News From Washington

Air Force Explores New Fighting and Communications Methods

As reported by the Associated Press, the US Air Force is beginning a $40 M series of experiments to devise new fighting tactics and methods to communicate critical information to planes in flight. The experiments will culminate with an exercise scheduled for September that will utilize computer simulations, 65 aircraft and several hundred airmen. According to Maj. Gen. John Hawley, head of the Air and Space Command and Control Agency at Langley Air Force Base, VA, the final experiment will concentrate on sending more information and fewer people to the frontlines and will be based on a scenario in which the Air Force responds to an attack on a US ally by sending forces to halt the invasion.

The experiment will simulate setting up a headquarters staffed by only 100 to 300 people and moving it forward in one day with a single C-17 transport aircraft flight as opposed to the 10 to 15 days and 25 C-17 flights that were required to move 1500 Air Force personnel into the Air Force's Persian Gulf headquarters during the Gulf War. At that time, pilots' orders, targets and plans were generated by the field staff and delivered to crews before they embarked on their missions.

The experiment will test the ability to keep many of the staff in the US and provide information to pilots while they are in flight but before targets are reached. In addition, the experiment will focus on developing new methods in which a field commander on the move can remain in touch with both Air Force units and other services. The exercises also will experiment with many new and developing communications and space systems. The final experiment is planned for several locations, including Florida's Eglin Air Force Base and Langley's Hurlburt Field.

GAO Analyzes Competing IR Countermeasure Systems

In its recent report, "DoD Should Select Most Cost-effective Infrared Countermeasure System" (GAO/NSIAD-98-2), the General Accounting Office (GAO) reviews the Army's plans to develop and buy the Advanced Threat Infrared Countermeasure (ATIRCM) system to protect US aircraft from infrared (IR) guided missiles, and the US Special Operations Command's (SOCOM) plans to buy the Directional Infrared Countermeasure (DIRCM) system (being developed jointly with the UK) for the same purpose. The Army and SOCOM are proposing to purchase two separate active IR countermeasure systems at a total cost of approximately $2.7 B ($2.5 B for 815 ATIRCM systems and associated missile warning systems and $261 M for 60 DIRCM systems with their own missile warning systems). The Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps have not yet committed to either system but are seeking an active IR countermeasure system.

The GAO has determined that there will be a key difference between the two systems initially: While the DIRCM system will rely on existing flash lamp technology to defeat all currently deployed first- and second-generation threat missiles, the ATIRCM system will be fitted with a flash lamp as well as a laser. After the flash lamp-equipped DIRCM is fielded, SOCOM officials plan to upgrade the system with a laser that has completed development and is in production.

The laser-equipped DIRCM and ATIRCM are expected to be available at about the same time. This month, SOCOM is expected to buy 15 DIRCM systems that are not equipped with lasers. These systems are scheduled for upgrade with FY 2001 funds. ATIRCM production is scheduled to begin in 2001.

The GAO questions whether the DoD's plans to buy both systems is the most cost-effective approach to acquiring IR countermeasure capability. Although the GAO supports the initial 15-system DIRCM purchase, it does not see the value in buying both systems for precisely the same platforms and purpose. The GAO recommends that tests and analyses be conducted to determine which system should be produced in the long term.

ESC Deploys Missile Tracking Systems

Two prototype missile tracking systems developed by the Air Force Electronic Systems Center (ESC) have been deployed for use by the 7th Air Force to enhance security in the Republic of Korea. The Expert Missile Tracking (EMT) system provides a theater missile defense capability and enhances other systems used to detect and track air-breathing vehicles.

The system comprises two types of interconnectable components: a radar missile tracker and a correlator. The tracker, which is integrated into an AN/TPS-75 radar shelter, receives and processes radar plots from a modified AN/TPS-75 radar to detect and track tactical ballistic missiles and display relevant missile data. The correlator is located in the Hardened Tactical Air Control Center at Osan Air Base where it receives and processes radar plot data from the two radar systems that are deployed in Korea. The tracker and correlator establish and display a missile launch point, heading, impact, missile type, time to impact and track quality. Both three-dimensional and tabular displays are provided. The modified radar system is transportable by truck or helicopter and can be operational within a day of its arrival at a new location. The Air Combat Command currently is considering production of the EMT modification for integration and installation in AN/TPS-75 radars throughout the Air Force inventory.

Northrop Grumman Receives Two Multimillion-dollar Military Contracts

Northrop Grumman has received contracts from the US Navy's Naval Air Systems Command and the US Army's Communications and Electronics Command (CECOM) for the upgrade of the EA-6B Prowler electronic warfare aircraft to the next-generation Increased Capability-III (ICAP-III) configuration, and for the development of a synthetic aperture radar/moving target indicator (SAR/MTI) payload for the Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (TUAV) program, respectively. The EA-6B Prowler provides offensive electronic warfare capabilities to both the Navy and Air Force. The ICAP-III upgrade will provide a reactive tactical jamming system to counter frequency-agile radars, as well as new displays, controls and associated hardware, and is expected to keep Prowlers capable of meeting joint service requirements through 2015. Initial operating capability is planned for early 2004.

Initial development work is valued at approximately $150 M and will be performed at the Northrop Grumman facility in Bethpage, NY. Production upgrade kits will be installed at the company's facility in St. Augustine, FL. The upgrade team comprises Litton Amecom, College Park, MD (passive receiver technology); Lockheed Martin Sanders, Nashua, NH (communication jamming and color display systems); PRB Associates, Hollywood, MD (mission recorder and new display software); and Comptek Federal Systems, Buffalo, NY (advanced jamming software).

Under the terms of the Army contract, which is valued at $7.3 M ($12.4 M including contract options), Northrop Grumman will provide two radars, two sets of ground station elements and one set of payload spares. CECOM's Night Vision Electronic Sensors Directorate is managing the program under its Multimission Common Modular Sensor Payload Advanced Technology Demonstration program. Northrop Grumman will provide a downsized version of its highly successful Tactical Endurance Synthetic Aperture Radar (currently in production for the Predator UAV) for the smaller TUAV aircraft that will take advantage of recently introduced commercial technology to dramatically decrease the system's weight and volume. (The TUAV radar is expected to weigh approximately 60 lb and its two line replaceable units will occupy a total of one cubic foot of space.)

The TUAV radar will perform its reconnaissance mission and furnish imagery and moving target detection through cloud cover, fog and weather conditions that limit optical systems. The work will be performed at the company's Electronic Sensors and Systems Division facility in Linthicum, MD.