Northrop Completes Second Flight Test Phase Of The MR-TCDL


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Northrop Completes Second Flight Test Phase Of The MR-TCDL

Eddy Metcalf

January 5, 2011 - Northrop Grumman Corporation has successfully completed the second flight test phase of the Multi-Role Tactical Common Data Link (MR-TCDL) system, which provides real-time networking connectivity to warfighters and commanders by enabling extremely fast exchange of data via ground, airborne and satellite networks. 

This series of 14 flight tests verified the MR-TCDL system's capabilities, marking a critical milestone toward completion of the MR-TCDL developmental testing program. 

For the flight tests, Northrop Grumman integrated MR-TCDL onto a Gulfstream II aircraft and a NASA ER-2 aircraft and digitally connected the aircraft to each other and to a series of ground entry points.

The tests demonstrated the system's ability to reliably transmit data at rates greater than 200 megabits per second between multiple aircraft and ground networks as well as between aircraft at distances in excess of 270 nautical miles. This capability enables high-definition video teleconferencing and high-speed connection and extension of terrestrial wired and wireless networks access for senior leaders. 

Northrop Grumman is performing the tests under its MR-TCDL Developmental Test and Operational Test (DT/OT) program contract for the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center. The MR-TCDL system is built by L-3 Communications Systems-West, Salt Lake City.  "Phase two testing has exceeded both our own and our customer's expectations," said Claude Hashem, Northrop Grumman vice president and deputy general manager of the company's Network Communications Systems business.  

"The team proved MR-TCDL is a terminal that will meet the true bandwidth requirements of all types of airborne ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) and C2 (command and control) aircraft, and that it is a true joint aerial layered network capability providing the flexibility of satcom combined with very high-capacity line-of-sight connectivity.

"Fielding of this unique capability introduces a paradigm-shaping ability to aircraft by combining multiple communications paths into one terminal. The result is timely, effective and diverse service to warfighters and decision-makers at a substantial cost savings," Hashem said. The company will fly the system in operationally relevant scenarios during the next test phase. Testing will connect the MR-TCDL equipped Gulfstream II, NASA ER-2 and operational aircraft with a series of ground entry points that connect to the Internet.  


In addition to L-3 Communications, members of the Northrop Grumman team include Alpha Research & Technologies Inc., Sacramento, Calif.; Orion Aviation Group, Phoenix; and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Houston. Work is performed in San Diego, Salt Lake City, Phoenix and Houston. The Defense Micro-Electronics Activity awarded the 30-month, $59 million MR-TCDL DT/OT contract to Northrop Grumman's Information Systems sector in January 2009. 

Northrop Grumman Corporation is a leading global security company whose 120,000 employees provide innovative systems, products, and solutions in aerospace, electronics, information systems, shipbuilding and technical services to government and commercial customers worldwide.

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