Advanced Systems Elevate Level Of Cooperation Between Troops

August 2000
By Maryann Lawlor
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Improved information sharing capabilities support various U.S. Army responsibilities.

The battlefield is emerging as a conglomeration of information systems that talk to each other, create a total picture and deliver pieces of a complex puzzle into a comprehensive knowledge base for mission commanders. Operations can vary from conflict to peacekeeping to humanitarian aid, but the requirements are the same—acquire as much information about the situation as possible so the best decisions can be made.

Recognizing that several U.S. Army organizations are developing systems that gather diverse types of information, the service brought together three organizations that are working on different projects to provide a seamless communications flow from the battlefield to the Pentagon as well as among all of the armed forces.

Team C4IEWS—which stands for command, control, communications, computers, intelligence and electronic warfare and sensors—is exploring technologies that collect, process and disseminate information from a range of platforms, from individual soldier systems to advanced airborne systems. The team comprises the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM), the Program Executive Office for Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors, the Program Executive Office for Command, Control and Communications Systems and their industry partners. Primarily located in Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, its military and civilian personnel are combining their resources to leverage their individual expertise.

According to Maj. Gen. Robert L. Nabors, USA, commander, CECOM, the team was the primary contributor to establishing the Army’s first digitized division, the 4th Infantry. Building on this foundation, the group is already taking the next technology leap and designing systems for the 1st Cavalry and III Corps.

Technology exhibits at an event in the Pentagon courtyard showed how far communications technologies have come since the early 20th century. Although cognizant of its roots, the team’s focus today is on evaluating present systems and envisioning the technology of the future. Many of today’s systems are in the prototype stage and used on a limited basis.

Team C4IEWS is examining a range of equipment, including power generation and sources, communication security devices, night vision technology and global positioning systems. Representatives from CECOM’s Commanders in Chief Interoperability Program Office were on hand to explain their role in ensuring that today’s systems can work together and that new equipment is designed to be interoperable from the start.

Other technologies that will be incorporated into today’s forces in the near future include semiautonomous physical security systems, hardware and software that enable telemaintenance and aerial common sensor systems.

Although many of the solutions the team is exploring are designed to facilitate battlefield communications, Team C4IEWS is also examining how technology can address other critical challenges that the Army faces. The mobile detection assessment response system (MDARS) tackles security problems in warehouses, offices and outdoor areas while reducing the personnel requirement.

Each year, the U.S. Defense Department must account for inventory discrepancies worth millions of dollars. However, installations have been directed to reduce the cost of security and inventory control personnel and simultaneously address the discrepancies. The MDARS-interior (MDARS-I) system addresses both of these issues with Cyberguard, a semiautonomous robot designed to roam and monitor in buildings.

While on patrol, MDARS-I reads radio frequency tags affixed to items in a warehouse. This data will be used by depot personnel and linked with other technologies such as the distribution standard system. Installation personnel will be able to identify items that are missing or have been moved as well as spot containers that are not in the inventory system and may have been brought into the facility to perpetrate malicious acts.

MDARS-I features an enhanced sensor package that includes intrusion detection microwave radar, dual passive infrared 4, audio capabilities, a charge-coupled device camera, an infrared illuminator and a pan/tilt platform. A wireless local area network adapter facilitates communications between the robot and the control station, which is manned by installation personnel. The onboard suite of sensors includes ultrasonic collision avoidance, intrusion detection and navigation. It can move at speeds of up to 2.5 feet per second.

Working primarily during off-duty hours, the robot will autonomously conduct surveillance and inventory interrogations and check for intruders. If it encounters a situation it is not programmed to process, control-station personnel will provide the appropriate input remotely.

If an intruder is detected, a video link is activated and an audiovisual alarm is registered with the control console. If the individual moves to a dark location, a low-light-level camera and infrared illuminator enable the robot to continue to provide security personnel with video information.

The MDARS-exterior (MDARS-E) system will provide similar surveillance and monitoring capabilities in contained outdoor areas such as materiel storage yards, arsenals, petroleum storage areas, airfields, rail yards and port facilities. Its physical body is something between a high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle and a child’s electric car.

The semiautonomous exterior vehicle’s navigation sensor suite includes a differential global positioning system, gyroscope, inclinometer, four-wheel encoders and a steering position sensor. Obstacle-avoidance sensors consist of stereo vision, radar, a four-line laser scanner and ultrasonics. Forward-looking infrared and Doppler radar facilitate the intrusion detection capabilities.

While on duty, the MDARS-E platform will autonomously conduct surveillance, check for intruders, conduct lock and inventory interrogations and assess the status of facility barriers.

If the system detects an intruder or an open lock, the video link with the control station is activated and an audiovisual alarm registers at the control console. Security personnel can see, hear and talk to the intruder or remotely examine the scene.

Remote capabilities are the focus of many Team C4IEWS projects. Telemaintenance, for example, will allow technicians in the field to tap into the knowledge of subject matter experts (SMEs) in other locations to help repair a variety of equipment. The capability offers several benefits, including a smaller personnel footprint in an area of operations and access to specialists through commercial and Internet technologies.

Connections are established through a system of wireless local area networks and wide area networks of commercial and Defense Department tactical telephone systems, network service providers, satellite and radio frequency broadband radio communications.

A wireless, wearable collaborative communications technology (CCT) system links repair personnel to online SMEs and other logistics assistance resources. The system runs on Windows 98 and hosts the variety of virtual test equipment items used to isolate and diagnose faults that cause hardware and software weapons systems problems.

CCT components are stored on a soldier’s wearable computer and include a video camera, receiver/transmitter, audio capabilities and the automated breakout box—all carried on a tool belt. Field technicians can set up the camera and transmit video of the section of equipment that requires repair back to a telemaintenance support hub. The technician and experts at the hub use the system’s whiteboard, file transfer and graphic reference data transfer capabilities to assess the malfunction and complete a repair. In some cases, hub personnel will e-mail off-site experts to inform them that a technician needs to communicate with them. In other situations, the field technician may be referred to online electronic technical manuals or logistics, doctrinal or training databases or may directly interface with logistics systems.

The telemaintenance CCT also gives soldiers access to tactical system computer-based training. Instructional material can be hosted on the local area network using a CD-ROM server. This training is available globally through the Internet. Near-real-time interactive training with SMEs also is available.

Technologies that facilitate remote activities are not only of interest in current systems but also in programs that will come to fruition in the future.

Collecting intelligence information about the battlefield remotely will be provided by a system in the early stages of development. The aerial common sensor (ACS) will offer the Army’s 21st century airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance warfighting capability, Scott A. Fernald, the ACS project manager, Army Program Executive Office for Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors, says.

The program is built on the 30-year legacy of successful Army systems that include airborne reconnaissance low, the Guardrail common sensor, and the recently deployed Guardrail 2000. The ACS will be a multi-intelligence collection system that combines signals intelligence and precision geolocation with imagery intelligence and moving target indicator/synthetic aperture radar capabilities, Fernald explains.

The ACS program recently entered the concept exploration phase, which includes industry teams led by Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon. This phase is expected to last 18 months.

The industry teams, partnering with their government counterparts, will develop concepts and recommendations on the four key components of the ACS: a sensor suite package, datalinks, corresponding ground processing facility and airframe.

Following this initial phase, one contractor will be source-selected to carry forward into the program definition phase. This is predicted to be a long-term partnership with the government for developing, fielding and sustaining the ACS. Fielding the ACS is scheduled for 2009, Fernald says.

“The ACS will be a pioneering effort in the merits of simulation-based acquisition and its utility in the acquisition of complex, highly sophisticated systems critical to national defense. Self-deployable, the ACS will be strategically responsive. The ACS will vastly increase the ground commander’s situational awareness by providing the commander with the agility and versatility to support missions across the operational spectrum,” he explains.

To give exhibit visitors a sense of how technologies will come together to support troops in the field, the exhibition included a tactical operations center. Among the plethora of systems on site were the global command and control systems–Army, all source analysis system, advanced field artillery tactical data systems, air and missile defense workstation, digital topographical support systems, and intermediate meteorological systems.

The goal of all of the Team C4IEWS programs is to develop new technologies in the areas of dominant maneuver, precision engagement, full-dimensional protection, focused logistics and information superiority. To accomplish this task, the group will continue to investigate advance planning tools, the tactical unmanned aerial vehicle, the battlefield combat identification system, second-generation forward-looking infrared and Land Warrior technologies.