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DATA LINK SOLUTIONS: OFFERING CRITICAL COMMUNICATIONS SOLUTIONS FOR THE CAF.

Requirements for communications solutions in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) are complex, particularly when considering the variety of platforms and the number of different ways that military units communicate with one another. Legacy systems often require extensive upgrades in order to meet the latest communication needs and new platforms face strict funding pressure in the course of development and procurement.

So, as part of an effort to better understand this communications landscape, CDR sat down with representatives from Data Link Solutions (DLS) to have them explain a little of the company's history, the products they are currently excited about, and where Data Link Solutions sees opportunities in Canada for applying its technology.

Data Link Solutions was created in 1996 as part of a joint venture between BAE Systems (then GEC-Marconi Hazeltine) and Rockwell Collins in order to develop the Joint Tactical Information Distribution System (JTIDS) Link 16 networked radio. The companies recently renewed the partnership for a further five years. Doug Schmidt, Director of Program Management for Data Link Solutions, sees the 20 year partnership as a highly effective combination, "We bring complementary backgrounds, both in terms of RF and digital capabilities. Together we bring an organization that is very capable of solving a multitude of customer's problems."

Schmidt went on to tell CDR about a couple of specific examples of the company's success, "We've done about $3bn worth of business together and I think that maybe one of the most exciting things for us is our success with our products like Multifunctional Information Distribution System Joint Tactical Radio System (MIDS JTRS) and the TacNet Tactical Radio (TTR)".

LINK 16 SOLUTION FOR CAF

Thad Zeglen, Principal Marketing Manager for Rockwell Collins Canada, was able to offer the domestic perspective on Data Link Solutions and what it's been doing with the CAF, "The operation here is working with DLS to provide Link 16 solutions to Canadian Armed Forces, we leverage over 250 people from coast to coast to provide service and support, to provide intimacy with the CAF and other industry representatives in the region. So we're working very closely with DLS on major capital procurements and CSC is one such example."

He went on to explain that Canada has a history of leading technology in this particular domain, something that DLS hopes to leverage, "We have a communications heritage here in Canada as well so between the DLS team and our focus here on developing a wideband HF solution, we really offer full spectrum communications."

Data Link Solutions has seen some significant success with recent DoD contracts in the US, specifically for the Multifunctional Information Distribution System (MIDS), Joint Tactical Radio Systems (JTRS) terminals and the company sees further opportunities North of the border. Canada's recent participation in Exercise BOLD QUEST saw the Army getting hands on with a Rockwell Collins Digitally-Assisted Close Air Support (DACAS) system that was selected in May 2017. Doug Schmidt said that the selection of the Rockwell Collins DACAS for the Canadian Army created an opportunity to also demonstrate how BOLD QUEST may be a fit for TTR.

"CAF had a keen interest and were able to see firsthand the discriminating factors for the TTR out in the field, in a live environment, with users operating it.", Schmidt explained to CDR. He added that the TTR had some obvious selling points when it was being used in the exercise, "They saw the greatness of it being small and light; they realized the low cost, the focused Link 16 radio. And, no noise for the tactical environment was huge for them as well as the power output for a small form-factor unit to deal with range in a jamming environment".

TRIED AND TESTED BY USAF AND US ARMY

Schmidt was also keen to point out that the TTR offered a solution that has been tried and tested by the most important users. "From the USAF to the US Army, we have proven interoperability performance and progress, showing that we're meeting the needs of the warfighter. When the TTR has competed it has won as the hands down best small form-factor Link 16 terminal out there."

DLS was also eager to talk about its contract with the U.S. Navy Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command to provide the Multifunctional Information Distribution System (MIDS) Joint Tactical Radio System (MIDS JTRS) to US and coalition forces. Although awarded in late 2015, it represented a big success for the MIDS JTRS, a combined Link 16 and TACAN system, and it's obviously one that DLS would like to see in the running for future Canadian procurements.

Stacie Shannon, Manager for Data Link Business Development, explained the scale of that particular award, "DLS was recently awarded a sole source contract to deliver almost 300 MIDS JTRS terminals to the US and to coalition forces, the MIDS JTRS provides heightened situational awareness and mission effectiveness through reliable communication and also allows for new capabilities while delivering significant life cycle cost saving".

MODERNIZING CAF'S ENTIRE COMMS NETWORK

The company sees a number of programs in Canada where it believes MIDS JTRS or TTR stand a strong chance and Zeglen pointed to some high profile examples where DLS would like to offer its proven technology. "Canada is modernizing the entire communications network in air, land, and sea, so we could see some play there from both the TTR and MIDS perspective. Eventually we're going to buy the next generation fighter, whatever flavor that is and that will involve a Link 16 component. The shipbuilding programs are obviously underway with AOPS, CSC and JSS to follow."

Zeglen also made a point of highlighting the domestic requirement for cryptographic communications, "We're helping Canada to deploy the Land Command Support System Network which is part of the larger crypto modernization. A component of that project will be a data link requirement which we hope to serve as well."

Overall, DLS sees itself in a strong position in Canada with over 115 Tactical Data Link 16 terminals installed and operationalon air, land and sea platforms in country, and with historical links through the parent companies of BAE Systems and Rockwell Collins. Canada's requirements through new procurements and upgrades to legacy systems will certainly offer a huge opportunity in the communication and networking sector and DLS's recent success in providing systems to the US military will undoubtedly afford the company unmatched credibility as it looks to participate in Canadian programs.

In its future bids in Canada, DLS will no doubt, benefit from being able to demonstrate interoperability and proven effectiveness and there is clearly already interest from within the CAF in DLS technology. Look for DLS to target a number of Canadian capability requirements that may be considered 'funding challenged platforms' as opportunities to offer a system such as the TTR, where it could fulfill that requirement at a much lower cost than a legacy system might. Exploiting advantages and filling a gap in the market with an innovative product has certainly proven a winning strategy thus far for DLS.

BY IAN KEDDIE

Ian Keddie is a regular contributor to CDR and a former officer in the Royal Navy
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Title Annotation:INDUSTRY FOCUS; Canadian Armed Forces
Author:Keddie, Ian
Publication:Canadian Defence Review
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Dec 1, 2017
Words:1190
Previous Article:Knowledge and Uncertainty.
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