Science and Technology News

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Hanscom lab enables connections

by Patty Welsh
66th Air Base Group Public Affairs

7/16/2015 - HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass.  -- Operators of a lab here that helps connect and disseminate command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, or C4ISR, elements are collaborating with multiple parties and producing benefits for all.

The Tactical Data Networks, or TDN, Lab is located with the Hanscom Collaboration and Innovation Center and provides C4ISR expertise and equipment. Operators there support quick reaction capability, joint urgent operational needs, small business innovation research and rapid innovation fund projects. The team provides rigorous systems engineering and information assurance, along with rapid prototyping. They have an expansive range of equipment and lab officials say they can recreate problems warfighters face in the field today and help troubleshoot.

"We want to ensure we get the right data to the right warfighter at the right time and in the right format in order for that warfighter to make the right informed decision," said Steve Brown, senior TDN Lab engineer.

A recent event brought that capability to light, along with a new initiative that provides for efficient and effective testing.

The new Northeast Collaborative Research, Development, Test and Evaluation Environment, or NCORE, concept brings together assets and expertise from Air Force Life Cycle Management Center and New England National Guard units.

"This concept allows for combining relevant experience, initiative and equipment for local, state and federal collaboration on a multitude of projects," said Lt. Col. Guy Spencer, Communications Systems Quick Reaction Capability Branch materiel leader. "Projects utilizing the NCORE concept and framework can drastically reduce program office costs while helping to transition C4ISR-enabling technology -- that has been operationally tested by warfighters -- to the tactical edge faster."

In June, personnel from LCMC and Rhode Island and Massachusetts National Guard units executed the NCORE inaugural event: integrating Efficient XML/Mobility Airborne-networking Multi-Layer Sensing, or EFX/MAMLS, into the Dynamic Retasking Capability system on a 143rd Airlift Wing C-130J aircraft. DRC enables real-time digital changes to a mission while the aircraft is already in flight.

LCMC's TDN Lab provided the satellite communications connectivity, ensuring all messaging passed correctly. The National Guard provided the operators and aircraft. LCMC personnel both locally and from the KC-46 Development-Avionics Program Office at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, along with contractor personnel, provided expertise on the system upgrade installation and flight testing.

The team completed a number of flights to provide tactical relevancy. Weather updates from the actual drop zone were provided to the aircraft as it completed airdrops, and the EFX/MAMLS upgrade to the DRC system was demonstrated to provide relevant and timely data while significantly reducing SATCOM bandwidth requirements.

"Reducing satellite bandwidth to transmit C4ISR data elements will reduce overall operational costs, and the faster message transmission times achieved can potentially save lives in a tactical situation," said Brown.

Exhibiting another benefit, the DRC also received and transmitted Mobility Enterprise Information Services Command and Control, or MEIS C2, messages, which was not previously possible on this platform.

"This project exemplifies the original intent of the RIF [Rapid Innovation Fund] program and the broad collaboration certainly highlights it's a one-team Air Force effort," said John Slye, AFLCMC Tanker Directorate Engineering director, whose team was evaluating this RIF effort.

As members of the TDN Lab look to test and prototype Department of Defense technology by proactively aligning research, development, test and evaluation, or RDT&E, project test schedules to New England National Guard training cycles, savings can be garnered by reducing flight testing and travel costs.

In addition, developers receive immediate warfighter feedback while the Guard units are able to log flying hours and receive training on newly-developed technologies.

"The Northeast collaborative is another example of the synergy created between New England and, specifically, Massachusetts National Guard units and Hanscom Air Force Base, which capitalizes on the rich high-tech experience and expertise of our Soldiers, Airmen and Civilians," said Maj. Gen. L. Scott Rice, the adjutant general of the Massachusetts National Guard. "This combination is second to none and will put all agencies involved at the forefront of technology.

According to lab officials, many of the participating Guard members also feel a sense of pride and ownership for contributing to the successful development of new capabilities.

The TDN Lab has a successful track record and has one of the largest communications capabilities in the Northeast. Some previous achievements include successful QRC risk reduction testing and providing support to the Global Observer, a liquid hydrogen-powered unmanned aerial vehicle, Joint Capabilities Technology Demonstration.

Upgrades are in the work for the TDN Lab. With the advent of a new 120-foot composite antenna mast, expected to be operational in November 2015, the lab's capabilities will multiply by being able to reach and communicate with military operational areas in New York and Vermont. In addition, the antenna mast will also support federal and state emergency management agencies in cases of natural catastrophes or national emergencies.

Currently, the lab works on approximately 20-24 projects per year and is hoping to grow its reach.

"We want people to know we don't do 'drive-by' fielding; we inject technical rigor into the products under test in a relevant tactical environment leading to a 'test as we fight' concept," said Brown.  "We're here to support AFLCMC and the entire DOD and now, with the NCORE concept, we'll be able to expand on what we provide in a more efficient and cost effective manner."

For more information about the TDN Lab or NCORE, contact the lab at (781) 225-6636 or DSN 845-6636.

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