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Sweden Strives for Collaborative Operations

September 2007
By Henry S. Kenyon

 
Sweden’s StriC command and control (C2) system is designed to manage air defense operations with combat aircraft, ground-based radars and other sensor systems. The latest upgrade of the system provides enhanced user interfaces and paves the way for the possible adoption of the Link 16 datalink for full coalition interoperability.
The latest version of the nation’s airborne mission control application is being modified to use multinational datalinks.

The Swedish Air Force is upgrading its command and control systems to become interoperable with NATO equipment. The nation’s primary aircraft and sensor management system recently underwent a major upgrade designed to enhance its capabilities and to prepare it for future operations with alliance and coalition forces.

StriC is a Swedish Air Force system used for controlling fighter jets such as the JAS 39 Gripen and for managing surveillance assets. It can accept multiple sensor feeds from aircraft, ground-based radar and a variety of passive sensors, and it can display them in a single air picture for an operator. The system is highly scalable and supports operations ranging from a small single-user node to a multi-terminal command center.

According to Björn Nordwinger, StriC program manager, Saab Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence Systems, Jarfalla, Sweden, the system currently uses proprietary Swedish military datalinks. He notes that the government wants to move to an internationally accepted system such as Link 16, but it has not yet officially decided to acquire the datalinks. 

The latest iteration of the system’s software, known as StriC 522, includes improvements such as an English man-machine interface (MMI) and a NATO symbol set. Nordwinger adds that Saab has conducted tests with NATO standard datalinks and recently demonstrated a version of StriC with Link 16 capabilities. “It’s no problem for the system to handle Link 16,” he says.

Other upgrades feature a new operator console that works on Linux or Windows operating systems. The Swedish military currently uses Linux on its consoles. The latest version of StriC also includes a new server platform based on the IBM power PC 620 system, which allows the system’s server support to operate in a fully redundant mode. 

The StriC server platform runs the Unix-based AX language. Nordwinger notes that the Unix system operating on the IBM servers is more effective for hardware management than switching to Linux. “The AX is better for handling redundancy because it’s developed together with the IBM hardware,” he states.

Saab also has introduced a short-term conflict alert function designed to notify operators when two aircraft fly too close to each other or are on a collision course. The application also includes a conflict resolution tool designed to separate  civilian and military air traffic  during operations.

StriC entered operational service with the Swedish military in 1998. However, it has evolved over the years, and Nordwinger says that the latest upgrade features hardware and software functions that effectively make it a new system. Besides being in English and containing a NATO reference set, the MMI functions in the StriC 522 system “drop”—that is, installation—includes interface style guides with drop-down menus and options for selecting a variety of new data input devices. He shares that the upgraded version has many of the same operator functions appearing in earlier releases but adds that these applications operate differently with the new interface.

Another recently introduced feature is a multisensor tracker. According to Nordwinger, older versions of StriC used a multiradar tracker that collected and managed data from several radar sources. The multisensor tracker can collect, fuse and manage information from as many as 64 active radar systems and passive sensors to create a single air picture.

StriC is designed to be scalable. The most basic StriC configuration consists of one operator, one server and one console. The largest version of the system can support roughly 40 or more consoles, but he explains that Saab has not determined the maximum number of consoles the system can support. The largest Swedish air force command centers operate only about 30 consoles. “You can scale the system for only one operator, one work space and server, to many servers if you want to have a fully redundant system,” says Nordwinger.

Depending on the type of sensor feeds, a number of radar and communications systems can plug into StriC. The Swedish equipment features two interfaces: an older modem-based application providing radar data and a new system with a SemNet connection to radar data distribution networks. The SemNet links are based on the Estrix data format, which can operate with StriC. Nordwinger notes that the old Swedish radar data distribution system was based on modems operating the Swedish military’s proprietary 200 Protocol. The new upgrade allows the network to operate the Estrix protocol, which can interface with radar stations and compatible sensors.

 
 
The StriC C2 system was developed to direct aircraft such as the JAS 39 Gripen fighter and to receive and manage data from sensor platforms such as the Saab S 100B Argus airborne early warning aircraft.
The Swedish air force’s old command and control system had datalinks compatible with Gripens, but Nordwinger says that StriC uses a format more compatible with the aircraft’s systems. More importantly, StriC’s open software architecture can be easily upgraded and modified. He explains that the Swedish national data protocol is in some ways better than Link 16 but adds that this national data format is not interoperable with systems such as StriC.

The need for a new command and control (C2) system originally was driven by the deployment of Sweden’s Gripen multirole fighters, which began service in the late 1990s. The Swedish air force realized that it required a fighter control system capable of managing data transmissions to and from the aircraft and new types of airborne sensor platforms such as the Saab Argus airborne early warning aircraft. StriC was developed through a close partnership between the Swedish air force and Saab.

The latest version of StriC replaces the old landline-based intercom and telephone network with a voice over Internet protocol radio and telephony system for communications into the command centers. The system also has a simulation application called Strics that can connect to the network. The simulator replicates the StriC operational environment with its multiple sensor feeds. “When you train operators for StriC, you’re using Strics to train the operator. In the Strics simulator, you can fly simulated Gripen, and you can handle all other sensors and interfaces to StriC,” Nordwinger explains.

He adds that Strics is a separate system from StriC. Both systems can interface and operate together over the Swedish military intranet to simulate any StriC center. However, Nordwinger notes that in Sweden when a user is accessing a system in simulation mode, the virtual mission cannot be mixed with real data. “You can choose only simulation and training in an operations center or to operate in a real environment,” he states.

The Strics simulator generates realistic sensor data for aircraft such as the Gripen, air and ground-based radar and other types of sensors and C2 centers. The Strics simulator emulates the entire sensor package feeding into StriC. “When you use Strics, you don’t need to have any other interface connected to StriC when you’re in a training mode,” he says.

The latest version of StriC currently is being rolled out to the Swedish military. Nordwinger notes that half of the nation’s air C2 installations are now upgraded. The remaining systems will be updated by the end of the year with work on one installation possibly extending into 2008. All of the air force’s C2 centers will incorporate the new StriC upgrade for operational use by March 2008.

Web Resources
Swedish armed forces: www.mil.se/?lang=E
Saab Group: www.saabgroup.com