Army, Lockheed Martin, Sensors, tech

Q&A: CERDEC's Charlie Maraldo on C4ISR On-the-Move '09 and the Persistent Surveillance Testbed

At last month’s C4ISR On-the-Move Event ’09 exercise, the Army’s Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Command (CERDEC) hosted an additional event – the Persistent Surveillance Testbed, run out of Naval Air Engineering Station Lakehurst. In addition to the Lockheed Airborne Multi-Intelligence Lab, CERDEC tested two other ISR platforms – an internal electronic intelligence and electronic warfare project called Sledgehammer, and a prototype acoustic Hostile Fire Indicator (HFI).

Last week, I spoke with Charlie Maraldo, a special projects manager with the Intelligence and Information Warfare Directorate (I2WD) at CERDEC about the Lockheed AML test and the other elements of the Persistent Surveillance Testbed. Here’s the transcript:

Charlie Maraldo : Today, we can network disparate types of systems — sensor systems, e/w systems, ISR systems and ingest their data into DCGS A, normalize it on a database that is then accessible via other tools that are out on the data enterprise, and then allowing that information to be either posted or pulled or otherwise sent down to warfighters, you know. right down to the edge. That was our objective, and AML was a part of that, and a big part. So let’s talk about that for a little bit.

So, Lockheed Martin has a CRADA with RDECOM and I2WD, and as part of that CRADA we have an ongoing technical exchange of information with them. They made us aware several months ago that they were developing a testbed capability, which was the AML. It’s a capital asset of theirs — we don’t have any control over or can tell them what to do with it — it’s a solely Lockheed Martin entity. But we talked about ways that we could cooperate using it, and one idea was to have them participate in the C4ISR on the move demo, as a sub element of our Persistent Surveillance Testbed capstone demonstration that we were running at I2WD, which was part of the c4isr on the move e09 demo. So that’s what we did.

We kind of kept tabs… I was involved in monitoring the status of Lockheed’s progress, and brainstorming some ideas on how their system could play into the demonstration. And they came out for five days. Right after their aircraft was complete, and used some of the subsystems that they had integrated into the aircraft. They used their COMINT system to geolocate and map communications emitters that were involved in the E09 exercise. They had an EO-IR imagery asset on their aircraft. And they connected with our ground station via a CDL provided by L3 Comm Systems West in Salt Lake City. Their ground station component, we integrated into our shelter– our testbed trailer, or shelter, and we federated their DIB — their DCGS Integration Backbone.

We federated their DIB with the DIB in our ground station and our DCGS-A. We had a DCGS-A version 3.x in our station, and we were able to ingest their information , and normalize it using some off-the-shelf data manipulation tools, so it was ingestible into the PASS — Post and Subscribe Services, I think that stands for — server at C4ISR On-The-Move, and then that made that data then available however the On-The-Move experiment wanted to use it. So that was sort of our responsibility. Once the data was in an acceptable format in the PASS server, our responsibility sort of trailed off, and PM C4ISR On-The-Move took it up and then conducted experimentation on how that data could be displayed down on other, you know, whether it was FBCB2 or ROVR… they conducted a lot of experimentation with all the data that was flowing over the network. So I don’t have a great handle on exactly how that part played out, but once it was on that server, and the data was acceptable, it was being viewed on their common operating picture, on their COP, and the icons were generated at the appropriate locations and the report data was there, so we declared some success.

So, Lockheed Martin flew their missions at the same time we were flying something called Sledgehammer. Sledgehammer is an airborne EW — electronic warfare — system. It has electronic support, which allows you to locate emitters on the battlefield, and electronic attack which allows you to deny the communications of those emitters. That was also connected to our ground station via CDL, and the same type of actions took place, with regards to normalizing the data, and allowing it to be ingested, displayed and processed by DCGS-A, and passed over the fiber optic network that we had installed between our ground station at Lakehurst, and the C4ISR on the move server and facility at Range 1 at Ft. Dix.

We also flew a Hostile Fire Indication prototype, which detects firing events, meaning gunfire. That information was also , that was on the UH-1 Huey helicopter.

Sean Gallagher: What platform was the Sledgehammer on?

Charlie Maraldo: Oh, I’m sorry. That was on the UH-60A. These helicopters are testbed research and development assets run out of the CERDEC flight activity at Lakehurst. They’re owned by our organization for the purposes of this type of experimentation, research and development work, assisting in the development of QRC capability, anything that involves advancing the state of the art of the different types of technologies that we work on.

Sean Gallagher: Were they operating as a surrogate for a potential UAS platform?

Charlie Maraldo: Well, I wouldn’t go that far. Our architecture was … that was the intent of the architecture and why we remoted the operation via CDL of each of these components, because objectively the architecture will not have users with the payload. They’ll be maybe on a UAS, maybe on a lighter than air airship…so you want to accomplish that sort of architectural design as early as you can in your development, so that’s not what you’re trying to hurdle. But I wouldn’t stretch it and say that they were surrogate UASs. I’d say the architecture is compatible with future UAS development, but probably size weight and power of some of this stuff is not.

So, the UH-1 did not use a CDL. The UH-1 used an L-band data link that is an R&D asset of the space and terrestrial comms directorate here. So we had a lot players, we had a lot of people involved in this. It became a complex little experiment. And that sensor reported the location of firing events, and we reported that as situational awareness data into the C4ISR On-the-move network , onto their enterprise in the same manner. THe data was normalized, it was displayed on DCGS-A, we could display it in concert with other sensor data, and pass the information over to the PASS server at C4ISR On-the-Move.

Sean Gallagher: So you were able to fuse all that data over DCGS-A, and overlay sigint and visual, and firing event data on top of each other on a geospatial display?

Charlie Maraldo: Yes. Now, I don’t want to exaggerate. We were not passing realtime full-motion video through the DCGS-A to the PASS server. We didn’t get that far– we only had a few days to do this integraion. So, there’s nothing that could have stopped us from doing that except for time. We were a little short on time, and Lockheed was only in town for a couple of days. And with just the federation of the DIBs, it would have required some additional integration to get the real time video over. They were able to pass packets, you, know, like clips? Small bits of still-video, and stuff like that. But it wasn’t like real-time video.

Sean Gallagher: So, like, screen grabs of whatever they were getting off the sensor.

Charlie Maraldo: Yes, yes, exactly. And then we also cross-cued. So, using the data from other ISR assets, we cross cued the imagery asset, and , uh, and / or that data was available on the C4ISR on the move network to cross cue other imagery assets that they had playing in the demo. And that allows you then , to, you know, imagery assets are always in short supply; everybody wants a picture of what’s important, what’s going on on the battelfield. If you can tell them where to look instead of having them have to scan over a larger area, and you can use those assets more effectively. So some of the data was used for cross-cuing of imagery assets. So we could take a picture of what we were also hearing, or electronically attacking. So all of that worked pretty well.

Sean Gallagher: So the Lockheed piece was based on a CRADA; were these other projects currently in CRADA mode or…

Charlie Maraldo : No, the other projects were internal to I2WD. So we had a mix of investment by Lockheed Martin on their AML, and then some other projects that the … the Sledgehammer, there’s some interest in some similar capability as a QRC, so we wanted to show the operational benefit of having this capability that’s easily integrated onto a UH-60 helicopter. So we’re trying to reduce the risk of a potential QRC and show its effectiveness. And the Hostile Fire Indicator, HFI, is a prototype that is an early stage of an ATO, Army technololgy objective. So you know, again, we had a mix — we had a very early prototype capability in the HFI, and the Sledgehammer EW system was very mature… you know we’re ready to go in probably a few months with something like that; and AML was a testbed.

Sean Gallagher: Coming out of this experiment, do you see, is there any motion afoot to make any of these a program of record or put them over to a program, move them to the PEO side?

Charlie Maraldo: There is real interest in Sledgehammer as a QRC that would be managed or at least assisted through a PM, but I don’t have any official word on a PM, and I don’t want to jump the gun on that.

Sean Gallagher: Any further testing coming up at this point for any of these elements?

Charlie Maraldo: We continue to demonstrate for target audiences the Sledgehammer. We’re going to continue experimentation with the HFI with different types of weaponry; we’re getting assistance from PM C4ISR On-the-Move, coordinating ground assets at Ft. Dix…So we’re getting help from, I guess that’s a National Guard training center there now, so we’re doing that this month (October). AML, we don’t have anything on the calendar, but we definitely plan on continuing this relationship with them. Lockheed has stated an interest in that, as they had literally just finished the aircraft so , uh. we only used a portion of its potential sensor capability. So maybe next year, that’s up to them…it’s a business development tool for them, so they need to secure funding from their marketing side to go and play in these kinds of experiments. What their real plans are, that’s up to them. But we’ve expressed interest in continuing this type of relationship, and also you know, exploring the possibility of putting third party sensors onto their platform for research and development.

Sean Gallagher: Yeah, I understand the architecture of the aircraft is designed for that purpose.

Charlie Maraldo: Yeah, absolutely. They have a DIB based, service-based architecture, I’m sure they’d like to advertise it as plug and play, and it probably is to some degree. Everything takes some intergration. But I think there’s potential there, and we’ll work with them in the future, as we do with virtually other large, or even not large, contractor. So we have CRADAs with Northrop Grumman, and… well…everybody. Our objective is to help industry and help the services advance the state of the art in all these types of capabilities. And if we can cooperate with them like that, and share information and generate a capability for the warfighter that much sooner, that’s what we will do.

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