Airborne Connections

The Air Force expects to issue a solicitation to industry next month for the development of an integrated command, control, and communications suite that will enable senior US government and military leaders to carry out official duties while airborne in USAF VIP shuttle aircraft. Envisioned is a highly reliable, secure, and integrated package of voice, data, and video equipment that could be used across the Air Force’s C-20, C-37, C-32, and C-40 fleets in a standardized configuration. Currently each aircraft type features it own unique airborne C3 suite, said Mike Mason, a member of the senior leadership C3 system-airborne communications program, or SCP, at Hanscom AFB, Mass. USAF expects to field the first C3 package on a C-37 in 2011. Upgrading the other VIP shuttles will occur during their normally scheduled depot maintenance times, meaning that the installations will run into 2015 or 2016, said Karl Gregor, SCP deputy program manager. The program is using the modified KC-135 tanker known as Test Tanker II, which sometimes serves in a VIP transit role, as a flying testbed for the new C3 package, allowing senior leaders who fly on the aircraft to voice their feedback on the C3 suite as it is being refined. (Hanscom report by Chuck Paone)