Chapter IV. Technology Development
Army Science and Technology Master Plan (ASTMP 1997)


R. Sensors

1. Scope

By providing critically required military capabilities detailing troop positions, target locations, and battlefield conditions, sensors, and information processing technologies form an enabling array of systems on Army Platforms. Flexible robust sensor systems have significantly increased Army warfighting capabilities and become a true force multiplier. Sensor technologies depend upon research provided by ARO, the RDECs, ARL, and Federated Partners. This area develops technologies in five subareas: Radar Sensors; Electro-optic Sensors; Acoustic, Magnetic, and Seismic Sensors; Automatic Target Recognition; and Integrated Platform Electronics.

2. Rationale

Sensor technology provides the "eyes and ears" for nearly all Army tactical and strategic weapon systems as well as the intelligence community. Sensors support effective battlefield decision making and contribute to achieving the JCS Top Five Future Joint Warfighting Capabilities. Sensors represent a major cost factor for weapon systems which is addressed in this program through a number of thrusts, including affordable integrated circuits, ultra-large and multicolor infrared focal plane arrays, multifunction multiwavelength lasers, common modules, shared apertures, computer simulation and modeling, and adaptive processing. Expected payoffs include 50 percent reduction in cost of imaging radars and infrared search track sensors, and 10 to 1 improvement in thermal sensitivity of infrared sensors. Sensors are integral and fundamental to achieve situational awareness on the battlefield to win the information war. Because of their pervasiveness, sensors have multiple transition opportunities, including the 21st century soldier, and sensors are vital to the survivability of soldiers and the weapon platforms on the battlefield.

3. Technology Subareas

a. Radar Sensors

Goals and Time Frames

Radar is the sensor for all weather detection of air, ground, and subsurface targets. This subarea involves technology developments involving enhanced and new capabilities associated with wide area surveillance radars, tactical reconnaissance radars, and airborne and ground fire control radars. Objectives include the understanding of the phenomenology and applications of ultra wide-band (UWB) synthetic aperture radar (SAR) to enable detection and classification of stationary targets that are subsurface or concealed by foliage or camouflage. This technology would enable development of a foliage penetration (FOPEN) radar capable of real-time image formation in operational scenarios. The system could be expanded to support a ground penetration (GPEN) radar capable of collecting subsurface target data.

Another primary goal is the research and development of affordable battlefield fire control radar (FCR) technology to improve detection, tracking, and discrimination of high value stationary and moving targets for the Longbow Apache and Comanche programs as well as vehicle-based systems such as the MGR in TA-ATD and the Rapid Target Acquisition system for crew-served TOW.

Augmenting the programs listed above are fundamental studies of the phenomenology associated with target acquisition such as target and clutter characteristics, resolution enhancement techniques, and algorithm studies, such as the Real Aperture Stationary Target Radar (RASTR) program, which are designed to investigate performance enhancements through evaluation of improvements in a software environment based on high resolution data sets. Milestones are as follows: begin test of GPEN Crane SAR (FY97); collect data and analyze ATR algorithm performance (FY99); complete Ka-Band Polarimetric Monopulse radar to support MGR studies (FY98); apply Direct Digital Synthesizer (DDS) and wideband transceiver technology development to stationary target fire control radars (FY97-99); improve stationary target algorithms to allow for autonomous adaptation to various clutter backgrounds and strive for a probability of detection greater than 80 percent with false alarm rates much less than 0.1/km2.

Major Technical Challenges

Major technical challenges include development of instrumentation for the understanding of wave propagation in background/clutter environments; development of high power, low frequency, wideband signals; and development of radar components and algorithms that support high probability of detection and classification of stationary and moving targets with low false alarm rates.

Specific technical challenges are highlighted below:

b. Electro-Optic Sensors

Goals and Time Frames

The goal of tactical EO sensors is to provide passive/covert and active target acquisition (detection, classification, recognition, identification) of military targets of interest and also to allow military operations under all battlefield conditions. Platforms using EO sensors include dismounted combat personnel, ground combat and support vehicles, tactical rotary-wing aircraft, manned/unmanned reconnaissance aircraft, and ballistic/theater missile defense. Major milestones are as follows: NIR LADAR for RSTA (FY97), thin film low cost uncooled sensors and smart dual color sensors (FY99), multidomain smart sensors with shared aperture (FY03), and integrated detector arrays which incorporate advanced diffractive optics and/or post processing circuitry (FY03).

Major Technical Challenges

Technical roadblocks to overcome include:

c. Acoustic, Magnetic, and Seismic Sensors

Goals and Time Frames

The objective of this program is to provide real-time tracking and target identification for a variety of battlefield ground and air targets. Objective systems include unattended surveillance sensors and target engagement sensors. Advances in signal processing devices and techniques have made acoustic sensors realizable and highly affordable. Both continuous signals, such as engine noise, and impulsive signals, such as gun shots, are of interest. Enhancing hearing for individual soldiers is also important, and efforts are underway to extend the audible range and frequency response of an individual soldier. Goals include enhanced tracking and identification algorithms, creation of a robust target signature database and algorithm development laboratory (FY97), and detection and tracking of large formations of battlefield targets (FY98).

Major Technical Challenges

Areas of technical risk are driven largely by the immature nature of battlefield acoustics technology. Advances in digital signal processing will allow new algorithms to be implemented in affordable packages. Specific technical challenges include:

d. Automatic Target Recognition (ATR)

Goals and Time Frames

ATR systems will provide sensors with the capability to recognize and identify targets under real-world battlefield conditions. ATR technologies and systems will increase the capabilities of sensors far beyond today’s capabilities. They will provide the future U.S. Army with target recognition and identification capabilities that will maintain and increase dominance over all adversaries.

Just as sensor systems are the "eyes" for tactical and strategic weapon systems, ATR systems will provide the "brains" for these weapon systems. ATR systems and technologies will allow weapons systems to automatically identify targets, (1) increasing lethality and survivability, (2) reducing the cost of employing advanced high priced weapons, and (3) eliminating or at least reducing the cost and tragedy of losses from friendly fire. In addition, ATR will aid the image analyst to screen the ever-expanding imagery derived from high resolution, wide field-of-view SAR systems.

In the near term (FY97-98) the Army’s goals in ATR are to do 10 target classes, with identification rates nearing 75 to 80 percent and significantly reduced false alarm rates. In the mid term (FY99-03), ATR systems will handle 20 target classes with improved detection and false alarm rates. In the far term (FY04-12), 100 target classes will be handled with additional improvements in performance.

Major Technical Challenges

Technology areas that are integral to ATR include processors, algorithms, and ATR development tools, which include modeling and simulation. Today, the focus is on both single sensor and multiple sensor ATR algorithm development. While processor development is being successfully leveraged off the highly competitive commercial market and the importance of development tools remains high, single and multiple sensor algorithm development programs are the key to successful development of ATR systems for the U.S. Army. Ongoing data-driven and model-based algorithm development programs are providing exciting results that include detection rates approaching 100 percent, identification rates in the 80 percent range, and significant reductions in false alarms. In the mid and far term these developments translate into fielded ATR systems that will significantly increase soldiers’ capabilities and reduce their workload.

e. Integrated Platform Electronics

Goals and Time Frames

Integrated Platform Electronics (IPE) focuses on the integration technologies, disciplines, standards, tools, and components to physically and functionally integrate and fully exploit electronic systems on-board airborne (helicopters, RPV, and fixed wing), ground, and human platforms. Integrated electronics approaches typically result in systems at half the cost and weight of conventional approaches, while providing virtually 100 percent of platform mission capability. One milestone will be to demonstrate an optical backplane system that will provide 40 percent increase in bandwidth (FY98).

Major Technical Challenges

Determine an architecture or set of architectures which prove sufficiently robust to readily accept technology innovations developed in the commercial sector. Improve reliability to reduce logistics, deployability, and support costs. Develop standardized image compression techniques and architectures to permit transfer of images with sufficient clarity and update rates to support digitization of the battlefield.

4. Roadmap of Technology Objectives

The roadmap of technology objectives for Sensors is shown in Table IV-R-1, below.

Table IV-R-1. Technical Objectives for Sensors

Click here to view enlarged version of image.