Mobile Unmanned/Manned Distributed Lethality Airborne Network (MUDLAN) Joint Capability Technology Demonstration (JCTD), a pre-milestone A activity sponsored by all 4 services and OSD, demonstrated its final Technology Demonstration 2 (TD2) ahead of moving to the Operational Demonstration (OD) phase of the JCTD, at NAS Patuxent River and MCAS Cherry Point between March 17 & 26th.
The MUDLAN networking architecture solution was a prototype of a Naval Tactical Grid, in which current-state (available Government Furnished Equipment) radios were loaned to the effort for four years, to push the limits of current fielded technologies, often using those radios in ways not originally intended by the manufacturer, coupling them with developmental antennas and a network controller, all developed under NAVAIR Small Business Innovative Research contracts from 2017 to 2019. MUDLAN kicked off in 2018 and addressed 6 critical Joint Aerial Layered Network (JALN) requirements which were initially identified in 2011 and had not been demonstrated in a single configuration to date by any of the individual services.
The TD2 tactical edge network architecture consisted of two airborne and two ground nodes, configured with six interoperable networks capable of cross-banding data over the best available link to maximize transport range and capacity of the links. Link-16 was used to provide an initial pointing command to the system to initiate links, after which MUDLAN demonstrated the capacity to transport up to 44 Mbps 130 nautical miles over the horizon between two nodes, and a total aggregate range between the 4 nodes of 250 nautical miles, continuously connected over at least 3 different disparate networks and sharing data between them seamlessly.
NAWCAD provided the Technical Management for the JCTD, Ms. Emily Stump. PMA 266 endorsed the initial SBIR topics for the antennas, and PMA 231 and PMA 268 supported the initial SBIR development for the network controller. The GFE was provided by SOCOM.
The software baseline used in MUDLAN came from a prior PMW150 SBIR to develop a Tactical Troubleshooting Toolset (T3) software that is already transitioning to the fleet and expanding to include additional interfaces. MUDLAN added IP network management to the initial T3 baseline, including the ability to directly control the individual radios and remotely address configuration changes on the airborne nodes from the ground on command.
NAWCAD Surface/Aviation Interoperability Laboratory (SAIL) provided the host venue for the exercise, and critical integration with hosted systems supporting the Fleet Battle Problem exercise hosted out of PAX River by Naval Warfare Development Command (NWDC) which was ongoing at the same time. MUDLAN JCTD provided “data as a service” between a USMC ground force training exercise in North Carolina and delivered the ISR data and personal location data to be displayed locally within the SAIL as a fifth connected node during the event, providing an example of how a non-MUDLAN participating node can receive full situational network awareness without any unique investment into new antennas, radios or hardware, simply by having a common key and the correct routing scheme within the connected systems, and hosting the T3 software on a local machine.
This is considered a key “network of networks” enabler toward the end state Naval Tactical Grid, and transition activities will continue as MUDLAN enters the OD phase and sends the team out to Alaska for Northern Edge 21 Fleet Exercises sponsored by INDOPACOM.