News 1998 Army Science and Technology Master Plan

17. Sensors

The topic of sensors encompasses a wide range of diverse physical phenomena and technology, including seismic/acoustic ground sensors and EM sensors in all regions of the spectrum from extremely low frequency magnetic anomaly detection to space–based UV and even shorter wave optical devices. As defined in the ASTMP, sensor technologies also include associated capabilities for acquiring and processing sensor data to derive useful information regarding operating environment and the location and identity and activities of friendly and adversary forces. Table E–20 below summarizes capabilities in areas of sensor technology identified in Volume I, Chapter IV of the ASTMP.

Table E–20.  International Research Capabilities—Sensors


United Kingdom




Asia/Pacific Rim


Other Countries

Radar Sensors 5s.gif (958 bytes) 4s.gif (949 bytes) Optical switching of microwave power 5s.gif (958 bytes) 1s.gif (931 bytes) Electronic components      
Electro–Optic Sensors 5s.gif (958 bytes) Optical processing 1s.gif (931 bytes) IR FPA; laser sensors; multidomain sensors   1s.gif (931 bytes) Photonic devices; laser applications     Netherlands

5s.gif (958 bytes)

Acoustic, Magnetic, & Seismic Sensors 1s.gif (931 bytes) Acoustic sensors

2s.gif (968 bytes) Seismic

5s.gif (958 bytes) Seismic         Israel

2s.gif (968 bytes) Acoustic sensors

Automatic Target Recognition Sensors 2s.gif (968 bytes) Signal processing; combat ID 2s.gif (968 bytes) Signal processing; combat ID 2s.gif (968 bytes) Combat ID; signal processing 4s.gif (949 bytes) Signal & image processing     Israel

2s.gif (968 bytes) Target recognition; signal processing

Integrated Platform Electronics 2s.gif (968 bytes) Vehicle integration 2s.gif (968 bytes) Multisensor integration 2s.gif (968 bytes) Vehicle integration        
Note: See Annex E, Section A.6 for explanation of key numerals.


a. Radar Sensors

Radar is the primary sensor for all–weather detection of air, ground, and subsurface targets. It includes wide area surveillance radars, tactical reconnaissance radars, and airborne and ground fire control radars. Areas of special interest involve the phenomenology of UWB SAR to enable detection and classification of stationary targets that are subsurface or concealed by foliage or camouflage. Foliage penetration and ground penetration systems are the major goal. Major technical challenges include understanding wave propagation in background/clutter environments, development of high–power, low–frequency, and wideband system capability, and development of components and algorithms to support high–probability detection and classification with low false alarm rates. Specific technical issues relate to:

Real beam search on–the–move targeting against stationary ground targets
Buried target detection
Enhanced spatial resolution
MMW antennas and scanning.

Affordability is a major issue for all sensors because they are so prevalent on the battlefield.

The United States has traditionally enjoyed a strong lead in military radar systems, particularly in the area of electronically steerable phased array radars. The United Kingdom, France, and Germany, and to a lesser extent, Japan and Israel all have significant capabilities and niches of excellence. Noteworthy highlights include France’s expertise in optical distribution and switching of microwave energy, and Japan’s world leadership position in electronic components. MMIC components are especially important for MMW radars and the U.K., France, Germany, and Japan all have strong capabilities in this area of technology.

b. Electro–Optic Sensors

EO sensors provide passive/covert and active target acquisition (detection, classification, recognition, identification) of military targets and also allow military operations under all battlefield conditions. Platforms include combat personnel, ground combat and support vehicles, tactical rotary–wing aircraft, manned/unmanned reconnaissance aircraft, and ballistic missile defense (BMD)/theater missile defense.

Major technical challenges include:

Growth and processing of thin–film materials for uncooled detectors
Monolithic integration of detector, readout, and processing modules
Material growth and processing for multicolor FPAs
Fusion algorithms for multidomain sensors
Performance against countermeasures
Multidomain signature databases
Diffractive optical element (DOE) design
Integration of DOEs, detectors, and post–processing circuitry
Affordable and effective laser hardening against multifunction, multiband lasers.

EO sensors are playing an increasingly important role in weapons systems of all kinds. The U.S. is certainly a leader in most areas, however, other countries have significant capabilities that could be beneficial.

France is recognized as a world leader in state–of–the–art IR FPAs. Their work on HgCdTe large–area staring arrays could be important for future multidomain smart sensors. ARL and scientists from LETI (Grenoble, France) are cooperating to develop techniques to grow buffer layers on Si that would allow integration of the HgCdTe detectors and Si readout in much larger arrays. A new technique is being investigated that promises far lower defects for much larger arrays. France also has special capabilities in short wavelength (visible and UV) lasers that are very important for some optical countermeasures and standoff biological agent detection. Appropriate laser media are required to take full advantage of advances in laser diodes and diode pumping technologies. The Université de Lyon has special expertise in highly efficient laser emission and extensive knowledge of UV–emitting materials.

Japan is a world leader in all aspects of photonics and is strongly positioned in laser applications. Their CC&D technology dominates consumer electronics and may provide leveraging opportunities in the future for military applications. Germany has made significant progress in processing IR images and in multisensor integration. At the Fraunkofer Institute in Freiburg, considerable research efforts are conducted in quantum well and superlattice materials for detectors spanning the spectral region from UV to long–wave IR.

The U.K. has special expertise in optical processing, optical components, and optoelectronics. Photonic processors using this technology offer inherently high bandwidth, compactness, power efficiency, and immunity to EM interference. The noninterfering nature of light and its propagation characteristics lend themselves to future massively parallel, high–speed information processing. Finally, the Netherlands has special capabilities in third–generation image intensification that could be of value.

c. Acoustic, Magnetic, and Seismic Sensors

Acoustic, magnetic, and seismic sensors provide real–time tracking and target identification for a variety of battlefield ground and air targets. Advances in digital signal processing devices and algorithms have lead to significant improvements in acoustic sensors making them more feasible and affordable. Attended and unattended systems are of interest and find application against both continuous signals (such as engine noise) and impulsive signals (such as gun shots). Acoustic sensors involve the use of microphone arrays to detect, locate, track, and identify air and ground targets at tactical ranges. Target information from multiple acoustic sensor arrays is digitally transmitted to a remote central location for real–time battlefield monitoring. Enhanced hearing for individual soldiers is another important area and techniques to extend the soldier’s long–range hearing and frequency response are being developed.

Technical challenges include:

Advanced target identification algorithms
Multitarget resolution
Platform and wind noise reduction techniques
Compact array design for long–range hearing.

Most modern armies have some ongoing work in battlefield acoustic sensors, with no one country having a dominant capability. The U.K. and France offer strong capabilities related to seismic sensors and Israel provides unique opportunities in acoustic sensors. Current efforts in acoustics include adaptive beamforming algorithms, sound cancellation techniques, and neural network algorithms for target identification. Israel has been developing advanced helicopter detection, sniper, and mortar location systems based on acoustic sensing. The United States has been conducting joint exercises with the Israeli Army and future cooperation will provide potential solutions to acoustic propagation problems, long–range target detection algorithms, and detection in the presence of wind and platform noise.

d. Automatic Target Recognition Sensors

The goal of ATR is to provide sensors with the capability to recognize and identify targets under real–world battlefield conditions. ATR systems will allow weapons systems to automatically identify targets (and friendly forces), which will increase lethality, reduce the number of costly weapons used, and eliminate or reduce the cost and tragedy of losses from friendly fire. The technical challenge is to provide high identification rates with very few false alarms for a large number of target classes. Supporting technologies include processors, algorithms, and development tools, including M&S. Current efforts focus on single and multiple sensor ATR algorithm development.

Most countries have active development programs aimed at enhancing ATR capabilities. Underlying feature extraction and pattern recognition algorithms are common topics of academic research. Adaptation of these algorithms for effective military use demands access to specific target and threat characteristics, information that is closely held by all nations to protect sensitive collection methods and sources. Several areas are of special interest for possible cooperative efforts. Japan has done extensive work in visual systems for industrial robots and in Kanji character recognition. While not directed to military ends, the underlying techniques may be of interest. The U.K., France, and Germany all have strong capabilities in signal processing for ATR and combat ID, and are close enough allies to share some sensitive target/threat information. Germany has particular expertise in combat identification of friendly troops that is very important for reducing fratricide and improving situational awareness. The laser technology being pursued by Germany is of special interest. France has special expertise in ATR algorithms for use in multisensor (forward–looking IR, MMW, and possibly laser radar) systems that could be helpful in developing real–time multisensor techniques. In addition, Israel has strong capabilities in target characterization that could be applicable to a number of efforts, including signature measurements in radar/MMW, signature rendering in the visual and IR, and target acquisition modeling for imaging IR sensors. The United States has held a cooperative Signature Work Shop with Israel that covered a number of areas associated with ATR. This included topics on characterization of target/clutter, synthetic scene generation modeling, as well as target acquisition model enhancement, dynamic measurements using super high–resolution MMW, and model validation.

e. Integrated Platform Electronics

Integrated platform electronics (IPE) focuses on the integration technologies, disciplines, standards, tools, and components to physically and functionally integrate and fully exploit electronic systems on airborne, (helicopters, remotely piloted vehicle (RPV), and fixed wing), ground, and human platforms. IPE can result in dramatic cost and weight savings while providing full mission capability. The major technical challenge lies in determining an architecture that is sufficiently robust to readily accept technology commercial innovations. Improving reliability is always an important challenge that can lead to reduced logistics and deployment burdens while containing support costs. In addition, standardized image compression techniques and architectures are of current interest to permit transfer of images with sufficient clarity and update rates to support digitization of the battlefield.

Cooperation in this area leads not only to enhanced performance but also contributes to standardization and interoperability of coalition forces. As one would expect, those countries most advanced in development and production of advanced military vehicles offer the best potential for cooperative efforts. The U.K. and Germany have special capabilities in vehicle integration that is of interest and France has special expertise in multisensor integration that is relevant to IPE.

AMC POC: Dr. Rodney Smith
Army Materiel Command
5001 Eisenhower Blvd.
Alexandria, VA 22333–0001
e–mail: [email protected]

IPOC: Mr. Stephen Cohn
Army Research Laboratory
2800 Powder Mill Road
Adelphi, MD 20783–1197
e–mail: [email protected]

For ATR sensors:

IPOC: Mr. Richard Pei
Ft. Monmouth, NJ 07703
e–mail: [email protected]

For rotorcraft integrated electronics (IPE):

IPOC: Mr. Dennis Earley
St. Louis, MO 63120–1798
e–mail: [email protected]

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