Air Force, Navy search for Common Link

Air Force officials plan to award a $275 million contract for software this spring that lets pilots and sailors from the service and Navy better communicate.

The Common Link Integration Processing (CLIP) software will let Air Force and Navy aircraft and ships share information, regardless of whether they have a data link, without using radio communications. "The whole point is that any platform needing to integrate a tactical data link could operate this software on their platform," said Capt. Jim Horne, Air Force program manager at the Electronic Systems Center for the initiative, in a service statement.

The software will operate outside the operational flight program, the application that operates all aircraft systems. This placement will allow Air Force and Navy maintenance employees to more easily and cheaply install and update it, according to the statement.

"We've estimated that CLIP could save the Air Force alone $750 million in installation, integration and sustainment costs, and it will greatly cut down on the amount of platform development costs in order to integrate a tactical data link capability," Horne said.

The CLIP software package will use IP. "This will allow CLIP to function as a bridge between legacy systems and the Global Information Grid," he said.

Air Force officials planned to award the contract this month. But they pushed it back to this spring, said service spokesman Daryl Mayer.

Air Force and Navy officials will install the software in three parts, starting 18 months after contract award.

Increment One will include Air Force B-1B bombers and A-10 attack aircraft and Air Force and Navy MH-60 helicopters.

Increment 2 will include more Air Force and Navy aircraft.

Increment 3 will include Navy ships.

Navy and Air Force officials oversee the program, which they say leads to improved efficiency and management. "This has been a joint initiative from Day One, where the Navy and Air Force collectively put our dollars together to fund this program," said Tom Ryan, who serves as the Navy's program manager in the service's Program Executive Office for Command, Control Communications, Computers, Intelligence and Space. "The Air Force and Navy have worked extremely well together. It's been an excellent relationship."

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