New Link-16 Radios to Connect Ground, Air

By Mandy Mayfield

Photo: Viasat

Viasat recently inked a deal with the Air Force to provide Link 16-capable handheld radios to warfighters.

The five-year indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract was awarded to the California-based communications company to supply the service with handheld battlefield awareness and targeting system dismounted, or BATS-D, radios. Link-16 is a network used by U.S. and coalition forces to pass information and provide situational awareness.

The devices were designed to improve communication between air and ground forces by giving warfighters real-time, secure access to information.

The radios were created before the Defense Department called for the capability, said Andy Kessler, vice president and business area director for Viasat.

There was “a demand signal from operational warfighters that said they needed a way to effectively do digitally aided close-air support more efficiently [and] more quickly,” he said.

The company created a radio to meet the mission requirements, Kessler said.

“Essentially we took the initiative to develop it based upon our understanding of what the market would need, and then we went ahead and brought that to a variety of different customers,” he added.

The concept for the capability was developed in late 2015 — and in less than 18 months the company had prototype radios in the hands of operational users, communicating with aircraft to gather feedback.

“I would argue that that is probably an order of magnitude faster than a typical program of record,” Kessler said. A traditional program of record with the Defense Department could have an eight- to 10-year evolution, he added.

The company has shipped approximately 2,500 of the handheld radios to personnel worldwide.

The contract was awarded in December and covers associated operator training and maintenance, the company said in a press release.

Viasat was also awarded a contract last year to build a low-Earth orbit satellite equipped with a Link 16-capable terminal.


Topics: Air Force News

Comments (1)

Re: New Link-16 Radios to Connect Ground and Air

The USAF developed prototype RF devices, and actually had software programmable radio/modems for datalink ( link-1,link-11, and even link-16) connectivity in the early 1990s, and these came about as a result of datalink incompatibilities witnessed in Desert Storm. Requirements for Link-16 were just coming online at that time; post Desert Storm, link-16 became the new cooperative information path. Along with that robust RF capabilities had been developed for parallel integration- adaptable aperature frequency agile conformal antennas, that could support the RF req’ts of those S/W modems; however, GO leadership, in places like the Space Warfare Center, at that time, did not understand how the technologies could be used. The programs were cancelled or subsumed into various AF C2 efforts;ie,TACCS/TBMCS/WCCS integration efforts, which delayed operational capability by a decade or more. Systems like ADSI diminished as well. Datalink integration problems /issues that are being seen today are a result.

Jon sercel at 9:59 AM
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