The US Air Force has awarded production contracts worth $25m to Ultra Electronics to deliver its Tactical Airborne Command, Control and Communications (C3) pod (TACPOD), following its airworthiness certification in November 2011.

The contract follows successful flight testing of the pods on an MQ-9 Reaper aircraft in late 2011.

Ultra Electronics Advanced Tactical Systems president, John McAlonan, said that the USAF has selected TACPOD for use on mid-tier unmanned aerial vehicles.

The TACPOD system incorporates Ultra’s air defence systems integrator software and includes a collection of data radios and other components that are mission-defined voice and software communications architecture compliant, according to ASD News.

Data from tactical data links is received by the system’s onboard processor, which also translates between the various message formats and forwards the integrated tactical data back out along all connected waveforms.

Ultra’s TACPOD mid-tier aerial relay communication node enables users to share a single common operational picture and situational awareness on normally incompatible networks.

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The non-invasive payload TACPOD system features self-contained antennas and provides voice and data interconnectivity assurance between ground units and offers beyond line-of-sight reach-back from tactical edge positions to command centres and the global information grid.

TACPOD system’s capabilities include signals intelligence, voice and data radios, air-to-air and air-to-ground full motion video, voice over internet protocol, satellite communications (SATCOM), and others as limited only by size, weight and power budget.

The system has been designed to provide SATCOM access, payload initialisation, storage, query, file sharing, crypto rekeying, machine-to-machine targeting, collaborative engagement and video dissemination on limited bandwidth.

Ultra is seeking enhancements for the internal TACPOD to assist specialised mission needs and provide rapid reaction communications capability to additional air platforms both large and small, as well as homeland security and other commercial applications.