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15 Dec 03. Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC – News) and the U.S. Air Force have implemented a new way for airborne weapons systems to exchange data with existing ground-based communication networks and other airborne platforms using Internet protocols (IP), the same basic computer language that consumers use to exchange e-mail, text files and images on the Internet.

The new approach allows data, in a variety of formats, to be passed quickly and easily among battle management platforms, target attack systems and other tactical ground users. Known as Dial-up Rate IP over Existing Radios (DRIER), it overcomes communication language barriers that have previously prevented stand-alone military systems from sharing information.

Northrop Grumman’s Integrated Systems sector and the Air Force’s Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS) Joint Program Office, Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., demonstrated the DRIER concept on Oct. 24 using an Air Force E-8C Joint STARS test-bed aircraft. Using IP-based communication techniques, the E-8C aircrew was able to communicate and exchange imagery, text and data files with operators of ground-based systems.

“Joint STARS had two elements that allowed us to develop and demonstrate the DRIER concept in just two months: a portal to the Internet and an accommodating, open systems architecture,” said Dave Nagy, Northrop Grumman’s vice president for Joint STARS.

“The Internet connection was made possible using the Information for Mobile Warrior (IFMW) system and the Global Command and Control System (GCCS),” Nagy added. “Joint STARS’ open systems architecture, which makes widespread use of commercial-off-the-shelf computer technology, gave us the flexibility to implement the DRIER concept quickly and easily.

Collectively, the modifications required were minor, but the impact on warfighters’ communications capabilities will be profound.”Northrop Grumman’s Information Technology sector, Herndon, Va., developed both the IFMW system and the GCCS. Funded by the Air Force Research Lab in Rome, N.Y., the IFMW system enabled DRIER’s IP-over-radio capability. It assured the quality of service between users using multiple radios and an algorithm that monitored and automatically adjusted the strength of the transmitted signal. The GCCS was used to prepare and distribute enhanced views of the integrated battlefield to ground users and the Joint STARS aircrew.

“DRIER gives even the most bandwidth-disadvantaged warfighter the ability to push or pull decision-quality data to or from anywhere on the battlefield,” explained Alan S. Metzger, Northrop Grumman’s Joint STARS chief engineer. “The resulting increase in situational awareness will allow troops to fight more effectively against small, guerrilla-based terrorist operations like those faced during Operation Iraqi Freedom.”

Using DRIER, airborne or ground-based tactical users can select and download mission-critical data directly from the Joint STARS platform using existing, narrowband line-of-sight or beyond-line-of-sight UHF communications links. Users can also serve as a relay point, providing critical handover information between aircraft entering and exiting mission orbits.

According to Nagy, the DRIER concept not only creates new information channels among military users, but also helped Joint STARS meet a new challenge issued last summer by the Air Force Electronic Systems Center’s Vice Commander, Maj. Gen. Craig Weston. That challenge called for the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance program offices to find ways to network ISR platforms together using existing Internet-based technologies. Nagy attributes Northrop Grumman’s success to the breadth of the company’s domain knowledge of military systems, and its focus on intra-company collaboration.

“We integrated ideas, technologie

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