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Air Force Demonstrates 'Smart Tanker' Concep

Air Force Demonstrates 'Smart Tanker' Concept

Eglin Air Force Base, Florida -- (AFPN) October 24, 2002 -- The Air Force moved one step closer to achieving its 'smart tanker' vision Oct. 23 when the first Roll-on Beyond Line of Sight Enhancement, or ROBE, pallet-equipped tanker successfully relayed communication data while flying from here to Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass.

Right after Sept. 11, 2001, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John P. Jumper stated the need to move faster toward network-centric warfare and described a vision of using air refueling tankers as airborne "nodes" of a warfighter communications network.

One of the goals for Air Force transformation is the integration of military assets. The "smart tanker" expands the air refueling mission to one of communications platform. The general directed the transformation effort to increase the use and effectiveness of the tankers that are "always there," close to danger zones or flying intercontinental routes as part of Air Mobility Command's airbridge.

During the Oct. 23 flight, the Air Force demonstrated its ability to connect the beyond-line-of-sight with the line-of-sight Air Force by relaying data from the KC-135 ROBE. ROBE translates and extends the range of communications that will allow all warfighters to have the same situational awareness, whether en route, engaged or air refueling. Aircrews then have the same operational picture.

ROBE will become a vital part of a global network to provide critical data to warfighers more quickly for faster decision-making and time sensitive engagement of critical targets. This translates directly to information superiority on the battlefield.

ROBE is the first in a family of Scalable, Modular, Airborne, Relay Terminals, or SMART, that will grow in capability with the availability of software programmable radios and advanced antennas. SMART terminals will reside on tankers and will be suitable for other platforms including unmanned and ground- or sea-based vehicles.

Initially, ROBE will be a data relay that will allow Line of Sight/Beyond Line of Sight communication among members of the network. The primary objective is to connect battle directors in the Air and Space Operations Center to those communicating in theater or en route.

Dr. James G. Roche, secretary of the Air Force, endorsed ROBE in March, calling for "no more vanilla tankers." Members of the Air Force Command and Control, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Center at Langley AFB, Va.; Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom AFB, and Air Mobility Command worked as a team to transform the smart tanker vision into reality. By May, the Air Force will field the first ROBE-equipped SMART tanker and complete delivery of the remaining 19 palletized systems and 39 modified aircraft by next fall.

(Courtesy of AMC News Service)

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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).