One of the designs is called the multi-mission airborne reconnaissance and surveillance system (MARS2). Its capabilities include a very sophisticated synthetic aperture radar (SAR) and ground moving target indicator (GMTI). The payload also can include elint and comint as well as advanced communications and data links.
One of the benefits of integrating simultaneous radar, communications and signals intelligence onboard is that electronic emitters and other targets can be detected, identified and mapped with great precision, and the enemy's electronic order of battle can be monitored. Moreover, the addition of high-volume processing for SAR/GMTI means enhanced real-time intelligence exploitation. There can be up to four extra people on board for decision-making and tasking of other forces.
“So not only do we know what the bad guys are talking about, we know where they are located,” Landa says.
Part of the enemy's visibility comes from the detailed intelligence sent from the midst of the battlefield by unmanned aircraft and pods on manned strike aircraft.
“We don't care what is manned and unmanned or what is strategic, standoff or stand-in, as long as they have our sensors onboard and share information via a networked infrastructure,” Landa says. “All those aircraft are linked by network-centric solutions. Then data-sharing is seamless.”
Because the aircraft can operate independently by using protected data links, it is less vulnerable to some kinds of electronic attack and cyberintrusions.
“We are using a variety of data links,” Landa says. “What we typically fly on our multi-mission aircraft are dedicated line-of-sight data links for air-to-air and air-to-ground communications. They are typically wide band to handle the bulk of the information relayed to the ground forces, ships or ground centers. It is quite safe [from intrusion or detection] because it is narrow beam. Secondly, we also use non-line-of-sight datalinks—UHF, VHF and HF—which are more narrow band, but very long-distance.”
Yet another available option is satellite communications that provide tactical data link networks. This capability also is designed and developed by Elta.
A limitation to the system could be the transfer of large, wide-area, high-resolution, synthetic aperture radar maps and electro-optical images. A way to address that bottleneck is to put four to six operators onboard the aircraft for imagery exploitation, so that the mass of data does not have to be transmitted from the aircraft. Part of the map is assigned to an intelligence expert onboard who knows virtually every stone of the area he or she is assigned to analyze.
Moreover, improved data processing and analytical tools are on the way from Elta's research and development centers. For example, as new radar technology is developed, it can be blended with signals intelligence, communications and electronic warfare capabilities.