AUGUSTA, Ga. — One U.S. Army acquisitions office helping with the service’s evolving plans to achieve what it calls information advantage expects to contribute in two critical ways: through deep sensing and assessments of vast data collected on future battlefields.

“In our modernization priorities, there’s this real need for us to sense deeper and to assess more of that data that we’re now collecting when we enable this deeper sensing,” said Mark Kitz, the program executive officer for intelligence, electronic warfare and sensors.

In great power competition with advanced nations in the years to come, the Army expects to fight conflicts from a distance, requiring it to fire across thousands of miles — both with conventional weapons and electronic attacks.

To do that, it needs to see across these distances to develop and hit its targets.

The PEO is “truly investing in capabilities that allow us to sense and then deliver some effect based on that sensing capability,” Kitz said in a recent interview with C4ISRNET as part of TechNet Augusta.

He provided examples of such technologies under development:

  • High-Altitude Extended-Range Long Endurance Intelligence Observation System, an intelligence, cyber and electronic warfare sensor that can fly above enemy territory.
  • High Accuracy Detection and Exploitation System, the Army’s next-generation airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance system.
  • Terrestrial Layer System, an integrated electronic warfare, cyber and signals intelligence platform the Army is designing for brigades and echelons above brigade to sense and deliver effects over great distances.

“It’s really an exciting time for our PEO because none of these future modernization priorities of the Army can really operate successfully without the enablers of these sensor capabilities, whether that’s our sensor-to-shooter architectures, whether that’s our next-generation rotatory wing platforms or next-generation ground combat platforms, they’re all really enabled by some of these sensors technologies that we’re investing in,” Kitz said. “Those investments in sensor technologies would be moot without a commiserate investment in our assessment.”

On that front to assess and understand data, he noted the core investment is the Tactical Intelligence Targeting Access Node system, a key piece in the sensor-to-shooter chain, connecting sensors from all domains to war fighters.

Kitz said TITAN will provide a sensor architecture that works across any platform to deliver data for Joint All-Domain Command and Control, the Pentagon’s strategy to win future conflicts through a unified force that shares information more seamlessly and makes faster decisions.

TITAN is a “real critical enabler for us in the assessment of our data, [a] critical enabler for us in that future JADC2 environment that we want to operate in,” he said.

Being more adaptive and flexible

With the revolution of software-defined capabilities, adversaries are able to develop new capabilities on faster and faster time cycles posing distinct challenges.

The Army must adapt in kind and move away from lethargic acquisition cycles that lead to antiquated, hardware-centric platforms.

“In order to counter and collect against those adaptable threats, we’ve got to be able to build these adaptable solutions,” Kitz said.

One example of an adaptable capability is the Army’s C4ISR/EW Modular Open Suite of Standards open systems architecture.

“We are currently exercising in a lot of our programs the ability to have this flexible architecture where multiple industry partners can deliver … these software-defined solutions or even hardware-defined solutions, but do it in a way where the government can easily ... integrate disparate solutions to deliver different effects,” Kitz said.

Systems the Army is building — such as the Terrestrial Layer System and Multi-Function Electronic Warfare, a jamming pod mounted to a MQ-1C Gray Eagle — will have heterogeneous architectures that allow various industry partners to integrate their latest technologies, helping the service adapt to evolving threats.

The PEO IEW&S has worked closely with Army Futures Command to bake in flexible requirements for the products it buys so the service is not locked into rigid investments.

“These [are] requirements solutions where we’re collectively, with our requirements community, going after prototypes and truly learning with direct user feedback on these prototypes to inform what that final requirement would look like so that these capabilities can evolve over time, rather than going straight from a requirement document to a milestone C solution to a test activity. We’re able to integrate user feedback in defining that end requirement using these prototyped solutions,” he said.

More flexible contracting mechanisms, such as middle tier acquisition, the software acquisition pathway and other transaction agreements, have helped as the two offices invest in prototypes and shift their requirements to evolving needs, Kitz said.

Mark Pomerleau is a reporter for C4ISRNET, covering information warfare and cyberspace.

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