MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif. (Nov. 16, 2005) -- Crew
and pilots from the National Aeronautics and Space Administrationtested a potentially revolutionary piece of equipment over the skies ofMarine Corps Air Station Miramar Nov. 16.
The Air Force and NASA paired up to perform the developmental test of the Battlefield Airborne Communications Node.
The BACN will be used to relay data and voice communication betweenpilots flying combat and support aircraft and troops on the ground fromall branches of the service.
"Today the Marines and the joint forces are having a difficult timesharing digital and voice information with each other," said Air Force2nd Lt. Brad Powell of Hanscom Air Force Base's electronics systemscenter. "We are flying an airborne gateway that will allow the forceson the ground to share data while bridging voice and data systems."
With its 122-feet wing span, the 70-foot-long post-World War II WB-57is capable of climbing to an altitude of 65,000 feet, making it anideal airplane to test the BACN.
"The plane is used by NASA to check the weather at 60,000 feet," Powelladded. "Because it can fly so high we are using it to test ourcommunications payload."
Andy Roberts, NASA test pilot and BACN program manager, flies the WB-57for missions ranging from communications testing to weather inspections.
"We use the aircraft to develop new sensors that are used by theDepartment of Defense and the science world," Roberts said. "The BACNis a sensor being built in San Diego, so it makes it easier to relayinformation back to the company about how the testing is going."
Roberts added that most testing is done at their base in Texas, but this time it was different.
"Because the sensor is being built here, Miramar was nice enough tohost us during our testing," Roberts said. "The weather here is perfectfor us - clear skies, no rain and the sun is out. These make forperfect conditions compared to what we have in Texas."
Powell added that testing the sensor at Miramar gives the Marines alittle bit of an edge when it comes to using the new technology.
"We can talk to a Marine on the ground through his radio, anotherMarine on his cell phone and stream data to other computers from ourradio system," Powell said. "The Marines are getting a first-handexperience with all this."