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The Army's common ground station of the future.

The Army's Common Ground Station of the Future

The Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS) is designed to detect, track and classify moving and nonmoving ground vehicles to distances well past 250 km. The system, composed of airborne and ground segments, is capable of performing its mission worldwide as an integrated element of a multisystem, multidisciplinary intelligence and targeting structure or as a stand-alone entity.

The "Joint" in Joint STARS means a combined effort between the US Army and US Air Force. In short, the Army is responsible for the ground segment and the Air Force for the airborne segment and the data link between the two segments. The Army project manager oversees the Ground Station Module (GSM) and is also the deputy program director for the overall joint program. This article will first address the joint program and then review in somewhat greater depth the GSM program.


In 1982, the Department of Defense (DOD) established the Joint STARS Program, with the Air Force designated as the lead service and the Army as a participant. This program was a successor to the Army's Standoff Target Acquisition System (SOTAS) and Battlefield Data System (BDS) programs and the Air Force's Pave Mover program. These earlier programs were terminated because of DOD and congressional interest in the establishment of a single program directed toward development of a standoff radar surveillance system capable of detecting and accurately locating enemy ground forces over a wide area of terrain.

Although the Air Force and the Army had, for several years, pursued separate aircraft solutions to their respective requirements, efforts on the part of both services to reduce cost and eliminate duplication in weapon system development bore fruit when both services signed a memorandum of understanding in 1984. In the memorandum, the Air Force and Army agreed to combine their efforts in developing a single airborne platform for both services under a joint program office. The baseline platform is the E-8C, 707 aircraft.

The Joint STARS program combines a coherent multimode radar and associated signal processing equipment aboard the airborne platform. The processed radar data output is available simultaneously to joint service operations and control workstations onboard the airborne platform and to Army operators in the GSM on the ground. All data available to an airborne operator are available to Army operators in the GSM and their commanders. We like to say that the only thing the Army operator in the GSM will not get is air sickness. The ground commander will truly be able to see the battlefield, in width and depth, instantaneously. Furthermore, with GSMs located at multiple sites within a US corps, the fire support and battle management elements will be able to exploit the sensor products in near real time.

Motorola, Inc., Government Electronics Group, Scottsdale, AZ, is the prime contractor for the ground segment, while Grumman Aerospace, Melbourne Systems Div., Melbourne, FL, is the prime contractor for the airborne segment.


The Army's research, development and acquisition part of the program is the Joint STARS GSM. While the Joint STARS multimode radar is its primary sensor, it is important to understand the GSM is a ground station capable of processing radar and other imagery data obtained from a variety of airborne platforms. These other sensor platforms include unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), OV-1D Mohawks, Aerostats and other NATO country systems like the British Astor and the French Orchidee.

The Joint STARS GSM program officially began in 1982, although as already mentioned, the roots of its engineering can be traced to the late 1970s' SOTAS program. According to the approved program baseline, it will end with fielding of the final system in 2002. As initially envisioned, the sole purpose of the GSM was to receive, display and exploit Moving Target Indicator (MTI) radar data. Since its early history, however, the program has been restructured several times -- with each restructuring resulting in a different and more capable system.

The early changes in the GSM were principally the result of changing requirements to incorporate sensor capability growth -- for example, the addition of color raster workstations to allow the display of synthetic aperture radar (SAR), forward-looking infrared (FLIR) and traditional video products. Most recently, changes have been made to accommodate the explosive growth in computer technology. I am speaking of the kind of growth that will move the Army away from building single-purpose ground stations, unique to an associated sensor, to a ground station capable of interoperating with multiple sensors simultaneously. Not only will advanced technology let us build a more powerful and useful system, but we are rapidly approaching the time when we will be able to build them smaller, lighter and, we expect, cheaper than current systems.

The Army awarded a full-scale development contract for that kind of a system in September 1989. It is called the Block I GSM and is scheduled for government testing in late 1992.



All of the GSMs are called the AN/TSQ-132, with different versions carrying different suffixes. One early version known as the "development, demonstration and deployment" ([D.sup.3]) system, was based on the original 1983 advanced development contract. The first [D.sup.3] GSM was demonstrated during 1984-1985 Reforger exercises in West Germany, where it successfully worked with the Army's OV-1D Side Looking Airborne Radar (SLAR) and the advanced development SOTAS MTI system.

Following that success, the Army awarded an FSD contract for eight more GSMs. The first two systems accepted by the government were assigned for continuous customer evaluation to tactical units in Korea and Ft. Hood, TX, and the advanced development system was placed with an operational element of USSOUTHCOM. The sensor systems active at those sites were OV-1Ds and Small Aerostat Surveillance Systems (SASS). Clearly, neither of them could match the power, range and versatility of the Joint STARS under development, but they were available and we took advantage of the opportunity to test the GSM. Along the way, a GSM was installed aboard a ship for use with sensors involved in counter narcotics operations, and GSMs have made return trips to Reforger exercises.

The product of all this evaluation and its continuation, at least until the newer Block I goes to test, is improvement in virtually every facet of the GSM. Software reliability, safety, hardware maintainability/reliability and manprint have made dramatic progress. But because this older version of the GSM is based on late 1970s' mainframe/central computer-type architecture and other limiting factors, it has a constrained ability to meet the Army's demands for the 1990s and beyond. Accordingly, those original eight FSD GSMs have been renamed the "Interim" or IGSM and completion of their development will not be followed by a production system.

The IGSM, even though it is not the objective system, still has significant operational utility. Five of them are scheduled for fielding with the initial Joint STARS aircraft until sufficient quantities of the Block I GSMs become available. In the near term, IGSMs are presently undergoing interoperability demonstrations with the British Astor and French Orchidee systems; in September-October, we will conduct operational field demonstrations (OFD) with the Joint STARS aircraft in West Germany. The purpose of the OFD is to provide a technical and tactical introduction to the system for senior US and NATO commanders and their staffs.


Like the IGSM, the Block I GSM will be mounted in an S-280 shelter on a standard 5-ton truck and will contain two workstations. Beyond this, however, the two systems are very different.

For the soldier operator at the workstation, the differences will be immediately evident in the machine's data processing power, speed, flexibility and user friendliness. Display screen windowing and split-screen imaging of multiple sensors simultaneously -- for example, Joint STARS MTI and UAV video working the same target set for cross-cueing and target verification -- and electronic function switches on the operator display versus the old special-purpose keyboard are examples of the differences.

In current generation systems the operator recalls from memory the procedures he must go through to get the system to respond. Then, he has to type in the command. That way of working is affectionately called the "remember and type method." On the Block I System, the operator is cued by information in pull-down menus and windows and he controls the system by pointing a cursor and punching a button. This is obviously called the "point and click" method and the troops love it.

The hardware and software to make this kind of ground station possible are different too. In current systems, many individual, single-purpose, box-level subcomponents are wired/interfaced together and respond to the commands of a central computer to generate a product. The Block I design replaced box-level functions with circuit-card assemblies (CCA), hardware open architecture and distributed processing.

A whole rack of equipment has been eliminated; the system is about 1,300 lbs lighter than the current system -- and because less equipment has to be manufactured, overall production costs are expected to be lower.

Yes, it's true that we are building a more complex CCA than before and common sense tells us that the additional complexity will come with a bigger price tag. Part of the cost savings, as mentioned, is the lower manufacturing requirement. The biggest share, and the reasons we expect to see the most long-term savings, is the system's open architecture design and adherence to the standards adopted by the program executive officer for intelligence and electronic warfare (PEO IEW) for hardware and software.

The salient features of those standards are the industry-standard IEEE 1014 Versa Module Eurocard (VME) bus, with CCA size set at a 6U form factor and the DOD high order language for computers, Ada.




If the soldiers are going to be as happy with the man-machine features of this new system as we expect them to be, then the maintenance and logistic support teams will be jubilant about how we are building it.

There is great similarity in almost all IEW systems. For example, strip away the "front-end" sensor signal processors, as well as the equipment shelter, and what the observer will find is a "back-end" mission payload that allows an operator to receive, store, process, display and exploit preprocessed data. For the Block I GSM, the guts of the payload are the Universal Communications Processor (UCP), Input/Output Processor (IOP), Display Generators (DG), display screens, keyboards, Winchester disk and a data/voice communications suite.

The three major subcomponents being developed -- UCP, IOP and DG (two DGs in each GSM) -- will have a common chassis, common blackplanes and with only the rare exception, common processor and common memory circuit card assemblies. The only exception thus far is for the "graphics engine" in the display generator. Every other card in that box is common to cards found in the UCP and the IOP. The subcomponents get their personality/functionality from the application software. In fact, if we didn't feel it made life easier for the user to label the subcomponents with names, they could be called Box A, B, C and D. Their physical similarities will be that close.

Just for the Joint STARS GSM, imagine what this means to the manufacturer who can shop for industry-standard piece parts. Imagine what it means to the logistician who can buy subcomponent spares at the circuit-card level, instead of the box level. Then, imagine what it means to the soldier repairman who can step inside a GSM and, for the most part, troubleshoot the various parts of the system with identical test procedures and repair many of the subcomponents from a common set of spares.

What it means to manufacturers is that more of them will be able to compete for a share of the business and that should mean lower costs to the Army. To the logistician, it will mean the need for fewer types and quantities of spares and that too should mean lower costs to the Army. For the soldier repairman, his buddy that operates the GSM and for their commander, it means enhanced operational readiness. Now think about what it will mean in savings to the Army when other IEW programs integrate the same subcomponents in their systems.



Growth for future requirements has been accommodated in several ways. First and foremost is the open system architecture which allows for noninvasive additions/deletions of subcomponents. (See "An Open Systems Architecture for Army IEW systems" on p. 39.) Everything we do for the GSM must first protect the system's openness. Secondly, each of the major subcomponents being developed contains unused circuit-card slots ready for the insertion of additional functionality CCA's. For example, when a new IEW sensor is developed, a new CCA is plugged into an available card slot in the Universal Communication Processor and it is personalized with software. If we run out of card slots, a companion chassis can be added.

The interesting growth potential is on the CCA's themselves. The basline in each of the new subcomponents is a militarized 68030 32-bit microprocessor, which meets known requirements. However, if needed, exceptional processing growth should be readily available, without changing software, as militarized 68040 and 68050 chips become available. If still more growth is required, the GSM architecture will enable insertion of Reduced Instruction Set Computer (RISC) chip-based 6U form factor VME CCAs.

Finally, growth can be achieved through experimentation with nonmilitarized equipment at the box and CCA levels. As long as the growth item meets the IEW standards, it can be plugged into the system and tested. If it meets a valid requirements, a decision can then be made to militarize the item.



Survivability is an important part of the development activities for the GSM. At the low end of the survivability range is the current IGSM, which affords system protection against the effects of EMP and TREE, and ballistic hardening to protect the system and the crew from small arms fire and shell fragments. In the middle range is the Block I GSM, which incorporates the IGSM features and adds an over-pressure system and protective entrance to protect the crew from chemical attack.

For high-end survivability, the Army has approved development of a Block II GSM. It adds to the feature of earlier models the protection against the effects of nuclear blast and initial thermal radiation.

Two optins are being pursued for the Block II system, both of which make use of the mission payload going into the Block I GSM. The first option, and the first choice of the user, is called the Electronic Fighting Vehicle System (Figure 4). the EFVS, a Bradley chassis coupled with an IEW-designed enclosure, is being developed for another IEW program under the auspices of the PM for signals warfare. It has many advantages over the second option, which is a stiffened S-280 size shelter on a 5-ton truck.

The principal advantages include an internally stowed antenna mast and masthead, an onboard electrical generator with backup, a hardened metal enclosure that exceeds blast protection requirements, an organic protective entrance and over-pressure sysem and a system self-eveling capability. Additionally, the crew operates all controls to set up and tear down the system while protected inside the enclosure.

The clinching operational advantages could be the EFVS's better off-road mobility than a truck-mounted system with generator in tow and the EFVS's significantly faster elapsed time to set up the system from a standing start -- less than two minutes for the EFVS compared to 30 minutes for the truck-mounted system. Full-scale development of the Block II is scheduled to begin in FY 1992.


What's next is a GSM for the Army's Ligh Forces. Now known unofficially as the Block III GSM, it will surely incorporate PEOIEW equipment standards previously discussed in this article. Additionally, we know that when approved and funded, it wil be configured on a small-wheeled vehicle, compatible with C-130 airlift. Block III requirements beyond these are expected to firm up in the near future.


In this category is a GSM called Limited Procurement Urgent or LPU GSM. The LPU is a system built to replace the aged and now difficult-to-maintain ground support terminal originally fielded wiht the OV-1D SLAR system. LPU fieldings to the V and VII Corps in Europe were recently completed and the shipment of systems to US forces in Korea has begun. Army and industry engineers teamed on this effort ot field the first units ahead of schedule.

The LPU systems were a one-time buy and they will be decommissioned along with the OV-1D aircraft, when replaced by Joint STARS.


Clearly, there is a lot of action in the GSM program. Successful development, production, fielding, sustainment and field-demonstration activities are occurring simultaneously.

Yet, as in any dynamic program, many challenges lie ahead of us. There is great confidence that the combined efforts of government and industry will succesfully handle all engineering goals and from my vantage point, I see no technical show stoppers.

COL Mendel S. Solomon is the program manager for the ground segment of the Joint Stars program, Ft. Monmouth, NJ.
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Title Annotation:the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System Ground Station Module
Author:Solomon, Mendel, S.
Publication:Journal of Electronic Defense
Date:Oct 1, 1990
Previous Article:An open systems architecture for Army IEW systems.
Next Article:The integrated systems approach to US Army aviation electronic combat.

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