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Battlelab success stories
Articles in this series written by:
Michael Jackowski and Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Phillips--IWB;
Capt. Erick Jordan--AEFB;
Capt. Scott Stevens, Capt. Brett Conner and Maj. Dave Mulligan--SB;
Lt. Col. Mark Surina--AMB;
Capt. Mary Bartholomew and Tony Muccio--UAVB
Since its founding on March 17, 1997, the Information
Warfare Battlelab has completed more than 33 concept demonstrations. Currently,
there are 10 more in the process of being demonstrated and 41 more in the
Leaflet bombs: One example of IWB’s “cool stuff” is an initiative called Leaflet Bomb, an idea that came from a master sergeant in Air Intelligence Agency’s psychological operations division.
The concept was to use demilitarized munition canisters as a robust supplement to the current fiberglass psychological leaflet dispenser. IWB found a suitable obsolete munition canister, the Rockeye, that could be modified to drop leaflets from high-performance aircraft such as the F-16. Now called the PDU-5/B, these canisters can deliver about 60,000 leaflets at a cost of less than $500 per unit. The project went from demonstration to the field in about nine months allowing Leaflet Bomb to be used in both Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. In fact, in Iraqi Freedom, PDU-5/Bs deployed before the first iron started hitting targets in Baghdad.
Few would have imagined the IWB efforts would be so influential in contributing to Air Force combat operations. But as Capt. Steve Burke, winner of the USAF General Billy Mitchell Battlelab Project Officer of the Year for 2002, said: “it’s all in a day’s work.” The Leaflet Bomb was a little unusual for IWB in that the initiative came from an internal USAF source. Uniquely among the Air Force battlelabs, almost 75 percent of the 400-plus concepts IWB has evaluated have come from external sources: industry and academia.
Radio Threads: One such project with potential for use in on-going operations is an initiative called Radio Threads. This concept is a small, inexpensive, low-powered radio transmitter that can be air-dropped, remotely activated, remotely controlled, and used in a variety of roles to include blocking selective frequencies or entire radio bands. Sister service representatives from the Marine Corps have picked up the project. The Corps is allocating resources to further develop the initiative into a tool that Marine forces can use on the ground. Radio Threads is just one example among many of the inherently joint nature of this battlelab’s projects. Unlike other acquisition processes, IWB’s is not requirements-driven. This means the battlelab’s goal is to make sure it stays in touch with major commands and their documented needs, but doesn’t always mandate an established need or requirement before proceeding with a concept demonstration. An excellent example of how and why this works is a concept called Telecom-munications Firewall or TeleWall.
TeleWall: Telewall was a revolutionary technology
that ported a standard data network firewall onto telephone lines to protect
telecommunications networks, e.g., back-door modems. However, at the time there
was no established requirement for firewalls for telephones. The vendor brought
in a prototype system and in just 57 days, the battlelab arranged a
demonstration at three Air Force Space Command bases. The demonstration was so
successful at implementing real-time operations security that Space Command
purchased all the demo units on the spot and kept them in-place. In the words of
IWB’s commander, Col. Nate Titus: “that’s the ultimate compliment, when they
want us to leave food on the table.”
Today, the Air Force is actively acquiring and installing Telecom-munications Firewall systems at all 140 Air Force bases, Air National Guard bases and AF Reserve bases worldwide where it has only just begun to play an active role in the war on terror by protecting Air Force networks.
Ciphony: An initiative which extends the Telecommunications Firewall is Ciphony. This concept automates operations security by Triple-DES encrypting unclassified telephone calls without the users’ needing special phones, keys or other encryption gear. Although this is not the same type of encryption used by STU-III telephones, this 128-bit encryption is a level of protection that the bad guys will find hard to break. A simple hardware and software addition to the already existing Telecommunications Firewall boxes makes all this happen. Ciphony is crucial to protecting unclassified essential elements of critical information and command and control operations. Implementation of Ciphony is another success story in the making with both AFCA and IWB working to transition it into the operational Air Force.
Charged coupled device: Visible Missile Warning System uses a charged coupled device camera—the same type that powers your home camcorders— to rapidly detect surface-to-air missile launches. Results against “smoky SAMs”—dummy rockets that model SAM plumes—showed faster detection time over typical infrared detectors with significantly lower false alarm rates. This initiative performed so well against the “smoky SAMs” that it is now scheduled to fly against the real thing.
Instant DataProtect: Software crashes are the cause of most such system outages, and to be able to restore a crashed workstation in seconds vs. hours or days means a lot to operational users.
In February, AEFB successfully demonstrated the IDP initiative on a live network at RAF Mildenhall, United Kingdom, which showed the military utility of the quick restoration times IDP provides from system corruptions in an operational environment. Corruptions defeated in the demonstration were viruses, registry corruption, and format as well as other attacks. Instant Data Protect uses a software algorithm quickly and efficiently to restore a computer hard disk. This allows immediate recovery from viruses, Trojan horses and stupid user antics. Where it used to take two to three days to rebuild an Exchange server, IDP can bring it back to full operations in less than 15 seconds.
The program runs on individual workstations or on servers using non-redundant array of independent disks hard disk configurations. The program runs in the background and provides protection by filtering all write commands to the hard drive.
IDP takes a snapshot of the hard drive's data and configuration and can store up to 10 such snapshots. Each snapshot is a complete binary inventory of the hard-drive contents and occupies less than .01 percent of total hard drive space. Even with a full complement of 10 snapshots, this only takes up .1 percent of the drive. By comparison, most of the currently existing solutions require at least half a hard drive-50 percent or more for similar type of recovery systems. Viruses that attempt to attack the hard drive neither hinder IDP nor cause damage to the PC. Because IDP's protection protocol begins prior to the operating system’s boot-up process, a virus cannot damage the snapshots since it doesn't know they exist. Simple recovery to a snapshot before the infection occurred completely removes the virus from the machine. For Trojan horses, IDP has unique recovery functionality. It boots up on a previous snapshot and mounts the crashed session to recover all data from before the malicious code infected the drive.
“In addition to IDP’s ability to protect our vital information resources, it would provide huge benefits in the AF’s education and training environments,” said Capt. Garald Egts, instructional technologies project manager from HQ AETC's Technology Branch. “Instruct-ors will be able to establish and easily transition between pre-configured training environments and scenarios on classroom computers. For example, workgroup manager courses could create different checkpoints with existing problems, such as the printer drivers not installed correctly, for students to troubleshoot. As it takes only seconds to restore a system, this will provide instructors with flexibility not currently available. It also better reinforces students’ training with more diverse, hands-on scenarios in less total time.”
Reachback: Reachback was IWB’s first demonstration. This initiative provided classified satellite communications to deployed intelligence and combat units. The project was so successful during an Air Force Green Flag exercise, it became the blueprint for all the other information reachback capabilities used on joint systems and special operations combat platforms. Reachback has already transitioned to Air Force and sister services combat systems.
During the course of its six-year history, the AEFB has
evaluated more than 336 ideas from industry and field sources. Out of these, 23
have been completed and briefed to the Air Force Requirements for Operational
Capabilities Council. Fifteen initiatives are currently in advanced development
and many concepts are being assessed and developed for possible initiatives.
Past AEF Battlelab initiatives include:
Enhanced Maintenance Operations Capabilities: EMOC demonstrated the ability to replace existing homegrown software tools with a command-wide visualization tool that can be used in tracking daily aircraft maintenance and sortie operations of a flying unit at home or while deployed.
Wireless Immediate Communications for Entire Base: WICEB demonstrated the ability to provide rapid communications for customers located within tents or buildings by using a radio frequency and infrared wireless local area network and provided Voice over Internet Protocol.
AEF Data Compression: AEF Data Compression proved the feasibility of using commercial off-the-shelf equipment and software to compress standard office application files, audio, video and imagery data for multiple applications within the AEF.
In addition to the above communications and software related initiatives, the AEF Battlelab has brought numerous advancements to the warfighter outside of the realm of communications. Some current initiatives from the aerospace ground equipment and medical functional areas include:
Mobile Aircraft Jacks and Equipment Kit: The Mobile Aircraft Jacks and Equipment Kit addresses the standardization issue of aircraft jacks. It will provide an easily deployable, universal jack for the majority of AEF heavy aircraft. It will replace the current jacking system that includes a diesel driven pumping unit and hydraulically operated jacks. MAJEK will also supply a deployable load tester that is currently not available.
Hemostatic Agent for Life Saving: The AEFB and the Force Protection Battlelab have partnered to assess a hemostatic agent to control hemorrhage of AEF personnel deployed in wartime and peacetime contingencies. The HEAL initiative is innovative in that it works significantly faster, requires no mixing, is stable at room temperature, is available in multiple formulations and is packaged in a manner that allows the injured individual to self-administer if necessary.
Master Air Attack Planning Toolkit: A
recently completed initiative, the Master Air Attack Planning Toolkit
initiative, illustrates the C2B process. Following approval, the C2B brought in
a group of MAAP subject matter experts from the Air Force Numbered Air Forces,
the Navy and the Marines to participate in a Warfighter Analysis Workshop to lay
out the look, feel and functionality for the MAAP TK initiative. Then June 26,
2001, the contract for development was signed. During the next 14 months,
several more meetings with warfighter subject matter experts were hosted to
review progress and insure the correct vector for the MAAP TK. A warfighter
assessment of the finished product was conducted as part of Joint Forces
Experiment 02 in August 2002, where the MAAP TK was rated a "home run" by the
warfighter, operators and assessors.
Following a report to Air Force leadership, the C2B worked to acquire funding for transition of the MAAP TK into the joint air operations planning system of record, Theater Battle Management Core Systems. MAAP TK will be integrated into TBMCS version 1.1.3. At the same time, at the request of the warfighters in the Combined Air Operations Centers in Saudi Arabia and Korea and at the direction of Air Force leadership, the C2B provided mobile training teams to install and train the MAAP TK at Prince Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia, and the Hardened Tactical Air Control Center in Korea. The MAAP TK was used in planning of the air war in Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom.
B-52 Close Air Support: The B-52 Close Air Support Enhancement initiative will demonstrate transmitting a digital 9-line Close Air Support message from Tactical Air Control Party Moderni-zation equipment to a B-52. This capability will improve Air Force support to CAS operations. The Army Air Force Data Exchange System initiative will demonstrate that automating data exchange, at the database level, between Army Battle Command System and Theater Battle Management Core Systems systems in the Joint Air Operations Center will significantly improve situational awareness for JAOC decision makers.
Visualization of Expeditionary Sites Tool: The Visualization of Expeditionary Sites Tool will provide a capability that provides rapid, explicit presentation of all critical support data; weighting of operational and support parameters; and production of a list (with pictures, limiting factors and alternatives) for planners to evaluate and select the "best" location for basing of forces in support of expeditionary operations. VEST will give logistics planners the capability to make timely, informed site selections.
Stingray: A recently completed initiative provides
Predator with the capability to locate, track and identify mobile targets of
interest. The goal was to enhance Predators’ operational capability by using the
Tactical Endurance Synthetic Aperture Radar in Moving Target Indicator mode.
This initiative, nicknamed Stingray for the maritime MTI applications, was
successfully completed. The overall results of the demonstration clearly
indicated that the capability to detect, track and identify mobile targets using
the MTI mode of the TESAR enhanced Predators’ operational capability.
DIVOT: Another ongoing initiative is Digital Imagery Video-compression and Object Tracking that substantially decreases communication requirements for disseminating UAV products, decreases storage requirements for production and exploitation facilities and reduces the image analyst workload. DIVOT shows significant promise in helping meet the functional needs of the warfighter in the areas of situational awareness, targeting, collection management, battle damage assessment and order of battle maintenance.
The UAVB integrates the compression algorithm directly on the Predator airframe where video will is compressed directly from the sensors. The compressed video is then fed to the Predators’ communication suite where it will be transmitted via the Ku-band satellite, C-band air-to-air, and C-band air-to-ground links. In addition to the data compression, the initiative will demonstrate an object identification capability that can cue operators to the detection of both man and machine objects based on visual signatures.
Once analyzed, the video will be further compressed and stored on databases for future retrieval and follow-on dissemination. During an initial phase of this initiative, the UAVB conducted a military utility assessment at the Eglin range. The Air Force Communication Agency assisted the UAVB in the assessment, and provided an independent validation and verification process for the results. Outside interest is growing for DIVOT as the Office of Naval Research has expressed interest in using DIVOT to compress all ship-to-shore communications. In addition, the UAVB and NIMA are discussing the potential of integrating it into the MPEG-2 transport stream and thereby become the industry standard.
Carrier Interferometry: Carrier
Interferometry was originally developed for cellular communication and wireless
networking applications. The technology applies specific principles of quantum
mechanics, employing interferometric components of wave theory. CI is based on
combining Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplex with phase shifting. With CI
the Air Force hopes to achieve improvements in throughput and increase the
number of users employing existing frequency bands.
CI is a technological approach that couples frequency and phase shifting to decompose a signal into components to provide significant performance enhancements over conventional transmission protocols. Potential CI improvements to conventional protocols include sharing or trade-offs among data-rates, power-outputs, bit-error rates, number of users and transmission times required to pass data.
Also, CI techniques reduce both noise and multipath interference degradation found in traditional radios and protocols. In general, the more severe the environment, the greater the benefits produced by CI when compared to traditional waveforms. Even in an ideal environment with low noise and multipath interference, CI should provide a three to four decibel gain. Significantly lower power is needed for CI transmissions to achieve the same bit-error rates and signal-to-noise ratios as traditional modulation formats. Because of lower current drain, it is possible to extend battery life, lighten operator physical loads and use smaller or fewer batteries.
CI enables frequency-based combining of received signals, which enables a more efficient processing of the received energy, thus, significantly improving performance. Performance improvements can be used to provide any combination of increased range, reduced transmission power, improved interference mitigation and increased data throughput.
Lite Catcher: Doing what some call impossible is the task of the Air Force’s seven battlelabs, and one such seemingly impossible task is the Lite Catcher initiative, that will demonstrate a free space optical link through clouds. Free space optical networks are communications networks that use lasers instead of radio frequencies to carry information.
Lasers can transmit hundreds even thousands of times more information than radio frequencies. Removing bandwidth as a restriction is critical to transforming military communications. Warfighters would no longer have to wait hours for critical yet bandwidth-intensive data, such as videos from unmanned aerial vehicles or high-resolution imagery.
However, there are drawbacks to laser communications and free space optical networks. Atmospheric turbulence can distort the laser beam, causing data to be lost. Scientists have spent years developing technologies such as adaptive optics in an attempt to overcome atmospheric distortion. However, one problem remains: weather. Light particles, called photons, are still susceptible to scattering off of water droplets, smoke or sand. As Operational Iraqi Freedom demonstrated, warfighters still have to fight in the presence of sandstorms and rain clouds. It’s for this reason that the Space Battlelab is examining new technologies such as pulsed lasers to penetrate obscurants and maintain high data rates.
The Space Battlelab is familiar to weather penetration technologies.
For example, the battlelab’s Combat Eye demonstration in the fall of 2002 used solid-state pulsed lasers to penetrate clouds, smoke and even camouflage to give a 3-D image of a target.
This highly successful demonstration included ground-to-ground imaging at Yuma Proving Grounds and airborne imaging from a C-130. For the Combat Eye demonstration, the Space Battlelab partnered with Air Force Research Laboratory and Air Force TENCAP, or Tactical Exploitation of National Capabilities.
Extending the technology from the Combat Eye demonstration to the Lite Catcher communications demonstration is the logical next step. The Battlelab, AFRL and AF TENCAP partnership will also continue. The weather resistant Lite Catcher system as demonstrated will have a data rate of one gigabyte per second and ranges in excess of 25 km, although operational variants will likely have a magnitude increase in data rate and range.
Phased Array Antenna: SB has teamed with AFSC,
the Space and Missile Systems Center, Air Force Research Laboratory and the 50th
Space Wing to demonstrate the military utility of a phased array antenna for
telemetry, tracking and commanding within the Air Force Satellite Control
Network. NASA has also agreed to support the demonstration to show the
capability to support a future Integrated Satellite Control Network. The AFSPC
Review Board approved the initiative and it’s on schedule for a Spring 2004
This is a shift in which electronically steered phased array antennas could replace the mechanically steered dish antennas. Military, government and commercial satellites providing telecommunications, environmental, navigation and surveillance services in various orbits need high performance, multi-function antennas with hemispherical coverage. These antennas perform TT&C to support their payload and spacecraft platform operations. Phased array antenna technology using electronically steerable arrays are the optimum choice for this application because they can provide multiple, independently steered beams with fast beam steering/switching and simultaneous transmit/receive operation. In addition, they offer high reliability, graceful degradation, lower maintenance and more automated operation. Phased array antennas could be employed to cost-effectively support large numbers of satellites (all altitude) at various stages of operation from launch, orbit transfer, and early orbit checkout to on-orbit and disposal operations. Phased array antennas are also candidates to support future concepts of satellite operation, space based data relay systems and ground/space-based launch ranges envisioned by the Air Force satellite operations planning community. The current AFSCN architecture is based on mechanical parabolic reflector antennas which have limitations including: cable wrap; keyhole effect; frequent and costly maintenance; long reconfiguration time; manual antenna operation; and high life-cycle cost. In addition, separate antennas are required for multiple satellite contacts. Current AFSCN resources are operating at or near saturation.
To date, phased array antennas have not been used for satellite TT&C operations primarily because of their high acquisition cost in comparison to technically inferior, but cheaper conventional reflector antennas. However, with rapidly emerging monolithic micro-integrated circuits, electronic beam forming, and beam steering technologies as well as low cost commercial off-the-shelf components from the cell phone industry, large phased array antennas have become affordable candidates for TT&C in support of Air Force satellite and launch range operations.
MAIL: One example of Air Mobility Battlelab success in its partnerships is the recently completed joint project with the Air Expeditionary Force Battlelab. The Mobility Aircrew Information Library, or MAIL project, showed how digitized flight publications, flight planning information, Falcon View maps and live threat feeds could be provided to the aircrew using a tablet-sized knee board computer and a miniaturized radio receiver. This project showed how to inexpensively reduce paperwork for the aircrew while providing easy access to information crucial to worldwide air mobility and fighter missions. Currently, in partnership with Air Force Research Laboratory at Rome, N. Y., and AMC, the AMB is maturing a capability to provide AMC flight dispatchers with rapid access to the many sources of information that may affect flight planning and execution, such as giving instant updates for Notices to Airmen, weather and diplomatic clearances.
Iridium satellite phones in flight: One of AMB’s biggest successes tackled global communications. When U. S. Air Forces in Europe requested an inexpensive way to equip its aircraft with alternate voice communications, an AMB project officer designed a way to use iridium satellite phones in flight. The idea was demonstrated in the field in partnership with the AMC test community ... and has been implemented on several aircraft.
Chelton antenna mount: Another AMB communications project prototyped a new mounting system for a Chelton antenna on the C-17 for special operations use. AMB’s design was adapted by the C-17 contractor and is now in use.
Automatic tracking systems: The Battlelab is also investigating improvements in managing base armory inventories by linking a contact memory button on firearms with an automated tracking system that also integrates personnel identification, qualification, Personnel Reliability Program status and weapon maintenance.