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Airborne Information Transmission System (ABIT)

Airborne Information Transmission (ABIT) is the next generation of the Common Data Link, providing an extended wide band data link relay to move imagery and other intelligence information from collection platforms to ground stations and/or other airborne platforms anywhere in theater. It provides secure, selectable bandwidth, two way air-to-air-to-surface link with lop probability of detection/low probability of intercept. ABIT offers beyond line of sight range and improved timeliness for real time operations without further taxing already heavily used orbital communications systems.

The ABIT system was developed for the U-2, RC-135 and the Global Hawk UAV platforms. Sponsored by DARO and managed by the Air Force, the ABIT prime contractor is L3 Communications. Airborne Information Transfer is a program within the CDL family which will be an adaptable rate, anti-jam/low probability of intercept/low probability of detection, air-to-air data link that can operate at rates up to 548 Mbp/s. ABIT offers new technologies to the CDL community, specifically in the areas of programmable multiplexing structures and miniaturization. ABIT data link packages come in two varieties: Collector Unit and Relay Unit. The Collector Unit is capable of transmitting either the ABIT waveform to a relay platform, or the legacy CDL waveform LOS to a ground station. The Relay Unit possesses inherent Collector Unit capabilities, and can also receive a wideband ABIT transmission from another collector for data sharing and/or subsequent relay.

Airborne Information Transmission is a technology implementation of the Advanced Common Data Link (A-CDL) waveform specification. ABIT is not a hardware specific black-box but rather a technology set that can be inserted into platform data link systems. It operates with backwards-compatible CDL modes to existing legacy terminals, but incorporates additional capability when transmitting between ABIT capable systems.

The ASC's ABIT Contract was initiated to transition the technology developed under the competitive AFRL ABIT contract to the Reconnaissance SPO. The technology was to be transitioned to support flight test or flight demonstration objectives with the three configurations of ABIT hardware.

Seven (7) terminals have been built (One Relay system, Two Collector systems, and Four Hybrid Collector systems). All systems are currently supporting on-going government initiatives as Government Furnished Equipment. Availability can only be determined based upon a specific schedule and contract action.

Relay and Collector configurations were certified for flight operation in preparation for 1998 flight test. The U-2 was used as a test bed for the critical component miniaturization phase of the demonstration for later migration to UAVs. Collector configuration was certified for flight operation within the F-16 TARS program for the 2001 flight demonstration.

  • Contract Award: Mar 1995
  • U-2 / RC-135 Flight Test: Dec 1998
  • 1998 U-2 / RC-135 ABIT flight-testing.
  • 2000 RC-135 ABIT Factory Acceptance Test.
  • RC-135 Factory Acceptance Test: Mar 2000
  • JEFX 2000 Demonstration: Aug 2000
  • 2001 TARS ABIT Flight demonstration.
  • Completion of ABIT P3I Common Modules: Nov 2002

The intent of the on-going ABIT P3I effort, a part of ASC's ABIT contract, is to eliminate vanished vendor / diminishing manufacturing source components and reduce the recurring cost by transitioning the technology to a COTS based FPGA design. Additionally, the original hardware implementations of ABIT were platform specific designs -- the ABIT P3I effort meets the original intent of a common set of modem modules to support multiple platform usage.

The estimated total cost of ABIT is $100M+. ABIT, however, was developed over a 20+ year timeframe across several organizations in both classified and unclassified forums and, due to these circumstances, trying to reconstruct a credible cost trail would be nearly impossible.

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Page last modified: 28-07-2011 00:47:40 ZULU