Commander surveys action from skies via high-speed antenna system

LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va.—A high-speed antenna system aboard a
modified Boeing C-135 aircraft gave a joint forces air component commander immediate
command and control data as he flew from Langley to Duke Field in Florida.


The commander, taking part in Expeditionary Force Experiment ’98 last week, got
data from both the rear operations support center at Langley and the forward air
operations center at Duke Field while still in flight.


Systems aboard the Speckled Trout, an Air Force test aircraft for emerging C2
technologies, let Lt. Gen. Lansford Trapp maintain awareness of battlefield events.


The system will let commanders plan strikes and command personnel while rushing to a
battlefield.


“During Operation Desert Storm, when Lt. Gen. Chuck Horner as JFACC flew from the
United States to Saudi Arabia, he was out of the loop for 15 hours,” said Capt. Joel
Hagan, chief flight test engineer for the 412th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards Air Force
Base, Calif., which manages the Speckled Trout. “But with this capability the JFACC
can see what’s going on and continue to make decisions.”


The aircraft’s new high-speed phased array antenna, developed by Boeing Co., is
capable of receiving data at a rate of 1.3 Mbps, Hagan said. The high-data transfer rate
let the Speckled Trout receive large amounts of battlefield data from the rear and forward
air operations centers, Hagan said.


The aircraft is equipped with Sun Microsystems Inc. workstations that process
information the aircraft receives through its new phased-array antenna. The Sun computers
run onboard software specifically designed to let the commander keep up with battlefield
conditions.


While the Speckled Trout was en route to Duke Field, crew members from the 412th Flight
Test Squadron, which includes eight computer operators, evaluated C2 software tools for
the JFACC En Route Information System.  


—Gregory Slabodkin

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