During the 1999 Operation Allied Force, the Rapid Targeting System (RTS) sent target information and imagery directly to the cockpit of F/A-18 fighter aircraft. The aircraft receive RTS target information through the AWW-13 video data link pod. The pilots can view printed messages, charts, U2 photos, and even video from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) currently on station. The aircraft use the imagery to mission-plan enroute when retasked. Once the target packages were constructed, a high-bandwidth land line was used to transport the package to a geographically separated communications relay site where it was uplinked to specially modified AN/AWW-13 pods on the F/A-18 aircraft. Once uploaded, the back seat weapons officer on the aircraft could cue, review, and mission plan using the information provided in the target package.The Standoff Land Attack Missile-Expanded Response (SLAM-ER) missile navigates with its GPS/Inertial Navigation System (INS) toward the target location. It can also receive midcourse updates from the F/A-18 aircraft via the AWW-13 data link pod. These quick-reaction launch and midcourse update features are part of the Target of Opportunity (TOO) mode of SLAM-ER, which can be used against ships at sea or those transiting through littoral areas. The AWW-13 Data Link POD hsa been tested on the Navy's S-3B to support fleet demonstration of S-3B control of the Standoff Land Attack Missile.
The AWW-13 has a Command, Control & Communications: data link mission. The loss of the L band would impair the operations of Navy missile command and guidance telemetry systems, ultimately affecting weapon system testing and training. Navy pilots adhere to the "train as we will fight" policy when training and testing airborne weapons systems. The normal test and training missions are conducted at an altitude of 36,000 feet. At this altitude, the weapons are well within line-of-sight of adjacent, major metropolitan areas. Missiles in the inventory have factory-fixed frequencies of operation within the L band and their expected service life runs well into the next century.The L band is used for proficiency training using various guided weapon systems. The weapon systems and supporting data links that operate in this band include the AWW-13 Advanced Data Link, used in the Walleye and SLAM. The current Navy inventory includes approximately 200 Walleye and 800 SLAM weapon systems. The loss of this band for missile command operations will render Navy systems more susceptible to jamming, and will impair their terminal guidance. Compounding the problem are weapons in development that are planning to use the AWW-13, including the Joint Standoff Weapon Unitary (JSOW Unitary). The AWW-13 requires spectrum for both command and video functions. The Navy identified two options for dealing with the loss of the L band for the weapon and data link systems,: (1) change the frequency band of operation for the AWW-13 and associated weapons, or (2) develop a new digital video link with frequency agility or spread spectrum techniques, and apply advanced data compression techniques. Both of these options would require significant financial and technical investments for development and retrofit of both weapon and pod subsystems. The Navy estimates that development time could conceivably take two to five-years depending on the alternatives considered, with retrofit taking several additional years. Either of these options would also result in a negative impact on weapons acquisition and maintenance budgets, and weapon inventory readiness.
The low cost associated with the reallocation of this spectrum to accommodate missile control systems and precision strike operations will be $67M. This estimate (for option 1) makes the optimistic assumption that suitable spectrum will be available for relocation, that current equipment can be retuned, and that extensive system modifications will not be required in order to operate on new frequencies or to avoid interfering with new commercial users. If replacement of the data link system is required (option 2), development and procurement costs would be approximately $170M.