Military commanders operating in today’s faster and more complex battlefield are seeking a multi-layered approach to situational awareness that provides big-picture intelligence, accurately identifies targets and speeds up decision-making.
Raytheon UK’s Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance hub in Broughton, Wales, is planning to use its world-leading expertise in end-to-end design, modification, build, certification and operation of special mission aircraft to develop multi-mission ISR solutions for both non-traditional and traditional ISR platforms.
These platforms are not dedicated to single sensors or single capabilities but instead overlay intelligence from multiple sensors to deliver a broader multi-layered mission picture.
The new direction for the Broughton site comes with the retirement of its signature programme, the Sentinel surveillance aircraft.
“We’re looking to widen our capabilities from being a mission system integrator of fixed-wing, manned aircraft platforms to being a capability system integrator across the full spectrum of ISR,” said Mark Hopkins, head of Strategy and Business Development for Raytheon UK’s Space & Airborne Systems business.
This capability portfolio would feature the following layers:
Satellite as a service
Firstly, Raytheon UK intends to offer "satellite as a service", whereby customers can buy electro-optical infrared and signals intelligence data about a specific area of ground from commercial satellite providers. The purchase would take place either through a brokerage with access to several providers or through a standalone service provider.
The UK already benefits from the strategic satellite capability it shares with the U.S. through Raytheon Intelligence & Space's Allied System for Geospatial Intelligence programme, through which it can access images.
"The commercial satellite world is growing exponentially which means customers get better information faster and cheaper," Hopkins said. "With the revisit rate improving dramatically, customers can get a refresh rate of 90 minutes in some parts of the world. It's the difference between looking at a particular part of the ocean versus an aircraft flying for several hours to survey a threat."
Manned air systems
The next layer is manned airborne platforms, ranging from a strategic model like the recently retired Sentinel Mk1 single-sensor platform to the multi-intelligence sensors capability Special Mission Aircraft Broughton is exploring through Raytheon Technologies. These aircraft will have a number of integrated ISR capabilities that include radar, electro-optical/infrared and electronic intelligence, allowing a single platform to use multiple sensors.
“The ISR approach that is taken depends on each customer’s individual needs. If they are trying to intercept global system for mobile communication phone transmissions, they may not opt to do this from a strategic platform because they need a slower and lower platform to do that effectively. Hence, we adopt a layered approach to ISR,” said Hopkins.
Remote unmanned air systems
The third layer, said Hopkins, is unmanned systems that range in size, from Global Hawk to Reaper and Protector remotely piloted air system aircraft, down to smaller unmanned aerial vehicles.
“These can be used to collect largely EO/IR type data imagery but also, in some cases SIGINT (signals intelligence),” Hopkins said. “The vision is to effectively layer all the elements mentioned, fuse all the bits of information available and send that to the customer.”
Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning
Raytheon UK is looking to exploit artificial intelligence and machine learning tools – an area where Raytheon Technologies excels – for its 2021 army warfighting experiment to showcase technologies of the future.
“Collecting data is worthless unless commanders have the ability to very quickly convert it into situational awareness for the battlespace,” said John Craib, a C4ISR business development and capture manager for Raytheon UK’s Space and Airborne Systems business.
Craib continued: “Artificial intelligence and machine learning speed up data exploitation and increase accuracy. But we still need humans in the loop to make a judgement on whether the collected data has value. Sifting through layers of data certainly needs some form of automated system that would enhance the products we can offer to customers.”
Combined Joint All Domain Command and Control, or CJADC2, is the U.S. Department of Defense’s vision for a future command and control network that will connect the battlespace across every domain – sea, air, land, space and cyber – giving military leaders the ability to make decisions faster. It will provide a seamless view of the battlefield – a common operating picture of intelligence in near real-time.
Raytheon Intelligence & Space, in collaboration with Raytheon Missiles & Defense, is bringing together capabilities to make that DoD vision a reality. They include strategic intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; secure communications; cybersecurity and battle management command and control.
In addition, the Air Force awarded RI&S an indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract valued up to $950 million for the Advanced Battle Management System in 2020. ABMS is the Air Force’s technology approach for CJADC2.
“Given that our company is contributing to the development of the Air Force’s ABMS, this helps position ourselves to help facilitate and pull this through to the UK MOD’s approach to a sixth-generation architecture,” said Craib.
A bright future
Paul Francis, Raytheon UK’s head of Space & Airborne Systems at Broughton, recalls Sentinel’s maiden flight in 2008 being a game-changing moment for ISR capability. He is excited about the next-generation ISR opportunities for Raytheon UK ahead.
“Our Sentinel capability has provided an exemplary, critical service to UK and coalition forces across a number of key operational theatres,” said Francis.
“Ideally, we will continue to harness this expertise by acting as a regional hub for servicing Raytheon Technologies’ products. Likewise, with all the elements of Raytheon Technologies’ end-to-end ISR cycle inventory accessible to us, we can be the prime conduit to customers fulfilling full-spectrum ISR capability.”