ADVANCED TACTICAL AIRBORNE RECONNAISSANCE SYSTEM (ATARS)
SUCCESSFULLY DATA LINKS FIELD-READY IMAGERY
|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).|
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.|
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.|
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.|
"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."