July 2004 
Volume 03, Issue 3 
Special Features

Platforms, meet the NCO environment

Platforms, meet the NCO environmentSophisticated battlespace programs are driving Boeing's ability to upgrade legacy, or platform, systems to operate in a networkcentric operations environment.

Boeing-produced legacy systems comprise about 60 percent of the U.S. military platforms and weapons systems. As such, Boeing is in good position to upgrade these systems to operate in the future Department of Defense network because the Boeing-developed Strategic Architecture Reference Model (SARM) is designed to ensure that all Boeing systems can share data and communicate with one another, or interoperate.

Toward this end, the Strategic Architecture organization is working with various programs in Integrated Defense Systems, such as Future Combat Systems, Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) and Family of Advanced Beyond Line-of-Sight Terminals to help them upgrade their systems to operate in a network.

"We've built roadmaps for a number of our legacy programs to help them find ways to be compliant with the SARM," said John Harms, who leads Strategic Architecture business development. "What results may not be a full implementation of the SARM, but we'll help them move more into the network world."

Boeing programs are also getting help from Phantom Works, through the NCO Programs and Technologies group led by Rick Baily, deputy vice president of Phantom Works' Integrated Defense Advanced Systems (IDeAS), and various advanced systems groups under it. The Phantom Works groups help define the capabilities that platforms would need to operate effectively in a network-centric operations environment and put together tests and demonstrations that can verify those capabilities for the customer.

Two examples of how this is happening involve the AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopter for the U.S. Army and the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet for the U.S. Navy.

"Adding network-centric capabilities is the primary driver of planned Block III upgrades for the AH-64D Apache Longbow," said Larry Plaster, Boeing manager of Apache Modernization. "The heart of that is the FCS open architecture that will provide five times the current processing and data throughput capabilities. That will allow for the other key enhancements."

The open architecture will enable the helicopter to host the FCS System of Systems Common Operating Environment (SoSCOE)-the database that allows sharing of information across the network. The Apache program, in cooperation with FCS, plans to fly an Apache Longbow Block III equipped to operate with SoSCOE in 2005.

The addition of the JTRS is another key upgrade for the Apache Longbow. "It's the pipeline that lets the Apache Longbow bring in all network-centric data for display to the crew, or transmission to any other node on the network," Plaster said.

Cognitive Decision Aiding Software being added in Block III will process the huge amounts of data flowing through SoSCOE, monitor the aircraft systems and present crews with only the data that is most important. "This lets the crews focus on the immediate task at hand," Plaster said.

Level 4 Unmanned Air Vehicle control also will be inserted into the AH-64D during the Block III run. It will let the crew control the flight of a UAV and its sensors, and let the Apache Longbow bring in the sensor data and relay it to any other node on the network.

The strategy for the Super Hornet is to have the right type of network-centric data-links that the U.S. Navy will need by 2007, said Kevin Sheehan of IDS Naval Systems Business Development. The program already has begun deployment of a series of preplanned sensor upgrades to the E/F that include the Advanced Targeting Forward Looking Infrared sensor, a new Active Electronically-Scanned Array radar, a new mission computer and display set, a new advanced crew station, and the Multifunctional Information Distribution System, an updated, secure data-link system for tactical aircraft. This sensor suite provides great technical capability that, combined with the Super Hornet's ability to share information with other military assets, forms a powerful node in the network.

"The next thing beyond MIDS for the Super Hornet is the JTRS," Sheehan said. "And once that starts happening, you move into the network-centric operational world, an integrated battlespace." Next year, the Boeing F/A-18 team plans to equip a Super Hornet with a "JTRS-type box and do some flight demonstrations with it," he said.

"That will take us into the next evolutionary step for the connectivity side of network-centric operations. The JTRS is supposed to be flexible and software-programmable. It's supposed to cover a wide range of frequencies and applications. So, it should be very versatile as a hook into any kind of NCO environment."

Boeing is also working with the U.S. Navy to put together a road map for additional enhancements to the Super Hornet "to make it a better NCO player," Sheehan said. That would include providing the aircraft an image processor, a solid-state recorder and a mass storage unit to enhance the Super Hornet's ability to strike time-sensitive and time-critical targets.

"I think network-centric capability in the F/A-18 Super Hornet and other systems is going to evolve over time," Sheehan said. "So, it will be important to stay close to our customers as their abilities evolve."

-Daryl Stephenson


Front Page
Contact Us | Site Map| Site Terms | Privacy | Copyright
Copyright© Boeing. All rights reserved.