The US Air Force has selected a team that includes Northrop Grumman Corp., Modern Technologies and ARINC Inc., to provide a new global tactical combat communications system. Northrop Grumman's Information Technology (IT) sector is the primary airborne system development lead and has been developing a system that will enable a global information grid (GIG) that provides seamless, secure, near instant distribution of battle space and command and control information to war fighters, local commanders and higher commands.

Northrop Grumman estimates that work on the initial Roll-on Beyond-line-of-sight Extension (ROBE) program will total approximately $9 M over two years. This program enables rapid formation of the "Network in the Sky" that seamlessly integrates beyond-line-of-sight and line-of-sight communication networks.

Northrop Grumman IT has recently completed three successful "Network in the Sky" risk reduction demonstrations for the ROBE program. The flights demonstrated Link-16 range extension capabilities and the ability to extend the range of Link-16 by intelligently bridging beyond-line-of-sight and line-of-sight communications systems. The tests also demonstrated joint interoperability among participating Air Force, Navy and Marine units, and the capacity to use joint range extension protocol on network and satellite communications.

ROBE represents the first generation of smart relay terminals to be built and will initially be deployed on KC-135 aircraft. ROBE is a roll-on and roll-off communication pallet that provides the capability to distribute command and control, data link and situation awareness information to support network connectivity, in-theater reach back and connectivity to dispersed units. In addition, ROBE provides an interactive situational awareness display to the aircrew of the host platform, a broadcast intelligence receive capability and a modular capability to include additional tactical links and networks. ROBE will be an airborne hub of the GIG and deployable theater information grid.