Hitting Target Is Only Half the Battle; Masking Signature, Capability Crucial

Article excerpt

Air and ground targets capable of emulating cruise missiles, advanced fighters, main battle tanks, and other lethal weapons are rapidly unfolding via a host of joint and service unique programs now under way

This quick pace is reflected in a range of projects including successful flight tests by the Army Simulation, Training, and Instrumentation Command on the Hokum-X surrogate helicopter in Portage La Prairie, Manitoba, Canada

The surrogate, a modified AH-iS Cobra by Bristol Aerospace Ltd., Winnipeg, Canada, produces the visual, infrared, and radio frequency spectrums of Russia's Ka-50 attack helicopter for use in test and evaluation target applications.

Other tests will be conducted at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, and White Sand Missile Range, New Mexico. An official said by next autumn, the Hokum-X target system will be ready for operation.

Despite rigorous spending constraints and the necessity of preserving targets that have been in use in some cases for decades, industry and the Defense Department outlined plans to maintain a first class test and training base.

Commercial Solutions

New technologies are providing vit signatures of enemy weapons and a drive toward commercial solutions, commonality and a modular approach is producing more survivable targets. Miniaturization of key components also is making these systems far more capable.

An example is Austin, Texas-based Tracor systems division's MQM-107E that is being supplied to the Army, Air Force, and Royal Australian Navy. The drone with a pod-mounted turbojet, said an official, is being used to support surface-to-air and air-to-air weapons training and development. The flexible design, he explained, permits changing target requirements.

The MQM-107E flies in excess of Mach 0.8 and is pre-programmed to perform barrel roll, pitch back, and slice maneuvers. Additionally, it is capable of sea skimming and global position system command and control.

Navy and Air Force experts noted at the 35th Air Targets/Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Symposium and Exhibition in Las Vegas Nevada, that the air targets inventory in both services is marked by short supply on the one hand and on the other by the expectation of requirements to replicate the performance an increasing number of weapons.

Cmdr. Bruce J. Cuppett, USN, said the sea service needs targets, particularly platforms that can emulate small, fast, low signature anti-ship missiles. Cmdr. Cuppett, as did counterparts in other services, said the protracted budget crunch has constricted the existing targets inventory He also said targets are not keeping pace with the range of new threats confronting the Navy

Cmdr. Cuppett said modeling and simulation systems, while useful, do not negate the require ment for high fidelity targets. He also said shortcomings are evident in intelligence operations, particularly in the area of expressing future threats.

High Tech Spearhead

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), meanwhileincluding combat variants (UCAVs) now in the development stage-may provide a high tech spearhead for next century's warriors.

These quickly evolving systems, coupled with ground and sea versions, besides enhancing combat clout, could also free up additional modernization funding because of their expected relatively low cost.

Col. Joseph Grasso, USAF, commander of the UAV Battlelab in Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, pointed out to the crowd that his small operation is bent on capturing "innovation outside the acquisition process." Developments are then quickly relayed to warfighters, he said.

Among the needed capabilities tagged by the battlelab, he mentioned, are having UAVs relay target information directly to a combat aircraft. Closer to home, he and other officials at the conference stressed the importance of clearing obstacles to having UAVs operate in air space controlled by the Federal Aviation Administration_

Col. …