Battlespace Tech

DARPA wants better air-to-air networking

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is looking for technologies that enable network interoperability with other friendly airborne platforms in adversarial environments. 

The program, Dynamic Network Adaptation for Mission Optimization, or DyNAMO, will focus on the issue of operations against near-peer adversaries, according to a presolicitation from the agency.

DARPA outlined two limitations of current networks that prevent the kind of collaboration that would optimize airborne missions. The first is a lack of interoperability, which inhibits information sharing among aircrafts during missions. Second, legacy networks require permission configuration and are unable to adapt to mission dynamics, which include “time-varying jamming and bursts in network traffic due to evolving operational concepts,” such as changing targets.

DyNAMO seeks to remove these barriers through networking technology that creates interoperability among networks that currently are incompatible because of different formatting and security levels.  Initially, DyNAMO will focus on interoperability among existing networks such as Link 16, Tactical Targeting Network Technology, Intra-Flight Data Link and Multi-function Advanced Data Link. Eventually the program will evolve to develop adaptive network technologies and demonstrate interoperability through legacy and future dynamic networks.

Additionally, the program seeks technologies that enable independently designed networks to interoperate and allow networks to adapt in dynamic radio frequency environments. Two primary program elements DARPA has defined to achieve the goals of DyNAMO are:

  1. An Information-based Network Framework that enables critical information to be shared between networks that differ in characteristics such as format, security levels, protocols and capacity.
  2. A network optimizer that adapts radio parameters to create the pathways to meet time-varying information-sharing priorities in the dynamic, contested airborne RF environment. A third program element integrates the two technology developments into a system of real radios. These three elements form the three technical areas of the program.       

The three technical areas, by name, are Information-based Network Framework, Network Optimizer and System Integration. 

DyNAMO will be awarded based on a phased acquisition approach over three phases, taking until fiscal year 2019.

“Current airborne networks are not designed to handle the complexities of modern distributed and dynamic combat missions, and the challenge is only going to increase in the years ahead,” Wayne Phoel, DARPA program manager said in a DARPA release. “DyNAMO’s goal is to enable pilots in one type of aircraft with a specific suite of sensors to easily share information with different types of manned and unmanned systems and also receive sensor information from those various platforms for a comprehensive view of the battlespace. We aim to develop technology that dynamically adapts networks to enable instantaneous free-flow of information among all airborne systems, at the appropriate security level and in the face of active jamming by an adversary.”

Responses are due by Dec. 4, 2015.

About the Author

Mark Pomerleau is a former editorial fellow with GCN and Defense Systems.

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