Multi-Platform Common Data Link (MP-CDL)
The Multi-Platform - Common Data Link (MP-CDL) was initially planned to replace the Joint Surveillance Target
Attack Radar System (JSTARS) E-8C Surveillance and Control Data Link (SCDL), which transmitted data to/from
the E-8C and its ground station, the Common Ground Station (CGS). The Air Force restructured the MP-CDL
program to be the data link for a Network Centric Warfare capability to support Network Centric Collaborative Targeting
(NCCT) Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD), in addition to its role supporting the Multi-Platform
Radar Technology Insertion Program (MP-RTIP) family of systems. Because of difficulties determining the requirements,
the Air Force has restructured the program as a technology development and experimentation program. The MP-CDL
program will produce a few systems with which to explore concepts and capabilities. If those capabilities meet an
operational need, the Air Force may decide to produce them for employment on combat systems.
MP-CDL will provide a network-centric data link between airborne and surface intelligence, surveillance,
and reconnaissance (ISR) assets. MP-CDL is currently envisioned to meet the need for a number of network clients (airborne or surface) to interact with a centrally located airborne terminal as well as other clients. The central airborne terminal may function primarily as a source of ISR data, a correlation node of ISR data, or mixed operation of the two modes. All terminals are to support gateway connectivity to other links external to the MP-CDL network in order to extend access into or out of the network to additional ISR collection platforms, exploitation nodes, or other users. These links may be either in-theater line of sight links or beyond line of sight SATCOM links.
The MP-CDL program objective is to provide an affordable, operationally effective line of sight (LOS), wideband, air-to-air and air-to-ground, point-multipoint and point-point connectivity in a networked environment. MP-CDL is planned to meet the needs for a number of airborne and surface platforms to simultaneously distribute sensor data products to multiple supporting airborne and ground stations. MP-
CDL shall be scalable (expandable and compressible) and modular (adaptable to new waveforms by software upgrades or hardware module upgrades without requiring redesign of the entire system), and will utilize off-the-shelf components to the greatest extent possible within operational limitations. The MP-CDL system is one part of an overall plan to migrate the Common Data Link family of data links
to the network-centric connectivity envisioned in Joint Vision 2010/2020.
The MP-CDL program objective is to conduct an evolutionary acquisition for the MP-CDL system as an integral part of the larger Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) Network Program which will use a spiral-based development process. The MP-CDL system is planned to satisfy the threshold requirement for a networked multipoint data link capability providing a growth pathway to desired system enhancements. The MP-CDL capability will support sensor product dissemination to multiple primary users in a point-multipoint configuration, both air-to-air and air-to-ground. Additional Objective capabilities are desired in the initial MP-CDL program: Simultaneous data
link operations supporting either a point-point link and a networked point-multipoint link, or two networked point-multipoint links.
Other capabilities yet to be fully defined, including different network connectivity architectures (mesh, ad hoc, etc.), increased data rates, Satellite Communication (SATCOM), and enhancements to node compatibility, number of nodes supported, latency, throughput, jitter reduction, data prioritization, and data security. The government envisions that objective capabilities not included in the initial MP-CDL program may be incorporated in spirals under the separate ISR Network Program.
MP-CDL is closely tied to the Multi Platform-Radar Technology Improvement Program (MP-RTIP), Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS), Distributed Common Ground Station-Army (DCGS-A), and Global Hawk programs. Additionally, MP-CDL, as an integral part of the ISR Network, is envisioned to be an enabling technology for Network Centric Collaborative Targeting (NCCT), Multi Sensor Command and Control Constellation (MC2C), Deployed Theater Information Grid (DTIG), and Global Information Grid (GIG) concepts. The MP-CDL CTD contract is envisioned to work closely with these communities by performing and supporting study efforts and performing integration work.
Initial application of MP-CDL, to provide Army surface units command/control access to surveillance products from the Multi-Platform Radar
Technology Insertion Program (MP- RTIP) platform, necessitates the use of jam-resistant technologies to protect network operations from a specified jamming threat against both surface and airborne assets. Due to limited spectrum availability, as well as other factors which place practical limits on achievable jam resistance at higher data rates, only communications from the surface client terminals to the central airborne terminal and a relatively narrowband component of the MP- RTIP data that is broadcast from the central airborne terminal to the surface client terminals require jam resistance.
The architecture will need to address non-uniform/bursty communications from the surface client terminals to the central airborne terminal and minimize latency in the transfer of time critical data. The size of the network, in terms of number of clients actively communicating with the central airborne terminal, should be scalable in order to address varying mission applications. In addition to network operations,
which implies deviation from the conventional CDL point-point waveform, MP-CDL terminals are to support capability for point-point
interoperability with CDL surface and/or airborne terminals. The anticipated requirement for the central airborne terminal is to provide a single point-to-point data link operating simultaneously with an independent multi-user network. The terminal's point-to-point data link must be interoperable with existing CDL surface communication equipment (T) and Airborne Information Transmission (ABIT) relay terminals (T) at established standard data rates up to 274 Mb/s.
The objective (O) requirement for the terminal's point-to-point data link is interoperability with both CDL surface and platform communication equipment and ABIT relays and collectors at standard data rates up to 274 Mb/s. The multi-user network will connect up to 32(T)/50+(O) users on a COTS-based network architecture. The broadcast data transmission rate capability from the central airborne terminal to client terminals will be 45(T)/137(O) Mb/s (including a 2.2Mb/s (T) jam resistant channel). The data transmission rate capability from the clients to the central airborne terminal is 0.059(T)/45(O) Mb/s. The aggregate throughput bandwidth to the central airborne terminal
will be 0.5(T)/45(O) Mb/s.
The contractors that develop the central airborne terminal and surface client terminals will jointly define the network-mode waveform and frequency plan. The MP-CDL system will have an open/scalable architecture to allow additional linkages, scalable bandwidths, and multiple
configurations. Potential future applications include relays that extend the network, central airborne terminal hardware that is reconfigurable to act as a client terminal, airborne client terminals, central surface terminals, and multiple simultaneous links on MP-CDL terminals. Range will be dependent on size, weight and power requirements and mission geometries to be defined later, but is initially estimated to be nominal maximum line-of-sight from an altitude of 40,000 feet. The MP-CDL system will be able to operate in Ku band (T) and should support future growth capability to operate in one or more alternative RF bands (i.e. X, Ku, Ka) to allow multiple simultaneous links (O).
The Air Force restructured the MP-CDL program to support the NCCT ACTD. The NCCT ACTD requires the low data
latencies provided by MP-CDL rather than its high throughput. The NCCT ACTD is intended to provide a combat capability
by networking Command Control and Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance assets into a collaborative entity.
NCCT should dramatically improve target location accuracy, timeliness, and combat identification certainty for the warfighter.
Networking optimizes high-speed machine-to-machine interaction between sensors for detection, association, and correlation
of high-interest and time-sensitive targets. NCCT is focused on the find, fix, track, and assess elements of the find, fix, track,
target, engage, and assess kill chain.
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