Research Agency Cultivates Technologies That Lead to Critical Battlefield Capability

By Meadows, Sandra I. | National Defense, July/August 1997 | Go to article overview

Research Agency Cultivates Technologies That Lead to Critical Battlefield Capability


Meadows, Sandra I., National Defense


Some of the most sophisticated scientific research that spawns critical systems for the U.S. military is generated at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

What follows are examples of technologies and experiments that have led to significant capabilities for the Defense Department

Protection to the Warfighter From Biological Warfare Attack-A neuron-based biosensor effort, managed by DARPA for the Pentagon's Counterproliferation Support Program Office, has demonstrated the ability to detect toxic substances which affect the central nervous system. The detector, which is based on living neuron cells, can be used to determine if toxic chemicals or biological toxins are present on the battlefield. Its ability to detect hitherto unknown toxic substances is a major advancement over current detectors, which detect only known toxins.

During the past 18 months, the detector was miniaturized and tested in various places around the world to ensure that environmental substances did not interfere with its operation. It was also tested against 18 toxic substances, and successfully detected all but Staphlyococcus Enterotoxin B. The living cells in the detector have functioned well for four months, according to DARPA officials.

Advances in Automated Target Recogniton-The moving and stationary target acquisition and recognition (MSTAR) program, led by DARPA's Information Systems Office, is developing a nextgeneration synthetic aperture radar (SAR) automatic target recognition (ATR) system capable of detecting and recognizing time-critical ground targets under challenging operating conditions.

A team of multi-disciplinary experts designed and built the MSTAR system architecture, which combines the accuracy of data-driven ATR systems with the robustness of model-driven ATR systems, to enhance performance under realworld conditions.

During 14 months of three spiral design and independent evaluation cycles, the MSTAR system went from conception to a public demonstration of specified performance against 10 nominally configured and articulated target types at all imaging aspects over a wide range of sensor depression angles.

Officials said that, as the system design matures, MSTAR-developed technology will be migrated into the semi-automated imagery processing advanced concept technology demonstration system for operational test and transition.

Multi-Gigabit ATM Network and Optical Transmission Capabilities-DARPA pioneered the development of asynchronous transmission mode (ATM) communications networking within the Defense Department.

The networking program demonstrated reliable, affordable, secure information services. DARPA officials also stressed that it was a major driver for the commercial technology base and enabled the Defense Department to acquire advanced commercial technology for its operations. Experimental testbeds such as ATDNet were used to help the Defense Information Systems Agency DISA) gain experience with flexible, high-performance network management and operations and to extend its use to other government agencies and experiments. …

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