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KILTER – 3SDL’s Tactical Data Link (TDL) Test and Readiness Service

Posted on: 
January 14, 2020


Over the last 18 months, 3SDL has published a number of ‘Expert Insight’ papers to inform the Link 16 community of the impact, risks and associated through-life costs of Link 16 Modernisation.

We recently asked the question ‘Are you fit and ready for Link 16 Modernisation?’ to encourage thinking on the challenges that arise from this major change programme. We’ve particularly focused on the planning required to manage the technical integration of new equipment into legacy and future systems and to assure interoperability in modernised ’operational ‘networks.

TDL integration and interoperability are validated as part of system performance within Test and Evaluation (T&E). Our aim has been to draw attention to the increased importance and complexity of T&E in future datalinks programmes – noting the changes to come to technical specifications, information exchange requirements and C2 operational concepts.

We identify effective T&E as the key enabling requirement for Link 16 Modernisation

The test tools, scripts and schedules needed for effective TDL T&E can be expensive to procure and lengthy to develop – often adding considerable risk to tight programme timelines and limited budgets.

As an alternative to the internal development of these specialist capabilities, 3SDL is advocating a different response – the outsourcing of TDL test and readiness to a specialist service provider. Managed services are proven approaches for addressing risks and controlling cost and 3SDL have developed a TDL Test and Readiness service to give Link 16 user nations a new option for T&E.

Our Test and Readiness service is called KILTER, to emphasise the importance of proven system alignment, interoperability and operational performance through testing – no one wants their modernised Link 16 system to be out of kilter.

Why 3SDL?

3SDL has a proven depth and breadth of Link 16 testing knowledge and experience gained over many years of engineering and operational test support, and in recent years more specifically with Link 16 Modernisation. We also benefit from long-standing relationships with some of the TDL community’s most recognised and trusted suppliers of proven Link 16 test support tools. The value in terms of risk-reduction and cost control, coupled with the agility and reliability we can bring to your Link 16 Modernisation program through KILTER are unrivalled.

So, what is KILTER?

KILTER offers a radical, cost-effective and highly flexible approach to TDL testing. A coherent service that uniquely combines the deep expertise of TDL engineers and operators with best-of-breed software test tools and a comprehensive library of test artefacts. All underpinned by assured, accredited and standardised systems engineering process.  

KILTER is fully scalable and may be deployed as a single person with a laptop or a team deployed in a test vehicle; or it may deliver a full test laboratory. But it will always combine the following elements


Dedicated Link 16 specialists:

• Knowledgeable and experienced MIDS/Link 16 Systems Engineers and Operators

• Current detailed knowledge of MIDS LVT (BU1 and BU2), MIDS JTRS, KOR-24A STT, BATS-D Terminal types as well as the array of legacy terminals.

• Provision of professional guidance and advice regarding Link 16 platform/system modernisation, upgrades and associated testing and assurance needs

• Knowledgeable and experienced ex-military operators of Link 16 platforms/systems

• Provision of competent guidance and advice regarding Link 16 Operational Test & Evaluation assurance needs


Our suite of best-of-breed tools:

• Terminal Interface Software

• Terminal initialisation data preparation

• Terminal initialisation (inc. control, status monitoring and data recording; also for multiple Terminals on a concurrent basis)

• Terminal interface emulation (including Host and Support port)

• Terminal simulation (also multiple Terminals)

• Host emulation

• Platform simulation

• Network planning

• Network design

• Network simulation

• Recorded data reduction and analysis


• Test scenarios

• Test scripts

• Test Plan templates

• Test Network Designs

• Capability to plan and produce bespoke Test Network Designs if required

Initialisation Data Loads (IDLs) Process

Processes, procedures and standards covering:

• Application of Systems Engineering IEEE standards and V-model approach to assurance test planning, methodologies, readiness, conduct, data capture, analysis, evaluation and reporting

• Operational support to the planning, conduct, data capture, analysis and reporting of Link 16 Trials, Exercises and Operational Test & Evaluation activities

• Detailed knowledge of NATO STANAGs and US MIL-STDs for Link 16 and other TDLs

• Understanding and experience of using NATO Standard Operational Procedures and other Allied Publications

The Benefits of KILTER

The 3SDL TDL Test and Readiness Service will give Link 16 acquisition organisations and users access to a range of supplier test tools, enhanced by our own Terminal Interface software and TacPlan™, our TDL planning solution.

With our experts and extensive range of scenarios and test scripts, KILTER will be available as a service to provide T&E, when and where it is needed. The service is deployable, scalable and will be tailored to meet the specific system and operational use requirements of the customer’s TDL instantiation – platforms, terminals, networks and integration and information exchange demands.

With KILTER, TDL test and readiness risks will be managed and T&E costs controlled

The flexibility and options this managed service provide eliminate the need for platform suppliers and Link 16 users to ‘own’ test tools and to keep complex test scripts and scenarios up to date. Moreover, KILTER removes the need for dedicated TDL T&E expertise in the customer organisation – our people have the training, experience and operational currency to design and deliver T&E within a customer’s test schedule. Costs can be bounded within our service, with resources and time managed by our experts, on behalf of our customers.

How we will work with our customers

We will engage with the customer’s programme engineering team to determine where and when T&E should be best conducted.  We will provide a detailed test plan and select the most appropriate test scenarios and scripts from our library of artefacts; these will be married to the most appropriate tools for the type of testing required. Our iterative but standardised processes will allow for incremental improvement in performance during test if required, with on the spot data driven analysis providing the evidence for design and operating interventions. Rather than running a series of events and leaving behind reports and recommendations, our KILTER team will take ownership and responsibility for outcome-based T&E.

We work as a TDL T&E partner, adapting our service to ensure the test and readiness that individual customers need

Experienced Project and Engineering Managers know only too well that the dependencies in systems-based T&E create risk and cost that can only be addressed through specialist skills, tools, and scripts. The complexities of Link 16 Modernisation – which is so much more than a terminal replacement programme – will require Users to validate the integration and interoperability of new solutions through extensive T&E.

3SDL’s people and processes can deliver a partnered test and readiness service, using best-of-breed tools and adaptable test artefacts, to assure Link 16 Modernisation and TDL capability programmes.

We look forward to hearing what you think of KILTER at the International Datalink Symposium in Edinburgh from 28th October. Otherwise, please contact us with your thoughts at nick.young@3sdl.com

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