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Archive for the ‘ISR’ Category

MRF-SEA Sensing Team Advances Sensing EAB Concepts During Exercise SAMA SAMA 23

Thursday, November 30th, 2023


A Maritime Sensing Team with Marine Rotational Force-Southeast Asia completed a Maritime Domain Awareness training exercise at Lebanon Beach from October 9 to 12, 2023.

MDA refers to understanding anything associated with oceans, seas, and other navigable waters that could impact a nation’s security, safety, economy, or environment. The MRF-SEA MST, comprised of infantrymen, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems engineers, communications, and intelligence Marines, establish remote sensing sites to provide situational awareness, threat detection, and prevention and to enable decision-making within an area of operations. These expeditionary sensing sites play a pivotal role in enhancing the maritime domain awareness picture and the overall lethality of joint forces.

During the training exercise, the MST and 1st Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company’s Detachment Team 2 tested novel systems, software, and equipment that sharpened the cutting edge of what these mobile sensing units are capable of.

Throughout the exercise, communication Marines focused on establishing network and data services; the sensor operators set up a SIMRAD radar, a commercially available off-the-shelf radar, and hoisted it 30 feet into the sky. The SIMRAD radar is the primary sensor employed by the MST. Its small scale and portable size allow the team to maintain a minimal signature and footprint while still providing surveillance of the maritime domain.

 “Maritime awareness and the Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations concept are tied hand-in-hand,”

-Capt. Philip Badrov, ADET Team Lead

“Employing the SIMRAD enables us to detect ship movement within straits and littorals,” said Capt. Philip Badrov, ADET Team Lead. “Using the data collected, we report suspected targets to higher echelons, contributing to the overall maritime awareness picture.”

Complementing the SIMRAD’s detection capabilities is the RQ-20B PUMA, a small, unmanned aircraft system equipped with a camera that provides essential visual data needed to identify suspected targets.

“[The PUMA] is a versatile collection tool that can be employed on-site,” said Sgt. Abigail Andrews, MST chief. “It’s hand-launchable with capabilities including a gimbaled camera capable of capturing full-motion video and photos.”

The MST combines these two types of sensors, the SIMRAD and the RQ-20B PUMA, to build a holistic view of the maritime domain.

The training culminated with a simulated close-air support scenario that validated the integrated capabilities of the SIMRAD and PUMA. Using the data from the SIMRAD to detect a target and the PUMA to identify it, Joint Terminal Attack Controllers from 1st ANGLICO could then coordinate close-air support attacks from a Hawker Hunter onto the simulated target. Moreover, the MST provided critical radar data directly to the U.S. 7th Fleet Maritime Operations Center, successfully demonstrating joint capabilities.

“Maritime awareness and the Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations concept are tied hand-in-hand,” Badrov added. “EAB with small teams and sensors en masse, we can eliminate gaps in radar coverage and further contribute to the awareness.”

MRF-SEA, an operational model under Marine Corps Forces Pacific, fosters planned exchanges with subject matter experts, promotes security goals with Allies and Partners, and strategically positions I Marine Expeditionary Force west of the International Date Line, solidifying its commitment to regional security and stability.

By Gunnery Sergeant Alexandria Blanche and 1st Lt. Charles T. Kimbrough | I Marine Expeditionary Force

Improving ISR Missions Success Rates: The Growing Role of Change-Bitrate-on-the-Fly Technology

Monday, November 13th, 2023

Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions are rarely executed in controlled laboratory environments — quite the opposite. The platforms — from airborne drones to terrestrial and underwater remotely piloted vehicles (RPVs) — that carry ISR payloads are often deployed in the harshest conditions and connected to users and operators over wildly inconsistent communication networks.

The ability to ensure high-quality images, regardless of network conditions in a theatre of operations, has emerged as a critical success factor for ISR activities that depend on video-based intelligence to establish situational awareness and support effective decision-making.

This is where Change-Bitrate-on-the-Fly technology comes in.

Here, Mark Rushton, Global Defense and Security Lead at VITEC: a global technology leader in the IPTV space, shares his insights on how Change-Bitrate-on-the-Fly technology improves ISR mission success rates.

Change-Bit-Rate-on-the-Fly technology: what is it and why is it essential to the ISR mission?

When talking about video streaming, we often focus on bitrates, which are measured by considering how many frames are taken every second, along with the size of each frame. The higher the video quality, the more images are needed to process for each second of video, which, of course, results in higher bitrate requirements.

Change-Bit-Rate-on-the-Fly technology is an increasingly important feature for the ISR community because it directly affects the quality and timeliness of tactical field intelligence. Receiving information too late because of network latency or being unable to understand what is being analyzed because of dropped packets that result in fuzzy or pixelated images can mean the difference between life and death.

In many ways, the need for Change-Bit-Rate-on-the-Fly capabilities reflects the technological progress that has allowed more sensors with greater capacity to be loaded on ISR platforms — such as drones or helicopters. Innovations around ISR have led to cameras that capture video images in stunning detail and sensors capable of detecting subtle temperature changes in the environment, including ground-penetrating radar. As a result, more information can be shared from a single ISR platform than before.

It does, however, create a challenge.

While devices to capture this wide array of data are becoming increasingly advanced, there are still challenges associated with the wireless networks used to access the data in terms of bandwidth, capability and change.

Change-Bit-Rate-on-the-Fly is a technology can help address network constraints by adapting the bitrate as it changes.

What challenges leads to network constraints or variability?

The ISR community has done a lot of excellent work in adopting standards across the technical elements needed to capture, share and act on digital intelligence. As a result, most platform and payload technologies can use almost any wireless network in the field to maintain connectivity — and, therefore, the flow of intelligence.

The agility and flexibility that enable drones and other RPVs to use multiple networks means these platforms can dynamically switch from a cellular network to a satellite link and then to a terrestrial mesh network.

However, as these platforms shift from one data carrier to another, they will likely experience a difference in bandwidth available to support the data traffic. Sometimes, that delta can be quite significant. A cellular network might deliver up to 100 megabits in connectivity only to switch to a satellite signal that supports a fraction of that capacity.

The other challenge revolves around the roving nature of ISR platforms. The quality and strength of wireless signals are better when platforms are near antennas. The signals weaken as the distance from antennas grows.

While the connectivity environment is highly dynamic – with bandwidth fluctuating from total capacity, only to be cut by half and then a third of capacity — the overall ISR objective of sharing the highest quality image possible remains the same.

That’s why Change-Bitrate-on-the-Fly is a differentiator for IP video applications on ISR platforms. With it, we can make changes dynamically in real-time to ensure the continuity of images at the highest possible quality. This can’t be underscored enough because video in a live environment is crucial for ISR. It represents a major improvement over the previous ISR video capabilities. With Change-Bitrate-on-the-Fly, ISR teams can execute their missions with confidence.

Mark Rushton is the Global Defence and Security Lead at VITEC.

VITEC is a global technology leader in the IPTV space, working within the Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) arena for over 20 years.

Another Order for Rheinmetall in the Field of Automated Reconnaissance Systems for Ukraine – Order in the Two-Digit Million-Euro Range

Saturday, October 7th, 2023

Rheinmetall has again been awarded a contract to supply automated reconnaissance systems to Ukraine. The order was placed by the German government. Rheinmetall has again been awarded a contract to supply automated reconnaissance systems to Ukraine. The order was placed by the German government.

SurveilSpire is a drone defence system designed to reconnoitre and engage hostile drones. The reconnaissance systems include mobile surveillance towers with day and night vision camera equipment, autopiloted mini-drones and a command and control system. Transport vehicles are also included in the scope of delivery. The systems are used in particular to monitor sections of terrain with as few personnel as possible. The system can also provide a 5G network. Rheinmetall is cooperating on the project with the Estonian company DefSecIntel.

The order value is in the lower double-digit million euro range. Delivery has already begun.

Made by Estonia’s DefSecIntel, the SurveilSPIRE surveillance towers can be loaded onto trailers and quickly transported to their area of operation.  Assembly requires three personnel; operation is fully automated. The system includes wireless links (4G and Starlink) for video transmission to a mobile command post. Solar panels enable sustained operation without power cables or a fuel source. The system relies on autopiloted reconnaissance drones that conduct patrols and mission-specific flights. This enables inspection of detected threats and lets the operator initiate necessary countermeasures. 
Rheinmetall is already taking part in several projects in support of Ukraine. These include deliveries of Marder infantry fighting vehicles, ammunition of various calibres, field hospitals, military trucks and, soon, a LUNA Next Generation reconnaissance system. Furthermore, Rheinmetall is a partner in multiple multilateral “Ringtausch” transactions. This procedure, developed by the German government, is designed to support the Ukrainian war effort in cooperation with Germany’s European neighbours and NATO partners. Here, NATO member nations transfer Soviet-era equipment to Ukraine in exchange for surplus Western-made systems. 

The Ghost Robotics Vision-60 As ISR Platform

Wednesday, September 20th, 2023

A lot has been made of the weaponization of ground robots. Much of it is is due to our fascination with science fiction. No sooner is an image shared online like the one above of a robot armed with a machine gun than the comments about “Skynet” and “Terminators” kick in. But what is lost on most is why we developed robots in the first place. It wasn’t to deliver a lethal effect; there are lots of ways to make that happen. Robots were created as helpers, in order to remove humans from environments which might endanger them.

We’ve also got to accept a truth which is lost on many. The robot isn’t the capability, it’s the vehicle which delivers the capability. We desire effect and that requires various capabilities which come in the form of payloads. What makes various types of robots more desirable over others is how they deliver the payload to the right place, at the right time, to have the right effect. We use robots to reduce risk, particularly to humans.

Take for instance this image from last week’s DSEI show in London. We see a Ghost Robotics Vision 60 Quadraped – Unmanned Ground Vehicle carrying another robot, in this case an unmanned aerial system configured for an Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance role. This combination may be perfect, depending on the operational environment. It may be highly lethal to humans and require close access to the target of the surveillance.

To be sure, there are definite reasons to weaponize ground robots. They can be used in overwatch for example, or to guard perimeters. But in each case, they are desirable in these roles because they take a human out of a threat environment. Recently, the US Army stated that it wants to place a Next Generation Squad Weapon XM7 rifle, firing the new 6.8mm cartridge on a Vision 60 Q-UGV. There are technical challenges which a couple of commercial companies have worked through, but it can be done. The question is, “why?” What effect do they believe it will provide? Is it the right payload for that platform?

During the Robotics track of next week’s NDIA sponsored Future Forces Capabilities event in Huntsville, Alabama, you’ll see a lot of talk of various means to weaponize robots. It makes sense considering the event evolved from annual small arms and armaments meetings. However, we need more participation from the ISR community in this event.

The air side of unmanned systems has taken the opposite path. Long dominated by collection activities, they’ve only more recently integrated kinetic weapons delivery to their repertoire.

I believe the best use of at least the smaller classes of ground robots is as platforms for various sensors, including ISR, CBRN and as comms relay nodes for these and others. Persistent access to items of intelligence value puts operators at risk. What’s more, the task is time consuming and boring. a human’s efforts are best spent elsewhere, like considering how to use the data being vacuumed by a multitude of robots fitted witg various collection payloads.

As a former SIGINTer and Intelligence officer I’ve been thinking a lot about how to use ground robots for ISR. There is a lot of synergy to be had between the air, subsurface (maritime), and ground robotics communities when it comes to payloads. We need more interest from the developers of sensors in utilizing ground robots of various classes as platforms and cross talk between the various warfighter communities.

Robots are coming to the battlespace. It’s up to us to determine how to best use them. Some will be armed and some will conduct ISR. Others will serve as logistics enablers and communications nodes.

We need to brainstorm ways to get the most out of our investment in ground-based unmanned systems. Soon, I’ll share a concept I’ve come up with to use Vision 60 Q-UGVs to access challenging terrain and environments to conduct Multi-Int persistent ground surveillance.

-Eric Graves


Army Kicks Off Network Field Experiments

Friday, August 18th, 2023

JOINT BASE McGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. — Army scientists and engineers are kicking off the annual Network Modernization Experiment, or NetModX, as they move their capabilities from the lab to a field environment across the New Jersey installation.

The Army’s Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Center conducts NetModX at JB-MDL and Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, over eight weeks as a capstone experimentation event. It creates an operationally relevant, threat-informed environment to prove out disruptive and transformative C5ISR technologies. The C5ISR Center is an element of the Combat Capabilities Development Command.

The center’s field experimentation builds upon its modeling and simulation work and lab research, according to Noah Weston, the C5ISR Center’s chief of strategic experimentation. The NetModX team partners with subject-matter experts from across the Army to design experiments that best address the Army’s needs and gaps.

“The Army needs data to make the right decisions at the right time to mature science and technology products to be deployable,” Weston said. “Experimentation allows us to obtain early data on system performance that can inform future Army requirements.”

The C5ISR Center conducts NetModX, which is composed of about 80 technologies for 2023, with the Army’s programs of record, cross-functional teams, other DEVCOM organizations and industry partners for an approach that ranges from science and technology to acquisition.

“NetModX expands our knowledge of emerging networking technologies in relevant field conditions and fosters critical early collaboration between government and industry partners,” said Stephen Blair, senior science and technology advisor for the Network Cross-Functional Team, part of Army Futures Command. “It informs our collective efforts to reduce network complexity at lower echelons; increase speed and survivability through mobile command posts; manage electronic signature; and improve interoperability.”

NetModX intends to deliver key insights to help transition capabilities from the “art of the possible” to the “achievable,” said Joe Saldiveri, NetModX project lead and C5ISR Center engineer.

“These experimentation opportunities enable the Army stakeholders to come together to spark collaboration and inform critical decisions,” Saldiveri said.

The C5ISR Center partners with the Army’s Program Executive Office Command, Control and Communications-Tactical during NetModX to provide technical and operational data on emerging technology.

“Experimentation events such as NetModX support our network design efforts for the Army of 2030 or to inform conditions as we look forward to how our programs will support Army of 2040 network modernization,” said Assistant Program Executive Officer Ward Roberts. “NetModX data supports our developers with integration and technical maturity insight on targeted capability that has transition potential into programs of record and informs formulation of design goals as we work with Cross-Functional Team community.”

By Dan Lafontaine, DEVCOM C5ISR Center Public Affairs

MDM 23 – Aries Defense Launches NEOS

Thursday, June 29th, 2023

NEOS is a new hardware solution from Aries Defense designed to optimize network bandwidth utilization for UAS/UAV Platforms. The system compresses and optimizes the data allowing more signals to be passed simultaneously.

Based in their OverWatch integration kit, it provides network bandwidth management and adds a fully customizable reticle to the video feed which allows for quicker call for fire commands.

Aries Defense is working with Skydio and L3Harris Technologies for integration of their systems, allowing multiple users access to multiple feeds. With the Marines deploying a UAS at the squad level, NEOS offers simultaneous direct access to a wider range of sensors both at the tactical edge as well as at the command post and even national level.

Colorado Springs to host DEL 15, two Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Squadrons

Wednesday, June 28th, 2023


The U.S. Space Force’s Space Delta 15, activated in March 2023, is expected to be permanently based at Schriever Space Force Base, Colorado, along with the new 75th Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Squadron. Additionally, the service expects the 74th ISR Squadron, activated in November 2022, to be based at Peterson Space Force Base, Colorado.

DEL 15, a command-and-control organization within Space Operations Command, provides mission-ready forces in support of the National Space Defense Center’s protect and defend space mission. The unit currently operates at Schriever Space Force Base and is expected to remain there permanently.

The two ISR squadrons will provide additional capabilities within Space Delta 7, which has embedded detachments in each of the command’s other deltas to provide real-time ISR support to their respective missions.

The 74th ISR Squadron provides tailored threat analysis and intelligence production for tactical space operations. The squadron’s intelligence gathering is used to empower space operations to combat current, emerging, and future adversaries.

The new 75th ISR Squadron will be responsible for the federated targeting mission through orbital targeting sections focusing on integrating kinetic and non-kinetic targeting for the Joint Force across several orbital regimes.

The Department of the Air Force’s decision to host DEL 15 and the two ISR squadrons came after conducting thorough site surveys which assessed the location’s ability to facilitate the missions and infrastructure capacity while accounting for community support, environmental factors, and cost.

The Department of the Air Force will now conduct environmental impact analyses at each base, which are expected to be completed later this year before final decisions are made.

Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

AATC Tests Enhanced Intelligence Gathering Capabilities with MQ-9 Reaper Upgrade

Monday, June 5th, 2023


The Air National Guard-Air Force Reserve Command Test Center partnered with the 174th Attack Wing and 556th Test and Evaluation Squadron to test an upgraded satellite communications capability of the MQ-9 Reaper during exercise Northern Edge 2023 at Eielson Air Force Base.

Northern Edge 23 is a U.S. Indo-Pacific Command-sponsored, Headquarters Pacific Air Forces-led, multilateral, joint field training exercise at main operating bases Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and Eielson AFB.

The MQ-9 is a remotely piloted aircraft primarily used for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions. Air National Guard pilots, using the SATCOM upgrade, can now fly ISR missions in real-time almost anywhere around the world from remote bases in the United States.

The MQ-9’s upgraded SATCOM system uses advanced satellite technology to transmit data and communications over long distances. It is capable of flying at high altitudes for extended periods and its sensors can provide real-time intelligence on adversary positions, movements and activities. The ANG plans to deploy the upgraded MQ-9 to support ongoing operations around the world, as well as for training exercises and other missions in support of U.S. national security objectives.

“The speed at which this modernization effort and test program has been accomplished highlights the Accelerate, Change, or Lose vision from General Brown,” said Maj. Ryan Nastase, Test Program manager.

“This SATCOM upgrade will allow pole-to-pole operations while increasing the amount of data or bandwidth the MQ-9 can transmit and receive by more than double and reducing the latency or time of transmission by a factor of 10.”

Maj Ryan Nastase, Test Program Manager

With the upgraded SATCOM capability, the MQ-9 can continue to modernize by integrating more advanced sensors that require increased bandwidth. The upgrade enhances the aircraft’s ability to provide real-time situational awareness to combatant commanders around the world.

“This upgrade is a game-changer for the MQ-9 and the Air National Guard,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Harris, Hancock Field ANG Base test pilot at Syracuse, New York. “We can better support our combatant commanders and provide critical intelligence in real-time.”

The SATCOM upgrade is one of many advancements being fielded on the MQ-9. The ANG and its partners are continually working to enhance the capabilities of these critical assets and provide combatant commanders with the best possible support.

by SSgt Van Whatcott, 162nd Wing Public Affairs