How Network for the Sky is offering superior connectivity, speed and range for defence communities

Featured stories - Publication date : 14 August 2019

Who doesn’t want to connect easily, send their message quickly and from anywhere in the world? In modern society, the embedded assumption is that we have the ability to send information and data instantly, so why should it be any different for our modern defence communities?

In defence there is a strong requirement to communicate, send and retrieve information via a secure network. To make this a reality, industry experts at Airbus are creating advanced technology that combines satellite and ground communications, air-to-ground, ground-to-air and air-to-air tactical links, 5G mobile communications and laser connections. Network for the Sky (NFTS) represents the future of military communications, fulfilling the Armed Forces needs to dynamically manage and use a wide range of networks.

Steve Napier, Secure Communications Aero SME says; “The pace of technology development in recent years has been incredible, and NFTS is at the centre of many of these developments. Customers require the best and most economical way to bring these new technologies to fruition while taking into account legacy systems. NFTS is undertaking a series of trials and demos to show the art of what is possible when increasing range and speed of communication…“

Here’s how Airbus NFTS has recently demonstrated communications superiority, speed and range:

1.Testing secure end-to-end communications on an Multi Role Tanker Transport aircraft

Demonstrated wideband communications links between ground force operatives, a fighter jet, MRTT, LEO Satellite and a Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC) successfully sending a video in real time, providing enhanced situational awareness and the ability to receive almost instant instructions from the CAOC. This complex scenario demonstrates real-time operation of secure end-to-end communications across different networks and technologies: ground-air tactical link, air-air wideband link between two aircraft, air-satellite relay and terrestrial networks.

Read more on this demo here: 


2. Successful tests of long-range communications from the stratosphere 

Using an Airbus LTE AirNode, Airbus was able to provide a 30km-wide footprint of coverage for a private and secure communications network, creating a high-altitude airborne cell-site. Flying within the coverage, two drones captured images and 4k video which were transmitted using the AirNode network at speeds between 0.5 to 4Mbps. The AirNode solution is proof of concept for stratospheric UAVs to deliver highly secure communications for airborne, ground or maritime-based operations for several weeks or months at a time.

This generation of long-range communications in the sky allows the creation of persistent secure communication cells to relay information on a variety of different aircraft platforms. Pushing the boundaries in delivering easily deployable communications, this capability will significantly increase operational flexibility during air missions.

Read more on this demo here:


NFTS allows all assets to form an integral high-speed military network, making the modern demand to instantly, securely and safety connect a reality for our military forces.  

By combining technologies in a:

  • resilient
  • secure
  • and highly interoperable mesh network using airborne assets as communication nodes,

NFTS allows ground forces to communicate over greater distances, in a timelier manner, and with enhanced C2.

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