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Keeping aircraft in the fight

Keeping Aircraft in the Air


U.S. Army aviation faces a diverse threat environment, spanning broad categories of threats from ballistic munitions and guided missiles to directed energy and cyber weapons. It also spans generations of technology, ranging from constantly evolving sophisticated systems to widely proliferated legacy equipment. The modern threat environment presents both a technical challenge and a moving target to Army aviation. Historically, the science and technology (S&T) community has played an important role in developing advanced technologies to outpace the evolution of the threat. In an increasingly challenging threat environment, S&T is now even more critical.

This has driven the S&T community not only to begin developing nontraditional technologies for advanced protection, but also to establish new practices and processes to evaluate them. In May 2016, the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC) and the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center (AMRDEC) jointly formed an advanced protection working group to answer key questions for Army aviation. In its first year, the goal of the advanced protection working group was to identify the best technologies to protect the future force. The working group began its analysis from the fundamental premise that there is no “silver bullet” technology capable of addressing all future threats and operational scenarios. Instead, the solution for future aircraft survivability would be a range of technologies to avoid, detect and defeat the emerging threat. This group would identify that solution.

CERDEC and AMRDEC structured the working group to include both breadth and depth of technical knowledge, as well as to engage with the intelligence, requirements and acquisition communities. The core team of the working group was responsible for performing technical analysis and developing the group’s recommendations. The team was composed of technical experts from within CERDEC and AMRDEC, as well as from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, the U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, the Institute for Defense Analyses and Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory. The core team also regularly consulted with subject matter experts (SMEs) from other government and academic organizations, such as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Air Force Research Laboratory. To ensure that the technical analysis was performed in the broader context and to facilitate engagement with the stakeholder community, the group also included representatives from the intelligence, requirements and acquisition communities.

The advanced protection working group began by adapting proven system engineering processes that are measurable and repeatable into a standardized method to evaluate technology. The group used this method to determine the performance of technologies with respect to classes of threats rather than with respect to any individual threat. This approach was intentionally designed to identify technologies whose capabilities span multiple threats and provide broad protection.

To ensure that all technical options were considered, the working group performed market research, conducted technology surveys and initiated discussions with SMEs. The working group initially identified 160 technologies; after review, it narrowed this list to 70 unique technologies for formal evaluation. These technologies include advanced sensors, defensive electronic attack capabilities and signature reduction technologies. A quantitative methodology enabled the working group to perform sensitivity analysis and assess the specific benefits and risks associated with each potential technology.


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