Given the sensors’ technological progress, the European military forces may encounter potential adversaries capable of obtaining a robust situational awareness by using advanced active and passive sensor capabilities, able to accurately locate and identify forces and their sensors in the three-dimensional battlespace (land, sea and air). For efficient Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) missions, armed forces therefore need to have sensors that reliably allow detection, classification and tracking of targets while being themselves difficult to detect, track and intercept. The capability to sense covertly allows unhindered operation without exposing location and identity to the enemy surveillance activities, thus lowering the vulnerability of own forces and conferring a key advantage in military conflicts.
In the modern operational environment, there are targets with properties resulting in low probability of detection, due to their low signature or manoeuvring characteristics (very fast or very slow, up to hovering). Targets can also be difficult to detect due to the operation conditions (such as in urban scenarios, under foliage, underground or underwater operation or operating at low altitude) leading to strong clutter or a degraded visual environment. Recent advances in computing power, digital data and signal processing, together with the drastic reduction of size, weight and overall dimensions of equipment due to the advancement of microelectronics technology, have paved the way for better sensors, with increased sensitivity and better detection characteristics.
Examples of use-cases, where covert sensing of difficult targets is of particular importance include:
- counter-battery fire;
- detection of sea surface targets (drones, periscopes, wooden boats, communication buoys…)
- air defence and detection, recognition, identification and tracking of aerial targets (including low flying, slow, small drones);
- detection of fast manoeuvring and fast-moving targets with up to hypersonic speeds, like tactical ballistic missiles and anti-ship missiles;
Modern surveillance sensors have to comply with operational requirements such as:
- To provide steady and reliable surveillance (detection, tracking, classification, identification), at various environmental conditions – for all battlespace dimensions, with guaranteed low probability of false alarms
- To detect and track targets that are difficult to detect in complex environments, like rural, coastal and mountainous areas with complex relief, semi-urban and urban environments, etc.
- To operate covertly, exhibiting low (for passive sensors) or reduced (for active sensors) signature to enemy counter- intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) assets, thus reducing the possibility of being intercepted and countered,
- To be capable of supporting target acquisition in all mission phases and to support target engagement on the move, in particular by continuing interpretation and processing of data while the sensor and / or the target are moving or changing position.
- To have improve sustainability under harsh operational conditions in full battlespace dimensions (sea, air and land)
- To provide robustness in contested environments, with scenarios that are becoming more and more dynamic with highly agile targets.
- To be able to be integrated in various types of static and moving platforms (ground- based, shipborne, airborne, space-based), both manned and unmanned;
Covert sensing concepts can in principle include:
- Passive sensors that are less traceable and are hard to target and
- Active sensors with very low probability of intercept, in particular when used in specific configuration (multi-static configurations…)
Such sensors can be based on different types of physical phenomena (to detect different electromagnetic wavelength, acoustic waves, photons…) and on different working principle.
To use the advantage of a multi-sensor and multi-spectral approach, the sensors may need to be integrated into a network of multiple heterogeneous sensors and provide data that can be merged with data from other sources.
This topic aims at enhancing detection performance (such as range, sensitivity, resolution) of sensor systems to detect low signature targets, in the modern three-dimensional operational environment while maintaining covert operation, without exposing presence, identity and location. It encompasses innovative concepts of sensor use, in particular the combination of multiple, heterogeneous sensors, potentially on different platforms.
Considered sensors may be electro-optical/infrared, radiofrequency and/or acoustic sensors, not excluding innovative sensor concepts. They must be passive or low-observable active. The topic covers the enhancement of individual sensors as well as their interplay.
The sensors’ integration and interoperability with other sensors (networks) and connection to battlefield management systems must be addressed, e.g., through standardized data formats and interfaces or data processing (up to data fusion) on the sensor level.
Proposals should address the optimization of available sensor resources in order to achieve optimum surveillance results. Proposals should also address aspects of efficient data exploitation and data fusion close to the data source.
The following tasks may be performed as part of the optional activities of the project:
– Generating knowledge:
- Research on low-signature active sensors as well as very high sensitivity passive sensors
- Activities aiming at improving the ability of sensors to operate in difficult conditions
– Integrating knowledge:
- Activities aiming at improving communication and connection between sensors
Among other tasks that the applicants deem necessary, the following tasks must be performed as part of the mandatory activities of the project:
- Definition of relevant targets and operational conditions
- Definition of performance evaluation techniques and parameters for detection and classification solutions.
- Study and modelling of relevant signatures of targets and of complex environments, e.g., rural, coastal and mountainous areas with complex reliefs, semi-urban and urban environments, etc., and under different weather conditions.
- Study on enhancing performance robustness when dealing with different platform dynamics, stability, and manoeuvring conditions, different targets and environments.
- Study of data fusion techniques for improving detection and classification performances in different sensors configurations
- Study on interfaces and data exchange formats to provide efficient data fusion and exploitation, taking into account standards used by the EU Member States and Norway armed forces.
- Design of a system of passive or low-observable active sensors to detect targets of interest
- Demonstration of the performance of the system in a simulated environment, if possible, including real data where relevant to improve modelling and demonstration
- Demonstration of the performance of the system in a laboratory environment
Proposals should address technologies and solutions that:
- significantly increase detection performance with respect to new and challenging targets in harsh operational environment;
- significantly increase performance robustness against changes of the environment and the target characteristics;
- Are adaptable to different and complex scenarios (e.g., electromagnetically congested, dynamic, with degraded visibility and rapidly changing), enabling multi-mission and multi-platform applications (maritime, land and air);
- have reduced size, weight and power consumption, for scalable integration on differently sized manned or unmanned platforms;
- Are compatible with modular and scalable architectures;
- Are compatible with multi-sensor and multi-spectral approaches;
- Ensure interoperability with other systems by providing standardized interfaces and data exchange formats used by the EU Member States and Norway armed forces;
- simulate and automatically configure sensor configurations to carry out data fusion while optimizing the available resources and achieving the optimum surveillance results;
- Allow efficient exploitation and data fusion from multiple static or deployed sensors;
- are capable of executing data processing and analytics close to the data source to decrease the capacity needs to transfer sensor data;
- New knowledge in the field of covert sensors, sensor systems and their interplay, thereby strengthening the European technological and industrial base.
- Future EU critical land, naval and air ISTAR capabilities in highly dynamic scenarios, especially regarding challenging targets, increasing situational awareness, early warning, decision making and action planning capabilities.
- State of the art, covert sensing capability that increases survivability of units/platforms
- Increase of interoperability and efficient use of sensor systems thereby facilitating joint operations among armed forces of the EU Member States and Norway.