Speeding MIDS JTRS Development

JTRS Program Review & Vision Guide

Concurrent Terminal Qualification and Flight Testing Accelerates MIDS JTRS Program

By Barry Rosenberg-Macaulay

KrambeckWith a goal of accelerating development, testing and production of the Multifunctional Information Distribution System Joint Tactical Radio System (MIDS JTRS), the program has taken the unusual step of conducting terminal qualification concurrently with developmental flight test. The result has been a number of efficiencies gained, and an acceleration of the program..

“Normally a terminal gets through qualification and then after that platform integration begins,” explained MIDS JTRS Program Manager CAPT Scott Krambeck. “In that case one corrects deficiencies first in qualification, and then corrects a second set of deficiencies in developmental flight tests. For MIDS JTRS, we were able to do qualification and developmental flight tests in parallel and concurrently.  

MIDS is one of five major programs within the Joint Program Executive Office for the JTRS. The MIDS Program has two products: (1) the MIDS-LVT (Low Volume Terminal), a small-size non-software-defined radio that has been in production for ten years and sold internationally; and (2) MIDS JTRS, a form, fit and function (plus) modification of the MIDS-LVT and includes all of MIDS-LVT’s capability, plus more functionality and significant growth capability in the form of three additional channels for future waveforms.

MIDS JTRS has a throughput of 1.1 MB/sec, which is four times greater than MIDS-LVT. It will be NSA certified with the Link-16 waveform and frequency remapping, which allows MIDS JTRS to meet an agreement between DoD and DoT (Federal Aviation Administration) regarding frequency de-confliction.

Unlike the other JTRS programs, the MIDS Program is specifically organized to include international partners, which include France, Italy, Germany and Spain.

Program Update & Technical Challenges

As of late September, the MIDS JTRS airworthiness terminals have tallied 103 flight sorties and 195 total flight hours in its lead platform, the Navy’s F/A-18E/F (Block 2). A number of production verification terminals are also being tested to verify production line and manufacturing capabilities.

“We are approximately 97 percent done with qualification testing, which is significant because that leads into a production decision,” said Krambeck. “We’re continuing developmental tests and will put more flight hours into the Super Hornet up through March.”

Though the technology in the MIDS JTRS terminal is “pretty straightforward”, according to Krambeck, there have been a number of key technical challenges associated with the program.

“We are approximately 97 percent done with qualification testing, which is significant because that leads into a production decision,” said MIDS JTRS Program Manager CAPT Scott Krambeck. 

“One of the main challenges has been meeting the National Security Agency’s information assurance requirements for software defined networking terminals,” said Krambeck. “Once you modify the terminal via software, NSA wants to make sure everything is protected just the way it was the first time they certified it.

Integration into the lead platform is another challenge, particularly because of the advanced nature of the aircraft.

“We’re integrating MIDS JTRS into one of the most combat capable platforms in U.S. inventory, the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, and, in particular the Block 2 Super Hornet,” explained Krambeck. “That’s significant because it includes the AN/APG-79 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, the Advanced Crew Station (ACS) and the Advanced Mission Computers and Displays (AMC&D), which run on high order language.”

The next step in the MIDS JTRS Program is the Milestone C decision and low-rate initial production, which is scheduled for first quarter fiscal year 2010. After production begins, the program continues developmental testing and then transitions to Initial Operational Test and Evaluation, which is scheduled to start in March. 

MIDS JTRs Product Line

MIDS is a wireless, jam-resistant and secure information system providing TACAN and Link-16 to Air, Land and Sea warfighting platforms. It provides real-time and low-cost information and situational awareness via digital and voice communications.The MIDS program includes MIDS-Low Volume Terminal (LVT) full rate production and MIDS JTRS evolutionary develop-ment.  MIDS JTRS is a “form fit function” replacement for MIDS-LVT and adds three additional chan-nels for JTRS waveforms as requested by platforms.