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By Julian Nettlefold, Editor, BATTLESPACE

BATTLESPACE Editor Julian Nettlefold meets Dr Dale Burton Vice President Technology & CTO, Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems, Melbourne at the Dubai Air Show

13 Nov 07. It is always a pleasure to meet Dale Burton as not only are his briefings conducted in a relaxed manner which allows the interviewer to gain the best possible detail of the subject, but Dale always has a new gismo to show off during the interview! Once again we were not to be disappointed.

A short time into the interview whilst we were getting our teeth into the technology behind the ADVANCED INFORMATION ARCHITECTURE (AIA) and discussing data requirements, Dale took his Blackberry out of his pocket and showed me an image of an E-8C J-STARS aircraft parked on the ramp at the Northrop Melbourne facility. AIA started off as a DARPA Program, Northrop is now developing the system as a datalink in the sky, linking platforms of various types to form a seamless network.

“Would you like to see the acronym on the nose of this aircraft?” he asked.

“If you can manage it!” the Editor replied.

“This Blackberry is linked to a camera situated 300 yards from the aircraft and I can control it form here.”

He then zoomed in the camera to show the acronym of the aircraft quite clearly.

“There is only a four second latency to the information coming from Melbourne to Dubai which is 8000 miles. How much data can you lose in four seconds and is it worth spending millions of dollars on a complex system when a common Blackberry can do 80% of the job?”

“The growth of civil technology in the provision of bandwidth and capacity is now available to the military. In Desert Strom, the first Gulf War, the 5 J-STARS aircraft deployed only had less than 3 gigs of capacity between them, now storage has exploded which changes everything. Add the ability to compress this data and you can collect the data whilst airborne and squirt it to the ground using multiple receivers as small as a tactical radio or PDA. At the moment, dedicated channels have to be available for use all the time, thus time and bandwidth is wasted in down times, the secret is to route your information securely and speedily through multiple data routes, thus the current dynamics and thinking has to change.”

“AIA allows the user, in this case the USAF to utilise the network for applications other than ISR. The huge growth in the capability of AESA radars means that these systems can not only be sued for imagery but also for data and voice communication and many EW applications.”

“Is AIA a Northrop Grumman proprietary product?”

“No, any ownership of AIA would make it complex and inaccessible to third party systems. AIA is an integration issue using Open Standards and Architectures linking diverse systems to form the airborne web. The system allows operatives to request information from nay source to check data and imagery, in short, a Search Engine in the sky. We can take assets you don’t own and give you some you don’t have by utilising the complex networking allowed by AIA”

“How can you ensure security over such a large network?”

“I came across a system called Digital Fountain which to me, is one of the cleverest pieces of software around. It took me a long time to understand and crack the system, but once I understood it, it is a brilliant piece of work. We are now using this system. I may add here that I still cannot understand how the Google software works, it is very advanced and brilliant!”

Digital Fountain software optimizes the delivery of digital media over any network. The technology eliminates the common limitations associated with digital media distribution solutions over both private and public networks, maximizing our customers’ existing infrastructure investments, and enabling expanded revenue opportunities.

The company’s proprietary DF Raptor™ technology redefines the science of

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