A Revolutionary Targeting Concept

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The Corps Level Forward Sensor Enclave

By Captain Chris R. Lindstrom

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At 0530 hours, the morning fog rolls back gently over the low lands of a tropical joint area of operations. The sun rises to attention amid clear, moist skies. Soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines of Joint Task Force 720 stream south, prepared for battle. The senior intelligence officer has the entire Intelligence battlefield functional area (BFA) focused on further refinement of the enemy situation. 0600 hours: the Corps long-range reconnaissance and surveillance patrols (LRSC) have eyes on target. 0610 hours: the LRSC Team 3 reports a SCUD-B launcher at grid location NE 12345678 to the Forward Sensor Enclave (FSE). 0615 hours: the FSE directs a loitering unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to the grid point. 0620 hours: the UAV is on station over the reported target. 0622 hours: UAV telemetry verifies the grid reported by the LRSC team. 0623 hours: the FSE, using the All-Source Analysis System (ASAS) Remote Workstation (RWS), nominates the time-sensitive target directly to the Deep Operations Coordination Cell (DOCC). Minutes later, ordinance is delivered on target. 0630 hours: the SCUD-B has been destroyed.


This is a typical event in the newly created FSE, which belongs to the 525th Military Intelligence Brigade (Airborne) at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. In January 1998, the 525th MI Brigade established the FSE with a simple charter: narrow the time gap from "sensor to shooter" and "sensor to sensor" in the cross-cueing role. The FSE, by definition, is an extension of the corps collection manager (CM). It is a small nucleus of command and control charged with providing focused mission management of the corps' sensors and preprocessors focused on high-payoff targets (HPTs).

Finding and Influencing the Enemy

MI is about finding the enemy and targeting either his will to fight or his ability to fight. It is precisely this requirement that lead to the creation of the FSE. Detecting the enemy, tracking him, and conducting battle damage assessment is our job. We have several tools to accomplish these missions. From powerful sensors to preprocessors, our equipment represents the cutting edge of technology. Our current intelligence architecture does not exploit the ability to extract and refine focused combat intelligence at the preprocessors to achieve timely and targetable intelligence. In recent years, as technology has matured, this information flow has grown exponentially. While our processors have kept the pace, sorting through and making sense of the volumes of combat information remains a significant challenge.

The FSE is a revolutionary concept designed and executed by the 525th MI Brigade (Airborne). The enclave itself consists of the:

  • Guardrail Common Sensor (GRCS).
  • Guardrail Integrated Processing Facility (IPF) for processing signals intelligence (SIGINT).
  • Advanced Electronic and Processing Dissemination System (AEPDS) for processing all national SIGINT.

Mobile Imagery Exploitation System (MIES) for processing all national IMINT.

  • Enhanced Tactical Radar Correlator (ETRAC) as the downlink for the U2 platform's Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar (ASARS).
  • Common Ground Station (CGS) for processing Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS) moving target indicators (MTI) and synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imagery.

First FSE Use

The FSE was first employed during Joint Task Force Exercise 98-1 (Purple Dragon). JTFEX 98-1 was a U.S. Atlantic Command-sponsored exercise that took place from 12 January 1998 through 5 February 1998. This exercise was a Tier II1 force-on-force exercise involving all of the Services. The FSE deployed to the intermediate staging base located at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to set up operations. The scenario was built in two parts, one of which is discussed here. Part I of the JTF 840 (XVIII Airborne Corps) Operations Order, which fell under Phase IIIa of the Operation (Set Conditions), was constructed as a test to validate our ability to "narrow the gap between sensor and shooter and to conduct near-real-time sensor-to-sensor cross-cueing." For this phase, we received two additional sensors not organic to the brigade: the Pioneer UAV from Naval Detachment VC-6 (Patuxent River, Maryland) and the P3 Orion from Special Projects Patrol, Squadron One (Brunswick, Maine). Both of these platforms brought electro-optical sensors to the fight. We established SCUD-B surface-to-surface missile mock-ups, live maneuver forces, and an SA-6 surface-to-air missile fixed site, all at different geographical areas, to provide a more realistic target set.

The MGSM and AEPDS dominate this photo of the FSE set up at Myrtle Beach Jetport JTFEX 98-1.

One by one, each target was detected, tracked, and nominated for targeting. At each location the FSE proved repeatedly that its concept was valid, and that it could significantly reduce the time gap between detection and nomination by conventional means. When targetable resolution was not initially obtained from the first sensor to detect a target, the FSE redirected another to that location and quickly obtained the required accuracy.

The FSE Concept

Very simply put, the FSE provides a level of focused mission management of the corps' critical sensors that was not possible using traditional collection management procedures. Given the variety of responsibilities and duties levied on the collection management section in a corps ACE, it is not possible for the section to intensively manage every active sensor. The FSE's focus on these assets allows the CM to fully exploit the capabilities of each sensor and, in the end, to produce more targets to attack with ordnance or electronic attack (EA). These additional targets come from a shortened sensor-to-shooter timeline and from the ability to fully exploit HPT-focused combat intelligence.

We have established a new management tool that has created a concurrent path of information flow. This path complements the traditional collection and targeting process by putting a second set of "eyes" on the targets of the greatest significance. The traditional flow of data is uninterrupted from the sensor to the preprocessor, into the respective single-source enclave, then to the all-source enclave, and finally to the targeting workstation in our Analysis and Control Element (ACE). Our new path centers on locating all of our preprocessors in one geographical area. This enables our operations van to synthesize the information as it comes in, looking specifically for HPTs. When an HPT is detected, an operator can nominate it within seconds to the targeting cell at the ACE or directly to the targeteers in our Corps DOCC. This new flow can save minutes, if not hours, over the traditional targeting process. Of course, through remote operations, the FSE is not dependent on one geographical area for collocating all of its organic sensors and preprocessors. We can design a variety of packages that would permit remote operations from split bases around the world. While this hunt for HPTs is ongoing, the traditional flow of data into our ACE continues and the traditional target nomination processes remain undisturbed.

FSE Resources

The FSE, like most military organizations, is driven by METT-T (mission, enemy, terrain, troops, and time available). We deployed all of the organic brigade assets to Myrtle Air Station, South Carolina, for the FSE's first test. These assets included the ETRAC, MIES, AEPDS, CGS, the Medium Ground Station Module (MGSM, a CGS precursor), the TROJAN Special Purpose Integrated Remote Intelligence Terminal (TROJAN SPIRIT II or TS II), and the GRCSs with their associated IPFs.

In the center of the enclave was our operations van and an Administrative/Logistics Operations Center for administrative and logistics support. The operations van served as the FSE nerve center for information flow. Members of the 319th MI Battalion staff and terminal operators from the respective systems operated this van. We designed the van to include a remote display and/or processor for each of our systems.

For security reasons, the van was divided into two sections: sensitive compartmented information (SCI)--the AEPDS, ETRAC, and the Joint Worldwide Information Communications System (JWICS)--and collateral--Secure Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNET), ASAS-RWS, CGS RWS, and UAV terminal.

These systems provided the following:

  • The AEPDS workstation provided us access to all national-level SIGINT data, and included the same functionality resident in the AEPDS proper.
  • The Remote Terminal Operations Display from the ETRAC brought in the live U2 downlink. This terminal was a dumb client slaved off a host in the system itself, but it could be controlled with a telephone call to the preprocessor van.
  • The JWICS terminal gave us access to INTELINK and other SCI databases.
  • The SIPRNET terminal brought in INTELINK-S and access to all other collateral databases.
  • The ASAS-RWS (Warlord Notebook variant) was responsible for processing target nominations, tracking the friendly situation, and displaying the current enemy situation.
  • The CGS RWS displayed MTIs from Joint STARS and SAR imagery.
  • The UAV display terminal used off-the-shelf hardware and software to bring in a real-time video display from the electric-optical sensor on the UAV.

During Phase III of this particular exercise, we also had the downlink terminal for the P3 Orion. This terminal functioned much like the UAV display by bringing us a video feed directly from the aircraft, and permitting us to dynamically retask the sensor to look at particular areas of interest. These remote terminals provided us with real-time access to every preprocessor as it was receiving information from its respective sensor(s).

At the center of FSE operations are soldiers. Soldiers who are monitoring the flow of information from each sensor as it arrives at its respective preprocessor. These soldiers are busy providing "terminal guidance" to their sensors, narrowing their focus on the commanders' HPTs. This is the crux of FSE operations.

Mission Threads

A comprehensive FSE battle rhythm was designed to combine the processing power of our systems with the intelligence skills of our operators. This rhythm addressed our collection focus as prioritized by the Corps CM. Our top priority was to ensure that every operator understood specifically where we were focusing our sensors, what we expected to detect (our HPTs), and when the sensors were operational. We then reviewed the operational status of each sensor and preprocessor, and concluded with an operational update on the exercise. We conducted these updates each morning for the oncoming day shift, and each evening for the night shift.

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Figure1. FSE Mission Thread.

We conceived a process we refer to as "Mission Threads" to focus and refine each HPT. One of these threads is depicted in Figure 1; it indicates our approach for detecting, tracking, and assessing a particular target. In this case, it was a real SCUD-B located on Fort Stewart, Georgia. We allocated two sensors against this target: a corps LRSC team and a Pioneer UAV. In this example, our tip-off came from the LRSC team; they radioed the spot report to their company operating base (COB) at Fort Bragg. From there the report went to the Joint Intelligence Support Element (JISE) also at Fort Bragg, which in turn passed it to the FSE tactical operations center (TOC) at Myrtle Beach. Within minutes of receiving this notification, the FSE redirected the UAV over the target location; seconds later the UAV telemetry confirmed the location and the nomination process began. SCUDs had been designated time-sensitive targets, which meant that our nomination went directly to the DOCC. In this particular thread, the time from detection to nomination was less than 10 minutes, but many HPTs were nominated in less than 3 minutes from detection.

Layout of the Enclave

Terrain allocation was an important issue as we sought to minimize our footprint while maximizing our functionality. Our layout for this deployment established one tactical secure compartmented intelligence facility that included both collateral and SCI areas, and shared a common entry control point. Wherever possible, antenna groups and generators were positioned outside the wire borders of the FSE for easy access. The enclave consisted of two sections: one half contained our Tactical Exploitation of National Capabilities (TENCAP) assets, and the other included our GRCS IPF.

FSE Communications Architecture

The complexity of the FSE demanded a thorough review of existing intelligence communications architecture; Figure 2 shows the final architectural design. At the risk of oversimplification, this design centered on six clusters or consumers within the enclave: IPF, ETRAC, AEPDS, MIES, CGS, and the FSE TOC operations van. We established three internal local area networks: SIPRNET, JWICS, and AUTODIN (automatic digital network). We located the SIPRNET and JWICS hubs inside the operations van for administration and management, while the AUTODIN was managed from a central switch inside the wire barrier. In addition to these networks, we also brought in a redundant SIPRNET path via the Mobile Subscriber Network (MSE)/Tactical Packet Network (TPN). Our reach-back capabilities were fairly robust using a TROJAN SPIRIT II for the principle JWICS and SIPRNET provider, an AN/TYC-39 message switch for AUTODIN, and an AN/TSC-93 multi- channel satellite for the MSE/TPN. Also depicted in this chart are the various sensor links and our SUCCESS (Synthesized, UHF (ultrahigh frequency), Computer-Controlled Sub- system) radio path resident with each of our TENCAP systems. This architecture was highly successful and remained remarkably stable throughout the operation.

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Figure 2. 525th Brigade Forward Sensor Enclave Intelligence Communications Architecture.


In our judgement, the FSE is an organization whose time has come. The maturity of modern sensors and preprocessors has redefined our battlespace. We now have the capability to reach deeper into an area of responsibility than ever before, seeking out targets that meet our HPT criteria. Focusing our sensors and collection efforts on these target sets is our mission. Our method is establishing a concurrent data path whereby HPTs can quickly and accurately be detected, tracked, delivered, and assessed. JTFEX 98-1 (Purple Dragon) validated this concept for the Joint Task Force Commander, and brought home several significant points. We must reconsider our MI doctrine as it pertains to targeting. This effort should focus on the new capabilities of the FSE. We must also develop enclave packages that support all phases of military operations, from stability and support operations to large-scale war.

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The CGS, MGSM, RL Antenna and AEPDS "Bubble" are all shown in this shot of the FSE at Myrtle Beach Jetport in Support of JTFEX 98-1 Purple Dragon.

Much work lies ahead as we further refine this concept and increase its processing capabilities. In the days and weeks that follow, we will design and implement full tactics, techniques, and procedures for the FSE. We will base this document on our January exercise lessons learned and the responses we receive from the many government agencies and contractors who critically reviewed our procedures. We will seek to increase our communications and network capabilities, and to reduce the size of our footprint. From there, we will analyze our procedures, attempting to fuse our data streams into common pictures of our battlespace, giving us greater target resolution and fidelity. Finally, we will fully integrate the rest of our Corps Intelligence BFA systems and procedures and determine the best solutions for exportation.


1. A Tier II exercise is a commander in chief-supported Joint Task Force exercise with the training focused on the component level.

Captain Chris R. Lindstrom is assigned as the Assistant S3, 319th MI Battalion (Air Borne) Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and is on temporary assignment with the USAREUR DCSINT. His previous assignment was as the Force Modernization Officer, XVIII Airborne Corps G2. He has a bachelor of arts degree from Utah State University. Readers can reach him via E-mail at Lindstrc@aol.com.