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Tactical Data Link Translation Made Easy - What It Takes to Get It Right

September 09, 2019 | BY: Steven Horsburgh

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Legacy TDL Gateways Increase Risks on Modern Battlefields

Military organizations around the world rely heavily on tactical data links (TDLs) to securely and reliably share mission-critical information among air, ground, and sea platforms. Because different devices use different TDL types for communications, a highly sophisticated TDL gateway is needed to translate information across all of the various link types. But, there’s a huge disconnect between historical TDL gateway designs and modern military requirements. As a result, TDL gateways that were designed for the way the military operated years ago are an extremely poor fit on present-day, technologically advanced battlefields.

TDL gateways are notoriously difficult and time-consuming to set up and configure. They’re also extremely complicated to operate. These legacy gateways were intended to be used behind the scenes at Air Operations Centers (AOC) and Control and Reporting Centers (CRCs) by teams of highly experienced experts working in a quiet environment. They were not designed to be used by warfighters who are actively engaged in mission activities at the tactical edge of the battlefield.

Today’s warfighters are digital natives who grew up surrounded by technology. They expect ready access to easy-to-use technologies in all aspects of mission activities. These warfighters were trained to execute on their role-related tasks and mission objectives, not to operate ultra-complex radio and computer equipment. And, they cannot possibly operate such equipment while simultaneously engaging in mission activities.

If equipment is not fast and easy to set up and operate in the field, there’s a good chance warfighters will simply leave it behind when they head out on missions. Executing missions without access to vital equipment such as a TDL gateway puts warfighters’ lives and mission success at risk. So does taking the time to try and operate convoluted and difficult equipment at the tactical edge of the battlefield. It seems like an impossible choice to make. But, in the end, warfighters have no choice at all. It simply doesn’t make sense for warfighters to carry the weight of equipment they don’t have the knowledge, skills, or time to operate.

Read the white paper to find out more about:

  • Modern TDL Gateway Requirements
  • Optimal Design Approaches
  • Link 16 Implementation Challenges

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Steven Horsburgh

Author’s Biography

Steven Horsburgh

Director of Product Management & IT

Dr. Horsburgh is the Director of Product Management & IT at the Tactical Communications Group of Curtiss-Wright Defense Solutions. After obtaining his Ph.D. in Physics, he has 30 years of research and development experience designing solutions to complex, large, data driven applications for commercial and military use. He has 12 years of experience with Tactical Data Links software design and development in both engineering and management positions. Prior to joining Curtiss-Wright, Steve worked in satellite communications and data management for the Naval Research Lab, Mission Research Corporation, and ATK and subsequently joined Tactical Communication Group, LLC (TCG) to architect, design and manage agile research and development projects related to Tactical Data Links including Link 16, VMF, CoT, and CESMO. TCG was acquired by Curtiss-Wright in March 2019 and Steve continues to manage R&D, Marketing, and Information Technology projects.

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