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  • Saving Money is Key to Future Electronic Warfare
    Posted by David A. Fulghum 3:11 PM on Jan 09, 2012

    Electronic warfare and directed energy are at the heart of next-generation warfare, but there needs to be a steep education of decision makers both in and out of uniform to turn these technologies into operational weapons.

    For example, "Knowledge of the effects of HPM kind of leans toward the Ocean’s Eleven kind of movies where they shut the lights off in the Bellagio Casino to rob it,” says Mike Booen, Raytheon’s vice president for advanced security and directed-energy systems. “I say, how about applying [that scenario] to the bad guys’ command-and-control center. If you can find that site and shut it off without the enemy knowing how it happened, tactical commanders will want the capability.”

    Another important theme about future war is that it is “all about saving money,” he says. “If you can defeat mortars and Kayusha [artillery rockets] with a laser, you can relieve yourself of the big logistics tail required to bring ammunition to the front and having to maintain the guns. By using the speed of light, you can beat the simultaneity problem [of lots of incoming projectiles] that you face with kinetic weapons.”

    There is a class of problems that illustrates the need for high-power microwave (HPM) weapons. An example is foes putting satellite communications and GPS navigation jammers — to lead precision weapons astray — on top of hospitals and schools. This type of target cannot be attacked with normal, conventional bombs, nor does it lend itself to lasers.

    “That’s a problem screaming to get solved,” Booen says.

    The precision application of effects will be guided by some new schemes for fusing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR).

    “There are things that are improving dramatically such as connectivity, the quality of information, miniaturization of components and advanced, high-resolution optics that are combined with the ability to link that data and share it,” says a senior ISR specialist. “Once you understand the battlespace and what is happening there, you can make decisions about how to deal with it.

    “From a budget standpoint, it is going to be interesting to watch what is done with all the platforms the U.S. has bought,” he says. “We will want to upgrade the sensors and content of those vehicles, UAVs, aerostats and airplanes because there has been such a monumental improvement in the ability to observe things.

    “The metric we use operationally is that now you can see the whole town in high fidelity [instead of just a spot within the town],” the ISR specialist says. This is a capability that has only matured since 2006. “If something happens, you can see the reaction. You can track it back to see where people came from and track it forward to see where the participants went.  I can see the vehicles, the people and what the people are carrying — a gun or a shovel.”

    The need to use lots of battlefield robotics is going to create another opportunity for technology. How can all those unmanned ground, air and maritime robots operate autonomously and then later as part of a group of unmanned systems?

    Alan Taub, General Motors vice president of global research and development, says autonomous cars with sophisticated self-driving systems can be ready for commercial sales by the end of the decade. Many are already equipped with sensors, radars, portable communication devices, GPS navigation, cameras and digital maps. Combined with other safety options like lane departure warning and blind-zone alert, there is a foundation for autonomous driving.

    With survival as the goal, vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication systems gather information from other vehicles, roadways and traffic signals to warn about possible hazards ahead, including slowed or stalled vehicles, slippery roads, sharp curves and upcoming intersections. These systems can be embedded in the vehicle or be added as applications to portable devices and smartphones that connect wirelessly to the vehicle, Taub says.

    The driver’s brain, designed to evolve to meet changing demands, may also become a commercial product, according to a recent article in Britain’s New Scientist magazine.

    A team at Cornell University’s Creative Machines Lab has created digital brains using neural networks that mimic biological evolutionary processes, and researchers are working on how to link them to robot bodies. The best-performing brains are allowed to reproduce to create new generations. One was able to make a four-legged robot walk within a few hours of the brain being plugged into the body. The Cornell researchers also plan to design soft-bodied robots using printable materials that act as muscles, bones, batteries, wires and computers. The idea is that eventually the entire robot will be printed including the brain.

    Tags: ar99, Raytheon, EW, EA, HPM

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