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Discriminating Seeker
Discriminating Interceptor Technology Program (DITP)
Advanced Discriminating Interceptor Technology Program (ADI)

To achieve a high probability of kill of midcourse targets, interceptors must be capable of discriminating between real targets, decoys, and debris during the exoatmospheric portion of flight The interceptor must be lightweight, low cost, and must be able to kinematically engage a full range of threats. To acquire midcourse targeteand perform discrimination at sufficient range to implement guidance commands requires broad utilization of the electromagnetic spectrum and use of ladar to capitalize on available discriminants. Processors able to support the large computational demand, while staying within cost and weight constraints were once beyond the limits of technology.

By the early 1990s advances in interceptor signal and data processor development (PE No. 0603217C, Project 1201) made a discriminating seeker and interceptor feasible. Discriminating interceptors with increased autonomy would reduce communication bandwidths and amplify the overall architecture. Discriniinating seekers were now available with higher resolution and signal-to-noise ratios at close range than current state-of-the-art technology can provide. Discrimination technology will allow interceptors to take advantage of not only temperature and emissivity, but of other discriminants as well. These include static features, such as length, width, and shape; surface features such as, texture, hot spots, polarization, and sub-features; and dynamic characteristics such as spinning, coning, precession, and microdynamics.

In 1992, BMDO initiated the Advanced Discriminating Interceptor (ADI) program with the goal of providing seeker technology for preplanned product improvements to the Ground Based Interceptor program. In 1993, BMDO descoped the ADI efforts to focus only on LADAR transmitter development because of reductions in LADAR technology funding. LADAR enhances ballistic missile defense capabilities both strategically and tactically. Basic optical short wavelength operation of the laser provides precision range, angular and doppler data for target location, tracking, and identification of threatening vehicles. The narrow beamwidths provide both the antenna gain to permit long range operation in a compact package, and coverage against threats close to the ground. In 1994, BMDO and the Space and Missile Defense Center (SMDC) agreed to pursue development of the Advanced Sensor Technology Program (ASTP). As an adjunct to the ASTP, BMDO and SMDC initiated the DITP to increase the ability of missile interceptor seekers to discriminate reentry vehicles from decoys and countermeasures in the exoatmosphere.

As of 1996 the first discriminating interceptor demo was planned to take place in FY01. It would take advantage of the fly-along bus in a BMD core program test. Additional tests were planned in FY02 and FY03. The first test was to observe the target, decoys, and debris and perform real-time discrimination between them. One or both of the later tests may employ the discriminating seeker as the primary interceptor seeker.

In 1998 the Technology Development Corporation (TDC) alleged that the selection process for the Discriminating Interceptor Technology Program (DITP) Laser Radar was conducted unfairly by the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO). Specifically, TDC alleged that the independent evaluation team (IET) that BMDO created to evaluate the DITP contained contractors; some of the IET members were paid by, or directly worked for, the organizations pursuing one of the competing technologies; the briefings to the IET were required with little notice; and questions submitted concerning the selection process were not answered in a fair and equitable manner. Further, TDC stated that it was led to believe that the selection process was for demonstration only, not to select one laser radar (LAD AR) technology and to terminate the development of other LADAR technologies.

BMDO originally planned to select the demonstration contractor in September 1998. BMDO rescheduled the selection date to March 31, 1998, to allow contractors involved in the development of LADAR to respond to a request for proposal for the sensor integration effort. BMDO program managers for the DITP determined that organizational conflict of interest laws would preclude contractors already involved in the DITP from submitting a proposal for the integration portion of the sensor program. The three competing contractors working on the active-passive sensor technology, each developing its own LADAR, were Fibertek, Hughes, and TDC.

The selection process used by BMDO for the DITP LADAR technology demonstration funding was fair and objective. However, BMDO had not ensured that one IET member executed the appropriate nondisclosure agreement as stipulated in the technology selection plan (TSP), or ensured that IET members had been screened regarding any financial interests in the competing LADAR contractors. Also, BMDO had not formally coordinated implementation of the TSP, with BMDO contracting personnel and legal counsel. The inadequate coordination may have contributed to the perception of the Technology Development Corporation (TDC) that the TSP was unfair. These conditions occurred because BMDO program managers for the DITP LAD AR had not placed sufficient emphasis on adequate safeguards over personnel assignments for the IET, and because the FAR did not require that contractors who provided advisory and assistance services to maintain a written and enforced employee conflict of interest policy.

In FY 2002 the Midcourse Counter-Countermeasures effort under 0603175C BMD Technology initiated advanced development of discriminating seeker components including multicolor focal plane arrays and laser radars. A Discriminating Seeker would be developed that is able to accurately discriminate emerging countermeasures, decoys, and re-entry vehicles. The technologies under development are multi-spectral infrared focal plane arrays, ultra compact laser radar (ladar), high-speed miniature processors, and data fusion algorithms. These components would be integrated into a lightweight Track-Via-Missile seeker after development and demonstration.

At greater distances (400 to 800 kilometers [250 to 500 miles]), the focal plan arrays would acquire the target cluster and perform simple discriminations. At shorter distances (less than 400 kilometers [250 miles]) the focal plan arrays and ladar would work together to accurately discriminate and track the target. The multi-spectral infrared focal plane arrays can accurately measure thermal characteristics of non-gray-body re-entry vehicles and decoys.

Ladar actively illuminate the target with a laser and measures backscattered Doppler-shifted radiation to calculate target range, velocity, and angular rates. Ladar does not rely on external illumination or emitted radiation from the target. Ladar substantially increases the number of target features measurable and significantly improves discrimination and aim point selection. Ladar could be applied to early deployment phase to track threat cloud dispersal. Ladar would assist in boost phase functions of hard body/plume discrimination and final aim-point selection.

After development and testing of the individual technology components of the seeker, the components would be integrated into a lightweight Track-Via-Missile seeker.

Ballistic missile defense (BMD) interceptors must discriminate between real targets and other objects such as decoys and debris for effectiveness in an ECM environment, or against reentry vehicles accompanied by decoys. An interceptor employing these technologies used in an architecture including ground-based radar and space-based infrared satellites, can protect U.S. cities from ballistic missile attack and protect fighting forces from theater ballistic missiles. Simulation results show that depending upon the attack scenario, the single shot kill probability increases by as much as a factor of 9 after addition of advanced interceptor discrimination capability (i.e., Pk increases from 0.1 to 0.9). An interceptor mass growth of 25 percent would occur and the interceptor alone would be more expensive than without advanced discrimination. However, the system cost would decrease because of a reduction in number of required interceptors. Instead of shooting two or three interceptors at each target to meet the system effectiveness requirements, only one shot would be needed.

The technologies necessary for interceptor discrimination are: lightweight laser radar, simultaneous multispectral LWIR focal plane arrays, highly uniform focal plane arrays, and data fusion techniques to combine the outputs of active and passive sensors. The Advanced Discriminating Interceptor Program would develop and demonstrate these technologies in lab tests and low cost interceptor flight tests. Systems benefiting from this technology are the Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle, THAAD, CORPS SAM, and the Navy Theater Wide Interceptor.

FY 2004 Accomplishments under 0603175C Ballistic Missile Defense Technology included upgraded range-resolved Doppler imaging LADAR breadboard to full power and commenced integration of other discriminating seeker capabilities (TRL 3-4). In 2006 the Small Laser Amplifier for Ladar effort completed program, deliver completed amplifiers to government/Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC) candidates including Advanced Systems Discriminating Seeker Technology program and MIT/Lincoln Laboratory for evaluation.

A discriminating seeker and an IR camera can not only receive in-flight target updates for tracking moving targets but can transmit an image of the target to the Control Cell prior to impact.

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Page last modified: 25-07-2016 18:26:41 ZULU