Multi data link processor, the widest response to interoperability

17 December 2019

The widest response in the tactical field when it comes to sharing and interpreting different type of links.
The requirement to share tactical information in real time within air, sea and land scenarios is paramount for Defence Forces worldwide. This is one of the components to allow true Network Centric Operations. To achieve this objective, the military communication system being referenced to in this case is the Data Link. Leonardo is a recognised leader in this field, through decades of research, development and product realisation where this has evolved to a state of capability maturity. Leonardo is constantly innovating and investing in Data Link technologies. The effective and fruitful cooperation with customers, partners and the involvement within NATO working groups, has led to an unrivalled offering being available to global Defence markets. This success is attributed to the profound understanding, adoption and application of the most advanced technologies, utilising both hardware and software to provide a range of solutions for the dismounted soldier to the most advanced platforms such as land vehicles, 5th generation aircraft and all classes and sizes of naval vessels. 

This enabling technology is called Multi Data Link Processor (M-DLP): in these simple four words, it represents the widest response in the tactical field when it comes to sharing and interpreting different type of links, whilst integrating different languages and protocols into a common format, with an ability and implementation that guarantee the highest level of interoperability among warships, aircraft, ground assets and command posts.

However, one can ask, how is it possible to provide full data forwarding capabilities with tools to build a real-time shared common operational picture?

The M-DLP is without doubt the most advanced product available, as it integrates and interprets all of the different formats, languages and "protocols" of the Data Link universe (Link 11 a / b, Link 16, Link 22, JREAP B&C, IFF M5 and VMF), therein achieving a true and full interaction and interoperability. This is in part due to Leonardo and Italy’s involvement and participation in the Data Link Working Group, which develops the standardisation of tactical Data Links within NATO’s framework. One of the leading Nations in Data Link and M-DLP implementation is Finland, and Leonardo is very proud of the fact that the solution it has adopted was designed and manufactured by Leonardo.
Leonardo is also a leading provider of Data Links, particularly in the development of Link 22 within the NATO program NILE (NATO Improved Link Eleven). At the moment about 200 Leonardo M-DLPs operate globally within various Defence Forces.

The interoperability of tactical communications integrated through the M-DLP has for a long time focused outside the boundaries of NATO. This has been a clear aim in order to foster meaningful relationships of collaboration and partnership with a view to being open to allow the transfer of technology and know-how in other markets and countries. 

One of the countries that has been influential and heavily involved in the definition of Data Link criteria for the future is Australia. This is a market where Leonardo, thanks to its presence and leading position on Link 22, plans to launch an Integrated Test Facility and System Integration Acceptance Centre in Melbourne. This follows on from the many years of close collaboration with Australian MoD and Industry and will afford the highest level of customer service, support and de-risking. 
As one of the leaders in defining the criteria, Australia has launched a major campaign for the acquisition of Data Link coverage, which is not insignificant; in fact, it is focusing on an area which stretches beyond the Eurasian chessboard. In Australia’s target there is a real understanding on the know-how for Link 22 features significantly within the M-DLP, and where Leonardo can also provide modem components from its subsidiary in the United States, Leonardo DRS.

In the Australian context, Leonardo's Data Link is in a very strong position, as it has featured over the last few years in the test and evaluation phases. Benefiting from various operational sites throughout Australia, including Melbourne, Perth and Nowra, Leonardo is committed to transferring its technologies and know-how to Australia through a complete knowledge and transfer program. Furthermore, Leonardo has created innovative engineering hubs, helicopter maintenance facilities and specialised avionics and support capabilities, along with system integration and testing facilities in both Eastern and Western Australia through its contracts with the Commonwealth of Australia.

Outside of NATO’s and its remit, Leonardo is pursuing the development of LinkLEO, an entirely proprietary product designed to offer non-NATO countries a very flexible connection capability for interoperability in various scenarios, improving combat management abilities and superior integration and interoperability. One of the most important aspects of LinkLEO is the specific man-machine interface that would allow its use as a stand-alone product.