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DIU Seeks Prototype Sat Terminal For Army All-Domain Ops « Breaking Defense

WASHINGTON: The Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) wants commercial vendors to submit prototypes for the Army’s planned mobile ground station that can fuse sensor data from multiple ISR satellites — including both national security and commercial — into a common operational picture for battlefield commanders.

While this solicitation, released late yesterday, focuses on space-based sensors, ultimately the Tactical Intelligence Targeting Access Node (TITAN) is envisioned as a “unified” ground station that can take data not just from satellites, but also from high-altitude, aerial and terrestrial ISR sensors to provide targeting data directly to Army Long-Range Precision Fires (LRPF) networks.

The Army describes TITAN as a “scalable and expeditionary intelligence ground station.” It is envisioned as a critical enabler of Army all-domain operations command and control.  

The satellite terminal is the first step in what will be a modular development of the TITAN terminal’s capabilities over time — with a goal to deploy and initial operating capability early in fiscal 2022, as Brig. Gen. Rob Collins, Army program executive officer for intelligence, electronic warfare and sensors, explained at the giant Association of the United States Army (AUSA) show in October,

DIU’s Space Portfolio Director Steve Butow explained in an email that the prototype ground stations should be “capable of rapidly and semi-autonomously tasking, receiving, processing, exploiting, fusing, and disseminating space based sensor data to provide networked situational awareness and direct tactical support to Army commanders at echelon.”

One of the key goals is “to reduce sensor to shooter latency.” Latency is the term of art to describe the time it takes to send information from the satellite to the user on the ground.

The prototype ground stations — which as with all DIU projects are envisioned to be rapidly fielded  — must be capable of “rapid deployment to diverse operational environments via strategic lift and once deployed, be capable of rapid setup, tear down, movement, and assembly to meet operational commander’s needs.” They also must be able to function “for a reasonable period of time” through “any loss of non-local communications or networks.”

American contractors have until April 3 to put forward a proposal. Proposed prototypes “should include everything required to operate during a designated exercise(s) and demonstration(s) as well during real world operations, including the vehicle/trailers, power generation/conditioning, antennae, communications/network hardware/software (to include line of sight and beyond line of sight), processing hardware/software, and analytical hardware/software,” the solicitation states.

DIU is asking that the TITAN prototype support a number of technical capabilities:

  • automated wideband data signal processing
  • autonomous cross-cueing and tasking between satellites
  • hybrid cloud based processing and analytics
  • machine-learning and/or artificial intelligence algorithms.

The prototypes also should enable the processing/exploitation of satellite data and derived analytics from a wide array of sensors, including:

  • electro-optical data products (including motion imagery),
  • multi- and hyper-spectral data,
  • thermal and overhead persistent (OPIR) data,
  • synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data,
  • emitter location data,
  • light detection and ranging (LIDAR) data
  • mapping data, and
  • ALT NAV / Assured PNT data. (‘ALT NAV’ refers to navigation data that does not come from positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) satellites such as GPS; ‘assured PNT’ data usually means being able to tap non-GPS satellites such as the Europe’s Galileo or China’s Beidou.)

Further, prototypes should be able to store and process data from multiple commercial providers. This means that the “access node should be a modular, open systems architecture, making it easy to upgrade software/firmware, analytics/algorithms, and ingest additional data streams as commercial vendors and national data become available.” This includes being able to store and process both classified and unclassified data.

The project will run for 24 to 30 months, and will include the delivery of at least two and as many as six working prototypes. They must be ready for immediate testing and evaluation in a theater exercise.

DUI is looking at two phases. Phase 1 includes the “development, integration, testing, accreditation and delivery” of two prototypes by January 2022. Phase 2 “includes the testing, assessment, and refinement of the prototype systems based upon participation in and feedback from several exercises and evaluations,” both in the US and theaters abroad.  Phase 2 also includes the option of delivering up to four additional prototype systems.

DIU generally uses Other Transaction Authorities as a contracting vehicle, as will this program.

The solicitation notes that DoD is “also pursuing a separate parallel effort for the objective TITAN ground station design to accommodate Aerial and Terrestrial sensors as well.” Thus, the contractor(s) chosen will need to work ensure designs for the satellite terminal can be integrated with, and that all the software is transportable to, that design via agreements with the other companies involved.

The Army issued a Request for Information on Dec. 4 about technologies to enable the “objective” TITAN terminal that can integrate all types of ISR sensors. That RFI was updated on Dec. 18.

The RFI explains that TITAN eventually will replace the Army’s current Tactical-Intelligence Ground Station, Operational-Intelligence Ground Station, Advanced Miniaturized Data Acquisition System Dissemination Vehicle and Remote Ground Terminal. It also must be “to operate at Brigade, Division, Corps, and Field Army echelons, in vehicles and shelters organic to the formation,” the solicitation said.

According to a Q&A transcript of the Army’s Dec. 4 industry day on TITAN, the service currently sees potential deployment platforms: a larger version for integration with on one variant of the Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles (FMTV) with a shelter; and a smaller one to be integrated on “a four-seater tactical vehicle — either a Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) or a Humvee.

What is unclear is how this DIU effort relates to the earlier sole-source award to Peraton for the Satellite Ground Terminal (SGT) Prototype, that on the face of it is being designed to do exactly the same thing. Under that Nov. 19 award, which supports the Army’s Tactical Exploitation of National Capabilities (TENCAP) program, Peraton was to develop a fully-tested prototype to the Army within 20 months. SGT is expected to transfer up to 1,000 times more satellite data to operators than currently possible, according to Peraton.

Queries to the Army, DIU and Peraton about this were not answered at press time.

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