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Army Bridging the ISR Deep Sensing Divide

New systems provide precise, long-distance identification, monitoring, targeting and striking.

The U.S. Army expects to receive its first High Accuracy Detection and Exploitation System (HADES) aircraft on October 1, a major step in modernizing aerial intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and providing a “deep sensing” capability to future warfighters.

Deep sensing allows the identification, monitoring, targeting and striking of targets from long distances and with great precision and has been identified as the number one gap in conducting large-scale combat operations against peer or near-peer adversaries.

HADES is expected to be a multifaceted sensing capability on higher altitude, longer endurance aircraft providing standoff from enemy anti-access/area denial systems. It will be designed to address Army requirements for medium- to high-altitude aerial ISR capabilities to rapidly gain and maintain situational understanding, freedom of maneuver, overmatch and decision advantage in multidomain operations, according to an Army website. It also will provide data transport, enhanced analysis capabilities, sensor-to-shooter links to shorten the kill chain, artificial intelligence and advanced data processing, electronic intelligence and communications intelligence, and cyber and electronic warfare abilities.

In January, the Army awarded a contract to Bombardier Defense for one Global 6500 jet aircraft with options to purchase two additional aircraft over a three-year period, to provide HADES prototypes. The prototypes will be the first Army-owned large-cabin business jets used for the aerial ISR mission, the press release explained.

“HADES will bring the Army increased range, speed, endurance and aerial ISR depth,” Col. Joe S. Minor, project manager for Army fixed-wing aircraft, said in the release. “HADES will operate at higher altitudes than legacy turboprop platforms. Higher altitudes equate to an ability to sense farther and more persistently into areas of interest. Deep sensing is the Army’s number-one operational imperative for the Army of 2030.”

During a roundtable discussion with reporters late last year, Brig. Gen. Ed Barker, Army program executive officer for intelligence, electronic warfare and sensors, said HADES will provide the “situational interchain for really targeted and long-range precision fires.”

The contract award followed an Army decision last year to move into what Gen. Barker described as a middle tier acquisition for rapid prototyping. “Phase one of HADES, that will include two different aircraft with different sensor packages, and the goal of that is to demonstrate the flexible aspect of the capabilities themselves and also to understand the best of breed that we want to pursue from a production standpoint,” the general explained.

Gen. Barker’s team works closely with the program executive office for aviation, the lead organization on the HADES program. “Our role from a supporting aspect—and it’s something we will always continue to do—is working on acquiring the payloads that go on those specific platforms. So in other stages, we’re going to be looking to acquire radars, [electronics intelligence] and [communications intelligence] sensors to support the prototyping for HADES. We’re looking at existing sensors as a way to maximize those capabilities.”

Gen. Barker noted that HADES will fly higher and at longer ranges, “so we have to be cognizant of that from a physics standpoint,” and said his office is working with the Air Force to assess a potential radar system for the aircraft.

He also indicated that HADES is the culmination of the “aerial ISR bridge” strategy being implemented by the ISR Task Force within the office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence G-2. The bridge strategy is to “continue to demonstrate capability that’s leading up to HADES and trying to help set the stage from an investment standpoint,” Gen. Barker said.

To lead the way for HADES, the Army first used aerial technology demonstrator programs to field two interim ISR aircraft known as ARTEMIS, the Airborne Reconnaissance and Target Exploitation Multi-Mission Intelligence Systems, and ARES, or Airborne Reconnaissance and Electronic Warfare System.

Before deciding on a large-cab business jet to allow the Army to group all the sensors on one plane with the ability to upgrade or add to those systems without a loss of performance, the ISR Task Force evaluated all joint, interagency and allies’ ISR programs and compared them to the Army’s priorities. ARTEMIS was first deployed in the Indo-Pacific region, where it was considered successful, and then moved to Europe.

In 2022, ARES arrived in the Indo-Pacific region and “revolutionized the Army’s contribution to a joint fight in that theater,” Lt. Col. Matt Paladino, ISR Task Force aerial chief, said in an Army article. “ARES provides the [U.S. Army Pacific Command] an organic deep sensing capability with relevant collection capability for the modern battlefield. Adding additional altitude and persistence over ARTEMIS, ARES is competing nearly every day with the nation’s most advanced adversaries.”

Brig. Gen. Ed Barker, USA
As many of you probably know, TITAN is that scalable, and expeditionary intelligence ground station, really looking to provide fused sensor data that enables long-range precision fires. And it’s really a crucial component of the deep sensing aspect of things as well as the ability to store it in the sensor-to-shooter loop.
Brig. Gen. Ed Barker, USA
PEO, Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors

Both systems have flown hundreds of sorties. “ARTEMIS has flown more than 600 sorties supporting [European Command], and ARES has supported more than 300 different sorties from the Indo-PACOM [U.S. Indo-Pacific Command] standpoint. And then there’s two additional aircraft that are coming online that will deploy in 2024 as well,” Gen. Barker reported.

He also updated reporters on several other programs. In fiscal year 2025, the Army expects to begin the high-altitude platform program to add to its deep sensing capabilities. “We’re looking at these kind of novel platforms when it comes to what capabilities we can acquire either from a high-altitude balloon, solar and fixed wing aircraft,” he said, indicating that a balance of size, weight and power along with “high-efficiency sensors” will be priorities.

As the Army moves into the program maturation phase of the Tactical Intelligence Targeting Node (TITAN) program, it will ask the selected vendor to provide two variants: a basic, more expeditionary system, and an advanced version with a direct downlink to space-based data.

TITAN is the Army’s first intelligence ground station enabled by artificial intelligence and machine learning and is considered a key component of the service’s multidomain operations and joint all-domain operations vision.

By accessing data from multiple sensors simultaneously across the space, high-altitude, aerial and terrestrial layers, TITAN provides situational awareness and situational understanding across operations, according to an Army website. Fusing that data and using advanced analytics to deliver targetable intelligence to lethal and nonlethal networks reduces the sensor-to-shooter gap and enables long-range precision fires, aviation and mission command, the website explains.

“That’s one of the foundational elements from the intelligence modernization efforts within the Army. As many of you probably know, TITAN is that scalable, and expeditionary intelligence ground station, really looking to provide fused sensor data that enables long-range precision fires. And it’s really a crucial component of the deep sensing aspect of things as well as the ability to store it in the sensor-to-shooter loop,” Gen. Barker said.