The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) recently awarded Northrop Grumman [NOC] an expanded scope of work for a satellite communications (SATCOM)-enabled Freedom Radio that is to allow communications across land, sea, air, and space domains between older systems and newer ones through the Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) network, the company said on Nov. 17.
Jenna Paukstis, Northrop Grumman’s vice president of communications solutions, said in a statement that the “SATCOM-enabled Freedom Radio will allow warfighters to quickly gather and share information from space assets to help them make more informed decisions via an interconnected JADC2 network.”
The company said that it is planning to conduct a proof-of-concept demonstration for the SATCOM-enabled Freedom Radio by the end of the year–a demo that is to incorporate third-party vendor technologies in Northrop Grumman’s core open architecture.
Northrop Grumman said that the new contract broadens a December 2019 AFRL award through demonstrating a SATCOM-enabled radio “in a relevant mission environment designed to provide secure and resilient mission data that can be shared from space to multiple receiving platforms in near-real time.”
“This enables warfighters to quickly analyze information, enhance situational awareness and help the DoD realize its vision for an interconnected, JADC2 network,” the company said.
The SATCOM-enabled Freedom Radio uses the company’s Integrated Communications, Navigation and Identification (ICNI) system and software development kit to make Northrop Grumman’s software defined radios readily adaptable to new technologies.
U.S. Air Force testing of the future Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) last year saw the use of the Freedom 550 gateway radio to link Lockheed Martin [LMT] F-35 and F-22 fighters, and the company has said that it expects the Freedom Radio’s use on a variety of manned and unmanned aircraft as a communications node (Defense Daily, Feb 23).
The company has also said it will evaluate Air Force tests of the Freedom 550 on the Lockheed Martin U-2 high altitude reconnaissance aircraft and the related Freedom Pod under the Air National Guard’s (ANG) Ghost Reaper concept.
To advance ABMS and the larger DoD Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) concept, Northrop Grumman officials have said that they are pursuing a variety of communication gateway solutions to enable military services to share information quickly across domains and platforms. Other than ABMS, Northrop Grumman said it has been involved in communications solutions for the U.S. Army’s Project Convergence and Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System (IBCS) efforts and the U.S. Navy’s Project Overmatch.
Variants of the Freedom Radio 550 are operational on F-22s, F-35s, and on Boeing [BA] KC-135 and KC-46 tankers as a roll-on/roll-off capability, per Northrop Grumman.
The company has also been looking into providing gateway capabilities on Low Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology (LCAAT) aircraft, such as Skyborg, and pod variants.