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My brother's keeper: technology tackles fratricide prevention.

Ft. Bliss, TX, in the spring of 1992, was the scene of a painstaking re-creation of a Gulf War incident known as the Battle of Norfork. In the annals of US military history, this battle assumes relative insignificance: there were no innovations in armored warfare tactics to be recorded for the military textbooks; the result was neither a momentous victory nor a defeat. What does linger in the Army's memory is the tragedy of fratricide as it played out on February 25-26, 1991 -- six Americans killed and 24 wounded in misconceived exchanges of fire involving M1A1 tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles. As an August 13, 1991, DOD news conference would reveal, by the end of Operation Desert Storm 35 American combatants had been killed and 72 wounded by friendly fire, making up 17% of the US's total casualties.

Reducing fratricide is "right near the top, if not right at the top," of the list of critical areas that the Army is currently exploring, said COL David O. Bird, the team chief of the Army Materiel Command's (AMC's) Fratricide Task Force. From recent studies done on two WWII campaigns and 7,000 analyses in Vietnam, said Bird, the average figure for the 20th century is estimated at about 15% casualties due to friendly fire. The Gulf War was therefore not an anomaly. However, in the Gulf War, on the ground, few casualties were inflicted by the enemy, bringing the incidents of friendly fire deaths to greater prominence and public attention. At the time, the percentage of fratricidal deaths was considered unprecedented, spurring the military to put IFF at the top of its priority list. Two years into the program, the Army believes the technology is mature enough to prevent many of the avoidable identification problems that occurred in the Gulf.

Starting in August 1991, Bird has been working on a materiel near-term identification friend or foe (IFF) solution, his efforts coordinated closely with initiatives emerging from the Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC). He now works in support of the IEW program executive office (PEO), which, under the direction of COL Tom Rosner, program manager for combat ID, released a request for proposals (RFP) last January and expects to award a contract this summer for a near-term, cooperative IFF system. As JED went to press, the program was nearing the end of the source selection process.

Once a near-term IFF system is fielded, the next step in the program will be the development of mid- to far-term solutions. In accordance with a Defense Acquisition Board review conducted last August, the Army is focusing on the ground-to-ground and air-to-ground aspects of combat identification (ID). The Navy, which has overall coordination responsibilities for the joint-service efforts, will tackle the air-to-air and ground-to-air problem.

In the interim, the Army's ability to identify friendly from enemy units depends on vehicle identification approaches hurried into use during Desert Storm.


Prior to the commencement of the ground war, explained Bird, concern over the possibility of fratricide had prompted the commander of the US Third Army to initiate an extensive, "quick fix" antifratricide plan. The AMC quickly assembled a package of devices and sent them to the Gulf for distribution to most of the US units.

One of the first devices to reach the theater was the BUDD Light, so named after its creator, Budd Croley, of the Night Vision Electro-Optics Directorate, Ft. Belvoir, VA. Croley's invention was a 0.5 x 1 x 0.375-in. near-IR light powered by a 9-V battery and viewable through night vision goggles (NVGs) and vehicle-mounted near-IR imagery devices. The BUDD Light had seen use in special operations and aviation missions and was quickly expanded for use as a vehicle-marking system in Desert Storm. Its small size and light weight also allowed it to be taped to the individual soldier for dismounted applications.

After the issuance of a call to industry, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), now known under the reduced acronym ARPA, teamed with TSI Industries, Nashua, NH, and within 15 days had designed, manufactured and shipped 200 DARPA lights to the Gulf by February 22, 1991. Although conceptually the same as the BUDD light, the DARPA light was considerably larger, allowed control of the focal plane and was more intense, making it easier to see from the air. A simpler device employed during the war for daytime air-to-ground ID was the VS-17, a 2 x 4-ft brilliant orange/brilliant red reflecting panel.

Finally, two kinds of thermal tape -- a "glint" type functioning in the near-IR range and a low-emissive far-IR type -- were developed and shipped to ground units, along with various IR and white-light chemical lights.

Two years after the end of Operation Desert Storm, the AMC has performed extensive user evaluation of the BUDD light based on its experience in the Gulf, said Bird. It also has a large quantity of DARPA lights still in the inventory. When these near-IR devices are coupled with the low-emissive far-IR thermal tape, the result is an ID package viewable through the range of imagers aboard Army vehicles, including the tank main gun FLIR, the TOW sight and image intensifiers like NVGs. Still, said Bird, these devices are better classified as command and control aids used by commanders to mark their vehicles for identification, a kind of safety net. "Taken as a package, our contention is and what we have found through evaluation is that they will, in fact, assist us greatly in attempting to reduce |fratricide~....But this is only the first step. This is certainly not a high-technology answer; it is a limited technology, perhaps easy to copy since near-IR has been around since the end of WWII."


In June 1991, the Army began its quest for the high-technology solution when LABCOM, now known as the Army Research Laboratory, issued a broad agency announcement for a near-term IFF system. "What we were looking for were primarily off-the-shelf, simple devices that could be strapped onto vehicles and integrated simply onto aircraft for air-to-ground or ground-to-air," reflected Bird. Forty-eight proposals were submitted by industry, of which the Army chose five for testing at Ft. Bliss in April-June 1992 (see "Army Will Choose a Near-Term CID Solution," JED, July 1992, p. 35). The profferred technologies involved various laser, laser retro-reflector and RF/GPS systems.

The eventual winner of the technology demonstration, however, was none of the aforementioned, but a late entry: a millimeter-wave (MMW) device designed by McDonnell Douglas Aerospace with company funds and submitted in early 1992 to the competition. According to a McDonnell Douglas spokesperson, one of the company's senior communications engineers performing contract support in the Gulf was witness to the incidents of fratricide and, upon his return to the US, used his background in MMW engineering to create an identification system. After some infusion of money for further development, the system was put through McDonnell Douglas's rapid prototyping facility and sent out to Ft. Bliss in time for the spring 1992 testing. On its arrival at the testing range, the system consisted of a MMW device coaxially mounted with the gun system to send out an interrogating signal along the same parallel. When illuminated, a transponder on the target vehicle would return coded responses identifying the target as friendly.

Three months of exhaustive day/night testing and data collection followed, including the modeling and simulation of the Battle of Norfork. Four different vehicle platforms were used: the HMMV, the Bradley, the M1A1 and the AH-64 attack helicopter. Based on testing at the range, MMW technology demonstrated better penetration than laser/IR systems through battlefield conditions of smoke, haze and rain. It also worked over longer distances, allowing identification to be made beyond the approximately 5-km range of the M1A1 main gun. During Desert Storm, M1 gunners were able to acquire targets through the FLIR at much greater ranges than visual identification would permit. As a result, said Colonel Bird, the M1A1 was the worst offender in the Gulf, responsible for 85% of the fratricide casualties. (The US lost 10 tanks in the war, seven to fratricide; of 28 Bradleys destroyed, 22-23 were victims of fratricide, noted Bird.) Also, said the McDonnell Douglas spokesperson, the maturity of the MMW technology -- in terms of the microwave millimeter-wave integrated circuit that shrinks the device down to a small size -- was a factor. And of critical importance was the covertness of the technology, a fact reflected in the program's requirement for low-probability of intercept (LPI) and low-probability of detection (LPD). The coded MMW signals, which require extremely sensitive antennas for reception, are virtually impossible to detect unless the target has the proper equipment. A laser ping, on the other hand, is detectable and could give an enemy advance warning, a chance to shoot or hide.


In September 1992, the AMC and TRADOC recommended MMW as the technology of choice and handed it over as the near-term Battlefield Combat Identification System (BCIS) to the PEO IEW.

According to industry sources, the RFP released by the PEO IEW in early 1993 calls for a MMW standard cooperative ID device based on the technology results from last spring. Specifically, it calls for a MMW ground-to-ground system, a study on a MMW air-to-ground system and consideration for evolvability to the mid- and far-term and for dismounted applications. The system must respond to multiple interrogations from all aspect angles in less than 1 sec and be ECM resistant and resistant to exploitation and deception.

Almost every MMW house is a competitor, said one industry source. After a contractor is selected for the engineering manufacturing development phase this summer, horizontal integration and testing of 45 ground-to-ground prototypes and a possible 10 air-to-ground prototypes called for in the contract will begin next year. According to the PEO IEW, sole-source low-rate initial production of approximately 1,600 units will begin in the third quarter of FY '95. About 19 Army platforms are scheduled to receive the BCIS, including the M1A1 and M1A2, the Bradley, scout/recon vehicles, combat engineering vehicles and field artillery platforms, as well as Army helicopters. Outfitting of the first units should begin in 1996.


With the implementation of the BCIS, the Army's IFF capability will hinge on a cooperative technology, that is, a question-and-answer approach involving an exchange of signals between an interrogator and a transponder. (In the span of its definition, "cooperative" IFF also includes some passive systems, such as the BUDD Light and other "quick fix" devices currently in the Army's inventory, in which no signal is originally sent in order to elicit an identifying response from the target.) In the long term, the Army intends to evolve its LPI/LPD MMW-based cooperative battlefield ID system into one with no probability of intercept, meaning, namely, one that uses a noncooperative approach.

In a noncooperative IFF system, no interchange of interrogation/response signals would occur. Instead, some recognizable feature on a target viewed through a shooter's weapon sight, some unique signature possibly produced by the target's energy emissions and processed by a sensor to extract specific characteristics, would make identification possible, suggests an article published by CECOM's public affairs office. Since identification would be based on the inherent characteristics of the targeted platform, noncooperative IFF would provide positive ID for both friendly and unfriendly platforms. According to Bird, the combat ID program office "is evaluating, doing concepts exploration now on all future technologies that we feel may be warranted."

One aspect of long-term IFF that has already been deemed "warranted," and which goes hand-in-hand with the deployment of noncooperative technology, is the development of good situational awareness, said both industry and government sources. According to Dennis Stevens, an advisory engineer and principal investigator for IBM Federal Systems' (Owego, NY) combat situational awareness system, IBM and some other companies performed field testing in 1992 for first prototype efforts with situational awareness under an Army contract. Encouraged by the results, said Stevens, IBM has continued to fund the effort internally through its research and development program and is planning some informal technology demonstrations in the near future.

Specifically targeted at the platoon, company and other levels of echelon up to the battalion level, the IBM system overlays positional information of friendly and enemy forces on a vehicle-mounted moving digital map that scrolls to cover an approximately 200 x 200-km area. Selective pieces of information from other battlefield functional areas, such as artillery, air defense, IEW and maneuver control, can also be brought in for display to the platoon or company commander if the need arises. The intent, says Stevens, is to integrate multiple sensors, with GPS as the primary navigation sensor, into a robust system that can show the progress of units across the battlefield in near real time. The maps themselves would be created at higher-echelon mission planning stations and distributed via credit-card sized memory modules. Updated positional information would then be transmitted to the field commanders via data link, probably the SINCGARS.

A unique accessory for the system, revealed Stevens, is a stylus which can be used by the commander or a scout to sketch what he sees -- a newly identified enemy unit, for instance -- freehand. He can then transmit that overlay to other force elements. Eventually, IBM intends to field a version of the unit that can be disattached from the vehicle holster and used in dismounted applications.


As the Army nears a contract award decision for the first stages of its IFF program, the Navy is in the midst of a cost and operational effectiveness analysis for a sister IFF program, called Cooperative Aircraft Identification (CAI), concentrating on air-to-air and ground-to-air identification. CAPT Dave Ersek, the Navy's combat ID requirements branch head and, in his interservice role, the technology committee chairman for the Joint Combat ID Office, disclosed that the Navy is investigating both cooperative and noncooperative technologies. Although unwilling to comment on noncooperative IFF efforts, he did describe the current CAI study.

Among the variety of technologies under evaluation, said Ersek, a number are likened to upgrades of the Navy's current IFF system, the Mark XII. In operation, the Mark XII is a question-and-answer system which directs a pulsed, 1,030-MHz interrogation signal toward a target. Upon reception of the interrogation, a transponder on board the target platform responds with an encoded, 1,090-MHz signal (an unencrypted version of the Mark XII is used in civil air traffic control). Although a Raytheon-produced replacement called the Mark XV was cancelled for cost reasons, the CAI program is charged with taking advantage of any technology that the Mark XV program may have developed, said Ersek. One of the options currently under consideration is the Mode S, the follow-on commercial upgrade of the Mark XII. According to Ersek, the Mode S is basically an enhanced Mark XII with a digital data screen for transmission of positional and other information. Another option, described as passive cooperative, involves the use of a JTIDS-type data link to provide position and ID information to ships and aircraft.

Interestingly, a significant number of the systems under study by the Navy originate, like the Mode S, in the commercial world. One such device is the Automatic Dependent Surveillance system, which reports position and ID data via GPS beaconing. Another GPS beacon system used commercially for the tracking of UPS trucking nationwide is also a candidate, said Ersek. "We're getting a little smarter and we're going out actively and looking at the commercial world.... We've come to find out, in some cases, because of the frequency spectrum being crowded, the commercial people have come up with some pretty interesting techniques that have military applications."

As examples, he cited the use of frequency hopping and spread-spectrum techniques used with some of the commercial GPS beacons. Cost is one of the primary drivers for this focus on off-the-shelf technology -- with potentially 3,000 Navy and 7,000 USAF aircraft, plus 150 ships, to equip, cost per unit, nonrecurring costs and R&D must be kept affordable, he reasoned.


Within the next three years, the cooperative IFF concepts under development by both the Army and the Navy will begin phasing out the ancient Mark XII aircraft identification system and the ground-based, "quick fix" solutions inspired by Operation Desert Storm. Seen against the backdrop of the services' long-term ambitions, however, these cooperative devices seem to be merely stepping stones along the way toward a much stealthier, noncooperative approach that draws upon the military's ever-expanding theme of interoperable |C.sup.3~I networks, where IFF will be inextricably tied to corresponding needs for situational awareness, command and control and targeting.

As targeting and weapon systems continue to expand the envelope of range and lethality, the military will attempt to keep pace with its fratricide avoidance programs. Fratricide is a fact of war, however, and "there is no 'silver bullet' materiel solution that will do everything we want it to," said Bird. Hopefully, though, maturing IFF and battlefield awareness technologies will lift some of the fog of war, allowing the future American combatant to rest easy in the knowledge that he is not firing upon or being fired at by his own comrades-in-arms.
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Author:Lum, Zachary A.
Publication:Journal of Electronic Defense
Date:Aug 1, 1993
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