November 22, 2002: East Data Acquisition Transmission System Testing

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  • Air Force Flight Test Center

The new East Data Acquisition Transmission System (EDATS) was tested for the first time, with an F/A-22. The EDATS was a joint Air Force Flight Test Center and Federal Aviation Administration project to establish a data link with the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico by means of a series of 28 microwave relay sites. The new system allowed an aircraft tested at a remote location to be tracked in real time at the Ridley Mission Control Center. It was part of an overall range network that would include test facilities at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, the Naval Air Warfare Center at China Lake, and the Point Mugu Naval Air Station.

A new $4.5 million data acquisition and transmission network implemented by the Air Force Flight Test Center here and the Federal Aviation Administration is up and running. The new network will improve test efficiency and accelerate the ability to get information to the warfighter.  The East Data Acquisition Transmission System is the newest piece of an overall range network that includes Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.; and the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division at China Lake, Calif.; and Point Mugu Naval Air Station, Calif. This system comprises a data link that connects Edwards through a series of 28 microwave relay sites to the control center at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.  According to Steve Cronk, 412th Test Wing range operations chief, the link can deliver data at a rate equivalent to filling 100, 3.5 inch floppy discs per second.

"What that allows us to do is transmit flight test data from an airplane at White Sands back to the Ridley Mission Control Center in real-time," said Cronk. "So the test team can now stay at Ridley and test an airplane at White Sands just as if it were overhead at Edwards."  This technology, which is currently only being used during tests of the F/A-22 Raptor, has the capability to support any program that would have a requirement to use it, but it is not cutting-edge by any stretch of the imagination, said Cronk.  "We didn't go out and design different microwave radios," said Cronk. "We're just taking advantage of existing data and communications capabilities and applying (them) to our particular need to do test and evaluation."  Officials at the flight test center and FAA worked together on the project.  "The FAA already had these sites in place between Los Angeles and Las Cruces, N.M., and was using the link to pass radar data and air traffic control information," said Thomas Berard, 412th Test Wing range division chief. "So over an 18-month period, we installed radios and antennas, which will allow our system to pass flight data back and forth, at each of these sights."

As part of the cooperative effort, the FAA will be able to use part of the center's bandwidth to handle its air traffic control data.  "One-third of our bandwidth will be given to the FAA, one-third will be dedicated to the F/A-22 for their tasks, and the final one-third will be used for other programs such as the (airborne laser)," said Berard. "What we've got is kind of a neat arrangement using their sites and paying them back with bandwidth."  "If we would have had to go out and install the link from ground zero, it would have cost a lot more and taken much longer than 18 months," said Cronk. "It would have taken many years to set something like this up."  The network will eventually be tied into Eglin AFB, Fla., which will lead to a single network covering the entire nation, according to Cronk.  "It'll be a different link, but it will still be part of this big network that all of the ranges are being slowly tied into," said Cronk. "Eglin will also be tied into other ranges that will allow us to share all of our capabilities and eventually the entire country will be on the same network."  Although most of the testing takes place at Edwards, weapon certification is done at Eglin. Once the network is in place, test efficiency should greatly improve.

"The way it works today is, if the F/A-22 wanted to certify a weapon, they would go out on the Edwards range, drop the weapon, collect the data and then FedEx it to Eglin to be analyzed," said Cronk. "But once the Eglin network is in place, they'll be able to watch the test in real-time, analyze it right away and then certify that the F/A-22 can drop that bomb."  And since the network is owned by the Department of Defense, other agencies will be able to take advantage of it as well.  "We're not the only ones who will use the system," said Cronk. "We are the data hub for all the western ranges and can pass information to and from Vandenberg, China Lake and Point Mugu. This allows these facilities to conduct their tests on a seamless range which extends from the Pacific Ocean to the high desert."  According to Berard, this network is just a simple concept that will benefit many organizations and has boundless potential.  "All we're doing is passing information from Point A to Point B, but it saves time, dollars and has a whole plethora of capabilities for the future," said Berard.

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