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June 13, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Boeing (NYSE: BA) and the U.S. Navy have successfully completed an in-flight demonstration of a satellite communications (SATCOM) system that, if implemented, will enable F/A-18E/F Super Hornet aircrews to conduct two-way, secure voice and data communications with other SATCOM-enabled aircraft, ships, ground forces and command centers.

The test took place May 23-30 at the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division's Advanced Weapons Lab at China Lake, Calif., and was conducted by Air Test and Evaluation Squadron VX-31.

The SATCOM system was installed on a Navy EA-18G Growler – a variant of the F/A-18F that includes a SATCOM antenna.

During the flight testing, the VX-31 aircrew conducted satellite-enabled secure voice and data transmissions with a ground-based team at China Lake and at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md.

"Using the existing EA-18G architecture allowed Boeing and the Navy to demonstrate this capability less than 90 days after the initial request," said Mike Gibbons, Boeing F/A-18 and EA-18 Programs vice president. "This approach significantly reduced risk, cost and testing schedule, while demonstrating this important communications capability for the Navy."

The Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet is a low observable, multirole aircraft that performs virtually every mission in the tactical spectrum, including air superiority, day/night strike with precision-guided weapons, fighter escort, close air support, suppression of enemy air defenses, maritime strike, reconnaissance, forward air control and tanker missions. Boeing has delivered more than 480 F/A-18E/Fs to the U.S. Navy.  The F/A-18E/F has logged more than 166,000 combat flight hours supporting operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Source: PR Newswire (

Iridium to Revolutionize Global Air Traffic Surveillance With the Launch of Aireon


June 19, 2012

For the first time ever, air traffic management agencies around the globe will be able to continuously track aircraft anywhere in the world. Aireon LLC, a planned joint venture announced today by Iridium Communications Inc. will make this transformation possible.

Aireon will deliver this revolutionary surveillance capability to Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) around the world and their commercial airline customers through a planned joint venture between Iridium and NAV CANADA with support from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and suppliers Harris Corporation (NYSE:HRS) and ITT Exelis (NYSE:XLS). NAV CANADA, whose participation is subject to the completion of formal agreements in the near future, intends to be Aireon's first customer. Aireon will enable fully global and continuous space-based monitoring and control of aircraft, even over oceans and remote regions where it is not currently possible.

Aireon's service will use space-qualified Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) receivers built into each of the 66 satellites in Iridium NEXT, Iridium's second-generation satellite constellation, to deliver this transformational capability. Iridium NEXT satellites are scheduled to launch from 2015 to 2017, and will provide this capability as the new satellites are commissioned, with full service expected by 2017. Aireon's new offering will enable commercial airline operations to be more efficient, safer and more environmentally friendly.

Today the world is divided into Flight Information Regions where ANSPs safely manage aircraft within their designated coverage areas. For example, across the heavily traveled North Atlantic, the FAA, NAV CANADA and NATS in the UK manage traffic between points in Europe and North America but need to keep aircraft widely-spaced in part because of the lack of radar visibility over oceanic airspace. Aireon will provide complete visibility to all aircraft everywhere, helping ANSPs decrease inefficiencies.

NAV CANADA is ideally suited to be a partner in Aireon since it manages the second largest air navigation service in the world by traffic volume. In its North Atlantic operation, NAV CANADA provides air traffic management for 1,200 flights per day — the busiest oceanic airspace in the world. NAV CANADA operates one of the world's most advanced oceanic air traffic management systems, and has been a pioneer in the use of ADS-B over remote areas and now into the North Atlantic through ADS-B ground stations over Hudson Bay, the Eastern Arctic and Greenland.

"I am excited that Iridium will once again be able to use its unique global satellite network to expand connectivity beyond the limitations of ground-based systems," said Matt Desch, CEO of Iridium. "Just as we opened the world of personal communications far beyond the ten percent of the Earth's surface that is covered by terrestrial networks, we are now extending the reach of land-based aircraft tracking systems. This is a big milestone for commercially hosted payloads and it will be a ground-breaking use of Iridium NEXT. Iridium is the only company with the capability and reach to enable this, and we are thrilled that our service will make air travel more efficient and safer. Aireon is truly revolutionary."

For Iridium, Aireon is the product of its multi-year commitment to establish an innovative use of the hosted payload capability that will be available on Iridium NEXT. The ADS-B 1090 MHz Extended Squitter (ES) receivers on every Iridium NEXT satellite will complement ground-based air navigation systems currently in use by seamlessly relaying, in near-real time, position and status information of aircraft flying over oceans, poles and remote regions to air traffic controllers on the ground. This new capability will extend the benefits of current radar-based surveillance systems, which cover less than 10 percent of the world, to the entire planet. The Iridium NEXT constellation, a low-Earth orbiting (LEO) system of inter-linked satellites, is the only system that will be able to seamlessly provide ADS-B coverage globally.

"We have pulled together a world-class team of experts in air traffic management and communications to make this venture possible," added Don Thoma, president and CEO of Aireon and an Iridium executive vice president for more than a decade. "By bringing together Iridium, NAV CANADA, Harris and Exelis, Aireon will represent unparalleled experience in developing and deploying advanced air traffic surveillance systems. Together, we will create a very unique and important service, and we are poised to help the aviation industry evolve to new levels of efficiency and safety."

Multinational mandates already require commercial aircraft to be fitted with ADS-B transmitters. Given that such upgrades are already underway (and required to be completed in U.S. airspace by 2020 as part of the FAA's NextGen initiative), Aireon will enable air carriers to maximize returns on billions of dollars in aircraft avionics upgrades they are already making without the need for any additional onboard equipment. They will benefit from improved climb profiles, more flexible routing, and more efficient use of airspace — saving substantial fuel and time on oceanic routes.

"NAV CANADA and other ANSPs around the world have made significant progress in our efforts to enhance flight efficiency in oceanic airspace using today's technologies and procedures; however, there are still significant limitations due to the absence of viable surveillance over most of the world's oceans," said John Crichton, president and CEO of NAV CANADA. "These limitations ultimately waste fuel and increase carbon emissions, despite the best efforts of air traffic services personnel. Aireon will enable a quantum improvement. For that reason, NAV CANADA aims to be a major user of this new ADS-B capability, starting with the busy North Atlantic airspace. Furthermore, we feel that this Iridium innovation is so important to the future of air traffic management — with significant transformative potential — that we have decided to become a partner in this venture, subject to the completion of formal agreements."