11 Jan 05. A team comprised of three leading U.S. aerospace and defense contractors has demonstrated an innovative technological use of active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars for high-bandwidth communications. The successful demonstration is a result of internal research and development efforts over the past two years by Northrop Grumman Corporation, L-3 Communications Inc. and Lockheed Martin Aeronautics.
In September, at Northrop Grumman’s Electronic Systems sector facility in Baltimore, the team used an advanced AN/APG-77 radar aperture being produced for the F-22 aircraft and a common data link (CDL) modem emulator to transmit and receive high-data-rate communications signals over the air. Line-of-sight communications at long distances for both air-to-air and air-to-ground applications were proven with test data.
This technology breakthrough will enable both communication and imagery data transmission through Northrop Grumman’s advanced AESA radars and L-3 Communication’s 274 megabits-per-second CDL modems. The engineering team was also able to successfully demonstrate communications at two and four times the basic modem rate of 274 megabits per second.
This demonstrated leap-ahead technological capability directly supports emerging, non-traditional intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (NT-ISR) missions for possible spiral application into F-22 and F-35 aircraft programs, allowing them to transmit and receive large, uncompressed data packages, such as synthetic aperture radar images and other data, within seconds. According to Maj. Gen. Tommy Crawford, commander of the U.S. Air Force Command and Control, and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Center, “Radar CDL (R-CDL) is a needed capability to support near-real-time NT-ISR. R-CDL complements the tactical data-link capability of tactical targeting network technology to complete networking the battlespace.”