US Air Force Awards Ultra $25M in New Business

Following a successful airworthiness certification in November of its Tactical Airborne Command, Control and Communications (C3) pod (TACPODTM), Ultra Electronics, Advanced Tactical Systems has received more than $25 million in production contracts from the U.S. Air Force.

"The U.S. Air Force needed a communications relay solution on mid-tier Unmanned Aerial Vehicles," said John McAlonan, president of Ultra Electronics Advanced Tactical Systems, noting the company has invested more than $3 million of its own money into the technology to date. "We recognized that need and created a broad solution that encompasses voice, video and data. Our open architecture approach makes upgrades more affordable with much lower risk."

After creating the TACPOD concept in early 2010, Ultra began an internally funded development program using an open software and hardware architecture. At the beginning of 2011 the U.S. Air Force funded Ultra to build and flight test two pods. Those pods were designed and built in less than seven months with flight testing on an MQ-9 Reaper aircraft in late 2011.

“Our team had a clear vision of what we were trying to achieve and focused on meeting an aggressive schedule,” said Ray Munoz, Ultra’s vice president for airborne programs. “We knew that the U.S. Air Force was looking for an improved capability for a greatly reduced size, weight and power consumption (SWaP) and price over much higher cost options. We’ve specialized in delivering the maximum amount of value for the lowest cost.”

Building on the software found in Ultra’s Air Defense Systems Integrator (ADSI)® product, the TACPOD system's onboard processor receives track data from disparate tactical data links such as Link 16 and Situational Awareness Data Link (SADL), translates between the various message formats and forwards the combined tactical data back out along all connected waveforms. This increased interoperability allows users on normally incompatible networks to share a single Common Operational Picture (COP) and Situational Awareness (SA).

The TACPOD system contains a collection of mission-defined off-the-shelf voice and Software Communications Architecture (SCA) compliant data radios and other components, all integrated without the creation of any new hardware, software, protocols, standards or radio waveforms.

The TACPOD system’s antennas are self-contained so the unit only requires a standard attachment point and power from the host aircraft. In all other respects, the TACPOD system is a non-invasive payload. Once configured with optional communication components, a TACPOD system is permanently available to serve out its defined mission capabilities in a snap-on, snap-off fashion onboard any air platform for which it is qualified. This flexibility provides significant costs savings over a similar internally-mounted solution because one TACPOD system can be mounted to a variety of aircraft.

Payload capabilities include air-to-air and air-to-ground full motion video (FMV), voice and data radios, satellite communications (SATCOM), Electro-Optical/Infra-Red (EO/IR) sensors, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), electronic intelligence (ELINT), signals intelligence (SIGINT) and others as limited only by size, weight and power budget.

The TACPOD system assures voice and data interconnectivity between ground units and offers Beyond Line-Of-Sight (BLOS) reach-back from tactical edge positions to command centers and the Global Information Grid (GIG). In addition to these primary missions, the TACPOD system can provide SATCOM access, payload initialization, storage, query, file sharing, crypto rekeying, machine-to-machine targeting, collaborative engagement and video dissemination—even across limited bandwidth.

Ultra is moving forward with further internal TACPOD developments to serve specialized mission needs and provide rapid reaction communications capability to additional air platforms both large and small, as well as homeland security and other commercial applications.

Source: Ultra Electronics, Advanced Tactical Systems
Date: May 23, 2012