Electronics For the High Ground

July 1, 1986

The fate of the Defense Depart­ment’s daring Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) research program will be determined in great measure by USAF’s Electronic Systems Di­vision at Hanscom AFB, Mass.

ESD has become pivotal to the accomplishment of the SDI pro­gram’s toughest task, that of dem­onstrating that a nonnuclear, lay­ered system of weapons and sen­sors for defending against ballistic missiles can really work. All along, ESD has been in charge of USAF’s major share of SDI research on bat­tle-management command control and communications (C3), the seg­ment of the many-sided SDI pro­gram that is central to all others.

Now ESD’s role in the SDI pro­gram has been greatly expanded. The Strategic Defense Initiative Or­ganization (SDIO) and the Air Force have put ESD in charge of designing and building the geo­graphically dispersed, electronical­ly coordinated SDI National Test-Bed to simulate and validate SDI system concepts and technologies in “engagement” scenarios.

The National Test-Bed will be the means of determining how well those concepts and technologies work without actually developing or deploying an SDI system in space or on earth. It is also expected to disarm critics who charge that SDI is fatally flawed for the lack of any means of testing it, short of building and deploying systems in contra­diction of the ABM treaty.

ESD is also moving out smartly on a newly organized Air Force pro­gram that is intended to supplement SDI. Called Air Defense Initiative (ADI), it has been set up to develop surveillance, battle-management, and weapons technologies for in-depth defense of North America against the growing threats of bombers and air-launched and sub­marine-launched cruise missiles.

As ESD’s arm for advanced re­search and technology development and transition, Rome Air Develop­ment Center (RADC) at Griffiss AFB, N. Y., is the wellspring of the division’s SDI and ADI programs.

Eye-catching as they are, those endeavors are matched in impor­tance by many others in ESD’s kit bag of programs to enhance the C3I capabilities of USAF’s strategic, tactical, and security forces.

Notable among these on the tac­tical side are the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS) program now in full-scale development, the AWACS upgrad­ing program, and the Joint Tactical Information Distribution System (JTIDS) program now settling into stride.

On the strategic side, ESD has begun installing the Ground Wave Emergency Network (GWEN), which will communicate low-fre­quency emergency action messages to Strategic Air Command bases and launch control centers.

ESD is also well along in its work on new antijam (AJ) radio receivers for bombers and on high-power transmitters for the World-Wide Airborne National Command Post (WWANCP) fleet of EC-135 air­craft.

ESD’s development of terminals for military aircraft and for some USAF ground stations to receive signals from vital Milstar communi­cations satellites had fallen behind schedule. It now seems to be back on track, however, in anticipation of initial Milstar deployment sched­uled for 1988.

The SAC Digital Information Network (SACDIN) is being in­stalled, the World-Wide Military Command and Control Information System (WIS) is taking shape, the Ballistic Missile Early Warning Sys­tem (BMEWS) is being refurbished, and the North Warning System—a US/Canada project to replace the technologically outdated Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line in North America—is heading for completion in 1992.

Meanwhile, the east coast seg­ment of ESD’s Over-the-Horizon Backscatter (0TH-B) radar system is in production, and the west coast segment is scheduled to be put un­der contract about the time this is­sue goes to press.

In a time of terrorism, ESD’s de­velopment of sensors and auto­mated communications and alarm systems for safeguarding Air Force bases and deployed weapon sys­tems assumes all the more impor­tance.

This work is directed by Thomas O’Mahony, ESD’s Deputy Com­mander for Intelligence, C3 Coun­termeasures, and Support Systems. His shop also handles such programs as C3 upgrades for Military Airlift Command and automated management systems for Air Force Logistics Command and ESD’s par­ent Air Force Systems Command.

The order of the day at ESD is to push all programs through develop­ment and into production in strict adherence to stringent timetables.

A Trimmer, Tighter Look

Lt. Gen. Melvin F Chubb, Jr., ESD’s Commander, is a stickler for getting things done on time and at or under cost. General Chubb also as­signs high priority to a variety of ESD programs to induce con­tractors to increase productivity and improve the reliability and cut the costs of hardware and software.

Consequently, ESD’s programs have a trimmer look these days. There is also a sense of ESD reas­serting its role in the company of other AFSC product divisions that deal in aeronautical, weapons, and space systems of seemingly greater glamor but of no greater importance than ESD’s “silent” systems for C3I.

ESD’s leadership in establishing and running the SDI National Test-Bed joint program office adds to its luster and confronts it with a diffi­cult challenge.

As presently envisioned, the Na­tional Test-Bed will be made up of several simulation sites electroni­cally linked to a central test facility where SDI battle-management sim­ulations and weapons-engagement simulations will be run.

The central test facility may take up as much as 300,000 square feet and employ up to 1,000 people. At this writing, its location had not been chosen, but Colorado Springs is considered a likely prospect.

Some officials predict that the SDI National Test-Bed program will become a multibillion-dollar operation.

ESD officials involved in the pro­gram say that it is too early to get specific about such matters. Na­tional Test-Bed contractors have only begun investigating concepts.

Selected late fast March by SDIO, those contractors are TRW, Rockwell, Martin Marietta, and Boeing. Each heads a large team of subsidiary contractors. All are com­peting for National Test-Bed design and implementation contracts.

SDIO has budgeted $462 million for the test-bed program in FY ’87, which will begin October 1. It plans to have the central test facility in operation no later than 1989.

Col. William F. Flanagan, ESD’s Deputy for Development Plans, de­scribes the National Test-Bed as “the wind tunnel for SDI.”

Colonel Flanagan explains that the military, services and other agencies in the SDI program will fashion the software and the simula­tions for their individual concepts and systems.

“They’ll debug the simulations,” he says, “and then submit them, in data form, to the central test-bed, which will be the vehicle for testing them all together.”

ESD was not tapped out of the blue to take the lead in the National Test-Bed program. It came natu­rally to the task by virtue of its work, much of which has been done at RADC, on battle-management C3—described by Colonel Flanagan as “the glue that holds everything together”—for the Air Force’s space-oriented role in SDI.

Such work has involved the simu­lation of the C3 that would be neces­sary should US kinetic energy weapons in space be called on to intercept incoming Soviet ICBMs.

“We put the formulas and the sce­narios into a computer and did runup exercises,” Colonel Flanagan explains. “The process involved some unique software that we devel­oped fairly cheaply, with three to four people working nine months to a year.”

The National Test-Bed will size up SDI technologies and concepts with a view to trade-offs among them, measure the “leakage” of re­entry vehicles into US airspace in various scenarios, and test defen­sive systems concepts, via simula­tion, for their survivability as well as for their lethality.

“In our own in-house [ESD] sim­ulations, we’re starting small,” Colonel Flanagan says. “We don’t know yet what computing power we would need to simulate a full-up [SDI] system. It’s going to be a grad­ual learning process for us while we increase the number of scenarios and vehicles involved.”

“Our first cut,” he explains, “was with six [Soviet] missile fields and one [US] ‘kill’ satellite interacting. We’ve come a long way. We’re get­ting better now at answering such questions as how long would it take after a missile comes out of a silo for a [space-based] kinetic energy weapon to fire at it and kill it before [its] burnout.”

ESD has also simulated warheads impacting on the US, singly at first and then in multiples. Moving up to multiple reentry vehicles in the sim­ulations taxed computers and soft­ware but was manageable.

“We can ask [the computer] ques­tions,” Colonel Flanagan explains, “such as, ‘What happens if the ve­locity of the [SDI] kill vehicles is increased? What difference would that make?’

Man in the Loop

ESD’s research on SDI battle-management C3 has been done “with man in the loop,” Colonel Flanagan emphasizes. This should allay the fear expressed by some SDI critics that a deployed SDI sys­tem would be wholly automated and that a decision to open fire would be left to computers, not to people.

The decision-making role of hu­mans in SDI battle management (ESD calls this “the SDI man-ma­chine interface”) is being analyzed by an ESD contractor, Bolt, Beranek & Newman.

Other ESD battle-management C3 contracts involve architecture studies by IBM, Ford Aerospace, and McDonnell Douglas; a study by GTE of “intelligence impacts” on such battle-management architec­tures, with funding shared by the Army; and “software simulation support” by H. H. Aerospace De­sign Co. MITRE Corp., ESD’s al­lied Federal Contract Research Center, has a hand in all such work, with emphasis on the sometimes daunting problems of software qual­ity and quantity.

“We believe battle management is one of the toughest parts of SDI,” says Colonel Flanagan. “All other parts—weapons and sensors—are influenced by battle-management C3.”

ESD’s battle-management C3 work has primed it for its leadership role in the SDI National Test-Bed program. The test-bed will be a creature of the computers and the communications that ESD is all about. Interconnecting the central test facility with others run by the services and by other DOD agencies and integrating the simulations of all of them will be a sophisticated sort of “battle management” in itself.

The SDI National Test-Bed could well be the means of deciding a ma­jor question that ESD is pondering: Should a deployed SDI system em­body satellites that are dedicated to battle management, or should each sensory satellite and each weapon satellite have its own battle-man­agement microprocessors and soft­ware

“Those are the options,” Colonel Flanagan asserts.

The National Test-Bed will have to tackle a great many such crucial questions.

“If we do our job right, we’ll be able to handle the whole range of SD! battle-management concepts and technologies,” Colonel Flana­gan declares.

He emphasizes that the National Test-Bed, like all other SDI pro­grams, comes under the heading of “research,” not of “development.” ABM treaty considerations make this distinction imperative.

Rome Air Development Center gets great credit for ESD’s exem­plary status in the SDI program.

Among other achievements, RADC’s communications research­ers have come up with a multinet “gateway” device that checks the security classification status of data coming out of computers and makes sure that it is routed only to autho­rized recipients. RADC has built a development model and will select a contractor to build an operational model roughly the size of a re­frigerator and stuffed with elec­tronics. The device is a godsend to SDI research operations and could play a key role in the functioning of the SDI test-bed.

RADC’s participation in the SDI program goes well beyond battle-management C3 work. Its scientists and engineers are also involved in SDI’s Surveillance, Acquisition, Tracking, and Kill Assessment (SATKA) research and directed-en­ergy weapons (DEW) research, with emphasis on large optics, in­formation and signal processing, surveillance radars, and software.

“Our work in SDI represents our emphasis in areas where RADC has been and will continue to be domi­nant,” explains RADC Vice Com­mander Col. William E. O’Brien.

RADC has conducted several SDI experiments. Late last year, for example, it ran the show when the Air Force beamed a low-power laser at a Space Shuttle orbiting above a test range on Maui in the Hawaiian Islands. The laser hit the bull’s-eye, illuminating a reflecting device on the Shuttle.

That test, says Colonel O’Brien, “gave us a better understanding of how to overcome the atmospheric effects on optical systems and en­abled us to demonstrate advanced optical tracking technology.” It also had great significance for SD! re­search on using mirrors in space to deflect the beams of big, powerful lasers on US soil to ICBMs boom­ing skyward from the Soviet Union or anywhere else.

RADC’s increasing involvement in SDI research is the major reason for the recently sharp upswing of its budget, from $300 million two years ago to $500 million this year.

Now RADC is applying its re­sources and its know-how to USAF’s new Air Defense Initiative as well.

“I see our role increasing in ADI,” says Colonel O’Brien, “be­cause many of the technologies that apply to SDI ripple right into the ADI area. That’s our main focus—the synergism of SDI and ADI in those areas where we have the tech­nical expertise.”

USAF reasons that the SDI pro­gram for defense against ballistic missiles must be augmented by the ADI program for defense against bombers and cruise missiles.

At the heart of the ADI endeavor is ESD’s Atmospheric Surveillance Technology (AST) program. It seeks to develop new sensors to go along with ESD’s 0TH-B radars and others in providing “wide-area surveillance” of all air approaches to North America. The AST pro­gram is considering the entire archi­tecture of sensors and C3I that will be needed for such surveillance. It is in partnership with complemen­tary work being carried out at AFSC’s Space Division.

An example of such work is the Teal Ruby mosaic infrared sensor that had been scheduled for a Space Shuttle tryout this year. That test was delayed when the Challenger disaster put the Shuttle program on hold.

Air defense is clearly in the as­cendance among DOD and USAF priorities. At this writing, discus­sions of how to improve C3 connec­tivity for the air defense mission were taking place at Hq. AFSC, An­drews AFB, Md., and in the Air Staff at the Pentagon.

Tactical Air Command is eyeing modern fighters for the air defense mission and is said to be increasing­ly interested in ESD’s C3 and sur­veillance research programs of po­tential import for that mission.

Enthusiasm About Joint STARS

TAC does a lot of business with ESD and should be heartened by developments on the tactical front there.

The Joint STARS program is a prime example. It is a joint Air Force/Army program to provide real-time battle surveillance and at­tack management for air and land combat. It embodies air and ground segments, each with a weapons-tar­geting capability.

The heart of the airborne segment is the EC-18 (converted Boeing 707) aircraft with the Joint STARS radar, an operations and control system, and communications equipment aboard.

The EC-18’s radar antenna, which will be twenty-four feet long and more than two feet top to bot­tom, will be carried inside a canoe-shaped radome slung underneath the forward section of the fuselage.

Boeing will produce the aircraft and build the radome. Grumman Melbourne Systems Division is the airborne system contractor. Norden will build the side-looking radar.

Grumman and Norden had teamed up in USAF’s Pave Mover program, which led to Joint STARS.

The EC-18 will collect radar in­formation on such moving targets as tanks, trucks, and personnel car­riers over a deep, wide area behind enemy lines, all the while dispatch­ing this data to air and ground com­manders.

The purpose of the whole setup is accurate and timely air and artillery interdiction of enemy second-echelon ground targets wherever they move en route to reinforcing units at the battlefront.

Col. Charles E. Franklin, ESD’s Deputy Commander for Joint STARS, is convinced that the sys­tem “will revolutionize battlefield management.”

“With the ability to see in real time across the battlefield at the level of detail that the EC-18 pro­vides, air commanders, corps com­manders, and division commanders will get a far better picture of the whole scene than they’ve ever had before,” Colonel Franklin declares. “Their ability to see the movements of enemy forces will be tremen­dous.”

Colonel Franklin’s enthusiasm seems well-founded. ESD has worked long and hard on Joint STARS technologies and knows what the system can do.

In the Joint STARS full-scale de­velopment program that began ear­lier this year, ESD will acquire two developmental aircraft. The first aircraft is scheduled for delivery to USAF in January 1989 and will be demonstrated in Europe later that year. Production of the Joint STARS operational EC-18 aircraft is scheduled to begin in 1990.

Inside each EC-18 will be as many as fifteen operations and con­trol consoles. They will display ter­rain features and vehicles in a vari­ety of colors.

They will also store their data as they go, thus enabling their op­erators to call up “historical re­plays” of enemy whereabouts and movements in time gone by. This will enable air and ground com­manders to discern the patterns and speeds of such movements as well as their paths and intended points of confluence in attack-susceptible staging areas.

“Every EC-18 console will be ‘smart,’ with its own processor in­side,” Colonel Franklin explains. “Each will be able to store up to an hour’s worth of data.”

Joint STARS aircraft will also be capable of assessing damage caused by attacks against targets that they had spotted and tracked.

Presently, there are no plans to give the Joint STARS aircraft a lock-on linkup with air and ground weapon systems. Such a mode would be possible, however.

The Army’s segment of the Joint STARS program is its Ground Sta­tion Module (GSM) now being de­veloped by Motorola. The GSM is a truck-mounted operations and con­trol system full of computers and communications gear. It will re­ceive data from the EC-18s and dis­tribute it to ground commanders.

A Joint STARS data hookup with a wide range of combat aircraft is in the offing through the Joint Tactical Information Distribution System (JTIDS) now in full swing at ESD. The Navy and the Marine Corps have joined the Air Force and the Army four-square in the JTIDS pro­gram, which will provide antijam digital communications for all.

At the same time, USAF has shelved its plan for an enhanced JTIDS (EJS), which would have provided substantial voice commu­nications capability as well. TAC supported the EJS program, but the Navy’s fighter force, primarily de­pendent on data communications, did not. With EJS no longer com­plicating the scene, “JTIDS is really in business here now,” declares Brig. Gen. Charles P. Winters, ESD’s Deputy Commander for Tactical Systems, JTIDS, and AWACS.

The contractor team of Singer Kearfott/Rockwell Collins is devel­oping JTIDS Class II terminals to replace Class I varieties now in rela­tively limited usage. The team is evaluating Class II terminals for ap­plication to Navy-unique communi­cations requirements.

The Class II terminals have been put through developmental flight testing at Eglin AFB, Fla., and are expected to be ready for operational test and evaluation this summer. Meanwhile, ESD is making prepa­rations for their production.

The success of ESD’s Have Quick II program for upgrading the original Have Quick ultrahigh-fre­quency (UHF) voice radios now aboard all USAF fighters had much to do with the Air Force’s willing­ness to end the EJS program while continuing to develop EJS technol­ogy.

Have Quick II radios feature ad­ditional frequencies, software im­provements, increased memory, more power, and faster frequency hopping, the better to escape jam­ming. Their software is also com­patible with that of the E-3A AWACS aircraft.

USAF swears by its AWACS air­craft. It has no plans to add to its inventory of thirty-four E-3As. However, ESD is making them more capable of spotting and track­ing airborne targets for the US fight­er force.

The goal of ESD’s AWACS up­grading program is to increase the sensitivity of the huge radar atop the aircraft.

The radar itself will remain un­changed. However, the computers that receive and correlate its senso­ry data will be made much faster and more reliable.

“This will significantly improve the ability of AWACS to see smaller targets,” General Winters declares. Notable among such targets are cruise missiles, which are ever more abundant in Soviet bomber and submarine forces.

AWACS improvements could be­come all the more necessary if the Soviets turn to low-observable air­craft and cruise missiles in the US manner.

“The IBM computer in AWACS is a super one,” says Col. John Col­ligan, ESD’s Director for AWACS, “but it was designed more than twenty-five years ago. We can get a fair amount of advantage in radar sensitivity just by giving the com­puter more capability.”

In remodeling the computer, ESD is giving thought to applying VHSIC (very-high-speed integrated circuits) chips that are coming into production. The computer’s soft­ware is being enhanced as well.

Changes in the AWACS radar data correlator are being made by Westinghouse, which built it way back when. Most internal wiring is being eliminated, and computa­tional capacity is being increased. Westinghouse is expected to finish validating its new model later this year.

Colonel Colligan expects that the new radar data correlator will have a mean time between failures of more than 400 hours and will be capable of conducting 2,000,000 operations per second. This will quadruple the MTBF of the existing correlator and double its speed.

In the meantime, ESD has asked Boeing to come up with a new an­tenna to augment the AWACS radar.

“We’ve felt for a long time that we need some ancillary sensors in case the radar gets jammed or isn’t seeing as far as we’d like it to see under certain conditions,” Colonel Colligan explains. “The new anten­na won’t be terribly precise, but it will signal that there’s something out there, moving in this or that di­rection, that needs to be looked at. Having it will be comforting.”

This is also true of the many sys­tems being developed, acquired, and installed by the strategic side of the house at ESD.

With a billion-dollar-plus budget and thirty-five programs, ESD’s Deputy Commander for Strategic Systems manages a great deal of the work in the top-priority C3 segment of President Reagan’s strategic modernization program.

The going has been difficult in some instances, mainly because lev­els of funding have not always kept pace with levels of ambition. Even so, progress has been steady.

GWEN Thin Line

The Ground Wave Emergency Network (GWEN) is a prime exam­ple of this. A “thin line” of fifty-six GWEN antenna-tower sites will have been completed by RCA on federal, state, and leased private properties in the US by next April. Thirty-eight radio terminals will also have been installed at military facilities.

This is a solid start toward the construction of more than 200 sites, or nodes, that will make up the full-bodied GWEN system.

The GWEN program was begun five years ago as the means of assur­ing that the National Command Au­thorities (NCA) and SAC will be able to communicate with data via low-frequency ground waves should a nuclear attack disrupt other chan­nels for emergency-action mes­sages.

Each of the fenced-in GWEN sites around the country will feature a transmitter tower about 300 feet tall and three compact shelters con­taining communications equipment and a powerplant.

GWEN’s equipment and broad­cast signals would be unsullied by electromagnetic pulse (EMP) ema­nating from a high-altitude nuclear detonation, which could very well be the first thing to happen in a nu­clear attack.

Anthony D. Salvucci, ESD’s As­sistant Deputy Commander for Strategic Systems, is convinced that GWEN’s widely proliferated nodes and message-routing ver­satility will be enough to discourage a would-be attacker.

“We plan to have enough nodes in the system to make the enemy pay a significant penalty to cut enough of them to put the system out of ac­tion,” Mr. Salvucci declares.

SAC has had the use of a nine-tower GWEN prototype that RDA Associates built for starters. Seven of the towers are part of the existing thin-line network and will be incor­porated into the full-up network as well.

Many other ESD strategic pro­grams also have to do with guaran­teeing the connectivity of communi­cations during a nuclear war.

High among such programs are those for a Miniature Receive Ter­minal (MRT) for B-1B and B-52 bombers. The MRTs will be nu­clear-hardened and extremely diffi­cult to jam. Their developmental testing is expected to begin next February. First production deliv­eries are scheduled for 1990.

ESD is also pushing ahead with development of high-power trans­mitters for the EC-135 aircraft mak­ing up the World-Wide Airborne National Command Post (WWAB­NCP) fleet.

At this writing, the Navy was moving to join the program. It needs to improve its capability for VLF/ LF transmission of emergency-ac­tion messages to ballistic missile submarines from the TACAMO (Take Charge and Move Out) air­craft over the oceans.

ESD expects to award a contract for full-scale development of the high-power transmitter next year and production early in 1990.

ESD’s program for developing and acquiring all airborne Milstar terminals “is now settled and pri­oritized,” Mr. Salvucci says, and will culminate in a production pro­gram that “will guarantee good competition.”

Raytheon, the prime contractor for the terminals, is teamed with Bell Aerospace and Rockwell in a leader-follower arrangement. At least two of these contractors will be capable of building an entire Milstar terminal embodying fifteen black boxes and a variety of antenna systems. Production of the termi­nals is scheduled to begin in 1990.