uAvionix has confirmed the successful development of the world’s first Mode 5 Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) Level 2 Broadcast (M5L2B) combined transponder-receiver (CTR). The CTR is being designed as a form and fit replacement upgrade to the AIMS-certified (Mk XIIB) RT-2087/ZPX, the world’s smallest Mode 5 transponder. The upgrade will provide M5L2B receive capability for enhanced Detect and Avoid (DAA) and Situational Awareness in the battlefield, even when interrogations are absent. Despite concurrent processing of transponder and receiver encrypted messages, the CTR can manage this with a single crypto, which serves to reduce the weight and volume impact on the host platform.
The CTR is designed to meet all expected Department of Defense (DoD) key requirements for the Army’s Future Tactical UAS (FTUAS) program. as well as being the first of its kind for any aircraft type, whether uncrewed or crewed. The CTR is capable of processing interrogations as well as M5L2B squitters simultaneously without impacting the performance of either, all while requiring only a single crypto. Its low Size, Weight, and Power (SWaP) and design similarity to the AIMS Mk XIIB-certified RT-2087/ZPX will make for an easy future upgrade for customers already equipped with or planning to integrate RT-2087/ZPX microIFF on a tactical UAS platform.
M5L2B is the latest IFF capability in the NATO toolbox, enabling receivers like CTR to benefit from the high rate, encrypted identification and position messages broadcast from nearby friendly platforms, without the added burden of first having to interrogate them. Similar in concept to civil ADS-B IN, M5L2B IN enhances airspace situational awareness, but does so with greater resistance to spoofing, thanks to rigorous encryption and other security measures. Generally, it’s a mainstay of DAA, and it supports swarming and formation capabilities. Also, as one component of a counter-UAS (CUAS) system, it mitigates fratricide by helping to determine if a nearby target is friendly or otherwise.
Compared with its predecessor, RT-2087/ZPX, the CTR will add AIMS-certified 1090 MHZ ADS-B IN, Mode S Enhanced Surveillance (EHS), as well as concurrent M5L2B transponder-receiver processing. This is in addition to existing product capabilities needed to meet AIMS and NATO IFF requirements for operations anywhere at any time, and FAA Mode S and ADS-B requirements when operating in shared commercial airspace.
CTR AIMS certification is expected in late 2023 or early 2024. Even so, existing UAV platforms can integrate the RT-2087/ZPX now, safe in the knowledge that plug-and-play CTR capability is a future option with no aircraft changes necessary.
Christian Ramsey, President of uAvionix, commented: “By embedding capabilities from our existing ZPX-R receiver into the form factor of our AIMS Mk XIIB-certified RT-2087/ZPX, customers that configured their platform for our microIFF will have a seamless future upgrade to a CTR. Customers using the ZPX in their tactical UAS to meet current operational requirements for FTUAS Increment 1 will be able to meet the Army’s expected FTUAS Increment 2 program requirements without any redesign of their airframe.”