Rockwell Collins has successfully demonstrated the first live, risk-reduction flight with production form, fit, function F/A-18 airborne and ground equipment from the Common Range Integrated Instrumentation System (CRIIS).

The flight was conducted in cooperation with the Atlantic Test Range (ATR) at Patuxent River, Maryland, US.

The next-generation military test range system is being developed to replace the existing advanced range data system (ARDS), which is currently operational at major US military test ranges.

Rockwell Collins Surface Solutions vice-president and general manager Tommy Dodson said: "This flight demonstrates that the production equipment is real and can hook into existing military systems.

"The next-generation military test range system (CRIIS) is being developed to replace the existing advanced range data system (ARDS)."

"We are done with development and are on track to complete our testing this year and start production in 2016. The next generation of secure, common test and training instrumentation is ready."

The CRIIS programme is being developed to fulfil critical Department of Defense (DoD) requirements to provide time, space, position information (TSPI), additional platform test data, and employ a more robust, spectrally efficient data link, including multiple independent levels of security (MILS).

The flight showcased key functions such as data link network ingress after takeoff, air-to-ground downlink of time space positioning instrumentation (TSPI) messages and ground-to-air uplink of GPS correction messages and network services from multiple data link towers.

Additional functions that were demonstrated include more than 120nm line-of-sight data link connectivity until curvature of the earth blocked the signal and advanced test reactor (ATR) control room real-time monitoring of both advanced range data system (ARDS) and CRIIS position data.

The ability to automatically rejoin the data link network when back in sight of the data link tower, message routing between the ATR control centre, through the existing ground networks, and between CRIIS ground and airborne nodes were also displayed.

For the flight test, the air-cooled instrumentation package used was internal carriage to the F/A-18, which can be rack mounted in other aircraft. The system also includes pod and F-35 internal mount airborne configurations, as well as multi-level secure ground equipment.