Intelligent Gateway Connects Aircraft to Space Force Unified Data Library in Northern Edge Exercise

U.S. Air Force and Marine Corps service members aboard the KC-135 Stratotanker check satellite connections using the RTX Intelligent Gateway connectivity platform combined with Battlespace Command and Control Center Air Battle Management hardware/software during a distributed tactical C2 experiment at Northern Edge 23-2. (Image: U.S. Air Force)

During the latest demonstration in the U.S. Indo Pacific Command's 2023 Northern Edge exercise series, an intelligence data gathering and sharing gateway proved it could distribute battlefield threat awareness data between aircraft and ground systems operated by U.S. and allied forces.

Northern Edge is a military training exercise sponsored by the U.S. Indo Pacific Command where U.S. and allied forces participate in combat scenarios to evaluate new technologies and improve joint force readiness. The first demonstration held as part of the 2023 Northern Edge series featured five ships and more than 150 aircraft operating out of the Joint Pacific-Alaska Range Complex (JPARC) and the Gulf of Alaska during the first three weeks of May.

A second round of Northern Edge exercise demonstrations was held at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan in July. During both demonstrations, RTX's (the re-branded name for Raytheon) Collins Aerospace supplied participating warfighters with its intelligent gateway technology, artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled machine to machine communications and cross domain data sharing platform.

According to an Aug. 1 press release, the Japan demonstration used the data sharing platform — that Collins describes as a "platform agnostic data hotspot" — to connect partners from The Five Eyes alliance and others to the data network. In an emailed statement to Tech Briefs, several representatives for Collins Aerospace provided more insight on what their intelligent gateway demonstrated during the latest Northern Edge demonstration in Japan.

"During the exercise, the Collins Aerospace Intelligent Gateway facilitated transport of threat awareness data to C17s, C-130s and the KC-135 for increased AMC asset survivability while geolocating targeting information to the Joint Fires Network for action to effector based aircraft," the Collins Aerospace representatives said. "The Intelligent Gateway is capable of connecting multiple networks together, whether it be networks for situational awareness, ISR or C2. The Gateway is capable of sharing data air to air and air to ground and allows sharing of data between multiple domains. The Collins Aerospace Nimbus Rush software was deployed across multiple AMC assets as well as the Raytheon Multi-Programs testbed to achieve threat awareness dissemination as well as cross platform sensor orchestration and data exploitation."

The Japan installment of the Northern Edge exercise series also featured an integrated team from RTX's Raytheon business unit to demonstrate how their AI-enabled machine to machine communications platform could deliver threat awareness data from the U.S. Space Force's Unified Data Library to multiple aircraft, demonstrating how they can be used as connectivity nodes on the battlefield. The Unified Data Library is the Space Force’s enterprise data repository for managing access, integration, and dissemination of data across multiple levels of security.

Both commercial and military satellite networks were integrated alongside three line of sight datalinks to enable data sharing between the aircraft and other tactical assets for the demonstration.

"By leveraging the UDL, threat awareness data can be distributed to AMC aircraft in a flexible, robust manner. During the exercise, RTX’s Nimbus Rush software was used to communicate directly with the UDL. Other developmental hardware aimed at facilitating edge-based communication with the UDL was also demonstrated," the Collins Aerospace representatives said in their emailed statement.

Collins Aerospace executives describe the Intelligent Gateway or platform agnostic hotspot as one of several Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) capabilities that they're developing. JADC2 is a concept of operations envisioned by the Department of Defense (DoD) to create a digital data sharing architecture that connects space, air, land, sea, and cyber assets to give military commanders the ability to share information in real time.

"Northern Edge TAC-2 has been a vital proving ground to demonstrate how enabling JADC2 technologies can strengthen the Joint Force and its allies and partners' readiness to fight and win," said Conn Doherty, Vice President of Battle Management Command & Control & Autonomy Solutions at Collins Aerospace.