Advanced aircraft detection to prevent 'friendly fire' mishaps

May 29, 2013 at 8:16 PM
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WASHINGTON, May 29 (UPI) -- An advanced aircraft identification device developed by BAE Systems for the U.S. Air Force will help prevent "friendly fire" incidents that cost lives and cause damage or loss involving defense equipment.

A $34 million contract awarded to the company will equip the U.S. Air Force with BAE System's Mode 5 Advanced Identification Friend or Foe system. AIFF is used to identify and track military aircraft, allowing the armed forces to take quick decisions about an approaching craft in combat situations.

BAE Systems said the AIFF system was a response to the need for "secure and reliable line-of-sight identification to distinguish friend from foe during missions."

The system is designed to be adopted by allied forces outside the United States as well.

"The system allows the warfighter to rapidly differentiate between friendly and potentially hostile forces well beyond a pilot's visual range," BAE Sytems' product line director for identification and processing solutions Sal Costa said.

The system was developed as an enhancement to older, less capable "identification friend or foe" technology. It increases identification capability through the use of secure message and data transmission formats.

The improvements on previous systems in use in the U.S. and allied armed forces include increased security and enhanced algorithms, as well as upgraded key management, interoperability, and supportability.

Defense research and development has battled with the challenge of how to minimize accidental hits on friend forces.

Early IFF technology used during the World War II aimed to reduce "fratricide" incidents involving U.S. and allied forces during that and subsequent conflicts.

Increasingly, IFF technology has evolved into an electronic questions-and-answer system composed of interrogators that ask questions and transponders that provide responses.

After winning the new contract, BAE Systems says it will provide its enhanced AN/APX-125 Mode 5 Combined Interrogator Transponders to the U.S. Air Force and the European participating air force partners.

BAE Systems was the first U.S. Department of Defense contractor to receive National Security Agency Mode 5 certification, which is required for use on military platforms.

Work on the contract is expected to be completed by 2015, BAE Systems said.

Conventional IFF works with secondary surveillance radar systems used in air traffic control that not only detects and measures the range and bearing of aircraft but also requests additional information from the aircraft itself such as its identity and altitude.

Unlike primary radar systems that measure only the range and bearing of targets by detecting reflected radio signals, SSR relies on targets equipped with a radar transponder responding to each interrogation signal by transmitting a response containing encoded data.

The new BAE System aims to make the identification faster, more secure and efficient.

Security analysts say advances in technology have opened the area to deception, which is often hard to detect.

Recent discussions at annual National Aerospace and Electronics Conferences and other security seminars cited uncertainties in existing IFF technologies and their limitations, inherent error sources and robustness to jamming and interference.

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