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As envisioned for the E-10A MC2A - the Air Force's next-generation battle control aircraft - the BMC2 subsystem will automate sensor data processing tasks currently performed by human operators, presenting a predictive battlespace awareness picture to the airborne commander. The knowledge to make actionable decisions in near-real time will enable the Air Force to significantly shorten the sensor-to-shooter decision cycle.
The Battle Management Command and Control (BMC2) source selection is part of the larger Multi-sensor Command & Control Aircraft (MC2A) Program. MC2A capabilities will be delivered through Evolutionary Acquisition using Spiral Development throughout the system’s acquisition and sustainment phases. Spiral 1 will deliver a robust Ground Moving Target Indicator (GMTI) capability and a focused Air Moving Target Indicator (AMTI) capability to support the Cruise Missile Defense (CMD) operations, along with BMC2 capabilities integrated on a Boeing 767-400ER platform to the warfighter by 2013. The BMC2 subsystem includes all of the non-radar and non-aircraft subsystems to include the central computing architecture, networks, data storage, data manipulation, data fusion, data exploitation, communications and data link capability. The BMC2 subsystem will provide GMTI and CMD BMC2 with a growth capability to host AEW BMC2 through a spiral development process supporting the MC2A evolutionary acquisition approach. The effort includes design, development, and test and integration in the context of the MC2A WSI.
The Multi Platform-Common Data Link (MP-CDL) will provide the data link to other airborne and ground platforms prosecuting the ground war. Other capabilities may include interfaces to Space-Based Radar, reception of data from, and control of unmanned aerial vehicles and combat operations functions. The initial effort will include both hardware and software growth provisions to permit incorporation of additional sensor configurations, as well as other BMC2 functionality for future developments. A second spiral is tentatively planned to expand the E-10A support to air-to-air and cruise missile defense with additional sensors (e.g., IFF) and additional BMC2 functionality.
The Lockheed Martin-led E-10A BMC2 team draws on industry-leading experience in battle management, ISR, and command and control systems. Lockheed Martin is responsible for systems architecture, systems engineering and program management; Raytheon will perform the communications, ISR, and UAV control systems integration; and SAIC heads the modeling and simulation effort. The team also draws on focused domain expertise from L3 Communications, Alphatech, Inc., and Concurrent Technologies Corporation
One technical and operational challenge is performing simultaneous ground moving-target indication (GMTI) and air moving-target indication (AMTI) missions. The USAF wants to field four operational MC2As by 2012 to start replacing the existing ground surveillance capabilities provided by E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System aircraft.
An Air Force special operations analysis concluded in 2000 recommended the Boeing 767-200 to replace the EC-130E Commando Solo. The 767 is 60 percent longer and has more than twice the range of the EC-130E. But Congress currently is focusing on continued work on the EC-130J Commando Solo II.
The first flight for the MC2A-X, dubbed ‘Paul Revere,’ was a systems and communications check flight conducted at Hanscom AFB, Mass. by the Electronics Systems Center (ESC) on April 18, 2002, exactly 227 years to the day after Paul Revere first rode to warn of danger. Besides interphone, radio communications, and on-board systems, the first flight will also test the Tactical Common Data Link (TCDL), the critical element to both send and receive data from other airborne and space sensors and the AOC.
The experimental testbed will be used as a “pathfinder” to determine hardware and software suites needed to execute a dynamic air war in a GSTF and Aerospace Expeditionary Force (AEF) employment from the early stages through termination of hostilities across the spectrum of conflict.
Though the look of the battlefield and weapons has changed, the idea of obtaining and relaying critical information has not. In 1775 Paul Revere provided essential intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) information by collecting and disseminating information to decision makers in the timeliest fashion for action. This process of gathering and disseminating timely information to decision makers continues to be paramount to success.
After considerable study, a consortium of Boeing, Northrop, Grumman and Raytheon, in consultation with the USAF, proposed the incremental development of the E-10A in a series of ‘spirals’. The first development, known as Spiral One, proposed a Ground Moving Target Indicator (GMTI) equipped aircraft with a ground surveillance, targeting, C2 and battle management capability similar to the J-STARS. The primary sensor proposed for this version would be the Northrop Grumman / Raytheon MP-RTIP high-resolution synthetic-aperture ground surveillance radar, a development of the radar currently used by the Global Hawk UAV, mounted under the fuselage in a long fairing similar to the current 707 J-STARS. The USAF initially received $4.5 billion funding for Spiral One development.
Spiral Two development proposed adding a Air Moving Target Indicator (AMTI) capability, to either the GMTI equipped aircraft or a separate aircraft, providing a greatly enhanced battle management, surveillance, targeting and C2 capability. The primary sensor for this version would be the Northrop Grumman ESSD Multi-role Electronically Scanned Array (MESA), mounted above the rear fuselage similar to the 737 ‘Wedgetail’ AEW&C. Further studies would determine how to develop Spiral 3, a SIGINT E-10A that would replace the Rivet Joint and possibly other RC-135s.
Nevertheless, over the last 3 years as industry began to fully address this proposal, it became apparent that, even allowing for some significant technological developments, it would be impossible to incorporate a combined AMTI and GMTI capability in one airframe within the planned timescale – never mind trying to also include an intelligence gathering capability as well. Such a complex aircraft, with so many systems attempting to transmit energy at the same time, would without extremely clever electronics almost certainly end up simply jamming itself. In addition, it was soon realised that trying to add the Rivet Joint capability, an essentially passively role listening and identifying enemy transmissions, in an aircraft that was itself pumping out huge amounts of radar energy, was to all intents and purposes completely incompatible, given current technology.
Eventually in Nov 02 the USAF dropped the goal of a combined GMTI/AMTI E-10A and instead announced the planned acquisition of two separate fleets of firstly GMTI aircraft followed later by another buy of AMTI equipped aircraft. This decision has puzzled a number of observers who wondered whether it made sense, as the current J-STARS fleet use much newer 707 airframes than the older AWACS and Rivet Joint fleets. However, a USAF representative explained this decision by explaining that the current state of the technology and funding already committed to the MP-RTIP led the service to decide that Spiral 1 would be a GMTI aircraft. It was also felt that the majority of current conflicts do not involve a significant air threat, but require a system that can identify targets on or close to the ground.
Given the problems involved in attempting to combine a GMTI, AMTI and SIGINT capability in one airframe, other options are already under consideration. Northrop Grumman is already attempting to develop a smaller version of the MP-RTIP for their Global Hawk and a SIGINT package has already been flown in this successful UAV. This work could eventually result in two Global Hawks, one equipped as a GMTI platform and the other as a SIGINT platform, operating in conjunction with an AMTI E-10A that could fuse and disseminate the data from all three platforms. As these systems would be linked by data or satellite links, allowing the data to be transmitted back to a ground base anywhere in the world in virtual real-time, known as ‘reach-back’, the next option is whether to station the battle management staff in a secure ground base, rather than actually in the aircraft. Currently the USAF would prefer to have the majority of the staff actually on the aircraft, although I believe that is it only a matter of time before advances in technology, together with the sheer quantity of the data that needs to be fused and filtered from complementary systems, will prove overwhealming. Eventually it may be necessary, as well as more efficient and cost-effective, to have a much larger number of battle management staff interpreting the data than can easily be accommodated within an airborne platform, even an aircraft the size of a 767 E-10A.
Some how I'm not that surprised