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Special Operations Technology Features special section
GEOINT and SOF
A sure way to win the fight is to know where the foe lies, the direction of its movements, and what the enemy is about to do. Here, special operators reap the benefits of myriad platforms that harvest enormous amounts of information about the opponent, all without exposing U.S. personnel to lethal dangers. By Scott Nance
July 2013 Volume 11, Issue 6
Cover / Q&A
3-D Flash Lidar
This technology can have myriad applications, including aid to pilots landing helicopters in brownout or whiteout conditions, guidance for unmanned aerial vehicles, military mapping, and more. Several major companies have developed advanced systems using 3-D flash LiDAR. By Jeff Campbell
16 Col. Frank Swekosky
Chief Intelligence Force Modernization Division SOCOM J2 Intelligence
USAF ISR and SOF have historically complemented one another operationally as well as doctrinally, but the past decade-plus of fighting terrorists and insurgents required different intelligence priorities and drove a flexible SOF component down its own ISR track. We re-examine the ways in which conventional USAF ISR and SOF can partner for the future. By Col. Gordon K. “Keith” Watts
While special operations usually is associated with kinetic operations under cover of darkness, special ops also involves many other strengths, such as military information support operations. Here, we examine human geography, and how U.S. goals can be attained without combat. By John Doyle
ISR and SOF
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Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer Pixia
“Every intel professional should be thinking about how to improve the product and how to improve the technology so that we can ultimately deliver the right tools to the right people at the right time.” — Col. Frank Swekosky
Special Operations Technology Volume 11, Issue 6 • July 2013
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In the second SOCOM Virtual Town Hall, SOCOM Commander Admiral Bill H. McRaven, his Senior Enlisted Advisor Command Sergeant Major (CSM) Chris Faris, and their spouses spent more than an hour addressing concerns from participants across several social media platforms. The commander opened with updates on the preservation of the force and families initiative, including military family life consultants, expanding the chaplain base to include a new course at joint special operations university, and recent heightened attention toward the handling of sexual assault cases in the military. “You have my personal promise, and I know I speak for the CSM as well, that we are going to do everything we possibly can to drive this Jeff Campbell Editor to zero,” the admiral drove home. “We’ve got to make sure everybody in the entire community is attuned to these problems and prepared to deal with them.” The commander is committed to ensuring morale after recent conflicts doesn’t dip to the historic lows it hit in 1977, when he entered the service. As CEO of SOCOM, he’s learned through family initiatives that if SOCOM doesn’t take care of the force—including the families—having the best airplanes and rifles in the world won’t matter. SOF won’t be able to operate in harsh environments without a good level of morale across the force. An important factor in morale is an operator’s family life. Many military spouses, especially in the SOF community, face challenges advancing in their careers with a permanent change of station (PCS) move. Mrs. McRaven encouraged spouses to ensure that their new command has their current contact information when they PCS. That way the family readiness group leader there can reach out about job opportunities in the spouse’s new community. She added that spouses should stay in touch with the command’s Facebook page, where information is quickly released. These virtual town halls and SOCOM’s bold steps into social media are outstanding ways to keep the community informed and give military families a voice in the decisions that will affect them.
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Son Tay Warrior’s New Home The 27th Special Operations Wing recently held a ceremony to celebrate the official new home of Combat Talon I, Cherry One, near the front entrance of Cannon Air Force Base, N.M. If the retired aircraft could speak, it would undoubtedly have many hair-raising and death-defying exploits to share. Perhaps, though, the most intimidating story it could tell is that of the Son Tay Raid, the moment this particular Talon cemented its mark in time during a prisoner of war rescue mission in the Vietnam war. According to the National Museum of the United States Air Force, an assortment of aircraft trained for the operation, including six helicopters, five small attack planes and two large support aircraft. All unknowingly prepared for a raid on a POW camp in North Vietnam, where intelligence analysts believed 55 prisoners were being held. “Our bird, Cherry One, aka 64-0523, is a larger than life C-130E(I)—one of the first, and has been operating in the shadows around the many hot spots of the world. She’s always brought her aircrews safely home,” said retired Major William Guenon, the aircraft’s copilot the night of the raid. “When not stemming the tide of communism, she, in the dark of night, quietly pursued those fanatics who still wanted to harm the U.S. Indeed, for a large-sized aircraft, this is certainly no small feat.”
SOCOM Seeks Innovative Capability Solutions SOCOM has issued a request for information seeking to solicit technology experimentation candidates from research and development organizations, private industry and academia for inclusion in future experimentation events coordinated by the command. The intent is to accelerate the delivery of innovative capabilities to the SOF warfighter. Materiel solutions brought to the event should be between a Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of 3 and 6. SOF experimentation will explore emerging technologies, technical applications, and their potential to provide solutions to future SOF capabilities. Beginning in fiscal year 2014, SOF technical experimentation event focus areas and locations are as follows: • October 15-24, 2013—Survivability and Performance Improvement/ Unconventional Warfare (UW), location Camp Atterbury, Ind. • February or March 2014—Maritime Mobility/Counter-Mobility, location TBD, anticipate RFI open late October and close early December 2013 • June 17-26, 2014—Theater Special Operations Command/Partner Nation SOF Systems, location TBD, anticipate RFI open mid-March and close early April 2014 While SOCOM announces technologies associated to specific themes, there is no restriction to accept technology nominations in other areas of interest to SOCOM. www.SOTECH-kmi.com
“By displaying a proven special operations legend at the Cannon Air Force Base front gate, aircrews can see and realize the true spirit and proud tradition of the Son Tay Raid from so long ago,” Guenon continued. “Hopefully her example will influence others to succeed in spite of great odds.” By Senior Airman Jette Carr
Global Battlestaff and Program Support Replacement Contract SOCOM is seeking industry input to aid with the formation of a strategy to acquire services to support the command. The acquisition of services will be in support of the SOCOM-wide mission support (SWMS) acquisition, which will focus on acquiring knowledge based services, as defined by Department of Defense taxonomy for the acquisition of services. A SOCOM contract for similar services, Global Battlestaff and Program Support, ends May 2015 and will be replaced with the SWMS acquisition. The GBPS contract is an indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract with a $1.5 billion ceiling. To help develop a strategy that maximizes competition, small business participation, and contractor performance, the SOCOM is seeking industry input, comments, and questions from interested companies. This exchange of information is designed to begin market research into the capabilities of industry to meet the SOCOM’s developing requirements and establish the degree of industry interest in the acquisition.
SOTECH 11.6 | 3
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Predator Soars Past 20,000 Flight Hours General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI) announced that a U.S. Air Force remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) reached a record 20,000 flight hours on a single aircraft, the highest flight time of any U.S. Air Force Predator. The Predator 107 (P107) was performing a 21-hour combat mission in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan when it achieved the milestone. “Amassing 20,000 hours on a single RPA airframe is a remarkable achievement and a true testament to the GA-ASI team, which strives to create highly reliable, durable, and life-saving tools in support of the warfighter,” said Frank W. Pace, president, Aircraft Systems Group, GA-ASI. “With the highest mission capable rate of any aircraft in the Air Force inventory, Predators will be available to support our boots on the ground for many years to come.”
The P107 began service with the 57th Wing Air Combat Command in October 2004. About four years later it moved to the 432d Wing with the standup of the first U.S. Air Force Remotely Piloted Aircraft Wing. More than 95 percent of the P107’s flight time has been flown in support of overseas contingency operations.
Rear Adm. Sean A. Pybus
At a change of command ceremony for Navy Special Warfare Command Rear Admiral Brian L. Losey relieved Rear Admiral Sean A. Pybus. Pybus will be promoted to vice admiral in his new assignment commanding NATO’s special operations headquarters. Lieutenant General Eric Fiel, commander of Air
4 | SOTECH 11.6
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Force Special Operations Command, recently presided over the ceremony in which Colonel William West, former commander of 27th Special Operations Group at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., received the reins of the 1st Special Operation Wing from outgoing commander, Colonel Jim Slife. Fiel also presided over a ceremony at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M. in which Brigadier General Buck Elton, 27th Special Operations Wing commander, pinned on his first star.
of rear admiral (lower half), will be assigned as director of intelligence, J2, U.S. Special Operations Command, Tampa, Fla. Sharp is currently serving as Chief of Naval Operations Strategic Studies Group Fellow, Newport, R.I.
Captain Robert D. Sharp, who has been selected for the rank
BAE Systems has announced Sir Roger Carr will join its board
The Special Operations Aviation Training Battalion held a change of command ceremony at Fort Bragg, N.C., with Major Jeffery J. Bragg assuming command from Lieutenant Colonel Mark G. Kappelmann.
as a non-executive director and Chairman designate on October 1, 2013. Carr is currently chairman of Centrica plc, and deputy chairman and senior independent director of the Court of the Bank of England and a member of the UK Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Group. Northrop Grumman Corporation has announced the hiring of Amy F. Hopkins and Thomas E. Laux, two executives who will lead elements of a newly formed Business and Advanced Systems Development organization within the company’s
Aerospace Systems sector. Hopkins joins Northrop Grumman as director of strategy and analysis. Laux will lead the mission campaign for combat support and mobility as its director. QinetiQ North America announced the appointment of David Shrum as general manager of its defense solutions (DS) business unit. Shrum will have management responsibility for DS portfolios including software and systems engineering, aeronautical engineering, and logistics and fleet management.
A conventional contribution to a special operations truth. By Colonel Gordon K. “Keith” Watts
USAF ISR and SOF have historically complemented one another operationally as well as doctrinally, but the past decadeplus of fighting terrorists and insurgents required different intelligence priorities and drove a flexible SOF component down its own ISR track. The USAF has since advanced its ISR capabilities and doctrine, inviting now a re-examination of the ways in which conventional USAF ISR and special operations forces can partner for the future.
USAF ISR and SOF: Familiar Ops Alliances “Discussions about intelligence reform tend to fall into two broad areas: structure—or reorganization—and process. Both approaches have their advocates. Ideally, the issues should be approached together. Altered structure and unaltered process can become little more than moving boxes on the bureaucratic organization chart.” — Mark M. Lowenthal As the United States society collectively reeled in the aftermath of devastating al Qaeda attacks on September 11, 2001, America’s special operations forces (SOF) took the fight to the Taliban and al Qaeda forces in Afghanistan. By mid-October 2001, U.S. Air Force (USAF) SOF faced challenges in securing the tailored intelligence products that would underpin the detailed planning for aerial missions that were in turn required to sustain ongoing SOF operations. Mission planners for USAF SOF tasked with flying cargo planes on unescorted re-supply and insertion missions into Afghanistan did not organically possess the ability to sustain the production of exceptionally detailed terrain analyses the crews would depend upon for accurate and www.SOTECH-kmi.com
timely airdrops. Indeed, while the particular Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) unit could certainly produce the image-based intelligence mission planning products, the unit was bandwidth limited in securing quickly the source imagery and also lacked the dedicated manpower to repeat the production as many as two or three times a day. Looking for intelligence mission-planning support up the joint special operations chain of command to the theater special operations command (TSOC) would ordinarily have netted detailed, tailored products. The extraordinary times in the aftermath of 9/11, however, meant staff contingency planning consumed not only individual TSOC capacity, but also that of higher headquarters across U.S. Special Operations Command’s (SOCOM) global domain. Instead, the USAF SOF unit’s intelligence experts went through their Air Force administrative chain to AFSOC, who then successfully leveraged broader conventional Air Force intelligence capabilities. Thus, by late December 2001, the conventional USAF intelligence organization that ultimately provided direct, daily support to AFSOC’s overseas mission planning for Afghanistan did so with airmen spread from the East Coast to the Midwestern heartlands. USAF efforts yielded hundreds of tailored imagery products that enabled missions planning for over a hundred separate helicopter landing and drop zones. In the story recounted here, when AFSOC reached out to the conventional Air Force for intelligence support, they by chance did so to a unit with Air Force leadership who possessed prior SOF intelligence experience. This serendipitous familiarity helped smooth the seams in terminology, needs and expectations between the organizations. While cooperative teaming between SOF and conventional USAF intelligence contributed to undeniable combat successes and in SOTECH 11.6 | 5
fact kept a production channel open between the two USAF units—one SOF, one conventional—well into the pre-Iraq invasion planning into late 2002, serendipity ought not to be the foundation for success. The intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions and capabilities have certainly advanced considerably since late 2001 for both special operations and conventional forces, yet the value of the partnering described above endures as it speaks to a larger truth. “Most special operations require non-SOF assistance”—a simple SOF maxim and the subject of this work. Recent SOF and conventional USAF operational innovations in airborne ISR, show that regardless of each force’s respective advances in technical capabilities, systems architectures, or tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs), leadership and professional coordination still have tremendous value to both special operations and conventional forces. The topic deserves some narrowing, however.
A marshaler directs a U.S. Air Force Aircrew from the 361st Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron aboard an MC-12 Liberty as it prepares for operations. The MC-12 provides full-motion video and signals intelligence to assist battlefield commanders. [Photo courtesy of U.S. Air Force]
The Scope of ISR Special operations cover a wide array of key missions and capabilities ranging from direct action to military information support operations and are easily subjects better suited for books. Similarly, any attempt to cover the breadth of operations encapsulated in “conventional ISR” writ large would be a massive undertaking. It’s beneficial to limit the scope of analysis in several important ways. First, focus on USAF ISR; second, and more importantly, limit ISR itself to its popular U.S. Air Force vernacular—airborne collection assets—both directly and remotely piloted. Finally, for reasons of mutual SOF-conventional force (CF) innovation, focus predominantly on assets which provide one or another form of imagery among its sensor suites.
SOF: What Makes It Special Joint Publication (JP) 3-05 states that special operations can be distinguished from conventional operations “in degree of physical and political risk, operational techniques, modes of employment, and dependence on detailed operational intelligence and indigenous assets.” The operations are “special rather than just elite,” though authors David Tucker and Christopher J. Lamb admit “it is impossible to articulate a strategic concept for SOF and derive associated roles and missions” absent a deep examination. Nevertheless, SOF doctrine clearly places a premium on intelligence to enable its operations. Again, JP 3-05 is instructive: “SO require detailed planning, often by relatively small units. Consequently, intelligence requirements are normally greater in scope and depth than that of CF.” The doctrinal transparency underscores why SOF has grown to rely so heavily on airborne full motion video (FMV) cued by human intelligence (HUMINT) and signals intelligence (SIGINT). In a 2008 Joint Force Quarterly article, authors describe how massing this type of ISR serves as an “unblinking eye” when its 6 | SOTECH 11.6
“long dwell, persistent surveillance” is used to conduct aerial “stakeouts.” Essentially the advent of airborne FMV allowed from the air what SOF sniper-observer teams predating airborne FMV once provided from the ground, but at much less risk of error or injury. Anecdotally, collection managers today invoke phrases like “pattern of life development” instead of the traditional “order of battle” so ubiquitous through the turn of the century; this is a testament to the innovative uses SOF has put to airborne FMV and other multi-INT tactical airborne platforms. Indeed, SOF has done extremely well adapting flexible systems architectures amid a mix of forward-based ops-intel centers and rear-area analysts. These joint forces dynamically exploit FMV in close proximity to the SOF centers where HUMINT and SIGINT from a variety of sources cue the video sensors and tip rapid counter-terror and counterinsurgency (COIN) special operations. The tight and typically highly classified cycle of “findfix-finish-exploit-analyze” has put a massive dent in al Qaeda and others of their ilk globally. The operational successes to date are at their core enabled by ISR. While the sensor and processing, exploitation and dissemination (PED) apparatus share origins with conventional USAF ISR, SOF ISR capabilities behind these successes developed in their own way distinct from the conventional ISR evolution, primarily in response to the Post-9/11 explosion in “kill capture” missions. Although the USAF was alongside SOF for much of these operations, SOF’s ISR and its related PED architecture avoided some of the conventional ISR realm’s inflexible (i.e., legacy) processing and exploitation systems constraints and also benefitted from TTPs and lessons learned in early conventional trials with FMV. The conclusion that General Flynn, Juergens and Cantrell draw from SOF’s relative advantage (in 2008) in employing airborne FMV/ISR involves a clarity “that the services are behind in providing adequate resources to deployed forces,” which the authors in turn state suggests a need for a fleet of ISR dedicated to AFSOC to enable SOF to effectively mass ISR and integrate its www.SOTECH-kmi.com
effects at brigade or lower tactical levels.” Written near the peak of the COIN fights in both Afghanistan and Iraq, the authors’ urgent operational imperative shines clearly and understandably through the narrative. On the other hand, perhaps that advocated approach is today more SOF-centric than is prudent.
USAF Doctrine—A Divisive ISR Influence? JP 3-05 advises “SOF often require conventional air support that requires timely and detailed planning and coordination” adding that the air component provides this support enabled typically by a special operations liaison element (SOLE) in the (combined or joint) air and space operations center. The publication as written dictates a SOF interaction with conventional air institutions, but as a closer scrutiny of the CAOC construct below will reveal, its theater-wide operational focus drove a “peanut-butter spread” of assets—a satisficing strategy at best. This was an oft cited ground-centric complaint, offering some insights as to why SOF-centric ISR proponents like General Flynn and others. were frustrated by what they observed from conventional ISR in theater. The Air Force designated CAOCs as a “weapons system,” a designation which comes with strict controls on hardware, TTPs, and training and standardization evaluations. As such, though denigrated by some as being overly cumbersome, CAOC doctrine is by design detailed, deliberate, and optimized for the long-planning lead, target-centric, Major
theater war (MTW) campaigns which bear little resemblance to the COIN fight that has dominated force employment for the last seven to eight years. Downs rightly argued in 2007 for reforms in CAOC processes that would allow the Air Force to better wield ISR in support of the COIN fight. Conventional AF ISR made great strides by 2009 consistent with Downs’ recommendations, thereby minimizing the influence of the aspects of doctrine that helped propel SOF ISR down its own track.
The Air Force and Its Non-Flying Weapon Systems The USAF innovations in breaking the “COIN vs. MTW” doctrinal impasse came out of the Air Force’s other non-flying weapons system—a networked set of intelligence ground sites known collectively as Air Force Distributed Common Ground System (AF-DCGS). In 2009, USAF ISR leaders Lieutenant General David A. Deptula and (then) Colonel James R. Marrs credited the organizational realignment of the AF-DCGS component units and capabilities under a global ISR Wing in 2008 as laying “the foundation for powerful regional ISR teams that live and breathe the operations of their respective … combatant commands.” The reorganization left a large, positive legacy in that it 1) cemented establishment of regional analytic teams; 2) formed ties to engaged regional commanders; 3) emplaced trained ISR liaison officers with deployed commanders; 4) provided
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A 4th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron MC-12 Airframe mechanic marshals an MC-12 Liberty at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan. [Photo courtesy of DoD]
leadership oversight through a dynamic global PED command and control regime; and finally, 5) ensured intelligence products reached forward in a way that belied older negative “reachback” connotations. That same year, while commanding an ISR squadron within AF-DCGS, Lieutenant Colonel Jason M. Brown laid out a compelling case for USAF ISR. He not only addressed some of Flynn’s and others’ criticisms by emphasizing the human role in “balancing effective” ISR (SOF) with “efficient” ISR (CF), but of note, Brown also highlighted the pivotal role mission-type orders (MTOs) should play in guiding ISR operations past the relative inefficiencies of the CAOC system. With AF-DCGS and MTO reforms guiding key CAOC ISR operations, the USAF has since refined its ISR capabilities far beyond those imagined even two to three years ago. The ISR platforms flying with the benefit of AF-DCGS are achieving remarkable successes. Even with flying more than 50 combat air patrols daily with both AF and SOF FMV assets, one of the newest conventional USAF ISR platforms—the MC-12 Liberty—has amassed more sorties since 2010 than any other ISR platform in that period and is achieving ISR effects focused by AF-DCGS that make it the choice ISR asset for ground units. Enabled by the vast global network, conventional AF ISR support is fluid and virtually fungible—platforms are leveraged dynamically within an ops environment that can shift globally with the dictates of manpower and bandwidth while remaining fundamentally grounded in theater.
Key Considerations Per JP 3-05, “SOF and CF commanders should understand each other’s mission planning cycles, intelligence and operations cycles, and mission approval processes.” Because this degree of 8 | SOTECH 11.6
knowledge requires leaders exert a non-trivial level of effort to reach, the joint publication adds “Mission type orders [emphasis added] are optimal to convey the commander’s intent to permit flexibility, initiative, and responsiveness.” With this emphasis on MTOs, a common ground accommodating the distinct FMV advances within the SOF and USAF ISR communities has begun again to re-emerge. In order to build on this partnering potential, USAF ISR experts must take on the leadership challenges inherent in this human-centric environment. First and foremost, leaders at all echelons must take advantage of the partnering opportunities presented by ongoing operations—such as those MC-12 operations are currently providing. Efforts such as these can, for instance, prevent the SOF ISR community from resorting to a “make do” ISR plan when a suitable conventional solution may be readily available but which, for superficial doctrinal barriers or perceived security impasses, goes un-communicated. Certainly, this is easier said than done. Yet establishing steadystate working dialogues between SOF and CF ISR communities becomes all the more imperative when operationally confronted by developing crises or immature environs—when for example CAOCs are partially manned, or SOLEs may not yet be present, or when there is no established ground presence or PED architecture. SOF is resilient and will rely on its own (often considerable) ISR resources and inherent creativity in employing that ISR to meet its needs. The impetus must be put on CF ISR leaders to establish relationships in day-to-day non-crisis ISR environments that facilitate the growth of trust and rapport, so when timecritical situations develop, the relationships can be mutually beneficial. Examples of this occurring abound: conventional CAOC ISR operations benefited from SOF capabilities immediately post Haiti earthquake January 12, 2010; SOF ISR benefited from the command and control innovations in USAF ISR PED networking www.SOTECH-kmi.com
when outages have occurred. But the existence of cooperation does not obviate the need for leadership engagement.
Meeting Mission Needs Conventional-force intelligence processes and capabilities still hold value and have the potential to contribute to special operations’ successes. In 2001, conventional USAF ISR—with a fraction of the capacity that it would develop over the ensuing decade—produced and delivered complex image products tailored to unique SOF mission demands. A suite of high-resolution image products was delivered within 12 hours of the requests. The requests—appearing only as a set of coordinates with a dropzone name—came in randomly 24/7 and arrived only as often as the need to re-arm and re-provision struck the special operators on the ground in Afghanistan. In this way, existing Air Force and SOF structures came together through a dynamic process to meet mission needs. Viewed more broadly, the opening operational vignette highlights how SOF needs were translated to a CF in a way that from a SOF perspective, met mission requirements and preserved operational security, while from the CF optic, took maximum advantage of its faster, more direct access to source data and its much larger pool of image product analysts. Today’s treasure of flying video, image and signals sensors was flatly unthinkable in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, and
the volume of intelligence represented by these capabilities notwithstanding, the same type of clear-eyed, mission-centric leadership matters now more than ever—a fact that all must ensure does not get lost behind closed vault doors, redundant architectures, and geographically isolated self-sustaining operations. As Mark Lowenthal’s opening quote suggests, as both SOF and CF move forward leveraging mission-focused partnerships, each should do so clearly understanding that creating or remolding organizations and missions remains only a part of the process … true advances will only come when mission processes interweave these innovative organizational capabilities with visionary, forward leaning leaders, creating a new whole greater than the sum of either part. O Colonel Gordon K. “Keith” Watts is a U.S. Air Force intelligence officer. He is currently assigned as the commander, 480th Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Group, Fort Gordon, Ga. This article is an edited version of a paper submitted to the Joint Special Operations University. The unedited version, complete with endnotes, is available on the Special Operations Technology website at www.sotech-kmi.com
For more information, contact SOTECH Editor Jeff Campbell at firstname.lastname@example.org or search our online archives for related stories at www.sotech-kmi.com.
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Cutting-edge geospatial intelligence advancements get data in SOF hands. By Scott Nance, SOTECH Correspondent
Special forces are quickly adopting and deploying the latest advancements in geospatial intelligence—including those that provide quick access to digital maps, satellite imagery and more—to gain better situational awareness as they carry out their missions in often remote corners of the world, according to several companies that are providing the tools. “The spec ops community is a very important and unique customer for TerraGo,” said John Timar, vice president of sales for TerraGo John Timar Technologies, an Atlanta-based firm which provides a variety of geospatial intelligence and location-based tools. “The special operations community, as a whole, is a rapidly growing component of our business. Right now a little bit of everything we have to offer is deployed somewhere in the special operations community.” These cutting-edge tools are intended to get as much data as possible into the hands of special operators, who may be working in very austere, and often bandwidth-constrained, environments. 10 | SOTECH 11.6
That’s the case with a new handheld version of Jagwire from Rochester, N.Y-based ITT Exelis Geospatial Systems. Jagwire allows users to manage critical geospatial information across shared and mobile networks in environments where bandwidth is limited, according to Jim Phillips, director of the Exelis geospatial intelligence solutions business area. The idea behind Jagwire is to enable users like special Jagwire allows users to not only receive data, but also take images and video – whether connected at operators “to get to the area that moment or not – and then transmit back when they are connected. [Photo courtesy of ITT Exelis Geospatial Systems] that they’re in, and have a high-resolution look, [in a period which] could be Technology Creating less than a minute,” Phillips said. Operational Efficiencies Special operators who would use the product “would say, ‘Well, we want to knock on that door, These new geospatial-intelligence technologies but before we do, we want to look at how we’re are about driving individual analysts and special going in and how we’re going to get out.’ We could operators to be more efficient and effective at a drill down into that [data and] get a very good look time when the military is experiencing budgetat their target,” Phillips said. cutting and other pressures, TerraGo’s Timar said. Jagwire is used by the Air Force, Army and speDoing more with less is important for reasons cial forces to make tactical situational awareness beyond a reduced budget: Looking at the op tempo and intelligence available to “people in austere over the last decade will indicate turnovers and environments and [who] have … low bandwidth retirements in the coming years. “You’re going to connections, maybe intermittent connections, [or] face turnover challenges from operational fatigue, connections with a lot of latency in them,” he an environment with more austere budgets, and explained. “We’re all about passing on as much retirements,” Timar said. “The world’s not becominformation as we can, given the available enviing a more stable, safer place; there are more ronment, which is an austere environment. Our requirements for the U.S. to defend its interests users are typically the very pointy end of the and pursue national security in remote parts of spear: special forces, Marines, Rangers, in some the globe. Technologies that are cost-effective, cases the Navy.” that allow you to add efficiencies and make any Jagwire transmits satellite imagery, video one analyst or operator more productive, are the and other types of geospatial intelligence, and things that we need.” “allows our users to get access to all of this data, TerraGo offers a product known as GeoPDF, which is collected all around the world,” Phillips which Timar describes as a geospatial version of added. “We’re not an archive, not a long-term the well-known PDF format used to share a variety storage. There are other systems that do that. of documents. [Jagwire is] not so much for analysts—we’re “It’s a very interesting intelligence container. more for the people conducting the fight. The It allows you to put all sorts of complex data handheld [version] has been in demand for quite inside of a PDF and make it actionable and some time.” dynamic in either a connected or disconnected That new handheld communicates over typienvironment,” he said. “You can take a map, and cal cellphone connections and allows users in the you can overlay all sorts of intelligence informaground forces to receive data, take images and tion on that map. Then you can turn that map video (whether they’re connected at that moment into this small, nimble file called a GeoPDF, or not), and then transmit that back when they are and then you can interact with it dynamically connected again, Phillips said. in the field or wherever you are on a desktop or It also provides users a variety of data, such mobile device.” as that from the National Geospatial-Intelligence The GeoPDF has become a frequently used Agency (NGA), Army, and other government agentool, Timar said, noting that NGA “has created over cies. “If you can get a SIPRNet account, which a million GeoPDF products.” all special forces can, you have access to all of GeoPDF is well-suited for special operathat data—instead of just one particular piece of tors who need as much information as possible stove piped data,” he said. in remote areas without access to the biggest www.SOTECH-kmi.com
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systems, he said. “All the people back at headquarters have the best satellite imagery in the world, but the people who need it can’t get it. That’s where GeoPDF is a fantastic technology, because it allows you to have an actionable product that’s easy to disseminate,” he added. Meanwhile, Pixia Corp., a software and information-technology provider located near Washington, D.C., has deployed its HiPER Look system to streamline the access of geospatial intelligence at U.S. Special Operations Command Africa, based in Stuttgart, Germany, according to Hector Cuevas, Pixia’s director of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations. “To be able to take all of the commercial imagery of Africa and have it at the fingertips of an Army [operational detachmentalpha] operator or SEAL operator, you’d literally be driving around with a truck ClearTerra’s Locate XT software brings locations in unstructured data into map applications in a structured form. [Photo courtesy of ClearTerra] full of servers. At SOC-Africa-Stuttgart, we’ve taken all that data [and] put it on a central had been captured in the last year. Now we’re dealserver there in Stuttgart on the SOC Africa secret ing with much higher spatial resolution, hyperdomain,” he said. spectral data [and] LiDAR data deployed tactically Pixia’s system is changing the assumption that in more or less real-time fashion,” he said. special operators must “go to a website and downAnalysts and others looking at the data, particuload individual files,” Cuevas said. larly for the special forces, also must react much With HiPER Look, special operators can say, more quickly than ever before. “‘I’m going to Mali; I only need data for Mali. So get “We literally are reacting to the operational it to me on a [storage device], very efficiently [and] needs at that time,” said James Moore, program very quickly.’ As these guys go out the door, that manager, managing the special operations imagery data brick will act as their own little server on their contract at L-3. “You know that if you don’t get James Moore devices when they’re forward,” he said. that intelligence out to that SOF operator, then he’s The staff of SOC Africa now are all are using one server “that going to go kick down a door and he may or may not know what’s has the latest version of whatever they said that they need to conout there. The stakes really are higher.” sume,” whether that is map data, commercial imagery, or other At L-3, “there really is not a part of the process we do not data, Cuevas said. touch,” from sensor development, aircraft integration, mainte“It’s a little bit of a game-changer because you had 15 to 20 nance of aircraft, sensor operators, and intelligence and geospadifferent silos of SOC Africa of the same dataset. Now they’ve tial analysts, Moore said. brought it all into one … [and] they quickly have access to the As such, the company knows that no one company or latest data that’s put on that server,” he added. organization can drive innovation in geospatial intelligence technology. That’s why collaboration and partnership is so important, he added. Reacting To Operational Needs in Real Time “None of us are going to be able to find the solution working in a stovepipe. So it’s really is taking an unbiased approach out in Much more is available—and expected from—geospatial industry, and finding the best solutions that we can deliver and intelligence today than just a few years ago, according to Rob keep our SOF warriors safe,” Moore said. Buntz, director of geospatial solutions at L-3 National Security L-3 maintains partnerships with a number of R&D organizaSolutions-Stratis, a provider of intelligence and other informations, including North Carolina State University, Virginia Tech tion-technology systems located near Washington, D.C. and the Riverside Research Institute, a nonprofit research organiThe data available today is “orders of magnitude better than zation based in New York City. it was a short time ago,” Buntz said, but the need for precision One of the largest challenges is simply the huge amount of and accuracy has increased. “Of course, the stakes are a lot higher “big data” available in so many formats and from so many sources, when you’re delivering geospatial analysis results that are supMoore said. porting a mission that might be happening right now.” “You must have data that has a shelf life longer than just one Access and use of imagery and other geospatial-intelligence day. So how do you store it in a capacity that gives life to the data also is coming much more in real time, Buntz said. data, so as you’re running your analysis and algorithms across “I can remember earlier in my career [when] we were excited this data, you’re able to actually go back and say, ‘Well, what was to be able to have a 30-meter, multi-spectral satellite image that 12 | SOTECH 11.6
happening there yesterday? What was happening there last week, or two months ago, or last year?’” L-3 is developing a solution based on an “open architecture, so that as technology changes, you don’t have to recreate the wheel” as opposed to a proprietary system that would cost customers “millions and millions to continually re-develop” as technology changes, he said.
Finding the Right Data But what if the geospatial intelligence you need isn’t already in an easily usable or digestible form? What if the coordinates a special operator needs are buried within a mass of emails, or some other documents? That’s where a company called ClearTerra and its Locate XT software come in, said Jeff Wilson, vice president of sales. “We bring locations in unstructured data into map applications in a structured form,” he said. Frequently, “there are a lot of geospatial coordinates floating around in emails, messages, documents, [and] briefings.” It’s very common to have intelligence reports that reference military grid reference locations, Jeff Wilson including locations in which an insurgent was picked up along a road, or where an improvised explosive device might be, or where a mortar attack occurred, Wilson said. “A lot of this stuff lies in the form of text. If you’re a special operations person, we want them finding the bad guys, kicking doors down. What we don’t want them doing is reading through documents and realizing there’s spatial references, and then have to fat-finger those into a system, or plot them on a map,” he said. “We like to have geeks like us build tools that can find that [geospatial data] and [plot it on a map] very quickly so they can react fast, and get back to doing the analysis or catching the bad guys instead of doing manual busywork.” Whether it’s a PowerPoint presentation or a folder of 300 or 400 messages, ClearTerra’s software scans it and finds various coordinate patterns, looking for “every format we’ve ever heard of or seen,” Wilson said. Like other technologies, special operators can use Locate XT quickly and in the sorts of austere, remote locations they typically find themselves, he said. “Our tools work on demand, and they work for what you often call the edge of the network. You can have a guy with a laptop sitting in the middle of nowhere, and have some PowerPoint or some Word document, which wasn’t really important yesterday but which is now, all of a sudden, the most important information of the day. He can do something with our software right then and there, and not have to wait for this document to find its way into a document-management system or some [other] larger-scale system,” he said. O For more information, contact SOTECH Editor Jeff Campbell at email@example.com or search our online archives for related stories at www.sotech-kmi.com.
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BLACK WATCH Thermal Imaging Camera Sensor Milestone Reached BAE Systems Troops in theater remind their teams to keep an eye on what’s behind them with the term, “check your six.” BAE Systems’ Check-6 vehicle taillight camera helps forces do that, allowing them to see behind their vehicles while remaining protected under vehicle armor. Seven years after its invention, BAE delivered the 40,000th Check-6 system to the U.S. Army. The thermal imaging camera sensor embedded within ground vehicles’ taillight housing has been providing combat crews in Iraq and Afghanistan with day, night and all-weather rear vision capability on military combat and tactical vehicles. These include heavy-armored tracked and wheeled vehicles such as the mine resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicle, MRAP all-terrain vehicle, M1 Abrams main battle tank, Stryker family of vehicles, and medium mine protected vehicle. “Being able to see outside the vehicle’s armor provides a vital increase in situational awareness and safety for the soldiers inside it,” said Gary Morris, business development manager at BAE Systems. “Our Check-6 cameras improve safety and mission effectiveness, and above all, they can help save lives.”
The rear vision systems are able to replace taillight housings common to more then 200,000 military vehicles. The systems are manufactured in Austin, Texas, at BAE’s center for engineering and manufacturing of integrated vision systems products for the military.
UAV Capability Expanded Schiebel Corporation Schiebel has successfully concluded a series of flight trials with EADS Astrium’s Pseudolite-based local positioning system DeckFinder, expanding its automated launch and recovery capability for operation where access to GPS has been denied. Schiebel integrated the DeckFinder receiver segment into a Camcopter S-100 and deployed the DeckFinder ground segment at the Schiebel Testing Grounds earlier this year, enabling a joint team to conduct a week-long flight campaign with the goal of testing and evaluating the capabilities that DeckFinder adds in terms of accurate automated operations. “By feeding the position data generated by the Astrium DeckFinder System directly into the avionics of our Camcopter S-100, we are now able to operate fully automatically, independent from global positioning systems during hovering, approach and
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landing, enabling us to launch and recover in environments that no one has been able to perform before,” Hans Georg Schiebel, chairman of the Schiebel Group, explained. DeckFinder is a local positioning system consisting of a ground segment of six radio-frequency-based transmitters and a
corresponding airborne receiver. Based on GPS-independent range measurements, it provides the Camcopter avionics with highly accurate and relative 3-D position information that allows the S-100 to navigate with an accuracy better than 20 centimeters over the landing zone.
Compiled by KMI Media Group staff
L-Band Wearable Antenna Available Pharad Pharad has introduced a new L-band antenna into its wearable antenna product line. The antenna has been specifically designed for wearable applications and operates over the frequency range of 1350-1390 MHz. “Pharad is always on the forefront of innovative antenna design, having invented and patented today’s wearable antenna technology. Our L-band wearable antenna is another example of the advancements originating from our antenna engineering group,” said Pharad President Austin Farnham. “I think we will see growth in L-band wearable communications as we see more developments and size reductions in L-band transceivers.” The body wearable antenna is fabricated using thin, flexible material that conforms to the exterior of body armor or tactical vests.
Radios Receive NSA Certification ITT Exelis National Security Agency (NSA) certifications have been awarded to ITT Exelis for its SideHat and the Soldier Radio-Rifleman (SR-R) radios. Certification allows the radios to operate up to the “Secret” level and be fully integrated into the U.S. Army’s tactical communications network. The SideHat radio hosts the U.S. Army standard soldier radio waveform (SRW) that operates in the UHF and L-Band frequency ranges and provides a second channel solution to single channel ground and airborne radio system (SINCGARS) vehicular radio installations. The Exelis SideHat is also specifically designed for the vehicular electromagnetic and physical environment, delivering increased range. SideHat is designed to attach to SINCGARS, the primary tactical communications backbone for the U.S. Army. SINCGARS with SideHat provides a system solution with up to four channels (2 SRW and 2 VHF). It provides dismounted soldiers the ability to communicate both voice and data to mounted soldiers in vehicles within a larger network. SideHat has completed multiple operational tests including command, control, communications, computer, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance on-the-move at Fort Dix, N.J., the Air Assault Expeditionary Force and Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiment at Fort Benning, Ga., the Bold Quest Exercise at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and the Network Integration Exercises at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. The Rifleman Radio is a software-defined handheld radio that provides the individual soldier with reliable, low-weight, high-capacity intra-squad voice and data communication in a self-forming and selfhealing network. “These certifications by the NSA of both the SideHat and Rifleman radios allow us to continue the Exelis tradition of providing value and cutting-edge solutions to the warfighter,” said Nick Bobay, the president and general manager of Exelis Night Vision and Tactical Communications Systems. “With SideHat, we can leverage the Army’s large installed base of SINCGARS radios while adding a significant increase in operational capability at an affordable price point.” www.SOTECH-kmi.com
HMMWV to Trial Innovative Protection Arrangement Textron Marine & Land Systems The U.S. Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command has awarded Textron Marine & Land Systems (TM&LS), an operating unit of Textron Systems, a Textron Inc. company, a $3.29 million firm-fixed price contract from for work on the modernized expanded capacity vehicle survivability (MECV-S) system. TM&LS is teaming with Granite Tactical Vehicles to deliver innovative crew protection and vehicle survivability enhancements for the Army’s high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicles (HMMWV). The program’s follow-on potential is for work on up to 5,750 vehicles. The Army is seeking technical solutions to address current and future threats to its HMMWV tactical vehicle fleet through the use of scalable armor technologies. The TM&LS/Granite team will install its MECV-S protection system, a productionready technology readiness level 8 system, on two governmentfurnished HMMWVs and deliver them this summer to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., for improvised explosive device testing. Computer-aided design models also will be submitted for analysis. “Our TM&LS/Granite MECV-S solution would replace the current HMMWV crew compartment in a one-for-one exchange. It offers vehicle occupants an armored monocoque V-hull protective capsule and restores the vehicle’s tactical mobility with proven components,” explained TM&LS Senior Vice President and General Manager Tom Walmsley. The lightweight, survivable TM&LS/Granite vehicle protection system possesses a lower center of gravity than an up-armored HMMWV and is resistant to small arms fire, blasts and the secondary effects of blasts such as fire, crushing, rollover and collision. It is compatible with all versions of HMMWVs currently in service and provides mine-resistant ambush protectedstyle protection by incorporating angles and a V-shaped blast deflection under-body plate.
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SOF Leader Strives to Provide the Right Intel at the Right Time
Colonel Frank Swekosky Chief Intelligence Force Modernization Division SOCOM J2 Intelligence Colonel Frank Swekosky is the Intelligence Force Modernization Division Chief, United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM), MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. In this position he synchronizes multi-domain reconnaissance, surveillance, intelligence and communications requirements and programs for national, theater and component special operations forces. As the lead command strategist for future intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), processing, exploitation and dissemination, knowledge management systems, and identity intelligence operations, he is responsible for advocating acquisition and funding strategies for multiple intelligence disciplines and programs valued in excess of $4 billion. Prior to his current assignment at SOCOM, Swekosky served in a variety of operational and staff assignments in multiple locations including Texas, Japan, Colorado, Maryland and the Pentagon. He arrived at SOCOM immediately after serving as senior advisor to Iraq’s lead national agency for strategic intelligence, focusing on development of all-source analysis, imagery and mapping, security, education, counter-intelligence and human intelligence, and integrated these initiatives with United States Forces in Iraq Intelligence and SOF. As the 22d Intelligence Squadron commander at Fort George G. Meade, Md., he led over 600 airmen assigned to 12 geographically separate locations, and served as the 70th ISR Wing lead for Air Force National-Tactical Integration and the Tactics Analysis and Reporting Program. Swekosky also made substantial contributions to the Air Force National-Tactical Integration program while serving at the Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency, as well as the Air Force Foreign Area Officer program and establishment of the International Affairs Specialty and Regional/Political-Military Affairs Strategist programs at the Pentagon and at Headquarters, Air Force Personnel Center. In addition to serving in Iraq during the transition from Operation Iraqi Freedom to Operation New Dawn, he served in Italy and Bosnia-Herzegovina during Operation Joint Guard, and in the Combined Air Operations Center in Turkey during Operation Northern Watch. Swekosky graduated from the United States Air Force Academy in 1990 with a degree in human factors engineering. He is a 2005 graduate of the Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., where he earned a Masters of Military Arts and Science with the Strategist Additional Skill Identifier, and he completed Air War College (with Excellence) in 2007. In 1999 he graduated from the Air Force Combat Targeting Course at Goodfellow Air 16 | SOTECH 11.6
Force Base, Texas, and the National Security Agency’s Junior Officer Cryptologic Career Program. Q: Do you feel that SOF are receiving more actionable intelligence? A: Throughout SOF intelligence, the collection managers, sensor operators, collectors, exploiters, all-source fusion analysts and direct-support intelligence professionals engage in an adaptive and responsive fight against broad-ranging and elusive threat networks on a daily basis. The extraordinary advances in sensors and platforms over the last six years have produced an exponential increase in exploitable data, and new data-mining, correlation and visualization techniques and technologies mean that more and more of that data can be operationalized. But it takes people networking their heads and that data together for a common goal to generate success. SOF intel resources—especially our people—are enormously effective at turning generic information into actionable intelligence; technological developments will continue to improve that capability. SOF tactics, techniques and procedures have evolved dramatically over the past dozen years; a big reason for that is the contribution and integration of multiple intelligence disciplines to the fight. Through our ongoing fielding initiatives, we continue to present the best possible intel to SOF forward, when and where needed. And we look for www.SOTECH-kmi.com
opportunities to refine that information, knowing that too much information can be useless, even if it’s accurate and actionable. Feedback is critical to determining the right level of quantity and detail, and we get that feedback every day with the close relationship in SOF between intel and operators. Q: What is your assessment of aerostat intel systems? A: Aerostats provide valuable intelligence to U.S. forces, and the psychological factor inherent in the presence of that sensor can positively influence operations just by passively acknowledging less-obvious intelligence collection systems. For example, aerostats protected U.S. and coalition forces at our bases in Iraq, and they remain an obvious signal to our friends and enemies in Afghanistan that An Afghan National Army commando with 6th Special Operations Kandak questions several local villagers during an operation in Qara Bagh district, advanced technology collection Ghazni province, Aghanistan. The commandos conducted the operation to provide security and support for Afghan Local Police expansion in the area. [Photo courtesy of U.S. Army] platforms are keeping 24/7 watch A: Like everyone in DoD, we accept and continue to monitor and over our people and other resources. However, in some cases, their employ fiscally responsible cost-cutting measures. Within the Intel overt signature can be somewhat of a detriment in environments Directorate at SOCOM we were planning for post-Afghanistan reducwhere SOF are working to enable and empower the local governtions well before I arrived here in 2011. At the time of this interview, ments and security forces to work their own problems. we’re preparing for civilian furloughs; again, people are our most important resource, and reductions in our civilian, military or conQ: Are you satisfied with the progress toward providing timely intel tractor force is a painful reality. to warriors at the edge? The problem isn’t just about cutting resourcing of proven capabilities, but maintaining resourcing at a deliberate and reasonable A: We are always looking for more and better ways to provide the right level for newer, enduring capabilities. One area where we need to intel to the right people at the right time. This is especially necesdo a better job is in the realm of identity intelligence operations. sary in SOF, where the ops-intel feedback loop is so compressed. We Servicemembers and civilians from all intelligence disciplines have anticipate continuation of current op tempo on all levels in SOF, and contributed to identity intelligence in a variety of ways: document our people can expect more deployments to other locations besides and media exploitation, for example. Identity intelligence is a unique the Middle East. SOCOM J2 and the Special Operations Research, capability, and it’s not signals intelligence, geospatial intelligence or Development and Acquisition Center are continually working with measurement and signature intelligence ... it’s not any one intelindustry, academia, components, theater special operations comligence discipline, but it is actionable intelligence that contributes mands [TSOCs], services, combat support agencies and others to immeasurably. SOF will remain engaged on the world stage and will push the technological limits of putting intelligence into the hands of continue to require capabilities that directly support warfighters, but operators. As an example, full motion video continues to be a major this is not a SOF-unique capability in and of itself. The supporting contributor to our SOF airborne ISR fleet, but other intelligence disinfrastructure must be developed for the good of all our current and ciplines remain major force multipliers, and we’re looking at new and future conventional forces as well as for SOF. advanced capabilities to further build out the intelligence sensor portfolio. We are also considering the appropriate mix of platforms that Q: How do you assess the performance of the A160T Hummingbird make up our baseline airborne fleet; this initiative is partly coupled unmanned aerial system? with conventional force redeployments, and will continue to enable our transition to a global SOF intelligence force. A: SOF has divested itself of the Hummingbird technical demonstration project. The Hummingbird contained technologies and innovaQ: We are seeing austerity in defense funding, including a tions that are likely to show up in future endeavors, and we continue continuing budget resolution, $487 billion of initial cuts and now to work multiple small platform programs that complement our $500 billion of sequestration cuts over 10 years. How has this medium-altitude, long-endurance platforms that constitute the basis affected your operations? Have you already effected cost-savings and of our airborne ISR portfolio. efficiency initiatives? www.SOTECH-kmi.com
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Q: Will the pivot to the Pacific affect your operations, and do you have the resources and personnel to do this? A: Our relationships with partner nations today drive our readiness for ops tomorrow. SOF’s ongoing work to build trust and access around the globe is a force multiplier that benefits all of DoD. That is an absolutely invaluable resource contribution made by SOF that is shared for the benefit of the entire defense establishment. Don’t think about SOF pivoting only to the Pacific—think of SOF pivoting to the entire globe. While we are evolving to provide more effective support to the Defense Strategic Guidance, we keep in mind that we may not always be able to guarantee where the next battle will be, but we must be prepared for that battle. When called to fight, we’ll continue to effectively apply An airman assigned to the Iraq Training and Advisory Mission – Air Force, coaches Iraqi air force officers during an intelligence, and reconnaissance (ISR) training mission. The Iraqi officers direct ISR aircraft and control camera movement from this our limited SOF organic resources, while surveillance, fixed ground station to provide full motion ISR video for operations in Iraq. [Photo courtesy of DoD] simultaneously relying on shared resources A: We always welcome advanced mapping capabilities; we welcome available from others. And those ‘others’ are not just U.S. partadvances in all capabilities, but especially when those capabilities are ners; our preparation includes working more closely with partner ready for the fight. As we transition to addressing some of the nation’s nations’ SOF. concerns outside of Afghanistan, we see an increasing demand for Many of the airborne ISR assets we currently rely on were more and improved geospatial, navigation and target development developed specifically to address operational requirements in Iraq capabilities around the globe. Every intel professional should be or Afghanistan. In the Pacific or Africa, you quickly encounter thinking about how to improve the product and how to improve the the tyranny of distance: a significant portion of each ISR sortie technology so that we can ultimately deliver the right tools to the is likely consumed by just transiting to and from your objective. right people at the right time. The Pacific basin, Africa, South America—all present significant resourcing hurdles when you consider the sheer size of the operaQ: What is your assessment of the contribution of unattended tional environment, and where it is possible to base intel assets. ground sensors to overall ISR? SOCOM is working to enhance the manning levels and operational capacity of each of the TSOCs, and we have re-aligned J2 billets A: Unattended ground sensors [UGSs] are another force multiplier, and staffing as part of that effort. At the same time, we are makand will continue to be as valuable in other parts of the world as they ing incremental strides in improving reach-back analytical supare today in Afghanistan. UGSs allow us to identify active and null port to SOF, which has lowered the cost of providing intelligence spaces simultaneously in vast operating areas without incurring the support to forward deployed operations while increasing our normal time and manpower bill associated with sending out teams of surge agility. operators with spotting scopes and cameras. In addition to the need for further developing these standalone technologies in response to Q: Are there any improvements in UAS intel assets that you would SOF requirements for ready and available systems, we are interested like to see, such as more advanced sensors? in better integrating sensors from different domains, for example ground sensors with airborne sensors. A: SOF continues to require a mix of manned and unmanned as well as remote ISR, all-weather, day and night platforms, with long Q: Finally, do you have any closing thoughts concerning SOCOM on-station loiter, multi-sensor, plug-and-play modularity and abilintelligence efforts, and the personnel who successfully execute the ity to support emerging capabilities. Capabilities should be rapidly mission? expeditionary, able to operate from unimproved sites and afloat, and maintain suppressed noise and visual signature. A: SOF Intel is transitioning, but our people remain our greatest We continue to optimize organic SOF ISR capabilities, including advantage. We have the most extraordinary group of people working communications systems and architectures, processing, exploitacritical force modernization initiatives every day in J2; I am contion, dissemination of networked information, ground, air, space stantly amazed at their ability to innovate and improve SOF intel. and maritime sensor domains, and better utilization and synchroniThis applies equally to our partners in other SOCOM organizations: zation of SOF human sensor activities. our acquisition managers, our financial experts, our communicators ... all are great Americans and true patriots dedicated to improving Q: In land navigation, are systems such as 3-D mapping all they intelligence for SOF operators and for our nation. O should be, or would further advances be welcome? 18 | SOTECH 11.6
Rediscovering an old SOF skill with a new name. After more than 10 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. military leaders have embraced the importance of knowing all about the human terrain of the battlefield as well as the actual terrain. To add to that knowledge, the military has been turning increasingly to a skill set that maps not only the rivers and mountains where a force is operating but also the hostile villages, the hungry or politically turbulent places and the attitudes of the people who live and do business in those places. www.SOTECH-kmi.com
By John M. Doyle, SOTECH Correspondent Itâ€™s a multi-discipline field called human geography that uses the tools of language, culture, economics, sociology, history, anthropology and other fields of study to determine the real ground truth of a country or region. The explosion of social networking and geospatial imagery on the Internet has added new tools for human geographers and intelligence gatherers who can now overlay detailed maps created from satellite photos with data about cell phone usage, animal migration or commercial activity. SOTECHâ€ˆ 11.6 | 19
Human geography offers a way to avoid costly mistakes, like breaking cultural taboos or offending potential foreign partners and allies, by studying problems and consulting with locals before building a hospital, school or road. It can help identify opinion makers and leaders in a community. That skill set, perfected by special operations forces (SOF) in Vietnam, was largely neglected by the rest of the military until the counterinsurgency demands of Iraq and Afghanistan. Now the U.S. Army’s Training and Doctrine Command has established a Human Terrain System to develop, train and integrate “a social science-based research and analysis capability to support operationally relevant decision-making, to develop a knowledge base, and to enable socioA coalition force member talks to a villager about what to feed cattle during a presence patrol in Farah province, Afghanistan. The coalition cultural understanding across the forces conducting the presence patrol are deployed to train and mentor Afghan National Security Forces in their area. Afghan National Security Forces have been taking the lead in security operations, with coalition forces as mentors, to bring security and stability to the people operational environment.” of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. [Photo courtesy of U.S. Marine Corps] And the U.S. Military Academy at the soles of your feet, according to retired Army Lieutenant West Point, N.Y., has a thriving geography program that includes Colonel Craig Beardsley. He is administrator of a Kansas State some of the socio-cultural disciplines of human geography. The University program that trains National Guard teams from farm department’s webpage describes it as one of the most popular states how to teach improved farming methods in war-wracked majors in the last decade, with about 150 graduates working as Afghanistan. In pre-deployment training about Afghan culture, human geographers. he told a human geography conference in Arlington, Va., last fall, As the United States reduces the size of its military after a “there were things taken as gospel.” decade of war and grapples with funding constraints But once in country, he and others learned imposed by sequestration and other budget wranthey weren’t always the gospel truth. One thing gling in Congress, it needs “to build partner-nation his soldier farmers and ranchers did learn was that capacity so that others can shoulder more of the burwomen play a big role behind the scenes in Afghan den of international security,” Deputy Defense Secvillage life, which is why both the Army and Marine retary Ashton B. Carter told a Washington think tank Corps have trained female engagement teams to audience June 5. accompany patrols into Afghan villages to reach In that strategic shift, SOF capabilities will be out and connect with the women, who are essential, he said, adding: “Whether they’re working often a source of intelligence about what with civil society and tribes, training local security goes on in the area. forces, helping villagers stand up radio broadcasts, Adam Silverman According to Adam Silverman, or supporting intelligence and law enforcement Ph.D., culture and foreign lanoperations, SOF give the United States an enormous guage advisor at the U.S. Army competitive advantage over our adversaries.” War College, human geography And U.S. Special Operations Command’s strais very important for SOF, partegic vision, “SOCOM 2020,” underscores the ticularly Army Special Forces importance of human geography, stating “we must whose key missions include re-balance the force and tenaciously embrace indiworking and training local rect operations in the ‘human domain,’” which the resistance groups to either document describes as “the totality of the physical, throw off an oppressive ruling cultural and social environments that influence government or support their human behavior in a population-centric conflict.” legitimate government against SOCOM 2020 asserts that the human domain Joe Hillyer insurgents and terrorists. “If “is about developing understanding of, and nurturyou’re going to be working with local people, ing influence among, critical populaces,” adding that “operating you have to understand where the cultural, in the human domain is a core competency for SOF.” the social and the geospatial—in other words, But there’s more to human geography than knowing not to the human geographic—intersect. You’ve got to extend your left hand to someone in a Muslim country or show 20 | SOTECH 11.6
You’ve got to be able to speak the languages, underbe able to understand or come to terms with the stand the nuances of the culture, before you can people you’re dealing with,” said Silverman, who ever understand the roots of the conflict or the stressed he was speaking for himself and not the roots of whatever problem is going on there.” Army or the Army War College. Those terms, he IDS International is one of several companies, added, include where they live, how they interact largely staffed by former servicemembers, that has with their environment, and how they and the evolved since September 11 to train military and state—if there is one—interact with each other. civilian officials heading for trouble spots overseas. But for SOF veterans, the concept of human With some 50 full-time employees and a network geography, which has gone by many names over the of subject matter experts having military or govyears, is an old one. ernmental experience in Iraq or Afghanistan, IDS “Human geography is nothing new,” said Joe David Matsumoto International specializes in socio-cultural trainHillyer, director of business development for IDS ing using live role-playing scenarios and online International, a training, consulting and analysis tools like “Culture Shock: Afghanistan,” an online firm based in Arlington, Va. A Green Beret officer strategy game played by soon-to-be-deployed U.S. in the 1980s and 1990s, Hillyer said human geogsoldiers from the point of view of an Afghan village raphy is “at the base of everything” Army Special elder. “You’re going to see more and more investForces and other members of the SOF community ment in use of e-learning, things that could be done know and do. “That’s what we were built for: the at a desktop rather than a classroom and things unconventional warfare, foreign internal defense, that can be done by an individual. You’re going to counterinsurgency fight. That’s all about undersee a lot more e-learning platforms that allow for standing the human terrain, understanding human better time management,” said Hillyer. geography or whatever buzzword of the decade that A series of online learning packages called comes along.” Abe Usher “Improving Your Global Skillset” have been develThe bottom line, he added, oped by Humintel, a behavioral science research company that is that “you’ve got to understand the provides training in areas ranging from cross-cultural competarget audience country, understand tence to reading facial expressions and other non-verbal behavior the populace you’re working with. to detect deception and possible physical violence. Founded by David Matsumoto, Ph.D., a San Francisco State University psychology professor and researcher, Humintel has studied tiny facial expressions—“micro-expressions,” Matsumoto calls them—that can give away what a person under stress is thinking. Research studies conducted with thousands of participants in recent years have shown that the accuracy rate for
Coalition force members receive high fives from children in a village in Farah province, Afghanistan. Coalition forces were conducting a patrol to assess the Afghan Local Police in the village. Afghan Local Police complement counterinsurgency efforts by assisting and supporting rural areas with limited Afghan National Security Forces presence, in order to enable conditions for improved security, governance and development. [Photo courtesy of U.S. Marine Corps]
SOTECH 11.6 | 21
Virginia, HumanGeo specialsomeone’s ability to separate izes in using digital human liars from truth tellers is just geography to understand peo54 percent, little better than ple and locations. It has develflipping a coin to decide, Matoped geospatial applications sumoto said. But he has capand tools to synthesize, mantured the fleeting expressions age and exploit large data sets. that betray emotion on video. Thanks to Global PositionThey’re hard to spot with the ing Systems (GPS) hardware, naked eye but readily viscell phone and mobile comible when the video is slowed puting technology, “there is an down and then stopped. While emerging digital culture—not such split-second expressions just in the U.S. but in other are not a guaranteed indicacountries,” said Abe Usher, tor of lying, Matsumoto said, HumanGeo’s chief innovation the person being questioned officer. He notes that of the 2.2 warrants careful scrutiny. His billion Internet users worldprogram has been able to train A coalition force member demonstrates weapons tactics for Afghan National Police during weapons wide, “about half use some law enforcement, as well as training in Farah province, Afghanistan. Afghan National Security Forces have been taking the lead in operations, with coalition forces as mentors, to bring security and stability to the people of the form of social media.” officials at the State Depart- security Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. [Photo courtesy of U.S. Marine Corps] “A lot of social media data ment and other federal agencan be considered a form of digital human geography data,” Usher cies, how to spot micro-expressions. said. People who grew up with computers and cell phones use Matsumoto, founder and director of San Francisco State’s social media to communicate not just where they are but what Culture and Emotion Research Laboratory, said his company has they’re doing and seeing and with whom they’re interacting— done several Defense Department projects administered through from a flash mob in Britain to a demonstration in Turkey or a the Army Research Institute involving the creation of a curnatural disaster in Japan. riculum to teach soldiers how to read non-verbal behavior across “As you begin to look across all this informal data, you begin cultures. There were sections on gestures, micro-expression, to examine it in a geospatial context. You see trends that are very deception and detecting aggression. “We did provide training in a informative about society,” Usher said. number of Army groups” including a human terrain team about One of HumanGeo’s products, Media Monitor, explores access to be deployed, Matsumoto said. to big data from over 100 sources, including mainstream media While there is more to cultural competency than spotting like CNN and BBC as well as social media like blogs, Twitter, micro-expressions, “we believe, and we have data that shows, if Facebook and YouTube. It then searches public sentiment about you learn how to read people’s emotions, it will help you to adapt a topic and geo-locates it, said Usher. “It’s a tool to help people culturally,” Matsumoto said. understand the sentiment and the topics that are emerging in One of SOF’s core operations is countering threats to stability, social media in different regions of the world,” he explained. and IDS International has a “close relationship” with the village Media Monitor was developed to meet the analytical and operastability operations community, Hillyer said. IDS is in the process tional needs of commercial companies and government agencies. of putting together a program “which is basically a four-man ISEBOX, another HumanGeo product, is a geospatial threat subject matter expert team—like an old Civil Affairs teams on steforecasting application developed to understand the operational roids—with Ph.D.s and M.A.s that get out and do the agricultural environment in places outside of the United States such as Africa piece or the economic piece supporting special forces teams doing and Asia. It combines static data, like information from the foreign internal defense,” he added. But in the future, Hillyer Census Bureau or the World Bank, with dynamic informal data thinks a big challenge for human geography and SOF will be the sources like social media “to give you a composite view of what is rise of densely-packed mega-cities with populations over 10 milhappening in an area,” Usher said. lion and growing. The intersection of digital and geospatial information will “The world’s about networks,” he said. “How do those netbecome increasingly important for SOF in the future, said works interface with other networks? How does the financial IDS International’s Hillyer. “The special operations community, network interface with the human network [and] interface with they’re the ones who have to understand the human network in the production network for certain products and services? That’s its deepest detail, because they’re the ones who are going to be what special ops is all about: understanding that,” said Hillyer. the first engaged.” What human geography “brings to the table for One network that’s been having its own population explospecial operations—and really anyone else who may need operasion worldwide is the social network. The International Teletions in dangerous areas of the world—is a situational awareness communications Union estimates that the number of mobile that can reduce their safety risks,” said Usher. O phones and computing devices will exceed the world’s population in 2014. The HumanGeo Group is exploring that connection between human networks and geography. The company’s co-founders For more information, contact SOTECH Editor Jeff Campbell at firstname.lastname@example.org or search our online archives come from Internet powerhouse Google and special operations for related stories at www.sotech-kmi.com. forces. With operations in suburban New York and Northern 22 | SOTECH 11.6
Emerging data collection technology aids operators in mission planning. a mission over and they want to be able to The evolution of light detection and quickly generate data that can be used for ranging (LiDAR), and its applications that mission.” for special operations forces (SOF), conWith Overwatch’s product LIDAR Anatinues to emerge, especially with 3-D and lyst, an operator can create real-time possibilities. 3-D scenes of their target In the defense and area. After the sensor colintel space, LiDAR has just lects the raw LiDAR data, recently begun to build LIDAR Analyst can be used some momentum, accordto extract the terrain, building to Matt Morris, director ings and vegetation. “We can of Integrated Solutions at create a visually compelling, Overwatch Geospatial Soluthree-dimensional environtions, an operating unit ment using the extracted of Textron Systems, a Texresults that allows tactical tron Inc. company. “You’ve Matt Morris users to do any kind of misgot bigger factors like the sion planning, rehearsal, National Geospatial-Intelor secondary analysis. This ligence Agency (NGA) and includes 3-D line-of-sight the Army Chief Information or basic mensuration tasks Officer G-6 program startsuch as measuring a siming to drive requirements ple height of a building, or towards some kind of a length of a bridge that they lighter exploitation capabilwant to cross,” Morris said. ity,” Morris said. “And we’re LIDAR Analyst exists as starting to see also the an extension to Esri’s Arcsmaller units have requireGIS software package, so ments for LiDAR processing Roy Nelson forward operating units can as well.” access LiDAR data through More data is available a link or on a local drive with just a basic than ever, but SOF teams may not need to laptop. “In essence, the smaller units do process as much as a bigger unit. “A larger the same kinds of things, it’s just that NGA organization would process data over the smaller units have a very specific area very large areas,” Morris explained. “It they’re looking over and they need to get could be countries or entire areas of products to do analysis on it in a very short operation, whereas a smaller tactical user order,” Morris said. “We have products that will have a defined area that they’re doing www.SOTECH-kmi.com
By Jeff Campbell, SOTECH Editor
are ideally suited in many ways to those tactical users.” Overwatch released the first version of LIDAR Analyst in 2006, when most people didn’t even know what LiDAR was, according to Morris. “We had a great package for analyzing it, but literally no one had the data, so it was experimental at best,” he said. “It’s been a long waiting process for the market to catch up with the technology, but now it seems the usage is growing by leaps and bounds. People are finding more interesting ways to use the technology. We’re going to have to adapt our software even more quickly than we have in the past.”
Achieving Full 3-D Visualization Full 3-D visualization is the biggest advancement in Overwatch’s LIDAR Analyst version 5.1, which came out in the spring. It can take a considerable amount of time to get the latest version downstream to the actual warfighters, but Morris said advanced users have been very happy with the advancements. Overwatch invested into developing the 3-D visualization component in conjunction with an Army program of record called operational 3-D joint capability technology demonstrations (OP3D JCTD). “JCTD was looking for ways to be able to collect, disseminate and exploit threedimensional data in a much faster way than what they were able to before,” SOTECH 11.6 | 23
Morris said. “They identified some key commercial software solutions—LIDAR Analyst being one of them—which they wanted to enhance to better support the mission.” Morris and his team built a custom 3-D visualization component that allows the operator to quickly review results and do some basic analysis. In conjunction with the 3-D program, Overwatch also built a distributed processing system, which Morris said ties in to cloud computing. “Traditional processing says you can bring a swath in, do your extractions, and then you batch process the other swaths to produce similar products,” Morris said. With one workstation, that could take a long time, so the Overwatch team built a system that allows people to distribute that processing amongst a cluster of workstations. One job could have taken four hours to produce, but with a cluster of four workstations, the information can be processed in a quarter of that time. “With today’s technology as well, oftentimes each computer has multiple processing cores, so if you had four computers, each with a dual core, you could actually cut your time by a factor of eight,” Morris said. “It’s a way for us to keep up with the rapidly expanding volume of LiDAR data.” New sensors are collecting LiDAR data in wider swaths, and at greater density. While the exponential growth of data potentially provides more useful intelligence, operators at the tactical level can’t wait hours for it to process. “They need a way to get the data out in 10 minutes, so being able to set up a distributor processing environment is of great use,” Morris emphasized. “Maybe not to the guy on the edge of the line, who just has a backpack, but more in the operating centers where they have a richer computing environment.” Overwatch works to maintain a yearly cycle with updated releases of LIDAR Analyst, with a continued goal of accounting for new sensors entering the market. “There are different types of LiDAR collection platforms being fielded now, and some of the newer ones present more challenges in terms of data processing,” Morris said. Some of those challenges include cloud cover, where the moisture affects collection, so typically collection is done at low altitudes. Newer sensors support higher altitude collection, but they also introduce more noise into the data. “So, we’ve got to spend some time looking 24 | SOTECH 11.6
at that data, and we’ll continue to enhance our 3-D visualization capabilities toward becoming an industry leader in that area, and we’ll continue to maintain our position of being the key industry leader in doing feature extraction for LiDAR,” Morris said. LiDAR has many applications, but to Morris, the best is the ability to rapidly generate an accurate 3-D scene for mission planning and rehearsal. “To do a mission, you want to know the subtleties of the terrain—where exactly the building corners are, how many trees are there and what is their height, etc.—so you can plan your ingress and egress into the area.” With LIDAR Analyst, an operator can generate a scene of 90-plus percent accuracy in a matter of minutes, according to Morris, rather than having someone collect that over a matter of days.
Real-Time Color Fusion A key feature of Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp.’s color, LiDAR 3-D FMV system is the fusing of the color and the fact that it’s done in real time, according to Senior Advanced Systems Manager Roy Nelson. “We fuse the color to the LiDAR in real time, generating the 3-D video scene at 30 frames a second,” Nelson said. “Many LiDAR scenes you may see pictures of in magazines are post-processed. The camera image is draped over the point cloud after the fact—we do it all in real time.” Ball has focused its internal research and development dollars (IRAD) on realtime processing in recent years. “It doesn’t do any good to take data in real time if I can’t provide information in real time,” Nelson said. He uses a laser binary file format that maintains information related to LiDAR data, called .LAS “We do all the fusing of the color to the LiDAR in real time, we mosaic or stitch all the individual frames from each scene together in real time, and we generate the .LAS point cloud also in parallel in real time.” LiDAR now becomes LIDAR or laser imaging detection and ranging. When people ask Nelson about the frame delay, he said, “Well, maybe one frame.” Whether for civil first responders or military special operators, time is of the essence, enabling them to exploit the information gained as quickly as possible. “We started the real-time effort a couple years ago, but just within the last six
months is when we finally got everything to run completely in parallel,” Nelson said. “Completely means generating that last .LAS point cloud also in parallel.” In the past, his team would do all the mosaicking, all the 3-D imagery, and then—after the fact—create the point cloud.
Diving into the Point Cloud LiDAR creates a “point cloud,” where the points form a terrain map. Each point gives the analyst the range of a location on the ground, whether low or high. “The problem with most point clouds is they have no color, or you could say they’re white on a black background,” Nelson said. “Commercial LiDAR software is then used to color it by height, and generate digital surface models for example, but it still takes an experienced user to understand what they’re looking at.” Once the color is added and someone views the 3-D point cloud, it becomes intuitively obvious since the human mind sees in 3-D color. “You don’t need any training to understand what you’re seeing,” Nelson said. Doing it all in parallel may adjust priority applications; whereas before a primary use would be in advance of a mission, now 3-D imagery via LIDAR can be used in real time to make adjustments just before a mission or on the fly. During a recent SOCOM exercise at Camp Robert, Calif., Ball put theories like this to the test. “We fly over the ground, generating 3-D imagery in real time, just like a full motion video camera,” Nelson said. “You can either look at it on board, or radio frequency downlink for somebody on the ground to look at, and we’ve done both.” Also out at Roberts, the Ball team had a simplified version of the software on one of the first versions of an Android tablet, where they could place the data on almost immediately after acquired. “You could hand a tablet to a soldier, which we did, and they would pick it up and manually manipulate the image: zoom, rotate, color by height, etc.,” Nelson said. “They could touch any one point, get the coordinates of that, touch two points, get a route and slope.” Placed in the hands of the user, no training was necessary. “They just picked it up and it was intuitive,” Nelson said. “Because of the color 3-D, it’s very much like a video game, so it’s familiar and doesn’t require much training.” www.SOTECH-kmi.com
Most LiDAR systems in use today are for aerial mapping and imaging. Those aren’t real-time systems, and Nelson continues to stress the advantage of real time. “Where time is a mission-critical parameter, that’s where our LIDAR system has a role to play,” Nelson said. “That’s why when people ask about delay I say one frame. You could be sending something back down to the ground and have it as you’re en route.” Military units want to know the lay of the land and see what’s in front of them, while looking at large-area footprints. When preparing for a major movement, real-time capability isn’t necessary since other surveillance vehicles or space asset imagery is available. They generally want to know what the battlefield looks like, according to Nelson. “Now you go to a small SOF unit, they’re operating in real time,” he said. “They need to know what’s around the corner—if they have to send out a team tomorrow morning to an area for which recent imagery doesn’t exist, they could put this LiDAR system on a UAV.” After the UAV collects information from a specific area, the UAV could land and operators could pull the hard drive, or while the aerial platform is en route, they could bring the information back down to the ground. “When the operators step out on that mission, whether within the hour or the next day, they have very recent, relative information,” Nelson said. Perspective from potential end users always helps industry best develop what will help complete the mission, whether it’s infiltrating an enemy compound or fighting a wildfire. Nelson found another application for the technology recently at the Boulder, Colo., Office of Emergency Management, where the he thought the initial use—similar to special operations ingress and egress uses—would be for firefighters and first responders to see a wildfire scene and learn how to access routes where they wanted to go. It turns out the OEM chief saw it as a communications tool, since whenever there’s an emergency, the public gives him 24-36 hours before they’re demanding information on the fire and the status of their homes. “He said if he had the product from our sensor, he could put it in a kiosk on the computer screen,” Nelson said. “Everybody in an affected area knows their surroundings, they know how to find their house if you give a photo to them … but if they had www.SOTECH-kmi.com
3-D capability, they could zoom in on their house, pan in around it, and look at adjacent areas.” Whether it’s a SOF team member or the average homeowner, anyone can pick up a joystick and use the color point cloud like a 3-D model without training, according to Nelson, and the applications keep growing. “All the people I’ve talked to, various users, they all see a unique way they can apply it based on their specific area of expertise,” he said. One Marine involved in special ops saw the Ball system recently and saw how he could gain immediate information on ingress and egress routes. “When they go into an area, our system could give them very high resolution imagery of the area of interest so they know how to get in and out,” Nelson said. With a complete 3-D map, mission-planners can see if the enemy has a sniper or someone at a particular location the SOF unit is trying to access. “They could use our data to find out what’s the safe access route where that person can’t see them,” Nelson said. “You have to think, with a model, you can put yourself down in a valley looking up, you can put yourself on the top of a mountain looking around … you really have to think of it as a full 3-D immersive model which you can put yourself in to see what’s where.” Another possible application for Ball’s system came from a helicopter pilot who explained to Nelson that he would use it if he had had to fly a route and wanted to use the terrain for sound masking, by noting the slope of the hills in the area. “You can’t get the slope and the full 3-D depth from a high-altitude 2-D image,” Nelson said. “With the 3-D model, he could actually fly the route and plan his approach using that 3-D information.”
Changing Geography, Adapting Software Whether the harsh terrain in question is a bare desert or a dense rainforest, LiDAR processing solutions can adapt and overcome because they aren’t built around a specific collection platform or sensor. “We try to keep our software as generic as possible, so that as new sensors emerge or as new problems emerge, they can quickly be adapted,” Morris said. “As new data types are collected or new sensors emerge, we might have to tweak our
software to take advantage of it or deal with an increased flow of data, but there’s really nothing specific that would preclude it from working in different areas.” Future LiDAR processing capabilities may assist with autonomous vehicle navigation, more detailed mappings of internal building structures, and identifying biological threats. “I think people are just starting to scratch the surface of what they can do with LiDAR data,” Morris said. “Whether it’s in the area we work in, which is aerial, or terrestrial-based LiDAR collection where they’ll have it mounted on vehicles, so you’re getting more building façade extraction—a view at the street level as opposed to the aerial level.” Nelson has been involved in laser applications in one way or another for more than 30 years, and the improvements in timeliness continue to impress him. Its assistance in a disaster scenario such as an earthquake or tornado is invaluable to first responders. “If there are buildings collapsed, you could tell how big an area of rubble is or if a building is tilted on its foundation, because LIDAR can measure the slope of a roof,” Nelson said. “The real-time nature to support first responders—those first responders can be military special operators, they can be civil … it’s just the timeliness of information that is my favorite use of LiDAR.” Even though Nelson’s talked with operators about what the system is capable of providing them, until they see the 3-D videos, data and demonstrations, some still don’t believe that the information can actually be acquired in real time. “People are used to LiDAR being a static image, a picture, a 3-D model,” Nelson said. “The fact that it’s available right now in Ball’s system—it’s all been built under a company IRAD contract—I think the SOF community has a tool available to them that has many applications depending on what the user’s needs are.” The possibilities may be limitless, and solution providers intend to adapt to account for all the different ways LiDAR is being represented, but the end goal is to provide SOF operators with the right data at the right time. O
For more information, contact SOTECH Editor Jeff Campbell at email@example.com or search our online archives for related stories at www.sotech-kmi.com.
SOTECH 11.6 | 25
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SOTECH 11.6 | 27
Special Operations Technology
Patrick Ernst Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer Pixia Patrick Ernst has been responsible for and actively involved with all business development activities since the company’s inception. In this capacity he has been instrumental in developing brand awareness and generating revenue, especially within the Department of Defense and intelligence community. He has also played a key role in virtually all other aspects of running the company, such as raising capital, developing the business model, forming strategic partnerships, managing day-to-day operations and developing strategic plans for the future. Prior to joining Pixia, Ermst was involved in several entrepreneurial ventures including running and growing a highly successful and profitable wholesale distribution company in New York City. Q: Can you tell us about Pixia and what you offer the special operations community? A: Pixia is a commercial software company founded 13 years ago primarily focused on providing high-performance access to very large data sets. We provide our customers ondemand access to wide-area motion imagery, full motion video, digital imagery and a variety of other data types. We develop modularized open standards-based software solutions. Pixia offers the SOF community agile solutions to quickly and efficiently access intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance [ISR] and geospatial data from traditional and non-traditional sources to support a wide variety of missions. Departing from the legacy approach of handling massive datasets as fragmented individual files, Pixia technologies uniquely organize data to enable rapid access by global users in any connected or disconnected environment. We have successfully integrated our technologies into some of the most advanced architectures, as well as legacy systems and programs currently deployed in operational settings. Our solutions are based on open standards [such as those defined by the Open Geospatial Consortium] and span from enterprise-scale web services that provide global data access through networks or deployable disconnected solutions. We see great potential for these capabilities to help connect a global SOF with 28 | SOTECH 11.6
Q: How does a future government budgetconstrained environment impact you?
ISR and geospatial data to support traditional missions as well as assist SOF coordination with diplomats, host-nation, coalition partners and foreign SOF units. Q: What unique benefits does Pixia Corp. provide its customers in comparison to other companies in your field? A: We focus on end-user experience. It’s all about quick and easy access to the most relevant and recent information as well as providing access to archived data with forensic and strategic value. Our customers quickly search, discover and access specific information within enormous volumes of ISR data to extract and generate only the knowledge they need to complete their mission. This provides significant time savings by not having to review or scroll through entire video files or wait for files to buffer. Our access is fast regardless of how much data you have, from gigabytes to petabytes, with little difference in access speed. This is a game-changer for folks who rely on data; if it’s too cumbersome or too time-consuming, you’ve just lost that customer. Pixia exponentially reduces the time it takes to analyze data to make informed decisions. In addition, all of our software lines are “cloud-ready” and designed around an open standards-based architecture which can be integrated with any third party tool or storage device. We are truly agnostic when it comes to customer preferences for hardware infrastructure or data visualization and exploitation tools. We simply provide customers a different way of thinking about data to make it instantly more relevant and useable at a fraction of the cost of changing architectures. We can deliver these improvements now, which is a departure from costly, proprietary, monolithic solutions of the past.
A: I believe the uncertain budget environment is a great opportunity for the government to capitalize on cost savings from small business solutions to create options for changing architecture elements without perturbing the whole system or creating something new. We are seeing a trend where larger enterprises are embracing innovative ways for managing data and optimizing current architectures by reducing unnecessary redundancies and data replication. This is where we thrive. Rapidly increasing collection of data is an expensive problem. In my view, tighter budgets will force a hard look at data generation, data storage and how those impact, or complement, knowledge generation. We hope it will inspire new thinking on the overall process of data collection, processing, exploitation and dissemination to ensure we get more value from data collected and how we derive knowledge from that data. We think what a customer is going to do with the data is more important than just collecting data and should be considered ahead of platform development, which we call the “back-endup-front.” It’s less sexy than bending metal on an overhead system but will save money and may influence platform design. I also believe more rapid acquisition practices will maximize cost savings by allowing the government to take greater advantage of small business efficiencies now and better keep pace with industry in the future. Q: What new innovations are on your horizon? A: HiPER Watch is our newest product line, which normalizes, manages and streams large quantities of full motion video ingested from various platforms: air, space, surveillance cameras and mobile devices. This provides a highly scalable, open architecture that will keep pace with the increasing number of high-definition video feeds while making the data available to any third-party exploitation tool via open standards. O
August 2013 Volume 11, Issue 7
Cover and In-Depth Interview with:
Brig. Gen. Jon Weeks Commander AFSOWAC
Special Section Unmanned Systems
Increasingly, missions ranging from ISR to high-risk EOD work are being executed by unmanned systems, which often have far greater endurance than humans. It means that combatants aren’t placed in harm’s way.
Full Motion Video Warriors need to know where the enemy is, and what he is preparing to do next. Full motion video can provide that critical information, and also keep friendly forces informed of each others’ location.
UAV Weapon Systems
Precision Strike Technology
Traditionally, UAVs performed ISR missions to locate potential enemy targets, which then would have to be taken out by land or air forces. But now, UAVs—after discovering targets—can also eliminate them, saving critical time. We examine key UAV weapon systems.
In an age where U.S. and coalition forces must scrupulously avoid harming sensitive structures such as mosques and schools, precision strike is a must. We look at systems that demolish the target —without unwanted collateral damage or civilian casualties.
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Special Operations Technology, Volume 11 Issue 6, July 2013