ESC logo




By Roy Heitman
ESC Public Affairs

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. (Nov. 6, 1997) -- Just as the threats to military people and assets have changed, so have the methods of detecting them in the 20 years since Col. Russell N. Peter was first assigned to Hanscom.

Now director of one of Electronic Systems Center’s newest program offices, Peter is charged with replacing some of the systems he helped installed when he was worked here as a captain.

"In the past most of the effort has been to protect weapons storage areas or high value areas," Peter said. "While that is still important, we are concentrating on the risk to people. With terrorist activity becoming so common, we have to worry about truck bombs, for instance."

The new Force Protection Command and Control Systems program office is moving from the "stovepiped" systems of the past to truly integrated systems serving Air Force, joint and other federal agency customers. Many of these existed in the former Command and Control Systems Program office (AV) and are well on their way to completion.

Now the challenge is to integrate them to counter a wider range of threats. Instead of primarily serving the security forces community, the new program office is adding medical, civil engineers, intelligence, communication systems, logistics and Office of Special Investigations organizations to their customer base.

"In the past we would protect a high-value building, for instance, by fencing it off and controlling access," Peter said. "Maybe we would tighten security at base gates. Now we must think in terms of the area a mile or more outside the base fence because of the access terrorists have to small missiles or mortars.

"When we began to study this area, we found there were no sensors or intelligence gathering to fill this gap (outside a base). We ought to expand our eyes and ears beyond a base fence, and see if there are any technologies that can help us there."

The program office is working with Sandia National Laboratories where a system is being developed to gather information about the area up to a mile or more outside a base perimeter.

Program officials said increased awareness of what is happening in this "stand-off" area can lead to enhanced forced protection. With more threat warning, people and assets can be better protected from terrorists.

"Israel and Britain often face similar threats, so during our conferences with industry we ask about what these countries have to offer," Peter said.

"A base population is also a valuable security asset," Peter said. "They are aware of what is going on in the surrounding area and can report anything unusual.

To protect a vulnerable area, portable systems such as the Tactical Automated Security System, better known as TASS, could be installed in a few hours. For a long-term threat, the Force Protection Command and Control Systems program office would recommend a more permanent structure.

TASS has been installed at six sites in Southwest Asia, with another to follow.

Working with TASS and other systems in development, the program office has eight security force specialists assigned. The senior of these, Lt. Col. Richard Johnson, is chief of the office’s operations division.

"Having security policemen here gives us valuable experience in two directions," Johnson said. "Our people provide the acquisition folks with an operational perspective while we are able to take back to security forces knowledge of how the development and acquisition process works."

A number of people, security police, logisticians and acquisition specialists, have deployed to Southwest Asia to assist in the installation of TASS.

Using modeling and simulation technology, difficult large areas such as runways and flightlines can be better protected. MITRE has done some prototyping to show what can be done. Icons of a plane, for instance, can follow a normal takeoff pattern and overlays of weapons such as a surface to air missile will show areas where security is vulnerable.

"Modeling and simulation can show us where the threat zones are, so we know where we need to put more people or sensors," Peter said. He added that no specific systems fill this gap, but by combining things like unmanned aerial vehicles, satellites and other existing technologies, force protection needs can be filled.

The program office is also working on non-lethal weapons to apprehend intruders. Under development is a device called the Saber 203 that can quickly be inserted into an M-203 grenade launcher on an M-16 rifle projects a wide laser beam onto a person. Since it is highly visible, the intruder would realize he is in the sights of a security force member. The device can also be used like a flashing light that is powerful enough to temporarily impair vision and disorient a person.

Just coming out of development is the Advanced Entry Control System, managed by Capt. Jayanth Gummaraju. This will replace older systems and can be mated to intrusion detection systems such as fence alarms and would be used on special weapons storage facilities within the continental United States."

"It also provides a multi-level access control capability," Gummaraju said. "It uses three basic devices for access control: a magnetic credential, a personal identification number and a three dimensional hand geometry unit. This last sensor looks at people’s hands, all of which are unique."

Weight sensors at the entry point would prevent two people from using the same access credentials.

Force Protection will also investigate Intelligence Network Applications. MITRE is working with Electronic Systems Center’s Information Operations program office to see how the Deployable Wing Intelligence Capability system can be used in force protection.

"Our vision for this new program office is to be a world class leader in applying technology to force protection command and control systems for the safety, security and survivability of U.S. warfighting assets, warfighters and dependents worldwide," Peter said.

For more information, contact Roy Heitman via email- [email protected] or call at ESC's Office of Public Affairs - (617) 377-4466