Identification Friend or Foe
Identification Friend or Foe [IFF] procedures are the primary positive means of aircraft identification in Air Defense operations. Proper use of IFF procedures facilitates rapid engagement of enemy aircraft, conserves Air Defense assets, and reduces risk to friendly aircraft. Any time a plane flies, pilots put a code into their IFF system which others can identify as a friendly aircraft.
Combat Identification is the process of attaining an accurate characterization of detected objects in the battle space to the extent that a high confidence, timely application of tactical options, and weapons resources can occur. Depending on the situation and the tactical decisions that must be made, this characterization will be at least, but may not be limited to, "friend," "enemy," or "neutral." Combat identification functions encompass cooperative and non-cooperative identification capabilities.
Reliable and secure positive identification (ID) systems are essential elements of battle management in the naval environment. In addition to distinguishing friend from foe for weapons employment, the Navy requires secure, jam resistant Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) systems for battle group air defense management and air traffic control. Identification is multifaceted and includes information received from several sensors (both cooperative and non-cooperative systems).
The cooperative combat identification capability in surface ships is provided by the Mark XIIA Interrogation Friend of Foe (IFF) system, a challenge and reply (or "Q and A") system. The current inventory of IFF interrogators and transponders are antiquated, and the procurement of new Digital Interrogators (AN/UPX-37) and Digital Transponders is underway. Additionally, the US Navy has funded the research and development of replacement waveforms used by the Mark XII system.
Older E-3 AWACS IFF system received codes from aircraft that weren't always processed correctly. There was also a chance the codes could get garbled, which made it more difficult to identify the aircraft as friend or foe. By 1997 a new system had an improved reliability to correctly identifying the codes and improves the ability to determine the location of an aircraft under surveillance, which will help ensure IFF operators give accurate IFF information to higher headquarters or other aircraft.
In 1996 the Command Joint Chief Of Staff directed that all DOD Aircraft IFF systems be fully operational in order to render aircraft mission capable. The AN/APX-100 IFF Transponder Set is used on DOD aircraft worldwide, and their maintenance and operation are verified using test sets AN/APM-421 and AN/APM-424. By 1999 a serious problem existed in the field due to IFF test sets not being available or not working properly. The solution was to increase the rate of return of unserviceable test sets to Tobyhanna Army Depot (TYAD).
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