Multifunctional Information Distribution System (MIDS) Program Case Study

by Dan Gonzales, Daniel M. Norton, Myron Hura

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The case study highlights the promises, pitfalls, and programmatic complexities of a cooperative initiative to achieve datalink interoperability among coalition forces at several levels. The Multifunctional Information Distribution System (MIDS) program — a U.S.-led international development program of Link 16 data communications terminals — is likely to present challenges to the U.S. Air Force and the MIDS International Program Office as it moves into the production phase. MIDS is important to the interoperability of NATO and allied air forces in future military operations, and its case study shows the advantages and disadvantages that can arise in coalition development. Disadvantages include potential longer schedules and greater costs than comparable U.S-only programs. Advantages include the transfer of technology and joint manufacturing agreements that lead to interoperable data communications and associated operational benefits. Whereas MIDS holds significant promise for the Air Force, it also possesses programmatic risks for both the F-16 and F-15 upgrade programs because of the linkage to avionics upgrade programs. If the MIDS program can be managed effectively in the production phase and MIDS platform integration issues are addressed, Air Force Navy, Army, and allied participation in the MIDS program will substantially enhance the interoperability of U.S. and NATO forces.

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