Raytheon has won a $9.7m contract from the US Air Force Research Laboratory to design and develop the next-generation wideband common data link for active electronically scanned array radar systems.

The objective of the Radar Common Data Link program is to enable tactical assets such as combat aircraft to quickly pass on non-traditional ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) data to users in the military and intelligence communities.

‘The Radar Common Data Link program will provide fast tactical communications in the battlespace,’ said Nick Uros, vice president for the Advanced Concepts and Technology group of Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems. ‘But perhaps even more significant, it also can serve as a linchpin for a network-centric warfare environment linking various computer and communication systems to ensure that timely, secure and accurate information is available to a wide range of military users.’

Raytheon has developed and deployed AESA radar systems for the air force F-15 and the navy F/A-18. The air force also employs the company's AESA technology in radar systems for the B-2 and the F-22A.

The five-year program calls for Raytheon to develop specifications and open-standards interfaces for a radar common data link to determine how it would operate with current and future AESA systems, to formulate concepts of operations with the air force, and to demonstrate feasibility.

The Department of Defense considers the program especially significant to non-traditional ISR tactical fighter missions. Aircrews could use wide-band communication links to transfer imagery and other high-bandwidth information to and from AESA-equipped tactical, surveillance and bomber aircraft.

‘A high-speed communication capability for tactical platforms without the addition of a radio unit or alteration of the airframe represents a cost- effective proposition,’ Uros said. ‘Providing the modern warfighter with the ability to publish time-critical information products to users on the global information grid offers exceptional transformational capability today.’

Raytheon is teamed with L-3 Communications and Boeing on the program. L-3 will provide experience with common data link waveforms. Boeing is the platform partner for integration of the AESA technology on the F-15 and F/A-18 aircraft.