Cubic and Full Motion Video Link Within the CNI F-35 System


SAN DIEGO – June 11, 2019

 Cubic Corporation today announced that its Cubic Mission Solutions business division was selected by Lockheed Martin as the Video Data Link (VDL) provider for the F-35 Lightning II Program. Cubic’s VDL capability for the F-35 will significantly increase the aircraft’s combat capability and is an essential capability to the overall F-35 follow-on modernization program. 

“We are very pleased to partner with Lockheed Martin to provide a secure video data link capability for the F-35,” Mike Twyman, president, Cubic Mission Solutions. “Our team of protected communications experts have decades of experience supplying common data link systems and we look forward to partnering on this critical program.”

“With our proven track record of managing a program from development through fielding, along with the proven performance of our software-defined radio products including the Nano Multi-band Miniature Transceiver, we are confident in our ability to deliver a low-risk, cost-effective Video Data Link solution with built-in life cycle enhancements,” said James Parys, program director, Cubic Mission Solutions.

Cubic’s offering is a secure and mission-enhancing system that easily fits within the allocated Communications, Navigation and Identification (CNI) subsystem volume. The software-defined, radio-based VDL solution features high-performance processing that can support future live video enhancements, while minimizing size, weight, power and cooling (SWAP-C). Cubic’s solution enables the F-35 to transmit and receive sensor and metadata to and from multiple ground or airborne units.

And on March 1, 2020, it was announced that Elbit has been chosen to design, develop and manufacture the Full Motion Video Data Link (FMVDL) amplifier module for the communications suite of the F-35 Lightning II aircraft.

We can add the following to this Cubic White Paper based on interviews we have conducted with two members of the Cubic Mission systems team. 

In an interview with Vice President and General Manager Bradford Powell, Cubic Corporation’s C2ISR Solutions business, he discussed FMV’s enhanced role within the evolving C2 and ISR infrastructure for the integrated distributed force.

According to Powell, the clear trend line is toward significantly expanding access to imagery and FMV while improving integration between the two:

“We are working to provide context within the full motion video feeds, which will enable the operational user to make tactical decisions more effectively.”

Powell described C2 as moving from a focus on maps to command and control operating from within full motion video. Such focus will require tools that provide context easily used by the tactical decision maker.

As a relatively simple example, Powell referred to how television networks superimpose yellow first-down markers over the video of a football game. Imagine, then, the various data clusters which could be laid down over the full motion video available to the tactical decision maker in his area of interest or the area where he is operating, and one can envision the coming future of video-driven context for C2 at the tactical edge.

The task is to insert relevant tactical data into the full motion video.

“The full motion video–focused C2 environment would thereby evolve to make a broader set of intelligence products discoverable in the video.”

The overall focus is to give the local decision maker much greater context for what he is looking at in the full motion video.

Cubic’s input into the CNI system will allow the F-35 to evolve along the lines suggested by Powell.

James Parys at CMS, the man responsible for the teams working the new CNI capability into the F-35, who is the Director of Platform Communications Programs for Cubic Mission Solutions, a business division of Cubic Corporation provided further details on the Cubic engagement in CNI. Mr. Parys has more than 25 years of experience in program management and business development in the defense, information technology, and computer science industries.

Parys began his career in the U.S. Navy and, after leaving the service, has worked in industry on a variety of C2 and ISR programs.

In his current role, he manages Cubic’s platform-focused communication system program organization, which includes the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and MQ-25 Unmanned Carrier-Launched UAS Video Data Link (VDL) programs for CMS.

As a combat system, the F-35 allows for significant upgrades over time, which is why some commentators’ notion about the F-35’s obsolescence makes little sense when one considers the aircraft’s built-in software and related hardware upgradability.

According to Parys, “We’re providing a set of cards that will integrate into our own segregated element of the CNI rack. It’s basically going to be, for lack of a better term, a rack inside a rack.

“We will take video feeds from other very complex sophisticated sensors onboard the aircraft and communicate informationto other users, whether they’re on other aircraft or on the ground, which they can leverage. Our data link’s primary CONOPSis to support close air support.”

Cubic has developed the ability to put into cards what once took up a lot of real estate and power generation to process the data and then communicate. Cubic is putting technology inside the F‑35 that is battle-tested and matured within other systems operating in the battlespace.

The data fusion on the aircraft is unique and also leverages proven technologies in step with modernization of the CNI function on the aircraft.

In other words, Cubic is harvesting their experience elsewhere and putting it on the F-35 as the aircraft matures and evolves.

They will be able to harvest some of those solutions to benefit universal enhanced capability for an ISR C2 integrated infrastructure, which is evolving for the overall force development of the integrated distributed force.

A key element of the new capabilities Cubic is providing for the F-35 is an ability to pass over the middleman, or to reduce the need to send the data to a processing center which, in turn, sorts through the data and then sends it out to the user.

Cubic is significantly reducing what one might call the tooth-to-tail relationship in the C2 and ISR infrastructure.

Parys said, “We are supplying data directly from the F-35 to the ground combat elements that have not had access to before.

“We will provide very-high-resolution information coming off the F-35sensors directlyto the ground forces.

“With our solution, we’re leveraging other capabilities, such as ISR Processing, Exploitation, and Dissemination (PED)–type capabilities to be able to clean up the video, and enable higher levels of resolution and higher contrast.

“By that I mean, being able to clear fog or see through smoke and share that view to the troops down on the ground, rather than the data having to be back-hauled to a PED station somewhere.

“The troops on the ground receive that data directly, which helps them make better, time-urgentdecisions.”

Effectively, this capability contributes to building an infrastructure that connects the ground combat element to the aircraft’s systems.

The modernized CNI takes abundant visual data and transforms it to shape a more usable data stream that supports combat operations.

Parys added, “We aregoing to reduce the whole timeline of the mission and what they need to do.

“This information can be sent to other aircraft; it can also be sent to other ground units.

“It means taking this advanced sensor in the sky and making its information available for whoever needs to leverage it and use it, whatever their mission is.

“The information will be available at an enterprise level rather than be limited to the traditional single stakeholder to single stakeholder process.”

I have argued elsewhere that one advantage of the F-35 global enterprise for defense companies, and not just the prime contractor, is to provide global users with the experience of working with a variety of companies they might not have experienced before.

This certainly is the case with Kongsberg and its F-35 Joint Strike Missile (JSM), which additionally has led to broader understanding of what their technology can provide to other combat elements.

This was demonstrated when the U.S. Navy adopted a Kongsberg strike missile being coproduced with Raytheon.

A similar positive outcome is predictable for Cubic and its engagement on the F-35.

As users become familiar with innovative processes of incorporating full motion video into a decision-making flow, we will see a demand to replicate such experiences elsewhere for other combat forces.

Parys highlighted: “We’re taking what we’re putting on the F-35 and we’re making it even smaller; fully packaged, but even smaller, and we’re putting it in the hands of users on the ground as well.”