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Seapower EXPO

  • Apr 1, 2014
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NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Of all the services burdened with “disadvantaged platforms,” the Coast Guard is the most disadvantaged of all, said Jay Donoho of Engility Corp

Disadvantaged platforms, Donoho said, are aircraft, ships, boats or other vehicles that lack tactical data links. They don’t have systems able to receive situational awareness and display it on electronic maps showing real time locations of friendly and enemy forces.

The cash-strapped Coast Guard has never been able to afford data links like Link 16, Link 11 or Situation Awareness Data Link (SADL), Donoho said during a presentation at the Sea-Air-Space Exposition April 8.

But the Coast Guard can afford JRE, Engility’s Joint Range Extension data link gateway.

The service recently bought JRE equipment for four helicopters that are part of the air defenses for Reagan National Airport, which serves Washington. And after years of operating without a visual picture of who is in the airspace around the nation’s capital, the Coast Guard helicopters now have electronic maps that mark the locations of airliners, military aircraft — and in one simulation, an intruder that the Coast Guard was dispatched to escort out of the area.

JRE is a solution for budget-constricted times that the other services should consider as well, Donoho said.

Essentially, JRE is software that serves as a translator for the information that is generated by data links such as Link 16 and Link 11, Donoho said. Since it is software, and not hardware, "it is very affordable," he said. Although in the Coast Guard’s case, the JRE package included display screens and processors, since the service did not want to use those already in the aircraft, he said.

JRE is coded in Java, computer language that is compatible with a wide variety of computing devices — from smartphones to enterprise servers and high-end computers. Since it is Java-based, JRE “it will run on almost any processor, including the processors in many military systems, without requiring costly software or hardware integration,” Donoho said.

For example, he said, Engility loaded JRE into a processor aboard an Air Force RC-135 Rivet Joint surveillance plane "and within 15 minutes they were getting situational awareness from around the world."

JRE was introduced in 1991, when a handful of installations were sent to the first Persian Gulf War. Now there are more than 1,300 systems are fielded by militaries worldwide, Engility says.

The U.S. Army, Marine Corps and Air Force are users. The Navy has proven harder to crack, but as budgets grow tighter, Engility hopes to change that. A software license for JRE costs about $45,000, Donoho said. Depending on special configurations, other equipment required and volume discounts, the price may vary, he said.