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SHAred Reconnaissance Pod (SHARP)

Raytheon Company's Shared Reconnaissance Pod (SHARP) was designed and developed by Raytheon for the U.S. Navy to carry advanced day/night and all-weather tactical reconnaissance payloads. Upon deployment, planned for 2003, SHARP will replace the existing system used to provide tactical air reconnaissance for U.S. Navy carrier-based air wings.

The Shared Reconnaissance Pod (SHARP) is a multi-functioned reconnaissance pod, adaptable to several airborne platforms for tactical manned airborne reconnaissance. It is capable of simultaneous airborne and ground screening capabilities. SHARP is deemed by the Navy as cutting edge technology that will take airborne reconnaissance into the 21st century.

Raytheon's design for the SHARP pod includes a rotating midsection that allows an unobstructed, horizon-to-horizon view for any of the variety of sensors that can be housed in it. In addition, this design provides both weight and cost savings, as well as significantly more protection for the sensors viewing window. The pod's design provides mobility-it hangs from a bomb rack rather than being attached to a weapons rail or the aircraft body, which is the usual approach to pod design-allowing for more flexibility in reconnaissance mission planning. While its initial use is for the F/A-18E/F, the pod can be used on a wide range of aircraft.

The US Navy requires an organic, all-weather, day/night, manned, tactical air reconnaissance capability to provide continuous and immediate intelligence support to the Battle Group Commander (BGC) in the prosecution of independent, joint, or combined operations as well as to provide intelligence data for the security of those forces under his/her command. This capability is required to replace the F-14 Tactical Air Reconnaissance Pod (TARPS) capability, scheduled for phase-out in FY03. To meet this requirement, the Department of the Navy will incorporate a SHAred Reconnaissance Pod (SHARP) on the centerline of the F/A-18E/F that will employ a suite of sensors to collect infrared, visible, and synthetic aperture radar (SAR) digital imagery at medium and high altitudes.

SHARP will be a major contributor to the precision strike capability of GPS and digital, image-guided weapons and will IOC with the first FA-18F squadron. The system will utilize COTS/NDI dual-band electro-optic/infrared (EO/IR) sensors and subsystems in a pod for tactical and other aircraft. It will provide all altitude over flight and long range stand-off EO/IR imagery and SAR, capable of near real-time datalink to afloat and shore-based JSIPS stations. The SHARP program is currently funded to meet the Navy's minimum warfighting requirement of 24 pods. The inventory objective is 50 systems (40 operational and 10 pipeline).

The required capability must be supportable within the capability of the deployed carrier air wing or the F/A-18E/F aircraft forward deployed support posture. The complete airborne reconnaissance system must employ digital technology and be compatible with Common Imagery Ground/Surface System (CIG/SS) compliant ground stations. The reconnaissance system must include overflight and standoff capability in both day and night conditions. The full range of reconnaissance capability may be provided through separate and interchangeable medium and high altitude sensors that can be easily reconfigured into optimum mission suites. However, a single sensor that could meet both medium and high altitude requirements is desirable. To ensure true multi-mission capability of the F/A-18E/F aircraft the SHARP pod must be capable of being installed or removed with full mission turnaround capability of less than one hour.

Raytheon Company's SHARP program achieved some major milestones in mid-2001. The first milestone achieved is the pod's successful performance in a series of propulsion flight tests that were conducted at the Naval Air Station, Patuxent River, Md. During the flights, which were designed to assess the aerodynamic and structural properties of the pod and to confirm its compatibility with the F/A-18E/F, the pod performed to expectations with no impact on the aircraft's air intake. Following the propulsion flight tests, the Naval Research Labs (NRL) and Raytheon, working together as part of a combined government/industry integrated product team (IPT), integrated the SHARP Prototype Visible/Infrared Reconnaissance System payload into the Raytheon-developed pod. This integration is the second milestone accomplishment. The resulting total SHARP prototype configuration is undergoing operational and environmental testing at Raytheon's Indianapolis facility, under the joint supervision of Raytheon and NRL.

As of August 2002 there was a proposal to accelerale the deployment of SHARP following a "quick reaction assessment" in lieu of an adequate operational test and evaluation. The Navy's newest airborne tactical reconnaissance system demonstration was conducted over the Pentagon on August 28, 2002. An F/A-18F and P-3 flew the SHARP prototype from the Naval Air Station Patuxent River, MD to the Washington, D.C. area, transmitting real-time images to SDL's Navy Input Station (NAVIS) located in the north parking lot of the Pentagon. Live images acquired during the flights included the Reagan National Airport runways, the Pentagon, and other area landmarks.

The Recon/Optical [ROI] CA-295 cameria performs a range of high-altitude, long-range missions while operating at standoff ranges beyond 50 nmi. The CA-295 digital camera simultaneously produces both infrared and visible spectrum images, providing the user with day/night, near real-time data for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR). The CA-295 incorporates ROI's patented digital framing array and step frame technology to provide wide area coverage stereo imagery with both high resolution and unparalleled geometric fidelity.

Designed to operate within the rigorous environment of a jet fighter, this modular, dual-spectral-band camera comprises three major assemblies. The stabilized imaging unit (SIU) contains both visible and IR imaging modules, long-range precision optics, common camera and stabilization electronics, and power supplies. The image processing unit (IPU) contains the system controller electronics, I/O interfaces, and a scalable set of image processing boards for formatting and processing both IR and visible image data. The power conversion unit (PCU) connects to the aircraft power system and supplies filtered, switched power to the SIU and IPU.

The CA-295 dual-band camera is available in several optical configurations, to allow tailoring of the focal length to a specific performance requirement. Multiple interface options are also available, allowing choice of control, image data and formatting interfaces. The CA-295 is available for export to many international customers.

Key performance Parameters

Requirement

Threshold

Objective

Resolution, Med Alt Overflight, Visible

VIS NIIRS 6

VIS NIIRS 7

Resolution, Med Alt Overflight, Infrared

IR NIIRS 5

IR NIIRS 6

Resolution, Med Alt Standoff, Visible

VIS NIIRS 4

VIS NIIRS 5

Resolution, Med Alt Standoff, Infrared

IR NIIRS 3

IR NIIRS 4

Resolution, High Alt Standoff, Visible

VIS NIIRS 5

VIS NIIRS 6

Resolution, High Alt Standoff, Infrared

IR NIIRS 4

IR NIIRS 5

Operational Availability (SHARP System)

0.70

0.85




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