CONTENT PREVIEW
C4iSR: Air

French Air Force matures digitally aided CAS system

02 December 2016

The French Air Force is shortly to have a fully networkable digitally aided close air support (DACAS) system.

According to Colonel Olivier Aribaud, Director of Operational Studies at the French Air Force Air Warfare Centre (Centre d'Expertise Aérienne Militaire: CEAM), who spoke at the Omega CAS Conference held in Reading in November 2016, the ALLIANCE (Applicatif Logiciel Interopérable d'Aide Numérique sur Calculateur Embarqué) DACAS suite will achieve its initial operating capability in 2017, the last elements having been certified during Exercise 'Bold Quest 16.2'. This was a 15-nation interoperability exercise staged between 17 October and 3 November in the United States, with links to simulation centres in Denmark, France, and the UK.

ALLIANCE has three tiers, covering the joint terminal attack controller (JTAC), supporting aircraft, and the headquarters/tactical operations centre (TOC). The first two of its building blocks, known as ALLIANCE Sol (essentially a laptop linked to a Harris AN/PRC-117F V/UHF radio for the use of JTACs) and ALLIANCE DEC/SCA (a kneepad or bespoke cockpit display for fastjet aircrew) have in reality been in operational service in a basic form for the best part of a decade.

Schematic of the French Air Force's ALLIANCE DACAS communications laydown. An inhibiting factor towards fuller integration in French air-ground operations remains the differing communications security standards applying to ALLIANCE and the French Army's regimental battle management and fire support networks - such as SIR. (French Air Force)Schematic of the French Air Force's ALLIANCE DACAS communications laydown. An inhibiting factor towards fuller integration in French air-ground operations remains the differing communications security standards applying to ALLIANCE and the French Army's regimental battle management and fire support networks - such as SIR. (French Air Force)

The origin of ALLIANCE can be traced back to 2006 and the start of an experimental development between personnel from CEAM at Mont de Marsan and CPA 10 (Commandos Parachutistes de l'Air), the air force special operations unit at Orleans, aimed at improving the speed and precision of CAS engagements. The chosen solution, dubbed SCARABEE (Système de communication aéroterrestre de restitution, d'acquisition et de bibliothèque embarquée évolutif), involved the provision of computer terminals incorporating a library of data and stored geo-referenced target imagery (maps and/or imagery drawn from satellites or on-board sensors) to both the aircrew and supported JTACs. This gave them a common visual reference on which to share tactical situation information, using standard nine-line CAS data messages exchanged machine-to-machine via improved data modems (IDMs) linked to narrowband digital radios.

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