and several contracts are expected.

Related: Pentagon plans to spend $6 billion on C4I next year to support radio networking to the edge

Companies interested should email 3-to-5-page white papers no later than 30 April 2014 to the Air Force's Elaine Kordyban at elaine.kordyban@us.af.mil.

For technical questions contact the Air Force's Michael Hartnett by email at michael.hartnett@us.af.mil, or by phone at 315-330-4514. For contracting and business questions contact Gail Marsh by email at Gail.Marsh@us.af.mil, or by phone at 315-330-7518.

More information is online at https://www.fbo.gov/spg/USAF/AFMC/AFRLRRS/BAA-RIK-14-06/listing.html.

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