• GB Davis

Sensor Technology and DARPA Technologies

Stratfor is out with a fluff piece on sensor technology - in fact no one even signed as author. The intro provides a point upon which we expand: "One such revolution currently underway is the proliferation of sensors. Warfare utilizes sensors in countless ways — from optical sensors (aka cameras) to electronic intelligence sensors, up to full-fledged radar systems — and they are not new to the battlefield by any means. However, rapid technological advances in multiple fields have vastly expanded military sensor capability. Defense industries are developing new kinds of sensors at an accelerated rate — smaller, stronger and more accurate than previous generations. All are supported by modern platforms that carry significantly more sensors into the battlefield than previous systems. And beyond the sensors themselves, technologies that enable operators to simultaneously process large volumes of data are increasingly potent. The realm of warfare is well on its way to sensor proliferation, and changes are coming rapidly."

Now, recall the information of the last week that India Mission Shakti, demonstrating it's "prowess," where a ground-launched missile struck the Microsat-R satellite in an orbit less than 300 kilometers high. In turn, leaving unwanted debris in space as condemnded by the U.S. and NASA. "NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine criticized India’s recent anti-satellite test April 1, saying it created debris that posed a threat to the International Space Station. The test did produce some debris placed into higher orbits, including those above that of the ISS, which orbits at an altitude of about 410 kilometers. He said 400 pieces of debris had been identified from the test, 60 of which are large enough to be tracked by U.S. military assets, such as radars. Of those 60, we know that 24 of them are going above the apogee of the International Space Station,” he said. “That is a terrible, terrible thing, to create an event that sends debris into an apogee that goes above the International Space Station. And that kind of activity is not compatible with the future of human spaceflight.”

“It’s unacceptable, and NASA needs to be very clear about what its impact to us is,” he continued. Experts from NASA and the military’s Combined Space Operations Center concluded last week that the risk of debris impacting the station increased by 44 percent over a 10-day period, he said, but didn’t specify the baseline risk level that was increased by that amount. Bridenstine emphasized that, despite the increased risk, the six people currently on the station are not in danger. “While the risk went up 44 percent, our astronauts are still safe. The International Space Station is still safe,” he said. “If we need to maneuver it, we will. The probability of that, I think, is low.” He suggested, though, that last week’s test was irresponsible and set a bad precedent. “When one country does it, then other countries have to feel like they have to do it as well,” he said. Bridenstine’s statements represent the strongest criticism to date of the test by a U.S. government official.


(1) In 2017, DARPA launched the project known as Blackjack with the goal to develop a low Earth orbit constellation to provide global persistent coverage for military operations. Laying a path for the military to transition from huge satellites in geostationary Earth orbit to constellations of smaller and less expensive platforms in LEO has been a longtime pursuit at DARPA. That goal recently took on greater urgency as the military weighs replacing existing constellations  that could be targeted by enemies with more resilient systems that would be easier to reconstitute if they came under electronic or kinetic attack. DARPA describes the Blackjack program as an “architecture demonstration intending to show the high military utility of global LEO constellations and mesh networks of lower size, weight, and cost spacecraft nodes.

(2) Collaborative Operations in Denied Environment (CODE): Modular software architecture for UAVs to pass information to each other in contested environments to identify and engage targets with limited operator direction. (2015)

(3) Combat Zones That See, or CTS, is a project of the United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)[1] whose goal is to "track everything that moves" in a city by linking up a massive network of surveillance cameras to a centralised computer system.[2] Artificial intelligence software will then identify and track all movement throughout the city.[3] CTS is described by DARPA as intended for use in combat zones, to deter enemy attacks on United States troops and to identify and track enemy combatants who launch attacks against U.S. soldiers.[2] Civil liberties activists and writers of dystopian fiction believe that such programs have great potential for privacy violations, and have openly opposed the project.

(4) The neXt Generation program or XG is a technology development project sponsored by DARPA's Strategic Technology Office, with the goals to "develop both the enabling technologies and system concepts to dynamically redistribute allocated spectrum along with novel waveforms in order to provide dramatic improvements in assured military communications in support of a full range of worldwide deployments."[1] It is financed by the United States government within the aim of developing a de facto standard for cognitive radio and dynamic spectrum regulation. Particularly, XG is focused on the development of dynamic spectrum access (DSA) demonstration and capability as well as the evaluation of three fundamental principles, namely: the principle of "Do No Harm"; "Add Value" principle; and, DSA devices development that provide equivalent reliability and service.[3] The first principle involves the design of DSA radios in a way that does not interfere with viable links while the second maintains that DSA radios offer positive benefit after all the overhead costs and resources are considered.[3] In the Wireless World Research Forum of 27 October 2003, Preston Marshall, program manager of DARPA XG Program, said "The primary product of the XG program is not a new radio, but a set of advanced technologies for dynamic spectrum access."[4] From 2006 to 2008, DARPA held numerous XG program demonstrations such as the experiment that involved the deployment of a field of conventionally deconflicted wireless links that included typical military, public safety, and civilian point-to-point links, covering several kilometers.[3] In 2006, an XG technology was deployed in a field trial and demonstrated a robust networking capability amid challenging mobile scenarios.[5] The program is also engaged in the development of architectural framework, protocol design, and building prototypes for DSA networks.[5] One of its notable projects is the One Shot XG system, which is being developed to improve the accuracy of military snipers by calculating variables such as crosswind condition, maximum effective range of the weapon, and weapon alignment.

(5) Persistent Close Air Support (PCAS) is a DARPA program that seeks to demonstrate dramatic improvements in close air support (CAS) capabilities by developing a system to allow continuous CAS availability and lethality to Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTACs)

The program will give JTACs the ability to visualize, select, and employ munitions at the time of their choosing from optionally manned/unmanned aerial attack platforms.[2]

PCAS was to demonstrate using an A-10 Thunderbolt II modified for optionally manned operation, however the program did not seek to remove pilots from the cockpit of A-10s or other manned military aircraft.[3]Technologies developed under the program were to transition to both current manned aircraft and the MQ-X next-generation unmanned aircraft.[4] With the cancellation of the MQ-X program, the PCAS program dropped the idea of using an optionally manned A-10, and refocused the effort to allow the JTAC controller to interface with "smart rail" electronics on a manned A-10. To engage ground targets, PCAS-Ground comprises a smart power hub, customized Android tablet computer loaded with situational-awareness and mapping software, and a digital radio that altogether weigh only 5 lb (2.3 kg), plus a laser-targeting device that weighs another 5 lb. When a JTAC identifies a target for attack, they create the "nine-line" engagement plan on the tablet and transmit the plan to the aircraft, with the ability to "stack" multiple identified targets. PCAS-Air software then evaluates and auto-populates the plan with whatever sensor and weapons data is available, sharing the information with PCAS-Ground to confirm the attack. The JTAC gets a countdown to weapons release, and can see an impact line as well as weapon damage radius; both aircrew and JTAC can see video of the target on their tablets, eliminating the need for the larger, dedicated ROVER laptops currently used by JTACs to view airborne video. PCAS makes it easier to accurately deploy weapons with smaller warheads for less collateral damage and gives "Level 3" control to JTACs to remotely steer airborne sensors if needed. During the demonstration, ground forces used an Android tablet to identify a target and sent its position to an MV-22 Osprey, which fired an inert AGM-176 Griffin missile from 4.5 mi (7.2 km) and scored a direct hit. In a situation where air support would take 30 minutes or more if called using paper maps and voice instructions, DARPA's objective was to reduce it to six minutes, and the demonstration achieved a hit in only four minutes. In another part of the exercise, two groups of Marines coordinated a night attack using PCAS-Ground. One group launched an AeroVironment Switchblade UAV to provide surveillance and network relay capabilities, which synced to both groups' KILSWITCH tablets to give them the locations of friendly and enemy forces. PCAS-Air's modular design allows it to work with almost any aircraft.[10][11] The first tests conducted with U.S. Air Force A-10s took place from April through June 2015. Flying 50 sorties, 10 involved live-fire engagements that were carried out within six minutes, where JTACs commanded airstrikes with as few as three clicks on a specially configured Android tablet.

(6) SyNAPSE is a DARPA program that aims to develop electronic neuromorphic machine technology, an attempt to build a new kind of cognitive computer with form, function, and architecture similar to the mammalian brain. Such artificial brains would be used in robots whose intelligence would scale with the size of the neural system in terms of total number of neurons and synapses and their connectivity.


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