When defense leaders select technologies to support warfighters in-theater, they need to check a few different boxes to ensure the right solutions are being put into action. This includes reliability, affordability, and adaptability. The goal is to provide technology that addresses the needs of the warfighter, maximizes preparedness and lethality, and minimizes disruption when updates need to be made. A long-standing relationship that exemplifies this dynamic is that between the U.S. Navy and Collins Aerospace, specifically the utilization of the ARC-210 software-defined airborne radio.
Recently, Collins Aerospace reached the momentous milestone of the 50,000th delivery of the ARC-210 to Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) Air Combat Electronics (PMA-209), illustrating a strong and dependable relationship between the organizations. So, what components contribute to the foundation of such a relationship and what can industry and defense leaders learn from it?
We spoke with Dr. Joseph Blank, Director, Tactical Airborne Communications, Mission Systems, at Collins Aerospace, about this news and he quickly pointed to the importance of adaptability and open communication and collaboration. “The ARC-210 program was established in the ’90s with the Department of Defense and has stood the test of time because of our ability to anticipate customer needs and deliver leading comms technologies,” Dr. Blank explained. “And the open lines of communication with the Department were crucial in that delivery.”
Arguably the most differentiating part of the ARC-210 program is the radio’s “future-proof” design that has maintained form, fit, and function over its six iterations. “This approach ensures that regular updates can be made rapidly, and warfighters have the necessary communication and anti-jam technology at their disposal with simple software updates and drop-in hardware replacements,” noted Dr. Blank.
The newest iteration of the radio “brings the latest encryption and anti-jam technologies, as well as integrating next-generation networking waveforms that include the Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) and Second Generation Anti-Jam Tactical UHF Radio for NATO (SATURN),” according to a Collins Aerospace press release.
According to Dr. Blank, reliability and ease of upgrade will continue to be prioritized factors in maintaining a strong relationship with the Department of Defense and effectively delivering on their communication needs. This is especially important as bandwidth needs grow in theater and the battlespace becomes more contested and congested. Dr. Blank also explained that the ability to field new or upgraded waveforms quickly points to a clear need for an open systems architecture (OSA), another contributing factor to ongoing innovation throughout the battlespace.
“As the market leader in airborne communications, Collins Aerospace remains committed to bringing tomorrow’s technology to the warfighter today,” said Ryan Bunge, Vice President and General Manager, Communication, Navigation and Guidance Solutions in the formal announcement. “We’re proud to hit this delivery milestone, continuing our legacy of providing our military and allied nations with reliable communications when it matters most.”