USAF seeks proposals for directed energy weapons to protect bases from sUAS attacks


The US Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Architecture and Integration Directorate, (AFLCMC/XA) is conducting market research of Counter Unmanned Aerial Systems (C-UAS) capabilities related to rapidly evolving and emerging requirements. AFLCMC/XA seeks to better characterize the technological, manufacturing, and performance capabilities of the industrial base to develop and produce upgrades to DE prototypes and related C-UAS subsystems, and enabling relevant engineering efforts. AFLCMC/XA will use this information to inform its trade space analysis of solutions for engagement and mission level modeling and simulation and program cost estimates for potential further technical maturation of the DE C-UAS systems.


The scope of the technology areas below are to research the industrial base for C-UAS capabilities related to fixed-site United States Air Force (USAF) Air Base Air Defense (ABAD) against potential Group 1 and 2 UAS threats. These threats may have characteristics such as small size, low radar cross sections, low infrared or Radio Frequency (RF) signatures (or no RF signatures), ability to hover, and low altitude flight capability which may render them difficult to detect and/or defeat. Additionally, these UAS are typically either controlled remotely from a ground control station or capable of flying preplanned routes. Recent and pending procurements of Directed Energy (DE) C-UAS weapons require even further development and improvement, including connected and related but not limited to subsystems such as C2 suites, radar, and electronic warfare – hence driving this RFI. Ultimately, the technology areas listed below, and respondent whitepapers, should address capabilities that will provide C-UAS “Kill Chain” (Detect/Track/ID/Defeat/Exploit) improvement – either with improved technology, reduced kill chain timeframes, and/or operational user enrichment to support the mission.


This effort is intended to be an iterative improvement to a current DE C-UAS system (High

Power Microwave (HPM) or High Energy Laser (HEL)) that will support an increase in capability, usability, and/or robustness. This solution can be hardware, software, or a combination. The period of performance of the potential effort will be no longer than 12 months. AFLCMC/XA is seeking capability statements (white papers), of no more than 10 pages, from all interested parties. Specific areas of interest include, but are not limited to:


Increased HEL Lethality

Increase HEL prototype power on target performance, for the purpose of increasing HEL lethality against UAS. Expectations are to increase fluence on target, through whatever means necessary in order to increase irradiance over time. Any increased Power in Bucket (PiB) should account for all subsystems affected – thermal, battery, source power, optical components, and related. System improvements may include adding laser amp modules, adaptive optics, larger aperture size, improve beam quality, and improve lethality over distance – as examples. Optimize the system to improve the beam quality of the overall system. Increasing the usable aperture diameter and optimizing beam quality will significantly improve performance of the system and minimize the power/cooling requirements of the system. Increasing HEL power is usually not a linear improvement in performance or PIB and may reduce magazine depth and may increase additional cooling/power subsystems to be added to the system – all factors that the task should analyze and include in scope.


Increased HPM Lethality

Increase HPM power on target performance, for the purpose of increasing HPM lethality against UAS. Expectations are to increase power density on target, through whatever means necessary in order to increase the probability of UAS hard kill. Any increased power density should account for all subsystems affected – HPM source, antenna, beam forming and control, weapon accuracy/precision, power generation, cooling – as examples. Optimize the beam to affect either all UAS or certain types of physical UAS in the time domain, or in the frequency domain. All factors relating to potential higher probability of hard kill of UAS should be considered as part of this task scope.


Optical Performance

Increase optical performance in order to extend tracking targeting, and identifying capabilities, as well as aimpoint maintenance during HEL operations. Expectations are that potential COTS EO/IR components and optics (zoom lenses, etc.) can be integrated in order to increase overall Directed Energy Weapon (DEW) capability vs. UAS target sets. Examples could be drop-in or minimal intrusive EO/IR sensor or optics, upgrades of COTS components, optics that are capable of withstanding dazzle or laser blinding devices, and/or optimization of sensor/lens equipment to increase overall UAS detection/tracking capabilities, as well as ISR usage scenarios.


DEW Automation

Reduce DEW operator workload by implementing automation, in order to facilitate reduction in kill chain timeframes. Expectations include, but not are limited to; manual tasks such as target identification, slew-to-cue of target tracks as received by the DEW, zoom/focus (including zoom and focus to range of received tracks), and aimpoint selection are automated such that the operator’s workload is reduced to a PID of target and command to fire. At a minimum, the ideal configuration is for an HEL system to have its beam director/optics automate all steps between acquisition, tracking, aimpoint selection, and only requires a human to interact with it through final approval to fire from operator/battle commander. This task could include endeavors towards automated detection and tracking, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms providing automated target classification/identification and aimpoint selection. List subsystems and functions of the DEW that are critical to DEW operation and function and cannot be substituted, versus what components may be leveraged in a networked configuration.


Airspace Surveillance / De-confliction

Integrate a DEW with existing C2, C3, or C4I network feeds in order to display and enable de-confliction with friendly or neutral assets in no-fire zones based on incoming data feeds that include other airborne assets (such as ATC radar, air surveillance radar, ADS-B, IFF, Link-11, Link-16, IBS, etc.).


User Interface (UI) Standardization

Increase standardization of DEW operator interface(s) and external interface(s) to related C2/C3 applications (FAAD C2, Medusa, ABMS et al), along with relevant subsystems. Using guidance such as MIL-STD-2525 for symbology and commercial UI innovation, improve the operator interface(s) to provide for commonality of related military systems and further ease of training and familiarization of operators and support personnel. Utilize human factors engineering principles and guidance/references (e.g. MIL-STD-1472) to also improve operator workload as well as decreasing the time required to perform tasks on the DEW user interface(s) due to the typical short C-UAS timeline to act.


Threat Report Generation

Integrate a threat track report generation capability as part of a DEW system (operator interface). Consider sending threat UAS and engagement details (range, azimuth, elevation, lat/long/alt, ID information, etc.) captured by the DEW, able to be sent across C2/C3/C4I networks or data links in an automated or semi-automated manner, allowing critical information sharing for the C-UAS mission. Reporting standards such as 9-line messages and Link-16 protocols (utilizing MIL-STD-6016) are candidate examples of DEW threat track report generation improvements.


Improve DEW Effectiveness

Improve FAAD and/or Medusa C2 usability of DEW functionalities, for additions that related to DEW effectiveness as a C-UAS weapon and also an ISR asset. DEWs should clearly specify what are the minimum and objective sensor data/track precision, completeness, and timeliness metrics required for DEW operation, which affects C2 network requirements. Research current FAAD and/or Medusa documentation and analyze what elements could be modified/improved in order to coordinate multiservice activities related to DEWs and related subsystems. List subsystems and functions of the DEW that are critical to DEW operation and function and cannot be substituted, versus what components may be leveraged in a networked configuration.


FAAD/Medusa upgrades for DEW

Improve C2 usability of DEW functionalities, for additions that related to DEW effectiveness as a C-UAS weapon and also an ISR asset. Implement improvement activities for what elements could be modified/improved in order to coordinate multiservice activities related to DEWs and related subsystems. Generate either generic DEW (HEL/HPM) system messages that could be implemented by current or future systems, increasing flexibility into FAAD and/or Medusa capability with respect to DEWs. Research and implement any system-specific DEW capabilities, as well as any more generic DEW features.


Weather Instrumentation

Measure the local atmosphere near the DEW in near real-time (out to at least 2km, with the capabilities to estimate the beam transmission path beyond that), for atmospheric surveillance as well as to facilitate a HEL probability of effectiveness indicator. Examples include barometer and RH measurement, temperature, wind speed/direction, air pressure, scintillometer, and other beam transmission measurements (potentially resulting in power density propagation estimates at various engagement geometries). The end result shall support the generation of a confidence level of effectiveness for the DEW based on a nominal maximum effective range of the DEW under ideal conditions.


Weather messaging – FAAD and/or Medusa

Provide Medusa message sets that involve weather instrumentation/data elements. Improve/upgrade FAAD WES message 922 to populate weather data and send to FAAD C2 (define and populate Growth bits in this message), in conjunction with Weather Instrumentation task effort. The end result shall support the generation of a confidence level of effectiveness for the DEW based on a nominal maximum effective range of the DEW under ideal conditions. Additionally, the message should be populated in order to convey that information to the C2 element.


Ingesting/utilizing produced weather data

Integrate AFIT Weather Cube data and other modeled Weather data from other outside elements (1-7 days in the future) in order to help define DEW effectiveness and subsequent FPCON-type assignment decisions. Consider both connected and disconnected transmission options, and based on potential security implications (i.e. DEW may be SECRET and weather data unclassified/CUI). The end result shall support the generation of a confidence level of effectiveness for the DEW based on a nominal maximum effective range of the DEW under ideal conditions.


Interested Parties are requested to respond to this RFI with a white paper in Microsoft Office or Adobe Acrobat (PDF) format. White papers are due no later than noon (12pm) Eastern Daylight Time 17 Nov 2020.


For more information

https://beta.sam.gov/opp/268232d7a68a4d6ea93ca2a50f4f6a8f/view?index=opp&sort=-modifiedDate&page=1&keywords=UAS&date_filter_index=0&inactive_filter_values=false

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