HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – A small team here at Hanscom has been working with the F-35 Joint Program Office to provide a game-changing close air support capability for the U.S Marine Corps F-35B.
The Kill Chain Integration Branch of the Special Programs Division of the Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence and Networks Directorate, headquartered here, helped field Interim Full Motion Video, a combination of a video stream and associated location metadata in one video file that replaces the F-35B Combat Training System.
With this new capability, the F-35B aircraft will be able to send live video to ground units to more effectively coordinate air action against hostile targets operating near friendly forces.
“The capability, along with its architecture, will provide the warfighter a need today, while also enabling a Department of Defense game-changer tomorrow,” said Lt. Col. Mike DiMaria, materiel leader, Kill Chain Integration Branch.
While full motion video is expected to be delivered enterprise-wide to the warfighter by 2024, the efforts of the team have provided the Marine Corps with an interim solution.
“The IFMV system is a success story in delivering a needed capability on an operationally relevant timeline to support our warfighters while furthering the long-term goals of integrating open mission systems standards and architecture,” said Lt. Gen. Eric Fick, program executive officer, F-35 JPO. “IFMV on F-35s will absolutely help to accelerate future capability delivery, increase competition, and reduce costs.”
In August 2016, the USMC deputy commandant for Aviation sent a memo to the F-35 PEO requesting the rapid fielding of full motion video for F-35Bs, deeming the capability “essential to the way we fight,” especially in support of close air support operations. Later that summer, Hanscom’s Special Programs Division demonstrated an Open Mission Systems, or OMS, architecture on a Lockheed U-2. Marine Corps officials witnessed that demonstration and asked if the division could integrate the same architecture into the F-35B using legacy video waveforms.
OMS is a government-owned architecture specification that promotes interoperability, reuse and ease of hardware and software integration into platforms. It focuses on the interfaces between software services and hardware subsystems, and how data is exchanged across those interfaces.
“Delivering the warfighter this essential capability is a significant accomplishment,” said DiMaria. “Equally significant is the OMS architecture, specifically integrating it into a fifth-generation fighter. We have worked diligently with Headquarters Marine Corps and the user community to balance performance requirements against cost and delivery timelines.”
Even after install, Interim Full Motion Video remains swappable with the Combat Training System with minimal maintenance actions required.
Earlier this year, the Special Programs Division demonstrated similar architecture for the Advanced Battle Management System, bridging 5th-to-5th generation fighter communications and laying the groundwork for future integration.
According to officials, the Open Mission Systems architecture provides a widely compatible environment limited only by the capabilities available to bring into the system.
“A good analogy comes from the well-known quote in the movie “Field of Dreams,” said Capt. Ronald Windham, program manager, Kill Chain Integration Branch. “If you build it, they will come. Well, the team has built it. The OMS framework now exists and it is operational, just like the baseball field Kevin Costner built. This next wave of new capability is limitless.”
IFMV has a performance threshold range exceeding 50 nautical miles. Additionally, the system demonstrated interoperability with numerous ground receivers and other aircraft.
“Not only will IFMV provide the F-35B an indispensable warfighting capability four years ahead of schedule, but it will also prove OMS as a viable architecture going forward, one that enables the acquisition community to deliver upgraded capability faster, and cheaper, than ever before,” said DiMaria. “OMS compliance is now a DOD-wide requirement in all new platform projects, and the Special Programs Division will be the first to show its power. It is essential to the way we fight not just for USMC, but now for all.”