The US Air Force (USAF) has completed installation of the multifunctional information distribution system joint tactical radio system (MIDS JTRS) terminals onboard its Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS) aircraft, to help boost battlefield communication capabilities of warfighters.

Carried out jointly with prime contractor, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, as part of the Joint STARS Communications and Network Upgrade (CNU) programme, the upgraded aircraft was delivered to the 116th and 461st Air Control Wing at Robins Air Force Base (AFB) in Georgia, US.

Joint STARS CNU programme manager 2nd Lieutenant Samantha Sarkis said the installation makes the Joint STARS the first USAF platform to be fully integrated with MIDS JTRS terminals.

"We want to ensure Joint STARS will remain a vital asset in this high-demand environment, and this will help us achieve that goal," Sarkis added.

"MIDS JTRS terminals are designed to improve communication and battle management capabilities."

Replacing the Joint STARS fleet’s existing joint tactical information distribution system class two terminals, the MIDS JTRS terminals are designed to improve communication and battle management capabilities by enabling secure data and voice communications between airborne, ground and seaborne platforms.

The terminals also demonstrate compatibility with the Link 16 network, a primary tactical data link exchange for air-to-air and air-to-ground communications, in a form factor, which is half the size, weight and uses half the power consumption of the existing class two terminals.

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Simultaneously with MIDS JTRS installation, Northrop also performed an upgrade of blue force tracking tools and the Enhanced Land Maritime Mode (ELMM) capability, which enhances the aircraft’s ground moving target indication accuracy and maritime tracking capabilities

The CNU and ELMM capabilities were developed by the Hanscom AFB Joint STARS office, while the Robins AFB Joint STARS sustainment programme managed the blue force tracking improvements. MIDS JTRS installation of remaining 15 Joint STARS aircraft is expected to complete by March 2015.

Image: A contract worker installs multifunctional distribution system joint tactical radio terminal equipment on a Joint STARS aircraft in Melbourne, Florida, US.

Defence Technology