Technology Critical To Modern Warfare

Sept. 16, 2008
Success in future warfare conflicts will depend largely on how quickly and how effectively different technologies can be implemented in the battleplace.

Laser weapons are among the advanced technologies being incorporated into next-generation weapons systems. In addition, dynamically guided missile systems, unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs), and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) will take part in a not-so-distant future battlefield where opposing forces will ultimately try to save soldiers' lives by squaring off against each other's technologies.

For example, Northrop Grumman ( is playing a major role in the development of the US Army's High Energy Laser Technology Demonstrator (HEL TD). The mobile, solid-state laser weapon system will be mounted on a tactical ground vehicle as a weapon against rockets, artillery, and mortars. The firm has performed the preliminary design review requirements for the HEL TD's beam control subsystem ahead of schedule, according to the timing established by a first-phase contract awarded a year earlier by the US Army's Space and Missile Defense Command. Northrop Grumman is now prepared to complete the design, assembly, and integration of the beam control system, leading up to a test in 2010.

As Dan Wildt, vice-president of Directed Energy Systems for Northrop Grumman's Space Technology sector, explained, "Laser weapon systems like HEL TD will provide a leap-ahead in security for warfighters and civilian populations by providing a speed-of-light, wide-area umbrella of defense against a number of threats in wide use today. The time is near when laser defenses will be an indispensable part of our security. HEL TD is enabling us to take a giant step in that direction."

The HEL TD team is led by Northrop Grumman and includes BAE Systems, Ball Aerospace & Technologies, and L3 Com Brashears. Northrop Grumman is responsible for systems engineering, system integration, the beam control subsystem, the power subsystem, the thermal subsystem, and C3I. BAE Systems provides vehicle and platform integration. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. supplies beam alignment and stabilization systems. L3 Com Brashears provides the beam director.

The US Army also awarded a contract valued at about $36 million to the Boeing Company ( to continue development of a truck-mounted, high-energy laser weapon system that will destroy rockets, artillery shells and mortar rounds. Under this HEL TD Phase II contract, Boeing will complete the design and test a rugged beam control system mounted on a heavy expanded mobility tactical truck. Boeing will also develop the system-engineering requirements for the entire HEL TD laser weapon system. Scott Fancher, vice-president and general manager of Boeing Missile Defense Systems, commented that "this contract award is an important win for Boeing because it supports a cornerstone of the Army's high-energy laser program. HEL TD will give warfighters a transformational capability to counter the difficult threats posed by rockets, artillery shells, and mortar projectiles." Boeing has extensive experience in developing high-energy laser systems for numerous warfighter applications, including the Airborne Laser, the Advanced Tactical Laser, the Tactical Relay Mirror System, and the Laser Avenger.

Gary Fitzmire, vice-president and program director of Boeing Directed Energy Systems, explains that "Boeing spent the past year developing the preliminary design of the HEL TD beam control system, and we appreciate the confidence the Army has shown in our efforts by awarding us these contract options to continue working on the program." The HEL TD program will support transition to a full-fledged US Army acquisition program.

Vision Systems International, LLC (VSI,, a joint venture of Rockwell Collins ( and Elbit Systems of America, LLC (, was recently signed by Boeing at initially more than $17 million to supply the Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS) for 145 F-15E Strike Eagles. The JHMCS provides the pilot with "first look, first shot" high off-boresight weapons engagement capabilities. The system enables the pilot to accurately cue onboard weapons and sensors against enemy aircraft and ground targets without the need to aggressively turn the aircraft or place the target in the Head-Up Display (HUD) for designation. Critical information and symbology, such as targeting cues and aircraft performance parameters, are graphically displayed directly on the pilot's visor. This information, combined with the display of data-link cues, as well as navigational and aircraft performance parameters, provides the pilot with a tremendous increase in situational awareness.

VSI President Drew Brugal noted that "the situational awareness capabilities afforded by JHMCS in the air-to-ground mission environment are necessities given today's battlespace, and providing a dual-seat capability is phenomenally important. Getting our JHMCS on the Strike Eagle has been a key company goal since we started developing the system in 1996."

Harris Corp. ( provided more than 50 visitors from the US Navy and industry a demonstration of the firm's new SeaLancet RT-1944/U tactical radio earlier this summer. The new radio system is designed to provide network-centric communications from maritime-based networks to both ground- and air-based networks. Demonstrations included an aircraft simulating a UAV, and three boats off the east coast of Florida as unmanned surface vehicles and tactical maritime platforms. The firm successfully showcased the radio's high-throughput, long-range network-centric Internet Protocol (IP) communications capabilities. Attendees witnessed real-time results of the radio's high-throughput transmission of voice (VoIP), data, files, chat, and digital streaming video from multiple platforms to the simulated Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) radio room and command center. Network IP traffic moved between as many as five nodes and at rates to 54 Mb/s between nodes at distances of more than 100 nautical miles. The radios were also used to relay communications between surface modules at distances greater than 200 nautical miles via an airborne relay.

SeaLancet was designed to communicate high-volume sensor data from multiple Navy platforms to distant tactical ships, such as the LCS. Applications include anti-submarine warfare, mine warfare, anti-surface warfare, maritime interdiction, ship-to-ship communications, and wireless pier capability. The highly ruggedized radio can survive submersion in water up to 1 meter and operate at high altitudes.

In addition to its use onboard LCSs, the compact radio can be applied to a wide range of Navy platforms, including ships, aircraft, unmanned vehicles, gateway buoys and distributed sensors. It also addresses the needs of similar maritime missions for the Department of Defense (DoD), the US Coast Guard, and international military forces.

Wes Covell, president of Harris Defense Programs, proudly remarked that "This event was a great success and demonstrated that SeaLancet provides secure and reliable net-centric communications to the edge of the maritime battlespace. We are excited about this new product and proud of its distinction of being named the Naval Sea Systems Command's top Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program." SeaLancet is a product of an SBIR between Harris and Reliable System Services (RSS) Corp. (, and was recently selected for the newly established DoD Commercialization Pilot Program.

One of the key programs for advanced military technology development in this country is the US Army's Future Combat Systems (FCS) program ( fcs), which is funding the development of UAVs, UGVs, sensor networks, communications systems, and ballistic systems. Earlier this year, the Army announced that it had completed two successful tests of the FCS's Non Line of Sight Launch System's (NLOS-LS) Precision Attack Missile at White Sands Missile Range, (White Sands, NM).

The NLOS-LS consists of a containerized launch unit with self-contained tactical fire control electronics and software for remote and unmanned operations. Each launch unit houses 15 Precision Attack Missiles. The NLOSLS's Precision Attack Missile is a vertical launched munitions capable of engaging moving targets using automatic target acquisition. The missile receives target information prior to launch, and can receive and respond to target location updates during flight. The missiles are capable of transmitting near-real-time information in the form of target imagery prior to impact.

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The successful launches demonstrated the NLOS-LS's Precision Attack Missile's stability in cruise and guidance modes and its capability of operating as a node on a network using its onboard radio. The tests marked the first time an Army missile with on-board radio transmitted missile status while in flight and a simulated target image prior to impact, using the missile's Single Channel Radio Set. Such communications capabilities provide a commander with the remote vision to verify that a correct target is being attacked. The missile flew an estimated 23 km and performed several maneuvers to 6 g's force. Complete system testing on the NLOS-LS is scheduled to take place in the third quarter of fiscal year 2009.

Because of capability shortcomings found in front-line Infantry Brigade Combat Teams (IBCTs), the US Army is currently attempting to accelerate the timing on getting FCS technologies to IBCTs. As Army Chief of Staff George W. Casey, Jr. notes: "We're listening to our soldiers and commanders in the field, and we are giving them the capabilities they needas fast as we can so that they can win in the current fight. We're able to do this because of the developmental efforts that have matured technology over the last few years."

The NLOS-LS will play an integral role in the FCS Spin Out 1 Limited User Test (LUT) planned for next summer. The LUT is aimed at fielding an FCS-based IBCT in 2011. The NLOS-LS will also be used by the US Navy on its Littoral Combat Ship to provide a modular, persistent, responsive, networked, rapidly deployable and flexible precision strike capability against naval targets.

Another part of the ambitious FCS network and its system of systems is the non-line-of-sight cannon (NLOS-C) and its manned ground vehicles (MGVs) for transport. The NLOS-C also relies on the FCS's networked sensors for tracking and information feedback. A total of eight NLOS-C prototypes will be produced between 2008 and 2009, with all undergoing rigorous testing, safety certification, and evaluations at various Army test facilities. The NLOS-C prototypes will be used for testing and evaluation of not only the artillery system but also the MGV common chassis and technologies. According to Colonel Bryan McVeigh, Army product manager for FCS Manned Ground Vehicles, "Information taken from extensive propulsion and drive train tests will be used across the MGV family to make potential cost-saving development adjustments prior to the entire MGV vehicle family prototyping in 2011 and eventual fielding in 2015."

The US Army's Product Manager for NLOS-C, Lieutenant Colonel Robert McVay, adds that "after receiving situational awareness reports from the FCS network, the NLOS-C will be able to put precision fires on target in less than thirty seconds. This is especially important in counter-insurgency warfare as it will deprive the enemy of the ability to shoot and scoot,' while allowing soldiers to put precise rounds into urban environments that will help reduce collateral damage."

In addition to the NLOS-LS and NLOS-C, FCS technology spin outs for IBCTs will include tactical and urban unattended ground sensors and and network kits for HMMWV vehicles. Also, the Class I Block 0 UAV and the Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle (SUGV) are included for fielding to IBCTs. The SUGV and other robots have been used in Iraq and Afghanistan for several years to clear caves and bunkers, search buildings, cross minefields, and defuse improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

Raytheon Company ( is contributing advanced military technologies from various parts of the company. The KillerBee unmanned aerial system (UAS) has been developed by Raytheon Missile Systems ( in conjunction with Swift Engineering ( and Optical Alchemy (, in the hopes of fielding the unmanned systems in the near term. The vehicles are aided by the firm's sensor capabilities. The KillerBee offers the capability of inserting persistent intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) information into the battlespace and rapidly deliver actionable intelligence to combatant commanders. As Ken Pedersen, vice president of Raytheon Missile Systems' Advanced Programs, explains, "KillerBee offers the warfighter an affordable unmanned aircraft system, and the Swift Engineering vehicle has both longer endurance and the ability to carry a larger payload. The Raytheon team is using proven, existing technology, so KillerBee can be fielded in the near term."

Mark Bigham, director of business development for Raytheon's Intelligence and Information Systems business, noted: "With the KillerBee Ground Control System and our expertise in video dissemination capabilities, we will deliver a new level of situation awareness and targeting to the warfighter." Air and ground testing has validated control, processing, and display functions for the KillerBee; flight tests throughout 2008 will ensure a high-technology readiness level of the entire KillerBee system.

Raytheon is also working on a $160 million contract from the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center (Los Angeles Air Force Base, CA) for a new system design for the next-generation Global Positioning System (GPS) control segment (OCX) program. The GPS OCX will be designed with new antijamming technologies, more advanced predictive algorithms, and more frequent clock and ephemeris updates to provide military and civilian users with more secure and accurate location information, even in the presence of jammers. Raytheon teammates include Boeing, ITT Industries, Braxton Technologies, Infinity Systems Engineering, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Somewhat further down the "systemdesign food chain," Paratek Microwave ( offers a range of filters and filter kits based on their unique passive-tunable-integratedcircuit (PTIC) technology. The firm's proprietary ParaScan composite thinfilm ceramic materials feature a dielectric constant that varies with applied DC voltage. The material is based on a doped version of barium strontium titanate (BST) and is used to form the company's PTICs. Components, such as filters, formed of the ParaScan material provide continuous tuning with fast response times and low loss over a wide range of impedances.

For example, the company's model PTF-2BP30512-5-ES tunable bandpass filter tunes a typical 5-MHz 3-dB passband across a total frequency range of 30 to 512 MHz. Passband insertion loss is no more than 5 dB while ultimate rejection is typically 50 dB. The filter features typical switching speed of 100 microsecond and handles 1 W (+30 dBm) RF input power. The rejection is at least 18 dB offset 10 percent from the passband and at least 29 dB offset 20 percent from the passband. It achieves tuning resolution of at least 1 MHz across the full range. For those who would prefer to experiment with the novel technology, the company also offers filter kits, complete with an RS-232 interface and an AC adapter for the filter.

Paratek has also developed evaluation kits based on its Adaptive Impedance Matching Module (AIMM) product for military and public safety radio applications. The AIMM, which is based on the ParaScan tunable RF technology, is a 7 x 21 mm module that dynamically adjusts its internal impedance matching circuit to minimize reflected power. It is ideally suited for correcting antenna and amplifier impedance mismatches that are typical of handheld radios and body-worn antennas. The AIMM can handle more than +33 dBm (2 W) power with low intermodulation distortion using the firm's PTICs. Studies with the AIMM have yielded improvements in handheld radios in total radiated power of more than 5 dB by correcting the antenna mismatch that occurs when a radio is in close proximity to a user's head or torso. AIMM can also be used in sensor networks where the sensor's antennas can be detuned by proximity effects of the ground, foliage, or debris. It can be used for any application in which forward power must be maximized and reverse power must be minimized.

AIMM kits contain multichip modules (MCMs) that are a tunable impedance network, an on-board microprocessor with custom control algorithms, forward and reverse power detectors, and a bias voltage generator. AIMM's adaptation and sleep modes are controlled by an SPI interface. The kit consists of an AIMM mounted on a test fixture with SMA RF connectors and an external mechanical switch box that allows stand-alone operation of the module. Kits are available for frequency ranges of 280 to 300 MHz, 824 to 960 MHz, and 1710 to 1980 MHz.

In terms of more conventional filter technology, K & L Microwave ( offers extensive lines of high-frequency filters based on traditional high-frequency circuits such as microstrip and stripline, including remotely tunable (via GPIB) filters such as the model DSBT-250/500-5- N/N-GRI. Suitable for test, commercial, and military applications, the filter tunes an approximate 5-percent 3-dB bandwidth with 1 dB or less insertion loss across the octave frequency range of 250 to 500 MHz; other tuning ranges are also available. The five-section bandpass filter, which operates with voltage supplies of +24 to +28 VDC, can handle power levels to 50 W by merit of its low loss, Type N connectors, and effective thermal dissipation.

Effective thermal management is particularly critical to achieving long operating lifetimes with semiconductor devices. To help get the heat out of electronic circuits used by the military, Northrop Grumman ( was recently selected by DARPA to develop and demonstrate a high-capacity hybrid thermal ground plane. High temperatures can limit the reliability of many high-power military electronic systems, including electromagnetic (EM) weapons and radars. Under the initial 18-month contract, Northrop Grumman will use improved materials and techniques to transfer excess heat away from the semiconductors where the heat is generated. Specifically, the team will develop and test the feasibility of replacing solid metallic heat spreaders with an advanced passively driven, internally liquid cooled, silicon carbide-based thermal ground plane.

According to Dr. Larry Greenberg, Northrop Grumman program manager, "The US military's future need for highpower electronics cannot be overestimated, yet the ability to control thermal loads generated in electronic systems has remained a formidable hurdle to that development. Northrop Grumman's solution will leverage a number of innovative technologies developed by our team, as well as employ our extensive experience in silicon carbide processing and etching. Our technical approach will produce a flexible thermal ground plane with significantly improved thermal conductivity and cooling compared to conventional copper-based heat spreaders, ultimately supporting the development of a new generation of high-performance electronic devices." The $1.7-million, 18-month, cost-plus-fixed-fee contract is for the first phase of the three-phase DARPA program. The total value, if all phases of the development program are completed, could hit $5.2 million over 3.5 years. Northrop Grumman's Electronic Systems sector is leading the effort. The company's teammates include the University of Missouri (Columbia, MO), Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, GA), and Sandia National Laboratories (Albuquerque, NM).

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