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Military Works On Faster, All-Digital Targeting System

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 24, 2003 - The U.S. military is developing an advanced communications capability for tactical fighters that will tightly connect the sensors and cockpits of many aircraft.

The 2-year-old Tactical Targeting Network Technologies program links tactical jet fighters' sophisticated sensors and avionics with real-time, digital communications, explained Peter Highnam, a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency employee who works in the agency's information exploitation office.

The envisioned result, Highnam said, is Information Age effectiveness in the complete process of detection, positive identification, targeting, meeting rules of engagement, strike and confirmed destruction while minimizing collateral damage.

Highnam said TTNT is being developed to provide the networked infrastructure needed for what he called "the tremendous transformational potential of network-centric warfare."

He identified one example, the rapid and precise location of enemy ground-to- air defense systems. It has been demonstrated that this task is performed "orders of magnitude faster" and more accurately when the sensors on several aircraft work directly together, he said.

Today's military uses a legacy system called Link 16, Highnam explained, but TTNT -- an all-digital approach using a broad set of technologies only recently developed -- is far more advanced and can be inexpensively incorporated aboard jet fighters.

Using a cell phone analogy, Highnam compared Link 16 to older models that do a good job providing basic voice and low-rate data communications. TTNT, Highnam said, offers myriad communications conduits, just as today's advanced phones offer capabilities such as voice, e-mail, photos and Internet capability. And all TTNT communications, he pointed out, will be secure.

"Take that (cell phone) notion, bring it across to the fast-pace world of tactical aircraft, (and that) is what we're about," Highnam noted, citing TTNT's interoperability, high speed, low latency and ease of use.

"Machine to machine is the only way to get the job done," he concluded.