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The present aviation voice communications link has evolved gradually with aviation. It was not originally designed to satisfy its current application as the primary link in military and civil control systems. As a result, as these systems have expanded the communications link has become less adequate. In the future, limitations of the communications link may become the controlling factor in the expansion of aviation. For this reason there is an urgent need for a clear definition of a general data communication subsystem approach for both civil and military application. For this definition to be complete all factors of aviation communication usage must be considered. This paper carefully reviews 1) previous studies and development of civil and military data links, 2) published requirements of different aviation users, 3) evaluation of the future expansion of civil and military requirements, 4) current digital and communications technology, 5) transition from the present system to an improved system, and 6) the economic aspects of system design. From the considerations of this review a specification and approach to a general purpose aviation data communications subsystem is drawn. This approach provides for both voice and automatic communications and can be evolved gradually from the existing voice network.