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Multifunctional Information Distribution System-Low Volume Terminal (MIDS-LVT)

MIDS-LVT was a multinational, multiservice cooperative program sponsored by five NATO countries (United States, France, Italy, Germany, and Spain) with the US Navy as lead service for US applications and overall program manager. The program was managed by the Navy's MIDS International Program Office, which operated under an international agreement among the five participating nations. MIDS was being developed by an international consortium (MIDSCO), with representation from US and NATO defense and aerospace companies. The contract for the engineering and manufacturing development of the C3I program was awarded in March 1994 by the US Navy on behalf of France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United States.

During initial flight tests with F/A-18s, the MIDS Tactical Air Navigation (TACAN) card performed poorly. There were reported signal losses and incorrect lock up of bearing and range, incorrect beacon identification, and other associated problems. The Navy considered TACAN as mission critical equipment and must be working for operational aircraft. Improvements in software (tracking, interrogation, and antenna switching algorithms) and tracking filters alleviated some of the problems. Initial flight testing of new software and firmware indicated that the MIDS LVT embedded TACAN deficiency had been largely resolved.

The first terminal delivery was in April 1998. However, subsequent terminal deliveries were substantially behind schedule and the EMD contract was over budget. Certain key cards, such as the Exciter/Interference Protection Feature (IPF) card and the Data Processor card, were in short supply. This was due in part to inadequate quality assurance screening of parts at the manufacturing plants. Other contributing factors to schedule slips included diverted manpower and test resources needed to resolve technical issues discovered during developmental testing and added complexity and frequent changes in requirements caused by system development under the auspices of a multi-national consortium. Overall, the MIDS-LVT program had slipped by more than two years as compared to the schedule prior to 1997.

In March 2006, the program office began preliminary studies and specification work on a Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) platform capability package. This package would allow the MIDS-JTRS radio to operate a wideband networking waveform specifically designed for low latency airborne missions. In September 2007, the JTRS Board of Directors suspended the design, development, fabrication, and testing of the JTRS platform capability package, pending a determination of whether there were enough potential users among the military services to support this effort. Furthermore, the JTRS Joint Program Executive Office had been advised by the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Science and Technology to conduct an independent technical assessment of waveforms, networking, and network management approaches. As a result, the award of the development contract was delayed. Program officials stated that continuance of this delay had the potential to affect the terminal's system detail design schedule, funding, and its ability to meet the initial operational capability scheduled for the second quarter of FY11 for the Air Force.

As of March 2008, the MIDS program was transforming the existing MIDS Low Volume Terminal-a jam-resistant, secure voice and data information distribution system, into a 4-channel, JTRS-compliant radio that would be used in different types of aircraft, ships, and ground stations for the military services.

All four of the core terminal critical technologies were reported to be approaching maturity as of a March 2008 assessment by the Government Accountability Office. In addition, core terminal engineering development models had been integrated into F/A-18 aircraft and were undergoing testing in an operational environment. Test results would be used to support a planned low-rate initial production decision. The design of the core terminal was considered stable and production processes were considered mature. However, in September 2007, the JTRS Board of Directors suspended the design, development, fabrication, and testing of the JTRS platform capability package pending a determination of whether there were enough potential users among the military services to support this effort.

The core terminal's four critical technologies, Link-16 waveform software, Link-16 architectural design, operating environment, and programmable crypto module, were assessed as approaching maturity. Several technical issues emerged during development, but they had largely been resolved. In 2006, cryptographic subsystem component stability and power issues caused a delay in software and firmware development, leading to delays in radio integration, test, and qualification efforts. Also, since the core terminal would be the first JTRS radio to undergo National Security Agency certification, it faced challenges in meeting security requirements. As of the GAO report, it had received National Security Agency design concurrence and over-the-air approval in a F/A-18 aircraft.

In addition, a delay in requirements approval had resulted in a 12-month delay of the program's low-rate initial production decision. To mitigate the impact of this delay, program officials have modified and accelerated the delivery plan for air worthiness and production transition terminals. According to program officials, the accelerated delivery of these terminals would support the developmental and operational testing schedule and allow the program to meet the planned initial operational capability date scheduled for FY09. They further noted that the program office began demonstrating the terminal's capabilities in an operational environment during the first quarter of FY08 and thus far had not disclosed any significant technical issues. Program officials stated that these test results would be used to support the core terminal program's low-rate initial production decision, then scheduled for March 2008.

Program officials also noted that platform integration costs for the proposed, but then suspended, MIDS-JTRS core terminal were expected to be minimal due to the terminal's form, fit, and function replacement of the MIDS Low Volume Terminal. However, like other JTRS waveforms, integration costs for the JTRS platform capability package would be significant and are not currently funded as part of the JTRS program. According to Navy officials, the cost to integrate the full networking functionality of the JTRS platform capability package into four variants of airborne platforms was estimated to be $868 million.




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