By Sharon Watkins Lang, USASMDC/ARSTRAT Command HistorianOctober 13, 2016
Created in 1973, the Army Space Program Office, or ASPO, has had a long and rich history of providing technological capabilities that are responsive to the needs of the commander.
With its Tactical Exploitation of National Capabilities, or TENCAP, program which applies national space and theater reconnaissance systems for tactical use, the ASPO presented a role model for the other services as they explored space assets. From 1994 to 2003, the ASPO was a component of the then U.S. Army Space and Strategic Defense Command, or USASSDC.
In September 1999, USASSDC published its Strategic Plan. This document incorporated four primary goals each containing several command objectives. Primary among these was the goal to ensure that Soldiers had access to space assets.
One month later, in October, ASPO successfully fielded the first corps-level Tactical Exploitation System, or TES, one of several programs designed to improve battlefield visualization for theater commanders, to the XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The TES equipment itself went to C Company of the 319th Missile Intelligence Battalion with training scheduled to begin the next February.
Designed to be transported on a C-130, the TES was a modular unit which could be scaled to the theater requirements incorporating up to 40 workstations. The forward segment, consisting of 12 HMMWVs, could land with entry forces "to supply national and theater level intelligence" and remain mobile.
The main section, housed in vans, operated behind the entry forces to support joint and split-based operations. The main section would also provide continuous updates on the mobile force collecting data on primary and contingency areas, conduct detailed analysis of the intelligence data collection and maintain a master database.
It will also provide extensive data and voice communications capabilities including UHF, S, X, C and Ku radio frequency communications. As the system for the 21st century it was scheduled to replace the Advanced Electronic Processing and Dissemination System, the Enhanced Tactical Radar Correlator, and the Modernized Imagery Exploitation System.
This version of the TES was designed as a ground station testbed for the Discoverer II program developed by the Air Force, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the National Reconnaissance Office. Begun in 1998, Discoverer II was developed as a space based radar program which would provide "global surveillance of moving targets day or night, in any kind of weather," using low-cost and lightweight satellites.
The TES then allowed theater commanders to downlink the radar data in near real time.
During exercises that autumn, which incorporated a Discoverer II sensor aboard a commercial aircraft, the TES demonstrated its ability to receive and process data. At the same time the system also successfully communicated with various Air Force intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems.