The Navy has tapped the Naval Postgraduate School to be the Operational Test Agent (OTA) for a new “tunable” multi-mission-capable, multi-sensor reconnaissance and surveillance system that could drastically cut costs while revolutionizing the way the military identifies and tracks targets on land and at sea.
A faculty-student team led by NPS Distributed Information Systems Experimentation (DISE) Research Group director Professor Shelley Gallup and OTA program manager Research Associate Brian Wood developed and will coordinate portions of the Joint Capability Technology Demonstrations (JCTDs) for the Joint Multi-Mission Electro-Optic System (JMMES).
“JMMES has the potential to be revolutionary for airborne surveillance and reconnaissance, which is absolutely critical to protect troops and allow commanders real-time information from the battlefield,” said Gallup, Principal Investigator for the JMMES OTA project.
“It could be a game changer for high-cost-savings technical capabilities innovation because it greatly enlarges the mission area by changing the software instead of creating expensive new technical platforms to address each threat area. Costs could be greatly reduced by optimizing, reducing and standardizing hardware, training, concepts of operations, maintenance and logistics requirements across multiple priority mission areas,” he explained.
JMMES enables ground or airborne operators to switch between real-time image processing algorithms to detect, classify, identify and track camouflaged and concealed targets during the day or night in eight mission areas: anti-submarine and surface warfare, maritime interdiction operations (MIOs), mine countermeasures, search and rescue, counter improvised explosive devices (IEDs), counter camouflage, concealment and detection, and illicit crop detection. The common-turreted sensor suite includes electro-optic and infrared sensors, a laser designator/range finder and, in the future, a magnetic anomaly detector and can be mounted on piloted fixed- or rotary-wing aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
“Currently, if an operational commander has a UAV or manned aircraft out on a counter IED mission, for example, and needs it for an at sea maritime interdiction operation, he has to either task a second asset or call it back and have a new MIO-mission-specific sensor installed, increasing reconfiguration downtime,” Wood explained. “With JMMES, an operational commander may have the option to rapidly switch the IED-mission-specific software to MIO-mission-specific software on the fly, providing the tactical warfighter with seamless, actionable, low-risk, high-yield, real-time precision geo-registered multi-spectral images across a broad spectrum of mission areas. It’s even possible for some mission combinations to be simultaneously operated in flight.”
“We still have testing of all eight mission area algorithms and the analysis ahead, but JMMES may be a major time and money saver for joint and allied operational commanders, as the system significantly reduces the number of platforms and people – and time – needed to perform an increased number of missions,” Wood continued.
“It’s important that Navy leadership and the Department of Defense know what we’re doing, so that in the future when they think of a JCTD, they think of the Naval Postgraduate School,” he added.
Two NPS officer students are researching aspects of JMMES for their joint master’s thesis. Information Warfare Systems Engineering students Marine Corps Maj. Bronchae Brown and Lt. Brian Schulz will analyze how JMMES impacts the Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) process and compare and contrast JMMES and traditional ISR systems methodologies.
“As an Information Warfare officer in an EP-3 squadron, I noticed increasing flight delays on ISR missions because we didn’t always have the right carry-on equipment installed,” Schulz noted. “A multi-mission sensor system like this would be a huge cost and time saver for our operations.”
“In my last tour in Iraq with a wing staff, I was tasked daily to do non-traditional ISR IED searches,” Brown said. “It would be great to be able to switch the sensor suite on a single UAV or manned aircraft to do IED as well as other types of missions.”
In February, the NPS team employed a Navy King Air aircraft fitted with one of two JMMES prototypes to check its concept of operations and data collection and analysis procedures during an anti-submarine warfare exercise off San Clemente Island, Calif. Full operational test demonstrations will be conducted as part of both the Trident Warrior 09 Naval Network Warfare Command- and Naval Warfare Development Command-sponsored Sea Trial event off Norfolk in June using the King Air and a Bell 407 helicopter and the JFCOM-sponsored field experiment Empire Challenge 09 at China Lake in July using the Bell 407. JMMES will be stand-alone tested in a Panama City, Fl., mine countermeasures exercise in August and a counter camouflage, concealment and detection and illicit crop detection exercise in Honduras with SOUTHCOM in October.
After collecting and analyzing the test data, the NPS team will produce an analysis of JMMES so that a Military Utility Assessment can be made, after which the system may be selected for transitioning to manned and unmanned Naval aircraft programs of record. The Naval Postgraduate School team’s reports are due in December, with NAVAIR’s decision expected in March 2010.
The sponsoring combatant command for the JMMES JCTD is Pacific Command with Commander Third Fleet as the operational manager, supported by Southern Command. NAVAIR is the program manager and technical operator for all test events. The prime contractor for JMMES’ software and sensor integration is BAE Systems, and the turret hardware is produced by Wescam. In addition to the Navy, other system users will include the Canadian Defense Force and may include the Department of Homeland Security, the National Guard and the Coast Guard.