Northrop conducts flight tests of first production Smart Node Pod


Northrop Grumman has successfully completed a series of flight tests of the first production Smart Node Pod being developed for the US Air Force (USAF), in a bid to certify its performance characteristics in Virginia Beach, Virginia, US.

During the five flight tests, the pod demonstrated the ability to transmit full-motion video, imagery, voice and digital messages between soldiers both in the air and on the ground through various waveforms and datalinks and its interoperability with the proprietary and open source forward tactical handheld devices.

The Smart Node Pod is an aircraft-mounted airborne communications system designed to enable the exchange of real-time information among many disparate military and commercial radios and different datalinks, and relay full-motion video.

Northrop Grumman Information Systems Network Communication Systems vice-president Jeannie Hilger said the technology offers an extremely capable but lightweight communications, situational awareness, and command-and-control (C2) capability that can be readily mounted on many different military aircraft and controlled by the deployed commander.

"The pod demonstrated the ability to transmit full-motion video, imagery, voice and digital messages between soldiers."

The pod can connect to the battlefield airborne communications node (BACN) platforms, ground operational centres or other pods for beyond-line-of sight connectivity, and also provides access to high level intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data and C2 information.

Hilger said, "In this manner, the Smart Node Pod has the capability to augment BACN in its anchor role as the persistent high altitude gateway of the Joint Aerial Layer Network (JALN) by providing connectivity at the lower tier."

The Smart Node Pod is based on the BACN technology Northrop had developed for the air force.

Two different pod designs, including a single-pod and a multipod architecture, are being manufactured by the company under a contract with USAF, with deliveries scheduled through the mid-summer of 2014.

Defence Technology