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FAS Project on Intelligence Reform

Common Imagery Ground/Surface System (CIGSS)

The Common Imagery Ground/Surface System (CIGSS) is intended to facilitate the migration of existing imagery systems to a common interoperable baseline. The CIGSS program encompasses a family of scalable, extensible, and interoperable image processing and exploitation systems. These systems will provide the warfighter with rapid remote access to airborne and national imagery and imagery products; consequently, CIGSS is a key element within the United States Imagery System 2000 (USIS) and Intelligence Community strategy. CIGSS is not a system in the traditional sense; instead, CIGSS is an umbrella program that defines interoperability, performance, and commonality requirements and standards for DoD ground/surface based imagery processing and exploitation systems.

During a 01 November 1994 meeting of the JROC, Admiral Owens (VCJCS) tasked the USAF Vice Chief of Staff to develop an Operational Requirements Document [ORD] for migrating all DoD imagery ground stations to a common interoperable baseline consistent with joint warfighter requirements. This ORD drives many service independent systems to a common core set of requirements so that any particular system can be deployed to support any deployed JTF. Currently, many systems have varying levels of capability and interoperability, and several systems are often deployed together to give commanders the desired levels of support. The CIGSS effort will develop a set of ground stations which can meet any theater requirement to interface with any required imagery collection platform or sensor.

CIGSS is a family of image processing and exploitation systems that can accept unprocessed or processed (e.g., from sensor platforms with on-board processing) data from electronic or tape media sources, and derive imagery and imagery products from that data for military intelligence and operations. Some CIGSS missions may also require archiving and disseminating unexploited imagery. The CIGSS operates on data received from any of the electro-optical, infrared, synthetic aperture radar, and multi-spectral spaced-based and airborne sensors used by the military forces and national agencies.

Imagery is collected by electro-optical (EO), infrared (IR), synthetic aperture radar (SAR), and multi-spectral imagery (MSI) sensors from national, tactical, and commercial sources. The imagery, in the form of multiplexed data streams or analog video is unique to each sensor technology. Data may be downlinked directly to a collocated receive element, captured on tape recorders at a link receiver, relayed through a satellite or aircraft to fixed or forward deployed ground stations, or received on magnetic tape from reconnaissance aircraft upon completion of a mission. The CIGSS processes the received data into analyst-exploitable visual images; provides the facilities and tools for data fusion and exploitation; archives the imagery and imagery products generated for military and intelligence operations; and, distributes annotated images and image-derived intelligence products to local and remote military users via electronic and tape media means.

CIGSS differs from the traditional system specification. In lieu of functional and performance requirements, the CIGSS Acqusition Handbook specifies an open system approach based upon commercial standards and military adaptations of commercial standards. These standards provide functional and performance envelopes to guide design and component selection. This approach has the potential to increase design competition, stimulate innovative uses of commercial off-the-shelf software and components, reduce software maintenance and upgrade costs, and protect capital investments.

The primary focus of the CIGSS Working Group during the first phase (Jan - July 1995) was to specify a common image file format, establish common physical and data link standards, establish common media inputs and outputs, and draft the rudiments of the remaining baseline architecture. A common image file format is critical for the external exchange of data and is a key factor in identifying migration paths towards true interoperability. In addition, the mandated interfaces and data formats, including tape, was defined. Establishing common physical exchange media, and physical and data link standards will address the issues related to physical and electrical connectivity, framing, synchronization, error and flow control needed for the reliable transfer of image data. The Common Image Processor (CIP), a major component of CIGSS, is being worked in a separate but closely allied effort.

During the second phase (July 1995 - April 1996) the remaining issues were closed so that systems migration to CIGSS could be completed. The work during this phase concerned the issues associated with employing network technology, achieving interoperability with transitional exploitation systems, and establishing and specifying the minimum functionality and capabilities to be fielded.

The third phase provides for successive versions of the CIGSS Handbook to be prepared as needed to meet changing requirements and keep pace with advances in image processing and computer technology.

CIGSS requires some elements of POSIX and permit the optional use of others, and excludes the use of TIFF for public data, selecting instead, the National Imagery Transmission Format with Support Data Extensions itself a DoDIIS community accepted standard, as the common exchange format.

The CIGSS includes a Common Imagery Processor (CIP) or its equivalent, to accept data from electronic and tape sources, and produce a visually exploitable image; an Image Product Archive (IPA) for storing imagery and intelligence products for local and external dissemination; and, in some instances, a NIS to manage the request and dissemination of NIC collected primary imagery to the CIGSS LAN in near-real time. The NIS also provides a gateway for CIGSS processed imagery to be disseminated in-theater, intra-theater, and across the global NIC infrastructure.

The Common Imagery Ground/Surface System (CIG/SS) testbed is a transportable laboratory developed, operated and maintained by Air Force Electronics System Center for DARO. As a DARO asset in support of the airborne reconnaissance community it provides a tool for development and verification of CIG/SS elements, concepts and interoperability amongst CIG/SS components and airborne sensor systems. The CIGSS Testbed was delivered on 8 Jun 96 to MDA St Louis to support F/A-18 integration testing. The testing was extremely successful. Several problems with the F/A-18 ATARS hardware suite were uncovered and fixed. Fixes were installed and successfully tested.

DARO recently awarded the Common Imagery Processor (CIP) contract to Northrop Grumman (formerly Westinghouse). The CIP is the primary sensor processing element of the CIGSS architecture. The function of the CIP is to accept imagery data, process it into an exploitable image, and output it in a standard format to other CIGSS elements. The introduction of the CIP will allow any airborne reconnaissance ground system to receive imagery data from any sensor (SAR, EO, or IR) from the suite of DoD collection platforms, including the High Altitude Endurance UAVs. The objective is to implement a COTS-based software, hardware-independent solution instead of the traditional custom software, hardware-specific development efforts of the past.

Related Programs

There are a number of IMINT ground and afloat stations that have been developed or fielded independently and prior to the advent of CIGSS. The CIGSS program will evolve to its objective system by migrating current systems to a common set of standards and Joint interoperability requirements. These systems are:

Sources and Methods



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Created by John Pike
Maintained by Steven Aftergood

Updated Wednesday, October 27, 1999 9:32:30 AM