Real Time Information In the Cockpit
Real Time Information In the Cockpit [RTIC] provides realtime imagery and text targeting information into the cockpit of strike aircraft. That information may be provided over Link 16, or by SATCOM. In order for air mobility operations to be effective, the aircrew needs to be aware of the environment, both in the immediate area and from afar. This awareness needs to be made available in a timely manner and includes threat situation, command and control (mission updates/changes), delivery data (refined delivery location), present position, and weather.
Real Time Information in the Cockpit (RTIC) is a situational awareness capability to receive, process, and display real-time and near real-time information overlaid on photos and charts. The RTIC system is viewed as a conduit between aircraft systems and off-board information sources (Reconnaissance, Surveillance, Intelligence, Command and Control, other operational aircraft). It is one of several possible solutions that can improve aircrew situational awareness. The real-time information considered here refers to information collected by equipment not on-board the subject aircraft itself. Although the final product displayed in the cockpit may include the correlating of on and off-board information, RTIC deals with the enhancement of an aircraft's mission performance through the import of information from off-board sources. The RTIC system interacts with the on-board systems as an added sensor with all of the potential capability of any or all off-board assets.
It can be visualized as a system consisting of six functional parts: off-board information infrastructure; information (air & ground sources); communication system (on-board); on-board processing and storage; controls & displays; and decision aids. The type and amount of information required by the aircrew will drive the performance and capability of the RTIC system.
Primary deficiencies for each command that require an RTIC solution are as follows.
- AMC (MOB-XXX-96-INF-009) - Combat Operations Vulnerability - AMC aircraft are vulnerable in a hostile environment. Aircraft lack adequate defensive systems and protective equipment. AMC aircraft lack adequate threat analysis capability.
- ACC (MOB-CD-96-029) - Combat Delivery Aircraft Lack Access to Real-Time and Threat Order of Battle Information to Aid in Avoidance - Combat delivery aircraft must have immediate and constant access to air and ground order of battle data from joint/combined forces to effectively employ the primary defensive tactic of combat delivery aircraft, which is threat avoidance. Current and planned defensive capabilities on combat delivery aircraft DO NOT give combat delivery aircraft the capability to deliberately penetrate known hostile threat envelope. Therefore, they must rely upon threat avoidance as the primary means of self-protection.
AMC has prepared a draft ORD which identifies the requirements for a RTIC system. ACC has an approved RTIC MNS document dated April 1994. AMC also has an approved MNS 002-93 . AMC's AMMP 97 will describe characteristics to follow-on for the MSTS. ACC has created an internal RTIC IPT to study/assess RTIC requirements and has embraced the "Link 16" tactical datalink as their communications medium of choice.
There are no current mobility aircraft SPO programs implementing the acquisition of real-time information in the cockpit systems, although a few subsystem SPO efforts that are addressing pieces of RTIC capability have been identified. These efforts include Multi-source Tactical System (MSTS), Multi-mission Advanced Tactical Terminal (MATT), Joint Tactical Terminal (JTT), Joint Tactical Information Distribution System (JTIDS), Multi-function Information Distribution System (MIDS), L-band SATCOM Capability, and carry-on Air Force Mission Support System (AFMSS).
The acquisition strategy that would provide potential solutions to ACC's and AMC's deficiencies divides the RTIC system development into three phases. Phase I is the "Off the Shelf" RTIC system requiring little or no development, but rather an integration of components available today. Phase II is defined as an "integrated" RTIC system that shares information directly with the other onboard systems. Phase II is also considered to be a system targeted for the existing Mobility fleet as a retrofit. A Phase II system development would include limited research and development. Phase III is an unconstrained view of what an RTIC system could be as we look forward in time given the technology trends of today. Phase III is seen as a system that would be developed for the next generation Mobility platforms. The development of a Phase III system will require significant research and development. w.
ACC's and AMC's current approach for a RTIC solution is piecemeal at best.
The overall purpose of this effort is to survey, develop, and implement capabilities and procedures to provide RTIC to strike aircraft. Now that the benefits of RTIC have been demonstrated (during Project Strike, for example), it is necessary to implement that capability in operational platforms. However, RTIC must be implemented in such a way to ensure that communications resources, or other missions are not seriously impacted. A multi-disciplinary effort is needed to achieve those goals. The following work program, which addresses RTIC from a multi-disciplinary, systems engineering point-of-view is proposed.
In FY98, the focus was on two primary topics. The first was to survey, compile, and assess existing capabilities, and programs related to transmitting realtime imagery and text targeting information into the cockpit of strike aircraft. The capabilities surveyed include existing (including COTS) hardware and software for transmitting imagery, and existing- as well as next generation-image compression techniques. Compression techniques were assessed in terms such as compression ratio, image quality, and processing requirements. The goals of this task were to identify the most promising capabilities and compression techniques for RTIC, and to estimate the amount of communications resources needed to transmit a typical RTIC image-a key parameter for allocating theater communications resources. The other topic of FY98 was assess the impact of RTIC on SATCOM in terms capacity and system availability (UHF SATCOM availability was an issue called out during the Project Strike II Demonstrations of 1996).
The goal in FY99 will be to downselect from the FY98 candidate RTIC capabilities and techniques, the candidate which best supports the mission goals while minimizing the impact to the communications networks. Several types of imagery will be considered, for example Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), Moving Target Indicator (MTI), and photos.
Also in FY99, other tasks needed to develop and implement an effective, and practical RTIC capability will begin. Those tasks are:
- Develop, and define message formats, protocols (e.g. Transmit Rules), and procedures (e.g. when and how many images to send) appropriate for RTIC. Both imagery, and text messages will be considered. This will leverage off the FY98 effort. In FY99, the goals will be to develop strawman transmit rules to support MASC modeling. Those strawman set of rules will then be refined, with the goal being a set of formats and protocols which are independent of communications media. As part of this later effort, and if appropriate, Interface Change Proposals (ICP) for the TADIL J Technical Interface Design Plan (TIDP) will be prepared, and coordinated with the services.
- Carry out a detailed, and realistic, assessment of the impact of RTIC in realworld networks and loading on Link 16. This will be done at the Modeling, Analysis, and Simulation Center (MASC) at Hanscom AFB. The results of the MASC analysis will also be used to select the communications network (i.e. Link 16 or SATCOM) to best support RTIC. The enhanced modeling can also be used to explore, and develop RTIC concepts of operations, and procedures. In order to carry out this analysis, the necessary models will be upgraded (e.g. RTIC sensor, processing, and SATCOM models) as necessary.
- Assess, develop, and prototype automated techniques for imagery manipulation to maximize the utility of RTIC to the shooter. This effort will address issues such as image rotation, zooming, and cropping to insure that the image presented to the shooter will coincide with view observed by the shooter's onboard sensors. This was called out as an issue in the Project Strike II Demonstrations of 1996. Also, as part of this effort, techniques for registration, and correlation of imagery from multiple sensors will be assessed, and developed.
- Determine which Air Force platforms are needed to support RTIC, and to implement the necessary RTIC capabilities in those platforms. The candidate platforms are: AWACS, F-15E, GTACS, AOC, Joint STARS, and CARS/U2. This capability will be automated to the maximum extent to minimize the impact of RTIC on operator workload.
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