Modern technology has revolutionized the world, bringing electronics to the masses on a scale never before seen. It is now common for individuals to own several advanced electronic devices, including laptop computers, tablets, smart-watches and smartphones. Moreover, these devices are wirelessly networked to one another and to the Internet, providing near real-time communication and access to vast databases of information.
The interconnected world of electronic systems provides an opportunity and a challenge for Army Aviation. As the Army develops its next-generation survivability systems, it has the opportunity to cost-effectively leverage advanced commercial electronics and integration technologies. However, the Army also has the challenge of remaining at the forefront of increasingly advanced technologies employed by potential adversaries.
In this complex and challenging environment, the Army Science and Technology (S&T) community is leading the integration of advanced technologies to enhance survivability. As a result of these efforts, next-generation survivability systems will employ modular and open architectures that simplify integration and enable rapid component upgrades as technology advances.
Next-generation systems will simultaneously leverage data from distributed sources and implement coordinated and adaptive countermeasure responses. Overall, the development of an integrated survivability suite provides Army Aviation with a powerful opportunity to reduce costs, increase effectiveness and enhance survivability.
(Diagram 1) Aircraft survivability relies on a hierarchy of stages to return the aircraft to service. If an aircraft cannot avoid detection, it should try to avoid engagement. If the aircraft is engaged, it should then try to avoid or absorb damage, and if all else fails at least attempt to avoid destruction. A variety survivability systems and technologies are responsible for addressing each stage of this hierarchy. Click image to enlarge diagram.
The Army’s Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC) Intelligence and Information Warfare Directorate (I2WD) has established Integrated Air and Ground Survivability as a strategic focus for its S&T programs.
The I2WD Integrated Air and Ground Survivability strategic focus objective optimizes total platform survivability through the integration and coordination of individual systems, groups of systems and platforms. This effort’s long-term vision establishes a cognitive survivability suite, capable of coordinating all survivability systems’ activities on the battlefield.
The Integrated Air and Ground Survivability concept serves as a unifying framework for CERDEC to organize and plan S&T efforts in electronic warfare and aircraft survivability domains. This framework is critical because although some S&T programs are explicitly focused on integration objectives, many programs are instead focused on specific systems or technologies. The Integrated Air and Ground Survivability framework allows S&T programs to be categorized and conceptually oriented with respect to the greater survivability picture. Decision makers can then utilize the framework to assess how well current investments address long-term objectives.
Historically, survivability in the presence of a threat has been characterized as a hierarchy of stages (Diagram 1). The first stage is to avoid detection by the threat. If the aircraft cannot be detected by the threat, survivability is ensured. However, if it is impossible to avoid detection, the next stage is to avoid engagement. If the aircraft can be detected by the threat but cannot be engaged, survivability is again ensured. When it is impossible to avoid engagement, the next stage is to avoid or absorb damage to the aircraft. Finally, when it is impossible to avoid damage, the last stage is to avoid destruction of the aircraft. A variety of different survivability systems and technologies are responsible for addressing each stage of this hierarchy.
I2WD’s Integrated Air and Ground Survivability strategic focus views survivability from a holistic perspective. Rather than seeing survivability systems as independent entities, battlefield survivability systems are viewed as a distributed, coordinated network of capabilities.
When Army Aviation encounters threats, the systems on the network autonomously collaborate with one another to avoid detection, avoid engagement and subsequently avoid damage and destruction. At each stage, the network accesses information from all survivability systems on the battlefield as well as from the intelligence enterprise. If detection cannot be avoided, the network uses available information to locate and identify the threats. The network then prioritizes the threats, considers available resources and implements optimal countermeasures for each threat.
The Integrated Air and Ground Survivability concept offers Army Aviation a future in which aircraft survivability is automatically optimized for each battlefield environment.
(Diagram 2) At the platform level, the future integrated air suite is coordinated through a cognitive integration framework and a real-time engagement controller. The cognitive integration framework provides the physical connections between on-board systems and the central processing capability to correlate and analyze data. Click image to enlarge diagram.
Under the Integrated Air and Ground Survivability Concept, the future survivability suite is composed of a distributed network of aircraft survivability equipment and electronic warfare systems across individual air and ground platforms. These systems communicate autonomously with other on-board systems as well as with systems on other platforms. The data sharing improves the individual systems’ performance and group of systems’ performance through automatic prioritization and response coordination.
At the platform level, the future integrated air suite is coordinated through a cognitive integration framework and a real-time engagement controller (Diagram 2).
The cognitive integration framework provides the physical connections between on-board systems and the central processing capability to correlate and analyze data.
The real-time engagement controller is a software application that operates on top of the cognitive integration framework. The application has access to data from all on-board survivability systems, including missile warning systems, hostile fire detection systems, laser warning receivers, radar warning receivers, and electro-optic and radio-frequency countermeasure systems. This application continuously assesses data from the on-board survivability systems to detect potential threats.
As the platform encounters threats, the engagement controller utilizes advanced cognitive algorithms to locate and identify threats and then designs optimal countermeasures. The engagement controller is implemented with an open-software architecture that enables new data sources to be easily incorporated into the existing framework.
(Diagram 3) Individual platform integrated air suites are integrated into a network that continuously shares information and access to resources to improve the effectiveness of individual platforms and groups of platforms. Click image to enlarge diagram.
At the between-platform level, individual platform integrated air suites are integrated into a network that continuously shares information and access to resources (Diagram 3). The engagement controller on each platform will incorporate information from other platforms when assessing and locating potential threats. Following the identification of threats, the integrated suites collaborate to implement a coordinated countermeasure response, leveraging assets from all available platforms.
In the long-term, the network of integrated air systems is also integrated with a corresponding network of integrated ground survivability systems (Diagram 4).
(Diagram 4) In the future, the network of integrated air systems will also integrate with a corresponding network of integrated ground survivability system. This will better allow air and ground survivability systems to collaboratively detect, identify and defeat threats encountered on the battlefield. Click image to enlarge diagram.
A focus on Integrated Air and Ground Survivability will ensure the next generation of Army survivability systems remain at the forefront of capability and technology.