By Arie Egozi
Tel Aviv. Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has selected Real-Time Innovations (RTI), the largest software framework company for autonomous systems, for the implementation of its Operational Avionics Layer (OPAL) system. IAI will use RTI’s Connext to enable more customers use its OPAL system.
IAI’s OPAL serves as the infrastructure for networking connectivity, data sharing and operative actions for air, land and naval forces. By using Connext to manage data communications, IAI is able to help customers in the Defence industry implement new applications in a fraction of the time while reducing operational costs, decreasing development complexity, and enabling faster time to market. In addition, the OPAL application framework built on Connext will readily enable companies to meet Modular Open Systems Approach (MOSA) program requirements.
Under combat conditions, critical variables, such as poor visibility and unpredictable enemy behaviour emphasize why it is vital that war fighter teams must be able to securely and reliably communicate at all times. However, if each friendly force operates on its individual network domain or communication channel, interoperability and joint operations are challenging if not impossible. Without the right technology in place, important data can easily remain stalled in operational silos and not instantly accessible to Command-and-Control (C2) system operators.
Conquering this barrier and introducing real-time interoperability capabilities is critical to securing optimal results from any innovative new operational application that is added to a combat platform. Traditionally, the process of adding these new applications to an airborne platform and achieving full integration could easily take upwards of five to eight years and cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
Shortening these implementation cycles was the primary mission for IAI to develop the OPAL application framework. By implementing RTI Connext, IAI was able to reduce the process of adding applications to airborne platforms from roughly 60 months to just five months. The OPAL decentralized battle management system is used by the Israeli air force and is combat proven. The unique system is currently evaluated by some air forces.
According to IAI, OPAL is an innovative solution that connects between all platforms in the battle arena, manned and unmanned alike. OPAL is based on forming a decentralized communication cloud for all members on the ground, in the air, and at sea, to allow real time information sharing. This allows all members to exchange relevant information in order to achieve a comprehensive operational picture of the battlefield.
OPAL relies on a secure and proven communication network that connects different networks and platforms without fixed base stations. “OPAL is compatible with any platform, including advanced fighter aircrafts, tanks, ships or ground troops.” a company official said.
OPAL solution provides an unprecedented range of proven capabilities and operational flexibility, which allows for optimal utilization of the available resources to maximize effectiveness for a wide range of missions. OPAL is installed in variety of advanced fighters, attack helicopters, refuelling aircrafts, UAVs, ships, Command and Control centres, as well as mobile and fixed base stations.
OPAL provides its users with several significant benefits: Optimized effectiveness in accomplishing mission goals by generating and sharing a Common Operating Picture in real time; providing interoperability of 5th generation fighter aircraft with legacy platforms, maximized utilization of resources and the ability to execute multiple missions within a given timeframe. In addition, the system Improves survivability by sharing threat data with air and ground forces, to avoid entry into danger zones.
Additionally, OPAL also provides enhanced flight safety with the collision avoidance warning indications which alerts pilots of near-collision conditions and provides visual avoidance manoeuvres. This capability has saved numerous lives in recent years.
In a briefing for Raksha Anirveda, IAI explained that one of the key obstacles to interoperability is the challenge of achieving common situational awareness across different forces. Consider this simple example: a soldier sees a threat in the second window of the third building to his left. He uses this perspective to describe the situation to the attack helicopter that will neutralize the threat. The pilot must then interpret the message according to his own point of view – a subjective process, vulnerable to human error. By enabling the sharing of a location, or a video image of the scene, OPAL provides a common and objective operating picture to ground, naval and land forces, enhancing situation awareness and facilitating interoperability.
The company also said that in battle, speed and agility are crucial to gaining a tactical advantage. Unlike other systems available today, OPAL requires no preplanning in order for stakeholders to communicate. The ad-hoc distributed cloud enables real-time data generated by both on-board platform sensors and stationary communication stations to be instantly distributed and shared among different network members, so they can take the necessary action to achieve maximal operational efficiency.
IAI emphasized that when it comes to avoiding collision or projectile attack, 8-10 seconds is simply too long for an airborne entity to wait to receive critical information. When time is of the essence, OPAL’s incredibly high speed and refresh rate ensures minimal delays and instant response.
According to IAI, the current trend to use multiple communications solutions, each tailored to meet the needs of specific projects, users or platforms, results in data silos that prevent interoperability. Implementing OPAL as an overarching, unified layer of communications across naval, air and land forces ensures that all relevant parties can access the available data and see the same operational picture.
IAI explained that OPAL includes an advanced data fusion engine which helps the pilot to extract relevant data from numerous systems, in order to reduce display clutter and improve mission efficiency. So, for example, if a specific target is displayed both within the electronic warfare system and on the platform radar, it will be consolidated into one target, via OPAL’s advanced and customizable logic. In fact, any type of underlying radio solution may be used to establish the physical data link, with OPAL reliably serving as the hub between different communications technologies.
Elaborating further, IAI informed that the unified infrastructure that OPAL provides across different platforms also provides the agility and flexibility to enable additional operational capabilities to be introduced as the need arises, relatively quickly and without incurring prohibitive costs. Being based on open architecture software, OPAL enables this to be achieved independently of the platform OEM, and without the comprehensive end-to-end testing usually required.
-The writer is an International Roving Correspondent of the publication. Views expressed are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of Raksha Anirveda