WASHINGTON — As the U.S. Army looks to expand its sensor-to-shooter capabilities, a new agreement with the Space Force is meant to ensure cooperation between the two services and inform future joint architecture requirements.
The services signed a memorandum of agreement last month that, according to Army spokeswoman Caitlin O’Neill, will ensure future tactical space capabilities developed by the Army and intelligence community are integrated with the Space Force’s Title 10 functions.
“This agreement informs joint sensor and architecture requirements and future operational concepts of operation to provide direct access to soldiers in theater,” O’Neill told C4ISRNET.
The MOA follows a similar 2019 agreement between the Army and the intelligence community.
The Army last year approved rapid experimentation and prototyping for a new Tactical Space Layer, which will take advantage of commercial satellite imagery to improve battlespace awareness and expand its beyond-line-of-sight targeting capability.
Speaking during a Feb. 15 Executive Mosaic forum, the Army’s Assured Positioning, Navigation and Timing/Space Cross-Functional Team Director Willie Nelson said the new MOA will ensure coordination between the Army and the Space Force as the Army continues to mature its Tactical Space Layer plans in a way that “synchronizes” with existing and future sensing and targeting capabilities.
Nelson noted that the Army expects to award multiple contracts over the next year to integrate commercial geospatial intelligence capabilities into the current Department of Defense architecture.
“Some of these contracts will focus on new and emerging electro-optical capabilities as well as new and emerging phenomenology such as radar hyperspectral and even radio frequency systems,” he said.
The Army has demonstrated its progress fusing sensor data during its first two Project Convergence exercises at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona — the first occurred in September 2020 and the second last fall. Nelson said the PC ‘21 demonstration reinforced that access to space-based sensors and in-theater tactical ground stations is “absolutely essential.”
“Sending data back to the continental United States for analysts to crunch through for hours and days and post finished products on websites won’t meet the needs to fight in a disconnected, degraded, interrupted and limited environment or meet our tactical timelines and responsiveness requirements,” he said. “It must be direct to commanders on the ground in the field.”
The demonstration pointed to the need for automated, high-quality and timely target recognition, noting that while a number of commercial imagery companies have made progress in this area in recent years, there’s still room for improvement.
More broadly, Nelson said, PC ‘21 highlighted the role space assets plan in a tactical battlefield environment.
“Space will continue to be a critical component in the sensor-to-shooter kill chain,” he said. “Keeping space assets prioritized and apportioned to tactical warfighting will be very, very important as we continue to press with these modernization efforts.”
Nelson added that the service is still developing its plans for PC ‘22, which will bring in allies and partners and continue to focus on integrating data from multiple platforms.
“When you fully integrate some of those and integrate the data exchange at speed, it’s just exciting to see the just entirely new capabilities that are able to either sense deeper, respond faster and work across the different domains more effectively,” he said.
Courtney Albon is C4ISRNET’s space and emerging technology reporter. She has covered the U.S. military since 2012, with a focus on the Air Force and Space Force. She has reported on some of the Defense Department’s most significant acquisition, budget and policy challenges.