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Air Force gets new lab for testing airborne networking
Air Force gets new lab for testing airborne networking
SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- A DC-9 fuselage is suspended while people begin removing the stands from the truck to place them inside an Air Force Communications Agency compound where the fuselage will rest. (U.S. Air Force photo by Gerald Sonnenberg)

by Capt. Ryan Rasmussen
Air Force Communications Agency Integration Engineering

1/26/2005 - SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (AFPN)  -- The Air Force Communications Agency here has received its first aircraft since its flying mission ended in 1987-- at least most of an aircraft. A DC-9 fuselage, minus wings and tail, arrived on a truck Jan. 25 to be permanently parked behind the agency’s technology and interoperability facility.

The 30,000-pound fuselage, called the AirBorne Lab Environment and dubbed Scope ABLE, is a new testing facility for the agency. This test platform will enhance the ability of agency officials to develop the future airborne network services that will guarantee information superiority.

Scope ABLE will allow agency and major command communications planners to examine new technology for potential integration into the operational fleet, as well as troubleshoot problems real aircraft are experiencing.

Several tests are scheduled and a plan has been developed to make Scope ABLE available to other communications planners and engineers for approved projects, officials said. They said their goal is to aid in making all types of communication work better for airborne network users across the Department of Defense.

The fuselage will be complete with airborne networking equipment typically found on certain aircraft in the Air Force inventory. Some of the equipment includes secure and nonsecure Internet access, secure video teleconferencing service, secure and nonsecure telephone service, satellite communications, satellite TV access and airborne cellular telephone service.

The facility allows cost-effective evaluation of new technology. By assessing new technology first on Scope ABLE, agency officials can save the Air Force the expense associated with flying an actual aircraft, such as fuel costs, maintenance and servicing, and flight and ground crew time.

Planning and proving new technologies on the ground before they are certified for aircraft use by the Federal Aviation Administration will save millions of dollars annually, officials said. It will also save flight time on specialized aircraft like the C-135E Speckled Trout by allowing senior leaders to evaluate technologies in a flight-type of environment to better determine which technologies should be implemented.