Paris 2011: Rockwell Collins delivers first software-defined ARC-210 radio

 - June 21, 2011, 5:20 AM

When Rockwell Collins officially celebrated the first full-rate production delivery of its ARC-210 RT-1939(C) Generation 5 radio to PMA 209, the air combat electronics program office of the U.S. Naval Air Systems Command in late April, it marked a milestone. The handover was significant in that the fifth-generation ARC-210 “is the first airborne software-defined radio to hit the market,” said Troy Brunk, Rockwell Collins senior director, Airborne Communications Products. Just a week earlier, PMA 209 completed a review that found the Gen5 radio meets requirements, making it available for procurement by fleet users under the Navair production contract.

The ARC-210 Gen5 radio is a multi-band, multimode receiver-transmitter operating in the V/UHF frequency range, providing extended coverage from 30 to 941 MHz for military and public service radio bands. Rockwell Collins has delivered more than 30,000 ARC-210 radios used on 182 platforms since the start of the product line in 1990. The radio has evolved over successive generations with new capabilities added through software updates.

The Gen5 radio features a software-defined communications architecture supporting multiple waveforms and embedded programmable cryptography, the first military airborne transceiver to do so, according to Rockwell Collins. It will support insertion of tactical secure voice, integrated waveform, combat net radio and soldier radio waveform capabilities.

“The ARC-210 Gen5 radio is the first-to-market solution capable of providing networking and modern cryptographic functionality that the U.S. military needs for its airborne platforms,” said Bruce King, Rockwell Collins general manager of Communications Products. “It provides a clear pathway for the Department of Defense to acquire an affordable, reliable and secure networking solution for any type of aircraft.”

Brunck said Rockwell Collins already dominates the UHF airborne market space, with the ARC-210 representing “the de-facto standard radio” of the U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force. The company also supplies some radios to the U.S. Army and U.S. Coast Guard.

It currently is supplying mainly the fourth-generation ARC-210 RT-1851(C) radio, known as “The Warrior,” to the U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force, as well as some third-generation radios. Eventually, production of the fourth-generation radio will begin to ramp down, Brunck said. Initial platforms expected to implement the Gen5 radio, a form-and-fit replacement for existing radios, are the MH-60 helicopter, V-22 tiltrotor and F/A-18, F-15 and F-16 fighters.

The company expects to deliver about 300 Gen5 radios this year, including 90 low-rate initial production (LRIP) models. Of those 90, 20 were delivered to PMA 209 and 70 to PMA 213, the naval air traffic management systems program office. PMA 213 is running the joint precision approach and landing system (JPALS) program. Through JPALS, which is comparable to the civilian GPS local area augmentation system, aircraft will receive differential GPS corrections from a shipboard station via datalink, providing U.S. Navy aircraft carriers with all-weather landing capability. Rockwell Collins is implementing the airborne UHF datalink for JPALS in the ARC-210 Gen5 radio.

In September 2008, Raytheon was awarded a $233 million contract for the JPALS system development and demonstration phase, heading a team including Rockwell Collins, Northrop Grumman and SAIC. Raytheon is performing the shipboard integration piece of JPALS.

Brunck said Rockwell Collins anticipates a contract from Navair for the airborne piece of JPALS. First software delivery would be in July 2012, allowing further development and testing of airborne and shipborne links. The system tentatively would be integrated into the fleet in fiscal 2014.