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Emerging and evolving C4i systems technology – is it ‘Fit and Ready’ for Link 16 Modernisation?

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September 24, 2019

In our previous expert insight, we discussed how complexity and misunderstanding around Link 16 Modernisation presents significant technical and financial challenges for owners and operators of Link 16 fitted platforms. This next article in the series examines how evolving technology will be affected by the modernisation programme and, with a 2021 deadline looming, how 3SDL can help Link 16 equipment providers to be “Fit and Ready” for the change.

Is it really just a ‘Fit, Form, Function’ replacement?

Tactical Data Link practitioners will understand the requirements for Crypto Modernisation (CM), Frequency Remapping (FR), Enhanced Throughput (ET), Concurrent Contention Receive (CCR) and Concurrent Multi-Network 4 (CMN-4) enhancements. Whilst they will also have thoughts on the related system and peripheral updates, it appears to us that there is less thinking ahead by the Combat/Battle Management System providers that will be impacted by Link 16 changes. Discussions at DSEi 2019 in London highlighted that, for many, Link 16 Modernisation is still regarded as just a terminal box-swap or a simple hardware upgrade.  Our assertion remains that the through-life costs of Modernisation run far deeper than the box replacement and the testing and training for integration, implementation and interoperability simply cannot be ignored.

Are evolving TDL concepts increasing the pressure to be ready?

Absolutely.  With Link 16 terminals in Space, virtual TDL systems, and Link 16 Network Enabled Weapons rapidly developing from proof of concept to operational demonstrators, the pressure to ensure that systems are compliant and interoperable increases dramatically. New concepts bring new challenges around data standards, message sets and network management. There needs to be even greater focus on early testing and assurance within the development cycle to ensure that the complexities of access, architectures and automation are considered from the outset and across all lines-of-development. At a time of radical system change, the old adage of “concept before capability” has never been more important – analysis of what systems are actually required to do to meet the user need, with proof of achievable solutions, is essential before designs are frozen and the opportunity for adaptation or intervention is lost.

Is the message getting through to system suppliers?

The shadow of Link 16 Modernisation is upon us and providers of complex CMS/BMS systems should now be focused on the integration of their products with new Link 16 equipment and software. Without upfront designs for terminal interface products and plans for test and evaluation, equipment suppliers risk passing problems onto their clients rather than providing the solutions they require. Delivery into service can be faster and cheaper and at less technical risk if suppliers engage early with TDL users and think through integration, so that both are as fit and ready as they can be for Modernisation.

How can 3SDL support Link 16 providers to be ready for Modernisation?

The test, train and operating environment for Link 16 is about to become significantly more complex. More than ever before, providers of terminals and network management systems will need to fully analyse requirements, assure system designs and create the test environments in which the new solutions for crypto, frequency allocation and network management can be modelled and proven.

Meeting these demanding technical and operating standards is about bringing together the people, products and processes that combine to deliver capability – our view is that quick-fix off the shelf software solutions are not always the best approach.

We want to help suppliers ensure that their technology, tools, and equipment are ready for Modernisation. Our unique blend of expert operators and systems engineers are intimately familiar with the TDL MIL-STDs, the NATO STANAGs/ATDLPs and the scenario and script designs that are needed to guide and train, to test and evaluate. We can demystify the complexities of integration and deliver practical software driven solutions that address the risks of compliance and interoperability through tailored Link 16 Modernisation testing services.

We will be sharing more of our thoughts in the run-up to IDLS 2019 in October, and demonstrating our approach at the Conference in Edinburgh. Please get in touch with Nick Young if you would like to know more.

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