If You Think Broadband On Commercial Flights Is Cool, Check
The Air Force and Northrop Grumman say they've successfully
demonstrated an airborne capability to collaborate real time via
Internet 'chat rooms', e-mail, and the Web, all within a secure,
Known as ICAN, or Interim Capability for Airborne Networking,
the new approach allows personnel on board the E-8C Joint
Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS) aircraft to
"talk" to units and command centers on the ground. The ICAN system
achieves this communication by routing data through existing Joint
STARS radios into the Department of Defense's Secret Internet
Protocol Router Network.
Northrop Grumman and the Air Force completed the ICAN proof of
concept phase on an E-8C Joint STARS aircraft during recent
exercises at Nellis Air Force Base, NV.ICAN is a follow-on to the
company's successful Dial-up Rate IP over Existing Radios (DRIER)
demonstration on Joint STARS a year ago.
"This capability gives us access to conversations taking place
in decision-making chat rooms in the air operations center," said
Nick Gritti, Northrop Grumman's Joint STARS ICAN program manager.
"This access allows Joint STARS crews to respond directly to issues
being raised, rather than waiting for a radio call after the fact.
A system like ICAN would allow aircrews in intelligence,
surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft to share network-centric
operations with their terrestrial counterparts, resulting in
dramatically shorter strike decision times."
The information that can be shared
over an ICAN-enabled system is valuable for safe and effective
command and control decisions and for synchronizing operations
among the services, according to Gritti.
The recent ICAN demonstration was conducted under a contract
from the Air Force Research Lab and the Joint STARS System Program
Office. It involved engineers from Northrop Grumman's Integrated
Systems sector in Melbourne, FL and the company's Information
Technology (IT) sector facility in New Hartford, NY. The demo used
IT-developed hardware and software to interface with existing HF
(high frequency), UHF (ultra high frequency, and VHF (very high
frequency) and satellite communications radios aboard the aircraft
to relay information in real time to command centers on the
"The system worked better that we thought possible using
existing aircraft radios," said Dave Nagy, Northrop Grumman's Joint
STARS program vice president. "That's important because ICAN is an
essential part of our work to evolve Joint STARS into a low-risk,
high-potential airborne network node than can be linked into the
Secret Internet Protocol Router Network. These tests also proved
the value of using Joint STARS as a risk-reduction tool to
demonstrate emerging technologies as DoD moves towards
network-centric warfare with our E-10A program as a