Gp Capt KP Gowd
Director, Indian Air Force
<< For armed forces to stay competitive in today’s network-centric warfare, it is important to cut down on the time in the sensor-to-shooter loop >>
In modern day warfare, the defence capability and preparedness of a nation to respond to surprise attack or otherwise, plays a crucial role. This capability demonstrates the potential of a nation to sustain war and ultimately plays a defining role in deciding the winner. The battlefield scenario and mission application are constantly changing. It is crucial that combat commanders and warfighters have a real-time application of target recognition capabilities along with matching weapons so that requirement can be rapidly configured to meet the ever changing information needs.
For an effective military combat, the sensor-toshooter loop is the most significant factor. In this loop, the detection and identification are the two crucial functions followed by transferring of information to shooter (weapon platform). The response time required from the time the hostile targets are launched to the time it is engaged is rapidly plummeting due to the advancement in weapon technology. Therefore, it becomes imperative to cut down on the time in the sensor-to-shooter loop and at the same time, identify the kind of weapon which will be most critical in the modern network centric warfare for enhancing combat effectiveness.
What’s the need?
In the present day scenario, the detection method in most of the systems is different from weapon delivery system, thereby injecting unnecessary inherent time delay into the system. Another major factor is the kind of weapon which is required to be used to effectively nullify the incoming weapon without wasting critical time. For this, target recognition is required to be superimposed on detection and identification system. This ensures that right weapon is used at the right time; thus considerably reducing the sensor-to-shooter loop. There is a need for an aero space platform based system which will address the following critical issues in the sensor-to-shooter loop:-
- Completely automated target detection, identification and recognition as soon as the combat field is activated.
- Post identification and recognition – details of the target should be passed to the decision making/ command centre and the weapon system.
This will provide an integrated solution to the military commander, communication and data processing system. No longer is the military effectiveness simply a function of delivering ordnance to target. Nowadays, decision to launch an appropriate weapon has to be taken in real-time and in all weather conditions.
Target recognition theory
All human beings have an in-built bio-memory. They store the shape, size and other physical features including specific features of various objects seen by them and recognise them whenever they come across a similar object later on. Even specific sounds/voices of human beings/animals are stored and recognised by brain by matching similar sounds/ voices whenever it is exposed to them again.
For example, whenever we come across photographs of Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Einstein, Mother Teresa, images of these people are compared in our brain memory, and if they match with physical features of images stored in the memory database, we recognise them correctly. Similarly, radar target image data can also be processed electronically for automatic target recognition by comparing the images stored in its library.
There is a need for a constellation of LEO satellites to detect and identify a target. This constellation should have a mixture of optical, SAR and IR payload to achieve round the clock surveillance capability in all weather conditions. Plus, it should have an onboard capability to identify and recognise a target as soon it is imaged and detected. This can be attained by configuring satellites to have an onboard/ground based data processing capability. This onboard image data processing system will have a comprehensive reference image data library about all possible targets and their optical/radar/IR characteristics. The library will be updated from ground on a regular basis. Alternately, the image data processing and comparison facility will also be placed in geostationary satellite along with reference image library.
On identification, information about the target along with its recognition image details will be relayed to the geostationary satellite which will also have AOI/global footprint. This information will be simultaneously passed to other LEO satellites so that the target is continuously monitored and information about it is regularly updated. Upon receipt of information from LEO satellites, the geostationary satellite will simultaneously communicate it to the decision making/command centre and the weapon system. The weapon system will use this information as targeting information and wait for the final confirmation for launching the appropriate weapon from the command centre. Meanwhile information about the target will be continuously updated from geostationary satellites and shared with other sensor networks so that the target is monitored from different sources.
The modern society has entered a new age, which will have profound impact on the way people live, work and fight future wars. No longer is the military effectiveness simply a function of delivering ordnance to target. The neutralisation of target requires target information data for usage of appropriate weapon. This has led to the quest of greater transparency of the battlefield and target recognition.
At present, even though detection and target identification and the data processing methodologies are available, electronic recognition in real-time and foolproof methodologies are not available. However, due to advancement in technology, data processing time is getting reduced. Also, miniaturisation of processors in future may allow onboard data processing. Even size of satellites is decreasing and images can be obtained with suitable sensors in optical/IR sensors in all weather conditions.
As India is poised to become a major player in aerospace sector, this proposed system of constellation can be planned and achieved.
However, one of the major problems is to get a reference data set which can be used for comparison especially of enemy target images for recognition. The dimensions, sizes, shapes and specific features of all targets including enemy targets are available for generation of their images for reference data sets. Present day simulation techniques will come handy in making reference image data sets.
Though existing detection and identification systems are available, target recognition feature is not available/ added to the image data. There is a need to formulate and provide the field/ formation commanders/air defence commanders with the following advantages:
- To provide target recognition in near real-time and in all weather conditions.
- To cut down reaction time for the military commanders to take a right decision.
- To provide an aid to military commanders to use a matching weapon as target is recognised in near real-time.
- Target recognition and matching weapon display can be automated for military commander.
- Large area of interest as deemed fit by respective military commanders can be covered. Some features that are feasible and achievable with present day technologies and capabilities are:
- The idea of onboard processing and possessing the aerospace capability to achieve dynamic image length and wing span.
- Specific features like location of particular weapon etc.
- Comparison with onboard image reference library.