EMARSS is gone, but the integration lab lives on
In October 2011, the Army said it was canceling its $500 million Enhanced Medium Altitude Reconnaissance and Surveillance System (EMARSS) program of record, so it was no surprise when the recently released 2013 defense budget included no funding for the manned intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance program other than to bring the initial four aircraft through the Engineering and Manufacturing Development phase to Milestone C. It is expected that the Air Force will take over the medium-altitude ISR role for the Army with its Project Liberty program, which employs the same aircraft, a Hawker Beechcraft King Air, and similar sensors.
To discuss what’s next, Defense Systems Editor-in-Chief Barry Rosenberg talked with LTC Dean Hoffman, product manager for Medium Altitude Reconnaissance and Surveillance Systems, under which EMARSS is the largest component, within PEO Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors.
DS: EMARSS was planned to include DCGS-A for onboard processing. How will the DCGS-A work continue?
Hoffman: That’s one of the key takeaways of the platform. One thing that people are saying is: “If you cancel the program, is it wasted money for the government?” The answer is absolutely not. In fact, the capabilities that are being put on EMARSS, as far as the full-motion video and some of the signal intelligence boxes, are some of the same boxes that are already on other existing platforms, or are going to be on newer platforms.
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But right now they are not in the DCGS (Distributed Common Ground System) control software. So part of this program is not only putting a DCGS-compatible workstation on the platform, but also the control software for the sensors that are on our platform. So if you have the same sensor on your platform [other than EMARSS] you could now control it from a DCGS workstation on the ground.
DS: And what about the DCGS-A (DCGS-Army) and EMARSS laboratory established at Aberdeen for testing?
Hoffman: With EMARSS the biggest risk to the program was the integration into the DCGS-A architecture. The DSGS lab is actually led by the I2WD (Intelligence and Information Warfare Directorate), the Intelligence and Information Warfare Directorate within RDECOM (Research, Development and Engineering Command). They currently house the DCGS lab, where they do all the beta testing and develop the new software. When that software load is done, it is given to the Software Engineering Center, which has the responsibility of maintaining the baseline and the software as it’s fielded.
All the data that comes off our platform has to go through what we call the SIPC, the Surveillance Information Processing Center, which is what I call the catcher’s mitt. So we have the whole sensor-to-soldier capability in the Software Engineering Center. And so under a CRADA, which is a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement, industry can come in and use the government’s facilities equipment to develop the next capabilities.
And it’s in a government facility, which is even better, because we control the atmosphere. We control when they come or when they go. You pay lower rates when you’re in a government facility. Boeing was originally going to set up their own lab in their facility at Ridley Park, but before you can set up the lab you have to have a TS/SCI (Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information) capability. We already had that set up, so guess what, Boeing asked, “can we use that lab to do the integration of EMARSS?” We said, “of course.”
So now it’s configured for an EMARSS, but if you told me tomorrow to configure it to a Liberty or a MARSS or the next generation of any one of those, we can do that and demonstrate the capability in the lab before we ever send it down range.
And that’s the key takeaway. What we are doing today is not program-centric. What we are trying to build for the future is a facility and a program that allows for the integration of additional sensors and a modular system-of-systems approach, versus going down a niche one-off capability.
Barry Rosenberg is editor-in-chief of Defense Systems. Follow him on Twitter: @BarryDefense.