Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division
Public Affairs Department
Telephone (China Lake) 760-939-3511, Fax 760-939-2056
Telephone (Point Mugu) 805-989-8096/1436, Fax 805-989-1785 16 June, 2000


Actual terrain imagery data-linked from an F/A-18D to the Marine Corp Tactical Exploitation Group (TEG) ground site using the Advanced Tactical Airborne Reconnaissance System (ATARS).        
Images data-linked from an Advanced Tactical Airborne Reconnaissance System (ATARS) equipped F/A-18D during recent testing at the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division China Lake Land Ranges were clear and precise. ATARS images were acquired in flight and subsequently data-linked to the Marine Corps Tactical Exploitation Group (TEG) where they were viewed by members of the ATARS and TEG test engineer teams.

ATARS in conjunction with a radar upgrade, gives the F/A-18D an all-weather reconnaissance capability that other tactical reconnaissance systems don't have. "We're looking forward to honing ATARS capabilities with our present testing phase as we head to OPEVAL of the ATARS Data Link system," explained David Ferrucci, of F/A-18's tactical reconnaissance program team, at the Advanced Weapons Laboratory, (AWL).

"This period of testing is directed at optimizing the ATARS Data Link capability and fixing any anomalies found with this mode of operation," continued Ferrucci.

ATARS project aircrew Major Michael "Dazey" Dukes talked about the team's accomplishments, "The whole team has been working really hard getting the Data Link capability worked out. Data Link gives us the flexibility to continue to collect imagery over the battlefield and pass the imagery back to the intel cell where it can be exploited. With the success of Data Link we have the most versatile and capable manned tactical reconnaissance system in the world."
Tactical Exploitation Group set up outside the Advanced Weapons Laboratory at the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, China Lake, Calif.
The Tactical Exploitation Group (TEG) is a ground-based imagery processing station being procured for the United States Marine Corps and is at China Lake to support ongoing ATARS testing. The TEG system consists of three Humvees with trailers and a tactical shelter that are connected together into a single unit. The ATARS and TEG teams have configured the TEG into a field-ready mode for further acceptance testing.

TEG testing follows the United States Marine Corps successfully putting the day/night, all-weather reconnaissance system to use on an ATARS-equipped F/A-18D as part of its contribution to the air war during the Kosovo conflict.

"During this testing phase, we are checking the function of the ATARS Data Link pod. Our goal is clean imagery from the aircraft linked back to the TEG," said Budd Woitte a Lockheed Martin member of the military/civilian/contractor test team. "And we have seen excellent imagery during these tests," Woitte continued.
ATARS test flight prior to deploying to Kosovo.
"ATARS has already proven itself operationally in Kosovo, and this successful data link of imagery gives the Marine Corps a superb tactical reconnaissance platform and a tremendous force multiplier. The project team here at China Lake has done great work in bringing this capability together," said Col. Marc Freitas, Commanding Officer, Marine Aviation Detachment, China Lake.

The aircrew collects reconnaissance imagery using ATARS. The aircrew can then send all imagery collected, or choose specific tactical images such as a potential target to transmit. The TEG system has a data link antenna associated with it that enables the TEG to receive collected imagery from airborne platforms via RF link. The TEG can also process archived imagery from a 19mm tape format.

This tactical information is then studied by Imagery Analysts who annotate what types of information they have found in the imagery (military targets, key terrain features, key cultural areas, etc.) on both the image itself and in notes they keep with the archived imagery. This information (annotated imagery and notes) is forwarded up to the planning cell who then determines how and where the campaign will progress.

Major Michael Dukes checks ATARS equipment prior to test flight.
"This tactical information can be used by both the ground and air commanders," Dukes added. "The fact we can relay the imagery to a ground station from over a hundred and fifty miles away gives the information a better chance to make a difference on a battlefield." According to AWL ATARS Team Lead Dave Ferrucci, the ATARS success is due to an outstanding civilian/military/contractor team, together with Lockheed Martin and Boeing which developed the ATARS system.

"The military/civilian team here at China Lake has had substantial input into the software design of the ATARS system as it related to the F/A-18's operation flight programs. The team has a high degree of knowledge on how the aircraft software actually functions and what the aircrew and imagery analysts want and need from the system," said Ferrucci.

"As testing continues, we plan to introduce an upgraded Reconnaissance Management Set (RMS) software Operational Flight Program (OFP) which contains several Data Link improvements during June. This OFP will be tested in both the AWL labs and in flight through August with both test assets data linking reconnaissance imagery to the TEG."

Reviewed and approved for public release by NAWCWD PAO Tue Jun 20 15:58:28 PDT 2000