Airborne Standoff Minefield Detection System (ASTAMIDS)

The Airborne Standoff Minefield Detection System (ASTAMIDS) provides US forces with the capability to detect minefields rapidly. Environmental conditions must be favorable for aircraft and ASTAMIDS operations. ASTAMIDS can be mounted on a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter, an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), or a fixed-wing aircraft. The system detects and classifies thermal and other anomalies as suspected minefields along routes or in areas of interest. ASTAMIDS can be used to protect advancing forces and can operate in concert with air and ground units in reconnaissance missions.

ASTAMIDS hardware and software components consist of a sensor with associated electronics and the minefield-detection algorithm and processor (MIDAP). Surrogate equipment includes an air-data package (GPS, radar altimeter, inertial measurement unit [IMU]), a power supply, a work station(s), a digital data recorder, mounting racks, and a modified floor for the specific aircraft.

Operators view the data displayed on the monitors, communicate with the aircrew, and perform other functions (such as changing data tapes and producing reports). The aircrew must maintain an altitude of 300 feet and an airspeed of approximately 70 knots for the system to detect mines accurately within the sensor's ground swath (approximately 215 feet wide). The system has a 2-hour operational capability, based on standard flight time for the mission profile.

ASTAMIDS is a fast method for detecting tactical minefields. When it is employed by aviation elements in support of maneuver units, close coordination between aviation and ground units assures that minefield detection is reported accurately and quickly. ASTAMIDS is not as precise as ground detection systems, but it is accurate enough to help mitigate the dangers inherent with minefields. It can be used in both friendly and enemy territories. The use of a Blackhawk ASTAMIDS in areas of threat observation and fire must be planned and coordinated very carefully, because a helicopter is extremely vulnerable while flying the mission profile required for detection (steady altitude, speed, and path).

Once airborne and at its start point, the ASTAMIDS system is placed in the correct detection mode, based on the intended mission (route or area reconnaissance). When the system indicates an initial detection, the operator communicates it to the pilot. The pilot then flies a verification pass over the indicated area. If the system again indicates a detection, the pilot resumes the mission (route reconnaissance) or continues the survey pattern to determine the minefield borders (area reconnaissance). If no detection is indicated on the verification pass, the operator instructs the pilot to resume the flight plan.

Each ASTAMIDS consists of two (2) Airborne Payload (AP) subsystems and one (1) Tactical Ground Segment (TGS) subsystem. The AP shall consist of an EO/IR sensor assembly and other mission-specific hardware, software, and firmware components installed in the UAV platform. The AP shall collect imagery and data and interface to the Tactical Common Data Link (TCDL) to transfer imagery and data to the common Army UAV Ground Control Station (GCS). The TGS shall be installed into the common Army UAV GCS in a modular manner through standard interfaces. Although not an ASTAMIDS component, the UAV GCS will be the host for the ASTAMIDS TGS. The standard interfaces shall provide required connectivity and support. The TGS shall consist of the software to perform mission planning and in-flight payload control of the TUAV and of the AP. The TGS shall perform analysis of retrieved imagery and data and transmit mission results to the Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (C4I) network. The TGS shall also consist of the imagery and data processing hardware, software, and firmware required to generate, display, and disseminate products to the users via the Army C4I network. Only minimal modifications to the common Army GCS are allowed.

The Block 1 ASTAMIDS will provide a Unit of Action (UA) asset that can be used in Tactical Operations in day and night, real time, to detect and locate obstacles and surface and recently buried minefields. The ASTAMIDS will be deployed on a Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (TUAV) Block 2, or another UAV with equal or greater payload capacity, such as the future Extended Range/Multi Purpose (ER/MP) UAV or Future Combat Systems (FCS) UAVs.

ASTAMIDS is a Future Combat System Unit of Action asset deployed on the FCS Class III/IVa Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). ASTAMIDS is a critical component of the Assured Mobility concept of operations within the FCS UA. Information on impediments to maneuver is used to update the Common Operational Picture (COP) and situational awareness of the unit. ASTAMIDS is currently in the SDD phase of acquisition with prototypes available for Operational Testing during FY 2007. It can operate day and night and provides near-real-time detection of surface and recently buried minefields and obstacles. ASTAMIDS consist of two subsystems: the Airborne Payload (AP) and the Tactical Ground Segment (TGS).

The Airborne Payload (AP) consists of Multi-Spectral Electro-Optical sensors covering the Visible and Near Infrared (VNIR) and Mid Wave Infrared (MWIR) portions of the spectrum. The AP contains mission-specific hardware, software, and firmware components installed in the FCS UAV platform. The AP collects and analyzes imagery and data and transmits the products via the Network Data Link (NDL) to the FCS Ground Control Station (GCS).

The Tactical Ground Segment (TGS) is installed in the GCS in a modular manner using standard interfaces. It uses software to conduct mission planning, using data and information derived from Intelligence and Common Operating Picture (COP) assets and for in-flight control of the AP. The TGS analyzes retrieved imagery and data and transmits mission results to the Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (C4I) network.

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