By Bharat Patel, PEO IEW&S System of Systems Engineer and Brandon Pollachek, PEO IEW&S PAOOctober 3, 2014
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md., (Oct. 3, 2014) - What started as a venture to reduce the cost and time for developing and testing elements of the Enhanced Medium Altitude Reconnaissance Surveillance System (EMARSS), the Army's newest aerial intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) platform, in the Joint Technical Integration Facility (JTIF) has turned into an opportunity for the Army to test the path forward for many of its ISR sensors and verify and validate interoperability with its premiere intelligence system, the Distributed Common Ground System-Army (DCGS-A).
A collaborative effort between Program Executive Office Intelligence, Electronic Warfare & Sensors (PEO IEW&S), Army Test & Evaluation Command, Software Engineering Center (SEC) and the Intelligence and Information Warfare Directorate, the JTIF provides an environment for prototyping and risk reduction opportunities for many advanced command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) capabilities.
Located at Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG), the JTIF's access to unclassified and classified systems makes it an attractive spot to test in an affordable manner by leveraging investments in existing systems, such as the EMARSS mock fuselage. The JTIF has on-site subject matter experts and advanced capabilities to rapidly develop prototypes and jointly integrate, test, validate and calibrate C4ISR systems for insertion into Programs of Record. It also facilitates connections between the DCGS-A and other suites that will replicate the functions of C4ISR platforms.
The JTIF provides a central location in the C4ISR campus for Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADA) and Memorandum of Agreement with other Army developmental and testing organizations. Currently, the JTIF is the focus point for a CRADA between the Communications- Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC) and industry. These CRADAs facilitate the exchange of technical information and knowledge, operate existing and developmental ISR systems in conjunction with advanced software- and information technology-based solutions, and perform human-in-the loop and system-level experiments to improve overall system performance.
JTIF FUELS ISR ADVANCES
This coalescence of efforts within the ISR community will provide the military with leading-edge technology, reducing costs and cutting the time it takes for the warfighter to receive equipment.
"The JTIF provides a facility to test potential hardware and software configurations within the context of the architecture of the intended aerial platform," said Raymond Santiago, JTIF director. "The logistical benefits and cost savings enable a full end-to-end test capability, which facilitates evaluation of form, fit and wiring of the prime mission equipment package and integration of new prime mission equipment or emerging technologies."
According to Mark Kitz, PM DCGS-A technical director, the JTIF environment allows for airborne sensor data (still imagery, full motion video, moving target indicator), data from Soldiers (patrol reports, human intelligence collections, ground sensor data) and tactical messaging to be pulled into the DCGS-A enterprise.
"Being able to pull data back to the JTIF means that problems and issues are identified and solved much faster than in the past. We no longer have to wait for formal test events like the AIC or the Network Integration Exercise (NIE) to test sensor data flows," noted Kitz. "This allows our development and integration and test teams more time up front to identify and address system incidents. It also allows engineers to see how multiple entities interact simultaneously, providing analysis in a near-real world environment. Having a test lab with a more robust data set also provides a more dynamic and still cost-effective environment for proof of concept and rapid prototype excursions."
He added, "The JTIF reduces the time required for troubleshooting during testing by allowing information to flow back to the lab in real time, so engineers can work the problem immediately as opposed to analyzing data or reports weeks or months after a test event and trying to replicate problems seen in the field in a lab environment."
TEST BED YIELDS DIVIDENDS
Building on the success of the JTIF, PEO IEW&S directed a focus on distributed development and testing. Called the ISR Test Bed (ISR TB), the directive is not a physical location but a concept by PEO IEW&S to leverage existing infrastructure across the United States and on APG for developmental engineering, development and operational testing.
Government and commercial sensor labs around the country have physical access to many of the current sensors and their variants, as well as access to emerging sensors. The ability to provide real--not simulated--sensor data directly to developmental engineers is critical to ensure true interoperability between the wide arrays of available sensors and DCGS-A.
With specific sensor types and testing range capabilities scattered around the country, it is difficult to properly perform interoperability and developmental testing, such as the development of sensor data fusion software for DCGS-A. By linking these labs and various other relevant proving grounds, engineers at APG will have access to required sensor data, including full motion video, synthetic aperture radar, ground moving target indicators, signals intelligence, and biometrics radio frequency, for development and testing.
Yuma Proving Ground (YPG)"currently has a dedicated link to APG, providing the testing community and system developers live streaming operational sensor data with ground truth, creating a unique opportunity for the development community to assess ISR systems in a controlled environment," said Grant Ware, director of YPG's Air Combat Test Directorate. "The distributed testing approach reduces total costs to the customer, creates an integrated ISR test environment to validate interface standards and system of systems interoperability, and allows test centers the ability to leverage non-organic resources and expertise."
Pete Schaffer, YPG test officer, noted that "the persistent dissemination of real-time sensor data that YPG provides is just the first step in our plans to develop a robust developmental test environment that will enable customers to conduct system of systems integration and testing prior to large-scale operational test events".
Another critical aspect of sensor interoperability and advanced data processing development and testing is the integrity of the associated metadata. That integrity is of utmost importance to the functionality of a variety of algorithms as it allows for raw data to be easily discoverable and useable within an intelligence enterprise.
This metadata is an integral part to the DCGS-A Cloud architecture as well, both for data searching and cloud-based analytics. With the migration of more and more data and complex data processes such as full-motion video quality algorithms and automated pattern-of-life analyses to the cloud, the precision and quality of the metadata become increasingly more important. Having the metadata from non-co-located sensors available across the country to engineers at APG and other labs will allow for the efficient development of these cloud analytics and further ensure sensor interoperability.
CONCEPT PUT INTO PRACTICE
Several program managers within PEO IEW&S are already leveraging the ISR TB concept. PdM Counter RCIED Electronic Warfare is using a connection between YPG and Fort Bliss to share data for NIE as a system under demonstration. Since YPG has the appropriate infrastructure and spectrum availability, the systems can be operated there and the data sent to Fort Bliss to support operational scenarios and evaluations.
EMARSS is using the ISR TB concept to support contractor and developmental testing, connecting ground elements and systems under test at APG with a surrogate operational ground system and threat representations at Joint Base Maguire Dix Lakehurst (JB MDL), NJ. In addition, Sensor Computing Environment Integrated Sensor Architecture is intending to connect the EMARSS mock-up at APG with a surrogate Gray Eagle at YPG and assorted force protection assets at JB MDL and YPG this summer for testing sensor standards and interoperability.
The Command Post Computing Environment, which is converging many elements of Mission Command with the Intelligence Enterprise, is also leveraging several labs on APG and across the United States to support risk reduction activities.
Finally, the JTIF will serve as one of the new hosts for the Theater Net-centric Geolocation (TNG) Enterprise Facility (ATNGEF), along with the MITRE facility located outside the APG gates, the Intelligence & Information Warfare Directorate (I2WD) and Philips Air Field both located on APG, all networked together which will enable engineering, development, interoperability and testing of Army TNG-capable sensors, data processing and command and control systems along with those from across military services defense agencies, assessing interoperability with allied foreign militaries. The TNG facility is a joint effort between PEO IEW&S and the National Security Agency, and is scheduled to come on line this fall.
The JTIF and the ISR TB have provided a new, effective and efficient method to develop and test. Especially in this era of cost efficiency, PEO IEW&S's efforts will pave the way for an easy-to-use environment that will allow for systems to get in Soldiers' hands quicker and provide fiscal relief for the affected programs.