By Eric Bowes, Army Reprograming Analysis Team (ARAT) Program OfficerDecember 10, 2019
The Army established the Army Reprogramming Analysis Team - Program Office (ARAT-PO) in 1991 to fill a significant gap in Army readiness identified during the Cold War and amplified during Operation Desert Storm. When the Army could not rapidly adjust its Aircraft Survivability Equipment (ASE) and approach to Air Electronic Warfare to changes in the Operational Environment (OE), something had to change.
While much has changed in 28 years, the need for mission readiness has not. Threats, as well as other factors in the OE change rapidly and the Army must be able to adapt and respond accordingly. Better still, they need to anticipate change.
The Army's answer for a rapidly changing OE, especially the environment affecting the aviation community, rests with the ARAT-PO which provides ASE software which keeps pace with this rapid change. Through direct engagement with the Aviation Community and software development innovations, the ARAT-PO enables the Army to maintain the Readiness needed to "Fight Tonight".
One of the first opportunities for Aviator-ARAT-PO Engagement comes at the United States Army Aviation Center of Excellence's Aviation Mission Survivability Officer (AMSO) Course. There, ARAT-PO subject matter experts interact with AMSO students to build their understanding of the ARAT-PO's mission, processes, tools, key aspects of ASE software reprogramming, and ARAT-produced aviator products such as Mission Data Sets (MDS). This engagement ensures AMSOs have current and relevant knowledge of, and countermeasures to, threat air defense systems in various Combatant Command areas of operations.
Two ARAT-PO imperatives are "Communication" and "Committed Customer Service" so the Aviator-ARAT-PO relationship does not end when AMSO's graduate and return to their units. When an AMSO runs into an ASE-related issue, the ARAT-PO stands ready as every issue presents both a challenge to overcome and an opportunity for the ARAT-PO to "up its game". For instance, after the ARAT-PO responded to a user request for a software download for a specific region, it determined its ARAT Warfighter Survivability Software Support Portal (AWSSSP) interface was not as user-friendly as it could be. This, coupled with other user feedback, led the ARAT-PO to develop simpler searches, interactive maps, and updated interfaces for downloading of mission software. Feedback from aviators is just one example of how the ARAT-PO makes it easier for its customers to access products, software, and mission-related information.
Through an Operations Center function available to aviators 24/7, the ARAT-PO fosters unit readiness and resolves issues affecting ASE performance. Whether a request for assistance comes through a phone call, email, or the AWSSSP, aircrews can expect a response within 24 hours, with follow on engagement until aviators get what they need.
Additionally, the ARAT-PO strives to be more than a faceless service provider on the other end of a phone call or an email trail, especially when a unit has a compelling need for face-to-face interaction. Recently, the ARAT-PO personnel travelled to a deploying unit's Home Station and assisted unit AMSOs with reprogramming their helicopters' ASE, understanding the threat warning indications and responses provided by these systems, and discussing regionally-specific Threat Coordination Packages and Aviator Products (e.g., MDS, kneeboard cards, etc.). The end result was a unit ready to bring the fight to the enemy.
No Soldier engagement is too big nor too small. Regardless if the issue is a simple download error or a pilot noticing a system anomaly causing ASE to perform erratically, every issue has the potential to affect mission readiness. The active interaction between Aviator and engineer also serves another purpose- it takes care of people, the Army's "greatest strength and most important weapon systems."
From the classroom to the flight line, the ARAT-PO's Soldier engagement is a never ending process, just as Readiness is a never ending process. In reality, it is a career "lifetime relationship" for the AMSO and the many aviators they help protect.
Innovation- Past, Present, and Future:
In an ever-changing OE, maintaining the "status quo" leads to mission failure. What worked for the ARAT-PO in its early days, or even last year, may no longer be relevant. Through retrospect and innovation, the ARAT-PO has identified and challenged the "status quo" in an effort to get ASE mission software to the field faster while maintaining and improving quality.
One major ARAT-PO innovation is automated testing of ASE mission software which enables validation of any regionally-focused MDS on any piece or suite of ASE. Automated testing allows the ARAT-PO to truly test 24/7, 365 days a year, across multiple threat scenarios which aviators may face in any designated region. Not only does automation permit continuous testing, it also produces test results faster and of higher quality than previous human-in-the-loop testing.
In addition to automation, the ARAT-PO employs emulation to its software development process. Emulation allows engineers to replicate, on computers and networks, costly and space-intensive ASE components such as the UH-60M Blackhawk and AH-64E Apache glass cockpit displays. This means, for a fraction of the cost to the Army, the ARAT-PO can accurately replicate, especially for software testing, the symbology and other system responses which pilots may experience when flying in their area of operation.
As another example of innovation, the ARAT-PO uses a kneeboard card generator to automatically publish aviator products in conjunction with software releases. Once the ARAT-PO completes software development and testing, engineers quickly produce associated kneeboard cards of the quality which Aviators need in their information-intense cockpits.
From nearly its beginning, the ARAT-PO has relied on Radio Frequency simulators in their software labs to accurately replicate actual threats. However, just because the ARAT-PO has always "done it that way" doesn't mean its good enough in a complex battlespace. In fact, for the ARAT-PO, "good enough", is not "good enough".
The ARAT-PO continues to grow, not only in number but in fidelity, its inventory of over 600 simulated emitters from around the world. Daily, the ARAT-PO works with the intelligence community to analyze, modify, refine, and build an accurate and relevant representation of threats aircrews face. However, even with the best interaction, sharing, and collaboration with intelligence stakeholders, this process is difficult and time-consuming. To reach an end-state of faster analysis and simulation development, the ARAT-PO is working with many partners to standardize intelligence data structures and file formats to enable automatic extracting and querying of key threat aspects. This automation will allow ARAT-PO the ability analyze data quicker and provide real life simulations of all threats aviators may encounter.
The importance of innovation to the aviator is this- every minute and every hour saved during software development, and every incremental increase in quality, ensures the ARAT-PO can get ASE products to the aviation community when they need it, wherever they need it.
Formula for Success:
For three decades, the ARAT-PO has coupled its innovation in its software laboratories and its engagement with aviators to keep Soldiers safe and ensure mission success in the OE. The bottom line up front is that the ARAT-PO's goal is to get mission software to the aviation community faster, easier, and of higher quality.
While the ARAT-PO is good at getting mission software to aviators, it will always strive to do it more efficiently. This begins in the lab with innovations focused on reducing timelines and building better products. It continues by putting products into the hands well-informed and well-cared for AMSOs and the aircrews they serve. Innovation plus engagement is a formula which equals mission readiness and success for the Army as it prepares and engages adversaries around the world in current operations and future Multi-Domain Operations.