A bewildering array of tactical datalinks are used on today’s battlefield and help is at hand to ensure that information can be moved across an array of disparate protocols.
Curtiss-Wright’s TCG HUNTR has been developed to act as a hub that can accept traffic from multiple Tactical Data Links (TDLs) and re-route this traffic to its intended recipients. It can be accommodated in a backpack, onboard an aircraft, in a vehicle, at a command post, and even on an unmanned aerial vehicle, according to the company.
At the core of the product is its ability to accept traffic from one TDL network, translate this into another TDL protocol and forward this to its intended recipient, or simply reroute the data if no translation is required. Peter Ellis, the programme manager for TCG HUNTR at Curtiss-Wright’s defence solutions business, says that the product is configured to connect to a particular radio and “once it’s been configured to connect to the radio, the software when it’s started is looking for that (TDL) interface. You plug it in, and it does all the things it needs to do for each data link through that radio and brings it to an operational state.”
TCG HUNTR is also designed not to deluge a particular network with an excess of traffic: “The translation TCG HUNTR uses is intelligent to ensure no data link is overwhelmed and only the relevant info is passed” says Mr. Ellis.
Link-16 TDL protocol
For example, a message may be received from an aircraft using the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) standard Link-16 TDL protocol. This handles track and tactical data across wavebands of 960 megahertz/MHz to 1.215 gigahertz/GHz.
A message may concern the provision of Close Air Support (CAS) and will thus be of interest to both forces in the air and on the ground: “With Link-16, once that information is published, the person who owns that needs to continue to publish it, otherwise it goes stale on everyone’s screen and the information is gone.”
Mr. Ellis says that TCG HUNTR will ensure that this information remains on the Link-16 network for an extended period of time so that it can be usable by the rest of the network.
One of the plethora of TDL protocols which can be handled by TCG HUNTR is CESMO (Cooperative Electronic Support Measure Operations). This enables Electronic Intelligence (ELINT) captured by the electronic support measures furnishing several disparate platforms to be shared, which provides the rapid localisation of radar threats by triangulating the ELINT captured from a single emitter using several different aircraft.
This information could then be converted into a Link-16 compatible J-Series message via TCG HUNTR and shared across a Link-16 network with airborne assets so that they would rapidly be aware of the nature and location of a specific radar threat.
Following its formal rollout in September 2019 Mr. Ellis says that TCG HUNTR is currently being evaluated by the US armed forces, those of Canada and Germany, and several other NATO countries.
Although the product was only recently launched, the firm is already planning improvements with upgrades in the offing to ensure that TCG HUNTR carries the latest CESMO standards with these enhancements set to be available later this year, according to Mr. Ellis.
Further down the road plans are afoot to ensure that TCG HUNTR can accommodate NATO’s Link-22 naval TDL which uses wavebands of 2MHz to 30MHz and 225MHz to 400MHz as that tactical datalink proliferates across NATO and allied navies over the coming decade.