News From Washington

Demand for More Precise Reconnaissance and Targeting Equipment

The 1991 Desert Storm air offensive over Iraq demonstrated the value of sophisticated aircraft, equipped with electro-optical (EO) systems, capable of locating and designating a wide range of targets by day or night. However, during the 1999 Kosovo conflict, the Serbs, skilled at setting up realistic dummy targets, played upon the weaknesses of the EO systems available to NATO.

With NATO aircraft operating at altitudes over 15,000 feet to stay out of reach of anti-aircraft missiles and artillery, target recognition became very difficult. In the end, the Serbian countermeasure tactics were successful in attracting a substantial number of NATO guided munitions. In addition to the Serbian tactics, persistent rain and fog degraded the performance of EO equipment. It appeared that adverse weather conditions were a much more serious problem for equipment often described as "all-weather."

In an effort to correct these deficiencies, many armed forces have begun to retrofit older aircraft and equip new platforms with more advanced EO devices. Some 3500 new manned aircraft and 3000 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) will be built in the next 10 years.

These numbers, combined with EO modernization programs, will create an airborne and space-based EO market worth $14.7 B over the next 10 years, according to a report by Forecast International. Based on a sample group of 40 systems, Forecast International expects electro-optical expenditures to total approximately $7.25 B through 2005, rising slightly to a total of $7.48 B for the latter years (2006-2010).

Among the trends in airborne and space-based EO systems is the increased use of UAVs. In the wake of the US EP-3 reconnaissance aircraft incident over China this past spring, an alternative to manned reconnaissance flights, such as UAVs, seems desirable.

The pending military operation in response to the terrorist attacks on the US is accentuating this trend toward reconnaissance UAV use. After the September 11 attacks, over $1.3 B in emergency funds were allocated for the sole purpose of improving intelligence gathering. Much of this money is earmarked for production acceleration of reconnaissance aircraft like the RC-135V/W and the Global Hawk long range UAV. Additional efforts are being made to speed up procurement of the RQ-1 Predator UAV. In the mean time, UAVs around the world are being redeployed to Central Asia and are currently flying missions over Afghanistan.

The Bush administration's drive for a National Missile Defense (NMD) system may provide an added push for EO programs such as the Airborne Laser (ABL) and Space-based Infrared Systems (SBIRS) programs. However, domestic and external opposition, compounded by fiscal restraints, may stall any effort to deploy an NMD system. Nevertheless, research and investments into ABL and SBIRS will continue at a steady rate.

The advent of new technologies such as Hyperspectral Imagery (HIS) may give an added boost to the EO market toward the end of the decade. Once this technology, which will help analysts to better discriminate between real and dummy targets, is fully developed, widespread deployment of HIS equipment is likely to follow.

JTRS and Datalinks to Shape US Military Airborne Communication System Market

In these days of multi-national military engagements, interoperability between forces has become vital. Common communications protocols and datalinks are necessary for effective mission operations. The Pentagon's efforts to achieve this goal lies mainly in two major communications programs, the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) and the Multifunctional Information Distribution System (MIDS) programs. The JTRS and MIDS programs are expected to affect practically every airborne platform in the US and, quite possibly, NATO.

According to a new report by Forecast International, JTRS and MIDS will be the driving forces behind the US Military Airborne Communications System market over the next decade. Between 2001 and 2010, Forecast International is projecting the US Military Communications Systems market to be worth approximately $2 B. This market is expected to increase from a total value of $935 M between 2001 and 2005 to a total of $1.1 B for the remainder of the decade, or 14 percent.

One of the main programs that will be responsible for equipping new-built and retrofitted aircrafts with communications equipment is the JTRS program. It is a US endeavor to develop a family of tactical radios that are interoperable, affordable and scalable. JTRS is intended to standardize radio communications throughout all branches of the US military. Once fully developed, this program is likely to replace most, if not all, radios currently in US military service.

A radio system that is likely to fulfill the airborne requirement of the JTRS program is the Rockwell Collins AN/ARC-210(V). Its multimode properties and ability to be modified to meet future needs make it a powerful candidate for the JTRS program. Recent contract activity shows that the ARC-210 will become a standard with US and NATO aircraft. Contracts have been awarded at a rapid rate to Rockwell Collins by international and domestic customers alike, with contracts for well over 3000 units issued since 1998. A February 2001 order placed Rockwell Collins ARC-210 sales over the 10,000 mark.

Another area in which interoperability is a goal is datalinks. With their ability to send reconnaissance and sensor information in real-time or near real-time, targeting effectiveness can be significantly improved. Datalinks are able to increase the air-to-air kill ratio by three times during the day and by greater than four times at night. Datalinks can also improve air-to-ground targeting success by a factor of four.

The main focus of datalink technology is concentrated on MIDS, a system that provides jam-resistant, secure, digital voice and data communications to the war fighter. The demand for datalinks like MIDS will become increasingly stronger as the importance of sharing tactical information becomes more evident. Programs such as Affordable Moving Surface Target Engagement (AMSTE), which incorporate the fusion of sensor data from multiple platforms, will make datalinks essential equipment for virtually any military vehicle.

The recent terrorist attacks on the US may give a boost in the production of datalinks. As the US military forces deploy to Central Asia, the need for more reconnaissance aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) is being realized. In an effort to increase intelligence gathering against terrorist activity, the Pentagon is being authorized $1.3 B in emergency funds. This money will help accelerate production of datalink equipped RC-135V/W Rivet Joint reconnaissance aircraft and Global Hawk long range UAVs. Additional efforts are underway to expedite the procurement of other datalink equipped UAVs such as the RQ-1 Predator. These actions should, in the near term, result in a spike in the production of datalink devices.

Communications systems are also experiencing an architectural revolution. The new open architecture designs allow for easy reconfigurations and upgrades. In this decade's latter years, new architectural developments such as the Integrated Communications, Navigation and Identification Avionics (ICNIA) system will influence the US Military Airborne Communication Systems market.

Lockheed Martin Gets $25 M US Air Force Pact

Lockheed Martin Information Systems has been awarded the US Air Force's Theater Aerospace Command and Control Facility Operation and Maintenance contract worth approximately $25 M over the next five years with potential for growth to 10 years.

The contract includes operations and maintenance, hardware, software and system development as well as studies and analysis for the Air Force training facility located at Kirtland AFB in Albuquerque, NM. This modeling and simulation facility, the largest human-in-the-loop air defense simulation system in operation, is capable of integrating numerous tactical command and control weapons systems simulations. The system combines high fidelity replicas of fielded systems, terrain data, variable weather conditions and highly accurate threat modules to allow missile crews, F-15 aircrews and command/control personnel to rapidly train and prepare for specific operations.