Full Motion Video
Military forces are becoming increasingly dependent on current and reliable video data for the conduct of day-to-day operations. Our deployed forces are faced with many challenges to provide real-time situational awareness across their expansive areas of responsibility (AOR). These AORs are typically volatile and require significant intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) assets to monitor key events and areas within the AOR. Among the highest ISR requirements of our military services is the need to find, track, monitor and analyze activities of interest on a continuous basis. The continuous sensing of the battlespace creates asymmetric significant advantages for our joint forces. However, many of the tactical commander's airborne ISR assets are narrow FOV, low resolution sensors that are generally able to find and track a single target, usually vehicles, within the FOV. This presents a great number of challenges given the limited number of ISR assets at the commander's disposal. Overcoming these challenges is far more difficult when attempting to conduct ISR operations at night.
Recent counter insurgency operations emphasized that finding and fixing Irregular Forces is a daunting task for a variety of reasons. These forces are:
- unpredictable (cultural & behavioral traits are usually not understood);
- well dispersed, distributed, and concealed by their environments (urban & mountainous);
- highly flexible and able to act quickly; and/or
- elusive and fleeting targets.
To effectively manage challenges such as these, the military services have emphasized the need for capabilities that provide persistent surveillance over a wide area 24 hours a day. Among those capabilities is wide area motion imagery (WAMI). Generally, the information gathered from these sensors is used in real time or to conduct forensic analysis. WAMI has become a key enabler that provides joint forces with unprecedented situational awareness. Its attributes include persistence (large areas of coverage, day and night), precision (geospatial and temporal resolution), and onboard "smart processing." WAMI has the potential to discover low signature targets and cue the find, fix, finish, exploit, and analyze (F3EA) mission cycle.
Current IR systems have a limited capability for detecting/tracking dismounts primarily because they have a narrow field of view (FOV) and/or the fundamental properties associated with the IR sensors are not consistent with the requirements related to detection and tracking of dismounts.
There is a need for an IR airborne sensor system that provides an enhanced capability to find and fix vehicles and dismounts in urban environment during the night as well as the daylight hours to provide our forces with an unprecedented combat multiplier. Such a capability will contribute to the Department of Defense ISR Objectives which includes (1) providing persistent "stare" coverage for unprecedented analytic capability and, (2) empowering war fighters with unprecedented situation awareness with "GPS-like" (ubiquitous, 24/7) access to motion imagery.
The Army started using a similar wide-area surveillance sensor, the Constant Hawk, in 2006 and the Marine Corps followed suit with an upgrade called Angel Fire in 2007. Those sensors are mounted under manned aircraft in Iraq and Afghanistan. The $15 million sensor will film an area with a four-kilometer radius underneath the Reaper during both day and night operations from 12 angles.
Requirements for airborne full-motion video (FMV) platforms are escalating rapidly as a result of demonstrated operational successes. The Department of Defense (DOD) appears to have responded belatedly and without appropriate focus to this requirement. One objection to buying many more airborne FMV platforms is that they are an inefficient means of surveillance. FMV cameras have a narrow field-of-view, requiring one platform for every specific target or mission. In areas where the target density permits, it would be more efficient to use camera systems that can cover large areas. The Army Constant Hawk and Marine Corps Angel Fire systems are current examples of wide-area collection systems.
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