Wanted, Satellite with Wings

The Air Force is asking industry and academia to brainstorm ways of creating a signal-relay aircraft able to backup, and even take over for satellites if needed. The request for information for the Affordable Aerial Relay solicits ideas for a potential airframe, payload, and integration concepts, short of actual proposals. Satellites are a “limited resource and do not have the capacity to support all of the warfighter’s information exchange needs,” states the RFI posted March 4. Attacks could also degrade or deny satellite communications in future conflicts, it adds, highlighting the need for an “alternate communications path.” The documents stipulated the notional platform must be able to handle remotely piloted aircraft control and sensor data, link air-to-air assets, and translate aircraft datalinks to a command and control hub. Responses will be used to “facilitate acquisition planning,” and should be submitted by March 10, according to the RFI.