Canadian CF-18s Finally Get Link 16, While H-92s Get Link 11
Data Link Solutions (DLS), a BAE Systems/ Rockwell Collins company, was selected by the Canadian Forces to provide Multi-Functional Information Distribution System (MIDS) Low Volume Terminals (LVT) as part of their Fleet Modernization Program to add Link 16 capability to Canada’s CF-18 Hornet aircraft fleet. The approximate value of the contract is in excess of USD $22.7 million. DID covered the initial request to the US Congress.
While recent advancements may make AESA radars the future transmitters of choice, Link 16 is the current standard. As Rockwell Collins notes:
“Link 16 provides real-time, jam-resistant secure transfer of combat data, voice and relative navigation information between widely dispersed battle elements. Participants gain situational awareness by exchanging digital data over a common communication link that is continuously and automatically updated in real time, reducing the chance of fratricide, duplicate assignments or missed targets. Each participant in the communication link is able to electronically see the battle space, including assigned targets or threats. The DLS MIDS LVT represents the latest generation of Link 16 equipment incorporating secure data and voice into a single, small, affordable and highly reliable unit.”
“Much was made of CF-18s operating over Kosovo being unable to communicate with allied aircraft over a secure channel. Link 16 is a NATO network which will give upgraded CF-18s this ability. Link 16 also has great tactical importance – from giving CF flight leaders a greater ‘situational awareness’ to providing AWACS with the data needed to coordinate allied aircraft within a war zone’s airspace.
Clearly Link 16 is a critical part of ECP-583 and its delay is not to be taken lightly. The auditors did note that “work was being done on Data Link…” while the audit was underway “to integrate [it] with the CF-18s”. To catch-up, both DND and its contractor must work fast. The auditors seemed satisfied with their progress but the delays in implementing and integrating of Link 16 into the CF-18 have somewhat ominous implications [for similar DND programs].”
Under the terms of this contract, which runs through 2007, DLS will deliver MIDS LVTs under U.S. Foreign Military Sales procurement. Selection criteria were based on terminal price, ability to deliver on time, terminal reliability, commitment to life cycle support and commitment to Canadian Industrial Benefits.
The incorporation of the MIDS Link-16 capabilities provides the Canadian Forces CF-18 aircraft with a significant situational awareness enhancement and ensures interoperability with NATO and other coalition forces.
Meanwhile, DLS parent Rockwell Collins has been selected by General Dynamics Canada, part of the Sikorsky Aircraft-led Maritime Helicopter Team, to provide tactical data link capability for the 28 CH-148 Cyclone (Sikorsky H-92 Superhawk) helicopters of Canada’s Maritime Helicopter Project (MHP). Rockwell Collins will provide 40 Link 11 modem and data link processors for installation into the Cyclones. Link 11 provides situational awareness over HF, UHF and SATCOM and is primarily used in NATO operations. The integration will be performed by General Dynamics Canada.
Rockwell Collins is also providing avionics, simulators, training and support to Sikorsky for the MHP.