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EP-3E ARIES Sensor System Improvement Program (SSIP)

In the mid-1990s the ARIES underwent a Sensor System Improvement Program (SSIP) to enhance its connectivity over a range of C4I links. In addition, new mission software improvements links offboard and onboard sensors, creating a fused tactical picture of the battlespace that can be used by the crew or sent in near real-time to other warfighters. The EP-3E ARIES II is being upgraded through the EP-3E ARIES II SSIP by the installation of the Story Teller, Story Book, and Story Classic subsystems, and modification of the AN/ULQ-16 system.

The Sensor System Improvement Program (SSIP) upgrade, designed to keep the EP-3E on the cutting edge, is fully funded. SSIP incorporates new tactical communications, electronic support measures and special signal processing and exploitation systems. SSIP significantly enhances connectivity over a range of command-and-control, communications, and intelligence (C3I) links. In addition, mission software improvements link off-board and on-board sensors, creating a fused tactical picture of the battlespace that can be used by the crew or sent in near real-time to other warfighters.

As of 1999 it was planned that the SSIP would be completed by early FY 2001, and four aircraft had been modified as of early 2000. However, software and hardware problems delayed the completion of SSIP operational testing, slowing the modification schedule, delaying operational employment of SSIP capability and putting additional stress on the force. Operational testing was completed by the end of May 2000, a big step to getting back on glide path for SSIP. Because installation of SSIP and follow-on upgrades continued to place acute pressure on the remaining assets to meet worldwide commitments, the Navy established a requirement to procure four additional EP-3E pipeline aircraft to facilitate the modification process.

While the EP-3E ARIES II SSIP subsystems are not intended to counter a specific threat, they add new capabilities to the EP-3E ARIES II to cope with the complex threat signal environment in which it operates, as projected in System Threat Assessment, Naval Technical Intelligence Center TA #014-94, August 1988. The EP-3E ARIES II SSIP enhances communications interoperability for the EP-3E ARIES II to provide SIGINT information to Fleet Commanders and theater decision makers. The EP-3E ARIES II SSIP implements Department of Defense guidance to upgrade the ARIES II communications systems and selected mission avionics. The Defense Airborne Reconnaissance Office (DARO) and Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Ltr 3500 Ser N880C6/5S663336 of 8 Nov 95 reviewed and validated the requirements for these upgrades. SSIP enables the EP-3E to rapidly assess the tactical situation using a variety of onboard sensors and remote data links, manage this multiple source data, perform contact processing and events analysis, and disseminate evaluated tactical data to appropriate Fleet Commanders.

The EP-3E AIRES II SSIP consists of four mission subsystems, including Story Teller, Story Book, Story Classic, and a modified AN/ULQ-16. These subsystems are connected to each other on an Ethernet Local Area Network (LAN), which interfaces with the existing EP-3E ARIES II Electronic Support Measures (ESM) MAS through a systems interface processor.

Story Teller provides the capability to manipulate selected organic and non-organic data and view a composite tactical situation display, correlate multiple onboard sensor inputs with selected external data link inputs, and communicate value added information via selected data links and communication networks. Story Teller is installed at positions 12, 13, and 14, and enables the following data and voice networks:

  • Tactical Receive Equipment and Related Applications
  • Tactical Digital Information Exchange System - B
  • Tactical Digital Information Link - A (TADIL-A)
  • Tactical Information Broadcast Service (TIBS)
  • Tactical Reconnaissance Information Exchange Services
  • Advisory Support Network
  • Intelligence Network

Story Teller consists of the following major hardware units: three ruggedized TAC-3 work stations with three ruggedized high resolution color monitors, a Sensitive Compartmented Information Systems Interface, an EPR-165 TADIL-A Processor, a Commander's Tactical Terminal/Hybrid Receiver, a TIBS Data Link Interface, an Advanced Narrow-band Digital Voice Terminal, and three RT-1273AG Satellite Communication capable radios. Story Teller is networked on the common SSIP Ethernet LAN and on its own Story Teller Ethernet LAN. It interfaces with the operator through the Story Teller Man-to-Machine Interface (MMI) software.

Story Book is an integrated special signal acquisition, data processing, and data fusion system that provides situation awareness based on special signals exploitation. Story Book provides the capability to assess the tactical picture and expeditiously add SIGINT data to communications data links. Story Book consists of a ruggedized TAC-3 work station with a ruggedized high resolution color monitor networked on the common SSIP Ethernet LAN and Story Book Ethernet LAN, the Fusion Engine (Windjammer) software and processing system hosted in a Versa Modular Eurocard (VME) chassis, Mission Processor Software, and the EPR-208 Signal Processor and Common Database Server system with Watkins Johnson (WJ) 8604 Signal Collection receivers. Story Book includes software and hardware interfaces to the aircraft Global Positioning System (GPS) and Inertial Navigation System (INS). Story Book is installed at position 9.

The Story Classic system provides Special Operators at positions 15 through 20 an upgraded search and acquisition system for low band signals. Story Classic consists of three ruggedized TAC-3 work stations, two x-terminal work stations, five ruggedized high resolution color monitors, and a flat-panel Liquid Crystal Display portable workstation. These workstations are networked on the common SSIP Ethernet LAN and Story Classic Ethernet LAN. Story Classic includes a signal acquisition, distribution, and exploitation system which incorporates general search and directed search capabilities through a pool of 24 WJ 8607 receivers, a set of SP-202 Spectrum Processors, matrix switches, and demodulators. Other Story Classic hardware includes a WJ-8700 Dual High Frequency (HF) receiver, DI-930 digital recorders, and a VME chassis, which hosts the Data Server, the Navigation Data Interface, and the Pool Manager. The operator's MMI software is similar to Story Teller.

The AN/ULQ-16 Signal Data Processor at positions 8, 10, 11, 12, and 20 has been modified to upgrade the pulse processing capabilities. The modification adds dual channel real-time video inputs and replaces the IP-1159 and the FR-185 (XAN-3) Electrical Pulse Analyzer. The modification involves new circuitry in the Signal Data Processor (CP-1499 Mod), the addition of a nine-inch high resolution display (EI-1700), an EI-1400 Control Display Unit, and processor software upgrades.

The EP-3E ARIES II SSIP System Maintenance Diagnostics (SMD) is derived from an upgraded version of the ARIES II Software Maintenance Program (SMP). The EP-3E ARIES II SSIP SMD includes operator station status and functional checks embedded in the MMI software for preflight, in-flight and post-flight checks, a stand-alone SMP for organizational maintenance on selected SSIP equipment, and individual equipment tests for troubleshooting the remaining SSIP equipment. The SMD maximizes reuse of existing EP-3E ARIES II equipment diagnostic software and integrates it into the SSIP subsystem software.

The Ground Support Station (GSS) II provides mission preparation, support, analysis, and reporting for the EP-3E MAS. Preparation elements of the GSS II allow display, editing, configuration of pre-mission databases, and mission software loads. Support elements of the GSS II allow the import and export of mission data bases, operational flight planning, and mission collection. Elements of the GSS II allow the creation, editing, display, and processing of mission data.

The EP-3E Aries II Sensor System Improvement Program (SSIP) upgrade passed a review by the Commander, Operational Test and Evaluation Force in September 2004. A final report on the operational assessment of the fleet issue 4.0 upgrade was issued Sept. 7, 2004, and found the system operationally effective and operationally suitable, reporting that this system upgrade is a "significant improvement in capability over previous versions" and "is recommended for fleet introduction." Operational testing consisted of 16 missions flown in the Western Pacific area over a 32-day period. This resulted in the accumulation of 129 flight hours. During the combined Developmental/Operational Testing phase, ground and flight-testing hours were also factored into the overall assessment.

Critical operational issues (COIs) examined during the assessment ranged from basic surveillance functions through safety/airworthiness. All COIs were resolved with a grade of satisfactory, with one exception - the Joint Interoperability COI will remain partially resolved until Link-16 is fully implemented on the EP-3E, and completes Joint Interoperability Test Center certification. Developmental testing on the SSIP occurred in fiscal year 2003, and the work was split between the software integration lab at the Raytheon Technical Service Company facility in Indianapolis, Ind., and here in Patuxent River, Md., at the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division. More than 1,200 hours of ground testing helped assess the functionality of the upgrades, that focus on enhanced signals intelligence collection, and an improved communication suite.

As of October 2004, five P-3C airframes were undergoing conversion to become EP-3Es. When completed, these additional aircraft will provide a sufficient inventory of primary allotment aircraft and backup allotment aircraft to sustain an inventory of 12 EP-3Es throughout the platform's remaining life.

The Joint Airborne Signals Intelligence Architecture Modification Common Configured EP-3E is the next generation of the Navy's premier airborne manned intelligence platform, due to reach the fleet in 2005. JCC upgrades will initially be installed on the five converted P-3C airframes. All other EP-3Es will receive modification in conjunction with phase depot maintenance or Special Structural Inspections.

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