At ESD, impressive new systems are nearing deployment—and even more impressive ones are in development.
This a time of remarkable progress for the Electronic Systems Division at Hanscom AFB, Mass. Pushed by favorable budget and technology trends, as well as by the urgency of national priorities, ESD is moving swiftly toward the next era in command, control, communications, and intelligence (C3I).
The division fairly throbs with activity, much of it on systems ready for or approaching operational deployment. An extraordinary number of programs are in advanced stages of acquisition.
Last month. ESD awarded a full-scale development contract for airborne terminals for the Milstar satellite communications system. Milstar is the Defense Department’s top C3 priority. Vastly improved radars—ranging from phased-array replacements at Ballistic Missile Early
Warning System (BMEWS) sites to ultralow sidelobe antennas for tactical use—are coming on line. Fragile communications links are being superseded by new networks less vulnerable to degradation or destruction.
The final E-48 National Emergency Airborne Command Post (NEACP) aircraft was delivered in January. Action is under way on a command and control system that will finally rescue the Military Airlift Command from the age of grease pencils.
The United States and Canada have agreed to cooperate on modernization of the long-neglected North American air defense system. ESD’s most heralded product since the 1950s, the E-3 AWACS, is about to become even better. And now that the Air Force and the Army have settled their differences about definition of the JSTARS tactical battle management system, ESD is pursuing that development with special vigor.
ESD’s budget for FY ’85 with foreign military sales factored out, is just over $3 billion—more than double the division’s level of funding in FY ’79 and up by $542 million since the FY ’84 budget.
Sources of the Surge
In part, the surge reflects the unprecedented appreciation for C3 in recent years. best exemplified in the priority accorded it in the strategic modernization plan announced by President Reagan in 1981. It is also a consequence, however, of the maturing of programs and technologies—particularly computational technologies—that have been in development for some time. A third factor driving the surge is the broad-based Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) research effort. Battle management and command and control are critical to the feasibility of SDI. As ESD works on these problems in support of SDI, it will concurrently advance the general state of the art in military electronics.
“SDI pushes battle management as far as you can push it—in processing, in computers. displays. fusing of data, artificial intelligence, and more.” says Lt. Gen. Melvin E Chubb. Jr., ESD Commander. He predicts sweeping gains in tactical applications, for example, from “all the spinoff that SDI is going to give us in battle management.”
ESD and its advanced research arm. the Rome Air Development Center (RADC), have been pioneers in such technologies as artificial intelligence, battlefield data fusion, and distributed command and control. Much of this work is still in the test-bed or laboratory demonstration stage. but its incorporation into operational systems is no longer the distant goal it once was.
Col. Carl G. O’Berry, RADC Commander, says that the next few years will see demonstrations of battle management capabilities that are “absolutely amazing.”
The Department of Defense Software Engineering Institute—the first new federal contract research center to be set up in decades—has just been established at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh. ESD will act as executive agent to oversee its functioning. This is a major step toward addressing the chronic software problems in military R&D. Meanwhile, the day is approaching fast when machines will take over much of the software-writing burden—and do it better than humans do it now.
Thus, ESD is engaged simultaneously in seedtime and in harvest, and the outlook is for a bumper crop in both fields.
Battle Management Initiatives
There is, of course, some overlap between seedtime and harvest, since force modernization is often a matter of modifying current systems rather than building all-new ones. The E-3 AWACS, which has been retrofitted with one improvement after another, is an example of this. In fact, General Chubb says, ESD thinks that an evolutionary, building-block approach is best for C3I
systems, which have always been tough to define completely at the beginning of an acquisition.
And since the basic tasks of battle management are much the same, regardless of level of conflict, some technologies now in early development could find a variety of operational applications, perhaps a lot sooner than someday.
The Optical Disk Jukebox, developed by RADC, is a prototype for packing vast amounts of data into a compact space and retrieving it quickly. This device stores ten trillion bits of data on 128 disks, and any bit in the box can be called up in less than six seconds. The throughput rate is fifty million bits per second. Within the next five years. RADC hopes to shrink the Jukebox to about 150 pounds without loss of capability. That would allow it to be deployed on aircraft. RADC has just taken delivery of the second Jukebox, its first one having been yielded up to NASA, which had pressing operational need for it.
Both RADC and ESD’s development planners at Hanscom are working on the growing problem of difficult-to-detect targets. The expectation is that low observables, or Stealth-like features, will be a characteristic of many airborne platforms of the future.
One of RADC’s leading efforts in this regard is the Advanced Airborne Surveillance Radar (AASR) program leading toward design and development of “a conformal array active radar with emphasis on detection and track of low-observable targets in a severe jamming environment.”
The Atmospheric Surveillance Technology (AST) program was begun about six months ago by ESD Development Plans. It is to demonstrate technologies and build an architecture for detecting air-breathing craft, with emphasis on “detection and tracking of low-signature targets, to include air-launched and sea-launched cruise missiles.” AST could have ground-based, airborne, or spaceborne applications.
In the view of Gary Grann, technical director for Development Plans, the thrust in surveillance of low-observable targets will be toward combining and fusing inputs from multiple sources, including radar and other traditional technologies, rather than reliance on some single exotic sensor.
Until now, it has not been technically possible to exploit sensor information fully. As an example of what is feasible. however. Mr. Grann points to the “Analyst” test-bed being demonstrated by MITRE Washington. “Some of the preliminary work indicates that with as low as twenty percent of the battlefield observables, you can very clearly determine what units are there, their disposition. and so on. This is not using way-out sensors. This is with sensors and observables we’re going to have with the systems we’re developing now.”
Another promising area of inquiry is finding new options for beyond-line-of-sight communications. Today, military C3 is extremely dependent on satellites for such networks. Satellites are expensive and limited in the volume they can support. In addition, backup channels are desirable because satellites have vulnerability problems. Two interesting schemes are under investigation.
The Meteor Burst Communications program looks at bouncing signals off meteor trails rather than off the ionosphere. There are ample meteor trails at any time high in the atmosphere, and other federal agencies have been using meteor burst for some time for such functions as monitoring snowfall accumulations. It is only recently, though. that advances in data rates, signal processing, and other technology made this approach suitable for military application. A big question to be answered is how a nuclear-disturbed environment would affect meteor burst communications. Disturbance of the ionosphere, should a nuclear exchange begin, is one of the several endurance problems afflicting existing strategic communications.
ESD is also reevaluating high frequency F)communications, once scorned by the military as unreliable and difficult to use. Now it appears that many of HF’s shortcomings can be resolved by new technologies in networking, signal processing, and adapting to changing path qualities. ESD is currently examining major command requirements for beyond-line-of-sight communications, with the idea that HE can satisfy some of them.
About half of ESD’s acquisition budget is spent on strategic C3 programs—the development of systems to provide warning and attack assessment and communications that will continue to function under nuclear assault. “To preserve the deterrent value of US strategic Forces, General Chubb says. it is essential “to make sure the Soviets know we have that survivability of command and control so they don’t feel they might be able to disrupt it.”
The lead strategic program is. of course, Milstar, the Military Strategic and Tactical satellite communications system. It will furnish secure, jam-resistant communications in both voice and data formats and can be employed at any level of conflict. ESD’s piece of the action is to acquire all airborne terminals and some selected ground terminals for Milstar. Selection of a dual-source contractor team for lull-scale development should have taken place by the time this appears in print. Anthony D. Salvucci, ESD’s deputy assistant commander for strategic systems, says the first flightworthy prototype terminals will be ready in late 1987 or early 1988.
Survivable communications will be ensured by the Strategic Air Command Digital Network (SACDIN) and the Ground Wave Emergency Network (GWEN). SACDIN, already in production, is a secure teletype system to transmit printed message. It replaces obsolete equipment now in use. GWEN, on the other hand, is intended to provide very secure. EMP-hardened communications through a proliferation of radio tower relays. It will carry low data-rate messages over low-frequency ground waves. The full-up system will have hundreds of nodes and numerous alternate transmission paths, s any enemy would have to take out a substantial number of towers to put GWF.N off the air. An interim GWEN capability, termed Thin Line Connectivity, will be completed in 1986.
Initial contracts have been let for WIS, the Worldwide Military Command and Control System Information System. This program will replace computers and core software for WWMCCS, which is a confederation of data and communications links designated for use by the National Command Authorities in wartime. WIS will employ Ada, the standard Defense Department programming language.
ESD is replacing. almost totally. the network of radars that warns against attack by ballistic missiles, submarine-launched missiles, and bombers.
The new BMEWS radar at Thule, Greenland, is undergoing development test and evaluation and is scheduled to be operational in 1986. Work will begin soon after on a new radar for the Fylingdales BMEWS site in the United Kingdom. Phased-array systems will replace outmoded conventional radars at both locations. The Fylingdales radar will have three faces, which allows 360-degree scanning. while the Thule system will be dual-faced.
Two new Pave Paws installations are under construction. The one at Robins AFB, Ga., will be finished in November 1986 and the other, at Goodfellow AFB, Tex., in May 1987. Testing of the radars will begin subsequently. Pave Paws is designed primarily to detect sea-launched missiles, but has a number of collateral missions. The two operational Pave Paws radars on Cape Cod and in California are being upgraded to provide coverage at greater ranges and against smaller targets. The upgrade features are built into the two new radars.
The first of four Over-the-Horizon Backscatter (OTH-B) radars for long-range aircraft warning will be completed in Maine in 1987. OTH-B, which uses very long linear arrays and beams its signals off the ionosphere, will eventually be placed at four sites covering all transoceanic approaches to North America.
On watch for aircraft making a polar approach will be the North Warning System, which will replace the radars tithe current Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line with thirty-nine unattended and thirteen minimally attended radars. The unattended radars will be designed to operate on their own for six weeks or so, which means a considerable savings in personnel costs—and also less cold-weather wear and tear on personnel.
The feasibility of radars that operate with limited human service will be demonstrated by ESD’s Seek Igloo program, which updates Alaskan Air Command radars. That program is now approaching completion, and ESD expects the minimally attended radars to demonstrate a better mean time between failure rate than called for in system specifications.
The North Warning System and OTH-B are major elements in the US-Canadian agreement to modernize the North American air defense system. Canada is paying for forty percent of the North Warning System, and, while the US will fund the entire OTH-B. Canada will contribute to manning of the sites.
Up the AWACS Alphabet
The E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS), operational since 1977, is nearing the end of its production run. The E-3 development program, however, is shifting into higher gear as ESD prepares to upgrade this supremely successful system to handle the smaller targets and intensified countermeasures it must contend with in the future.
ESD has proposed a $425 million Multistage Improvement Program (MSIP) for the E-3 over the next five years. It seems likely that much of this will be approved because AWACS has repeatedly proved its value and now enjoys a good reputation with national policymakers.
“The AWACS still has a lot left in front of it,” says Brig. Gen. Charles P. Cabell Jr., ESD’s deputy for airborne warning and control systems. “The threat has changed. We see a trend in decreasing radar cross sections that would make it more difficult for our radar to pick up fighters and cruise missiles. We face more jamming today than we did in 1977. We expect to find more jamming in the 1990s than we do today. The Russians recognize the value of the E-3 and the need to defeat it.”
The E-3A has been upgraded several times already and is about to evolve into B and C models, even before the MSIP. A review of the E-3 inventory and production history helps in understanding the new system alphabet.
The US has thirty-four aircraft. The last one was delivered in 1984, and that procurement is now complete. The eighteenth and final NATO E-3 rolled off the line this spring. The remaining production will be aircraft for Saudi Arabia. The last ten US aircraft and allot the foreign aircraft were or will be built with improved radars and computers. The foreign aircraft, however, do not have several features incorporated into the last ten US aircraft.
• E-3A. This was the original designation of all the AWACS aircraft and will continue to be the configuration of the NATO and Saudi systems. This version has fewer crew stations and radios than do the B and C models.
• E-3B. This will be the upgrade of the first twenty-four US aircraft to near the level of the final ten. The modifications will include five more crew stations, additional radios. color display screens (easier to work with than the original green and amber displays), and improved computers. The original APY-1 radar, however, remains.
• E-3C. This is the new designation of the final ten US aircraft, identical to the E-3B except for an improved APY-2 radar.
All US and NATO E-3s will have the Joint Tactical Information Distribution System (JTIDS) for antijam communications. And with the new computers. General Cabell says. “we can track three times the number of targets we could before.”
The MSIP, according to General Cabell, will enable the E-3 to deliver, well into the 1990s. the capability it is noted for. More antijam communications features will be added. The radar will have “greater detectability,” and there will be passive sensors. too. Other modifications will make the aircraft even more reliable and maintainable than it already is, and it will be able to remain longer on station.
The Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) is ESD’s top tactical program. There are two reasons for its high priority. One is the capability of the system itself, which will provide big-picture radar coverage of the ground war in the same way the E-3 AWACS does for the air war. The other reason is that JSTARS is the most visible symbol of the highly touted pledge of the Army and the Air Force to cooperate in true joint fashion in their prosecution of the “AirLand” battle. Should JSTARS falter, it is widely perceived that the AirLand concept would go down with it.
A year ago. it appeared that JSTARS might become the unintended casualty of a roundhouse family brawl among the services. Congress, and purple-suiters in OSD about how the program should be defined. Since then, the services have agreed on a modified Boeing 707 with the military designation C-18 as the JSTARS platform. That was the Air Force’s choice all along. An idea for separate radars to meet the differing needs of the two services has been dropped, too. A single multimode radar will serve both.
Standing off from the Forward Line of Troops (FLOT), the C-18 will use its radar to scan deep (basically the Air Force’s requirement) and at closer ranges (the Army’s main area of interest) for wheeled and tracked vehicles. The Air Force will convert radar returns into C3I information aboard the aircraft. The Army, with the divergent needs of a great number of users to satisfy—all the way down to fire unit level—will beam raw and processed data to ground stations for conversion and dissemination. Both services, however, will have scope operators aboard the aircraft.
Air Force Col. Harry I. Gillogly, JSTARS program director, and his Army deputy, Col. G. Sidney Smith, agree that they now have “a prime example of a joint program that’s working.”
“Most of our systems are great at intelligence-gathering, but they’re not on-the-spot target attack systems, which is what you get with JSTARS,” General Chubb says. “As soon as this starts flying. people will know it’s the greatest machine we’ve put out in years.”
It has been a good year all around at ESD for joint tactical systems. TRC-170 troposcatter radios, developed as part of the Joint Tactical Communications (TRITAC) program, are now being delivered. This new battlefield radio has sixty channels (vs. twenty-four on older sets) and transmits reliably up to 150 miles (as compared to eighty miles for existing models). The first units off the line, according to Col. Charles E. Franklin, ESD deputy for tactical systems, were rushed to Europe to connect ground-launched cruise missile sites with the Defense Communications System.
The TRC-170 bounces its signal off the troposphere. Thus operating without line-of-sight limitations, it enables battlefield forces to maintain communications, even when separated by unfavorable terrain or hostile troops.
The production line is also going for the Joint Tactical Information Distribution System (JTIDS), currently the best secure antijam data link there is. The plan is to field JTIDS with all four services by 1989. Enhanced JTIDS, now in full-scale development, will add substantial voice capability. The tactical air forces rank Enhanced JTIDS as their number-four priority among all requirements for new systems.
Have Quick II. a follow-on to the jam-resistant radio developed (as the name implies) on a hurry-up basis for tactical air forces, is coming along well. It will have greater jam resistance than the original Have Quick and other improvements, too.
An ultralow sidelobe antenna for the TPS-43 tactical radar is in production. This improvement concentrates the radar beam, reducing the antenna’s -cross section” at the point of emission and making it more difficult for the enemy to pinpoint its location. The TPS-43 is a transportable system, used to detect both friendly and hostile aircraft at ranges up to 260 miles.
Production begins next year on Modular Control Equipment (MCE) replacements for the old 407L “Rubber Duck” Tactical Air Control System, increasing significantly the work load the facilities can handle. An even more capable facility—which will be substantially interoperable with MCE—is forthcoming in the Ground Attack Control Center (GACC) now in development. In these cubical structures, which can be towed about the battle area. F.SD sees a ripe opportunity to distribute some of the working-level command and control function.
The idea of distributed C2 is not new, the E-3 AWACS being one illustration of the concept in everyday use. The possibilities have hardly been exhausted, though. The problem with centralized C2 assets is their vulnerability, which is growing all the time.
“If we’re going to continue to operate with large, concentrated command centers, we have two options,” says Development Planner Gary Grann. “You can remote them out of the immediate battle area, back to a sanctuary, or else you can harden them and bury them.” Where possible. a better solution is to disperse the functions and to build in considerable redundancy among the nodes so that the loss of any single one is not incapacitating.
Ongoing demonstrations and experiments with the RADC Battle Management Laboratory are proving the applicability of distributed communications for both strategic and tactical users. The Battle Management Lab employs a combination of fixed and mobile nodes connected by a packet switch network. It is providing valuable proof of how well airborne relays can reconstitute communications links that have been lost or jammed.
AI and Software
“The most demanding and immediate problem in battle management is the inundation of the decision-maker with information from multiple sensors that are growing in capability, accuracy, and speed,” says RADC’s Colonel O’Berry. “He can find himself up to the eyebrows in bits and bytes of data in a matter of seconds in a crisis situation.”
Over the years. ESD has labored with numerous initiatives for battle data fusion—the ability to combine and arrange information from various sensors rapidly in a way that decision-makers can use it. The results have been limited for several reasons, including the inherent difficulty of combining very precise data with information that is ambiguous or sketchy.
“It’s tough, but we’re gaining on it,” says General Chubb. “The first couple of times we tried to do it. the job was so massive that we couldn’t get there without levels of effort and dollars that couldn’t be afforded. But now we’ve got machines that are a lot faster. We can write software more efficiently. We’ve got a lot more data available in better form.”
In the future, machines will do more of the number-crunching combining of sensor information and the sorting of it into a more refined form. Sheer computational capability is not much of a problem. The question is how well the logic of the operation can be captured in a computer. This is the area where artificial intelligence, the technology by which machines emulate some human decision-making processes, offers such promise. A classic problem in automating battle management functions has been that operations people don’t understand software, and software people don’t understand operations.
RADC is at work on improving man-machine interfaces, with one objective being to enable operations people in the field to interact directly with the software-writing computer. Laboratory demonstrations have shown that people using near-normal language can communicate effectively with machines about the simpler battle management tasks.
A high-payoff application. Colonel O’Berry says. is to cut “the twenty-four-hour frag cycle the operators are typically stuck with. We think we’ve got a way to shrink that down to minutes.” The machine would perform nearly all of the sifting of data—listing of candidate targets, checking for availability of munitions and sorties, identifying refueling needs, and so on—that must be done before the real planning for the air-tasking order can begin.
To advance the general state of the art in artificial intelligence. RADC has formed, in the past year, an AI consortium with neighboring universities. This gives the ESD community two new partner organizations in academia to help with chronic concerns about implementing AI technology. The charter for the Software Engineering Institute says. in part. that “a significant amount of new software technology exists and continues to emerge at a rapid rate from the research and development community, offering the potential to relieve the current software crisis. Unfortunately, very little of this technology is used in practice.”
Robert B. Doane, ESD senior technical director, says the most important job of the Software Institute is “to ensure that this forefront. state-of-the-art technology is transitioned into the services and into the industries that build our systems. By reverie process. knowledge of the difficulties that these organizations have with software will get back into the Institute.”
DoD wanted its newest federal contract research center to establish a connection with the educational world, and Carnegie-Mellon is rated highly in the fields of software and computer sciences. The Institute will conduct some fundamental research and, as its resources permit, provide some direct support in critical programs. The contract creating the Institute was let in November. Mr Doane says that this is the first ever federal contract research center formed on a competitive-bid basis.
Airlift and Intelligence Systems
ESD is addressing with some urgency a number of command and control projects for the Military Airlift Command. “In wartime scenarios, it’s assumed that forty-eight hours after the trouble starts. C-5s are going to land and begin delivering support.” says Thomas P. O’Mahony, ESD deputy for intelligence, C2CM, and support systems. Yet, he adds, MAC has not been provided the command and control tools it needs in a crisis to coordinate its operations smoothly.
Mr. O’Mahony (who, incidentally, is the only civilian deputy commander in AFSC) admits to a special interest in MAC. His son is a security policeman in MAC’s special operations forces.
An automated information processing network, which will link all echelons of MAC to each other and, eventually, to the WWMCCS Information System, will be delivered in FY ’88. The request for proposals to build it goes out to contractors next February. A program to give 300 UHF terminals to MAC to connect airborne and ground users by means of SATCOM is in development. And later this year, ESD will award the full-scale development contract for new radios for MAC.
Air traffic control is one of the deputate’s oldest missions. In 1989, it will field a mobile survivability package that can put an airfield back in business after an attack has taken out its regular facilities. The package consists of a “restoral” control tower, a secondary surveillance radar. a power supply. and vehicles to move it all around.
Also in the works are two new formidable air traffic control radar projects. The candy-striped GPN-22 is being updated for two critical airports in Berlin. The MPN-XX is a replacement for the aging and oversized radars now available for tactical deployment. The current MPN-14. for example, is so huge that a C-5 is required to deliver it—and there are many places where a C-5 can’t go. The MPN-XX can be deployed by C-130.
A good deal of ESD’s work on intelligence and electronic countermeasures systems is classified, but general information on several high-interest programs can be discussed.
The Cobra Judy X-Band. which adds a surveillance dish with better resolution to track single objects, is almost complete. The basic Cobra Judy system is a phased-array radar that monitors Soviet ballistic missile tests from aboard a seagoing ship, and it has been doing a line job of it. “Cobra Judy is collecting even more data than we had contracted for,” says Mr. O’Mahony, who was program director for that system before assuming his present responsibilities. Among its other benefits, Cobra Judy data will assist the SDI effort in developing effective ballistic missile defenses.
The Space Operations Intelligence Center to be acquired for the North American air defense complex at Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado will be designed to fuse data from several sources and produce a meaningful order of battle for space. The result will be far more than a cataloging service. though. “We need to be able to perform damage assessment and answer questions about what has happened in space,” says Mr. O’Mahony. “It’s a big undertaking, but it can be done.” This work is in conceptual development.
At an AEA symposium last year, Martin F. Chen, then the Air Force’s principal deputy assistant secretary for research, development, and logistics, surveyed conceptual and technological advances in electronics and looked ahead to a “golden age in C3I.
Judging from what’s happening at ESD right now, that golden age may have already begun.