Signal Strength

The Air Force expects to have the capability in the field later this year to synchronize the operations of multiple signals intelligence sensors on various overhead platforms and correlate their data in real time to home in on high-value, time-sensitive targets much more quickly and accurately than is currently possible, a USAF official said April 2. The network centric collaborative targeting system started out as a DARPA-sponsored advanced concept technology demonstration in 2001, but has progressed to an Air Force program of record that should yield an operational capability this summer, Deborah Mitta, chief engineer for the project within the 645th Aeronautical Systems Group at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, said during a presentation at the Sensor-to-Shooter conference in Arlington, Va., that the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement sponsored. NCCT represents a true “paradigm shift” in terms of capability, she said. USAF is concentrating now on Sigint, but the service envisions that the capability would span multiple types of data from various realms, she said. Mitta said the initial capability will support two separate regional areas of responsibility, but the program office is mulling how to make the capability available globally. Already two RC-135 Rivet Joint platforms are fitted with the NCCT interfaces. U-2 aircraft will also be part of the initial participants as will EC-130 Senior Scout aircraft. Air and space operations centers and applicable intelligence ground stations are also being upgraded. The EC-130 Compass Call will join the mix in 2009, she said. Following it will be the MQ-1 Predator, also in 2009, then the RC-135S Cobra Ball and RC-135U Combat Sent in 2010 and the RQ-4 Global Hawk in 2012. The Navy is interested in integrating its EP-3s into the mix. Further, the British are pursing a similar capability under Project Listener.