DARPA developing killer tech

An office established last fall in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has added a key word to the traditional research area of command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR): kill.

Richard Wishner, director of DARPA's Information Exploitation Office (IXO), said his office is charged with developing technologies to find, precisely identify, track and kill targets. And it recently coined the phrase C4KISR (pronounced C4-Kisser), he said.

Wishner said the IXO's goal is to provide warfighters with as much as information as possible as quickly as possible to accurately assess a situation and, when necessary, kill the enemy. The office plans to do that through a web of affordable intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance sensors to cut down on the lag time between the current steps of find, fix, track, target, engage and assess.

"The idea is to anticipate finding a target and having the appropriate weapons in the area," Wishner said during his presentation at the International Quality and Productivity Center's Network Centric Warfare 2002 conference in Arlington, Va., last week. "We want to have a sensor in the enemy's face," unless they're in "deep hide."

The IXO is exploring many technologies to achieve its C4KISR mission and is attempting to rapidly move useful tools to soldiers through early experimentation, he said.

Wishner detailed three technologies that the DARPA office is pursuing:

* Affordable Moving Surface Target Engagement (AMSTE). This is IXO's largest program. It's a system-of-systems approach coupling sensors to precision weapons. The goal is to find a target from a long distance and engage quickly. The challenges include accuracy, maintenance and affordability. AMSTE was demonstrated successfully last summer.

* Advanced Tactical Targeting Technology (AT3). This is a series of networked threat warning receivers designed to provide rapid geo-location of a target within 50 meters, within 10 seconds of the first intercept. The idea is to replace the current generation of radar warning receivers with these boxes, but network management and multipath issues remain challenges. A real-time test aboard three T-39 aircraft is planned for this summer.

* Tactical Targeting Network Technology (TTNT). This is envisioned as a multiplatform tactical sensor system with networked communications, providomg more bandwidth sensor-to-sensor and sensor-to-shooter. This program is in its early stages, but lab demonstrations have made the IXO think it is achievable, multiple contractor concepts are being considered. TTNT will co-exist with the current Link 16 tactical data link system, a high capacity, secure digital communications system that supplies near-real-time data and links tactical commanders to shooters in the air, on the ground and at sea.

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