Annex D. Space And Missile Defense Technologies
Army Science and Technology Master Plan (ASTMP 1997)

2. Sensors Directorate Technologies

The Sensors Directorate plans, formulates, and executes the Center’s exploratory research advanced technology developments, the technology validation of passive and active sensors, microelectronics, and discrimination concepts in support of the U.S. Army and BMDO, TMD, NMD, and Air Defense Initiative objectives. The Sensors Directorate also operates the Center’s sensor systems in support of TMD demonstration/validation (DEM/VAL) tests, NMD technology demonstrations, and joint forces integration exercises. Data collected provides weapon system performance validation, target signatures for algorithm development, and event characterization. The Sensors technology programs emphasize, but are not limited to, optics, radar, ladar, discrimination, radiation hardening, and the AST.

Endo- and exoatmospheric missile defense regimes require sensors that cover both the infrared optical and radar spectra, as well as uniting the two in a laser radar or ladar. Research and development of the following advanced components is ongoing:

Optics—National calibration standards, modeling, and improved hardened components are being developed.

Ladar—Small, lightweight, high performance laser components are under development for preplanned product improvement of the ground-based interceptor to provide smart interceptor capability.

High-Performance Microelectronics—Nonvolatile memories, static random access memories, analog-to-digital converters, and precision voltage references are being improved and hardened to withstand the rigors of space and nuclear weapon radiation.

A complementary sensor suite on a variety of platforms operated by the Directorate provides a full range of infrared, radar, visual, and interferometer/spectrometer coverage to meet user requirements.

Airborne Surveillance Testbed provides three-band long wave, infrared data at extended range and real-time data processing and handover.

High Altitude Learjet Observatory/Infrared Instrumentation System aircraft supports close-in imaging with the flexibility of accommodating different sensor configurations.

The Directorate also supports Army involvement in the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization’s Midcourse Space Experiment effort to demonstrate space-based sensor technologies and establish a sensor fusion database. The Theater Missile Defense Critical Measurements Program will acquire data and answer key phenomenology questions on threat-like TMD targets.

Data are predicted, simulated, collected, analyzed, interpreted, archived, and disseminated by the Sensors Directorate. Results are incorporated into algorithms and architectures used by the missile defense community.

Optical Signature Code is the standard for predicting and simulating target signatures and guiding analysis of results.

Optical Data Analysis Center brings together a host of expertise, software, and computer hardware to perform analyses of ballistic missile defense and theater missile defense data, show its utility to defense systems, and research advanced information technology applicable to missile defense.

Missile Defense Scientific and Technical Information Center serves as the central repository for Ballistic Missile Defense Organization test, measurement, and experiment data. It archives and disseminates data collected for national and theater missile defense requirements.


The Army tasked the U.S. Army Space and Strategic Defense Command to set up a joint-service project office to develop the Defense Department’s first priority element for defense against land attack cruise missiles. The Joint Aerostat Project Management Office for Cruise Missile Defense was set up in February 1996 by USASSDC MDSTC to develop an aerostat that can provide both surveillance and fire control for defense systems such as the Army’s Patriot PAC-3 and the Navy’s SM2 missile that can shoot down cruise missiles.

An aerostat is a large, unpowered balloon moored to the ground by a long cable. From its position above the battlefield, an aerostat-based sensor will allow incoming cruise missiles to be detected, tracked, and engaged by surface-based air defense systems even before the targets can be seen by the systems’ usual radars. Aerostats have several characteristics which may make them especially suited to cruise missile defense. They are less expensive to buy and operate than comparable fixed-wing aircraft. This makes them the most affordable alternative for achieving a near-term cruise missile defense. They can stay aloft up to 30 days at a time providing 24-hour per day coverage over extended areas.

The internal pressure of an aerostat is about the same as the exterior pressure. This makes them extremely difficult to shoot down. These balloons can absorb lots of punctures before they lose altitude. When they do, they come down so slowly that they can be reeled in, repaired easily, and sent right back up. In the long term, aerostats would complement fixed-wing aircraft performing a similar mission, and this will provide the United States more robust and flexible cruise missile defenses. Mooring systems for large aerostats covering major portions of a theater of operations would probably be relatively permanent. For short- or medium-range surveillance and fire control, aerostats would be smaller and the mooring systems could be transportable or ground mobile. Currently, the program plans to issue multiple concept definition contracts and then down-select to a single contractor for development. In parallel to the concept studies, an Army aerostat testbed has been established at Fort Bliss, Texas, using off-the-shelf equipment.

Space Applications

A Space Applications and Technology Office was established in 1995 to encourage leverage of space-related technologies off of work already ongoing or planned in the technical community to ensure state-of-the-art support for the warfighter. The office is working on sensors, communications technologies, unmanned aerial vehicle applications, compact radiation-hardened processors, intelligent processing, and control of space and is the lead agency on three of the Army’s top 200 science and technology objectives.

The Space Applications and Technology Office’s goal is to provide superior capabilities to the warfighter through the exploitation of space-related technologies. This office plays a vital role in ensuring that the Army warfighter has those state-of-the-art space-related capabilities available for use by leveraging billions of dollars off work already ongoing or planned in the technical community.

The office works in the areas of, but is not limited to, sensors, communications technologies, unmanned aerial vehicle applications, compact radiation hardened processors, intelligent processing, and space control.