Re­con­nais­sance, Sur­veil­lance, Tar­get Ac­qui­si­tion and Pre­ci­sion Tech­nolo­gies

Tar­get ac­qui­si­tion is the de­tec­tion, iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and lo­ca­tion of a tar­get to such a de­gree that it can be ef­fec­tively neu­tralised or de­stroyed


Tar­get ac­qui­si­tion is the de­tec­tion, iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and lo­ca­tion of a tar­get to such a de­gree that it can be ef­fec­tively neu­tralised or de­stroyed

Lt Gen­eral Naresh Chand (Retd)

IN ITS EAR­LIER YEARS, ar­tillery guns fired di­rectly at the tar­gets due to limited range thus ac­qui­si­tion and en­gage­ment of tar­gets was easy but as the range of the guns in­creased, it was not pos­si­ble to aim at the tar­get from the gun end. Thus evolved the system of ob­ser­va­tion post of­fi­cers (OPs) who de­ployed ahead of the guns to a po­si­tion from where they could see the tar­get, cal­cu­late its po­si­tion from a map and pass the tar­get data to the gun end through a ra­dio or line or both. For ob­vi­ous rea­sons the de­ploy­ment had to be on own side of the bor­der or at a safe dis­tance. The bal­lis­tic data was then cal­cu­lated for the tar­get and the guns fired. OP of­fi­cer then cor­rected the fall of shot, ac­cu­racy of which was ef­fected by weather con­di­tions, ef­fect of grav­ity and zone of the gun. As the range of gun in­creased, it be­came more dif­fi­cult to see the tar­get by a ground OP which re­sulted in the em­ploy­ment of an air­borne OP which was named Air OP. Ear­lier the plat­form was a small fixed-wing air­craft and cur­rently they have ro­tary-wing air­craft. There were many de­vel­op­ments to im­prove tar­get ac­qui­si­tion at night by the use of night vi­sion de­vices, use of UAVS for ac­qui­si­tion and as­sess­ment of dam­age of dis­tant tar­gets, tech­nol­ogy to en­gage small tar­gets and mov­ing tar­gets, au­to­matic tar­get recog­ni­tion and tech­nolo­gies for pre­ci­sion en­gage­ment of tar­gets. The ad­vent of mis­siles in­clud­ing cruise mis­siles made tar­get destruc­tion, faster, and ac­cu­rate in all-weather con­di­tions. As usual the United States leads in all these tech­nol­ogy de­vel­op­ments.

This ar­ti­cle per­tains mainly to ar­tillery RSTA and pre­ci­sion tech­nolo­gies.

Re­con­nais­sance , Sur­veil­lance and Tar­get Ac­qui­si­tion (RSTA)

Tar­get ac­qui­si­tion is the de­tec­tion, iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and lo­ca­tion of a tar­get to such a de­gree that it can be ef­fec­tive neu­tralised or de­stroyed. But be­fore this process is ini­ti­ated there is a re­quire­ment to carry out RSTA. The RSTA sys­tems play an in­creas­ingly im­por­tant role pro­vid­ing armed forces with sit­u­a­tional aware­ness and tar­get ac­qui­si­tion. Elec­tro-op­tic in­frared, radar and laser sys­tems pro­vide the army with ex­cep­tional bat­tle­field ca­pa­bil­i­ties. These sys­tems are in­te­gral to the tar­get ac­qui­si­tion and re­con­nais­sance (ISTAR) ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the mod­ern mil­i­tary forces and seen as a crit­i­cal force mul­ti­plier. These sys­tems are mounted on ve­hi­cles to pro­vide them mo­bil­ity. The De­fense Ad­vanced Re­search Projects Agency’s (DARPA’s) con­tri­bu­tions to RSTA and pre­ci­sion guided mu­ni­tions (PGM) started in the 1960s work­ing on an ar­ray of tech­nolo­gies in­clud­ing lasers, elec­tro-op­ti­cal sen­sors, mi­cro­elec­tron­ics, data pro­ces­sors and radars which would even­tu­ally be­come crit­i­cal com­po­nents of the first pre­ci­sion sys­tems. PGMs are ideal for sur­gi­cal strikes. Some ex­am­ples of a few de­vel­op­ments in RSTA tech­nolo­gies by (DARPA are:

Im­prov­ing Po­si­tion, Nav­i­ga­tion, and

Tim­ing (PNT) With­out GPS. PNT is an es­sen­tial el­e­ment for the warfighter but PNT de­pends upon satel­lite sig­nals which is po­ten­tial vul­ner­a­ble. To over­come this, DARPA is de­vel­op­ing a fam­ily of highly pre­cise and ac­cu­rate nav­i­ga­tion and tim­ing tech­nolo­gies that can func­tion in case the GPS is jammed. Ad­vanced sen­sor and radar tech­nol

ogy. The ad­vance­ments in this field have made it pos­si­ble to de­tect small tar­gets, such as ar­moured ve­hi­cles in ad­verse weather con­di­tions or un­der cam­ou­flage. DARPA’s Jig­saw pro­gramme has de­vel­oped a 3D imag­ing laser radar able to de­tect ve­hi­cles masked by cam­ou­flage or fo­liage. Its fo­liage-pen­e­trat­ing RSTA and en­gage­ment radar en­able un­prece­dented de­tec­tion of tar­gets con­cealed by ob­sta­cles.This would be ideal for In­dia’s Anti-

Maoist op­er­a­tions in the eastern re­gion. Mono­lithic Mi­crowave In­te­grated Cir

cuit pro­gramme. Gal­lium ar­senide chips were de­vel­oped through this pro­gramme which also en­abled the RF and mil­lime­tre­wave cir­cuits needed in pre­ci­sion weapons. High-al­ti­tude LIDAR Op­er­a­tional

Ex­per­i­ment (HALOE). This system pro­vid­eds a very high qual­ity high-res­o­lu­tion 3D data, at a very fast rate and from much longer ranges. This was em­ployed in sup­port of US forces in Afghanistan.

Night into Day. From the be­gin­ning of war­fare, cover of dark­ness has al­ways put the de­fence forces at a dis­ad­van­tage. Start­ing with low-tech il­lu­mi­nat­ing flares, the sys­tems pro­gressed to so­phis­ti­cated im­age-in­ten­si­fi­ca­tion gog­gles that are able to am­plify very small parts of am­bi­ent light. While other re­search en­ti­ties have fo­cused on im­age in­ten­si­fiers that am­plify small amounts of vis­i­ble light, such as starlight, DARPA’s in­vest­ments have fo­cused pri­mar­ily on ther­mal imag­ing, which en­ables vi­sion un­der no-light con­di­tions by de­tect­ing ther­mal wave­lengths in or near the in­frared range. Highly heat-sen­si­tive im­agers can de­tect ad­ver­saries who are in cam­ou­flage dur­ing the day or night, and can de­ter­mine not just the pres­ence of a ve­hi­cle but whether it has been op­er­ated re­cently by de­tect­ing resid­ual en­gine heat. Sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ments in the field of cryo­geni­cally cooled, very-high­per­for­mance in­frared im­agers, which use chilled sen­sors to sup­press back­ground elec­tro­mag­netic noise and in­crease sen­si­tiv­ity to low-en­ergy sig­nals. DARPA is also de­vel­op­ing new pro­cess­ing tech­nolo­gies to fuse data from mul­ti­ple sen­sors ob­serv­ing mul­ti­ple ob­jects, and to au­to­mate the de­tec­tion of ob­jects and ac­tiv­i­ties of in­ter­est. To solve the prob­lem of iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of threats, work is go­ing on us­ing ad­vanced pat­tern anal­y­sis, dis­cov­ery and pre­dic­tion al­go­rithms, which hold the prom­ise of of­fer­ing en­hanced sup­port for time-sen­si­tive op­er­a­tions.


Thales was awarded con­tracts to de­sign and build system by com­bin­ing op­tron­ics sen­sor head and in­te­grated C2 which of­fers dis­cre­tion, pro­tec­tion, sur­viv­abil­ity and quick de­ploy­ment. It is an all-weather system with a re­tractable tele­scope mast. The op­tronic head in­te­grates com­pact ther­mal cam­era (CATHER­INE) which pro­vides high day/night per­for­mance. Thales’ ORS is meant for Ar­tillery of UAE. It is an ar­tillery for­ward ob­ser­va­tion and bat­tle­field sur­veil­lance system, with multi-sen­sor ca­pa­bil­i­ties (radar & op­tron­ics) mounted on a mast and fit­ted on M 113 ve­hi­cles.


Long-range Ad­vanced Scout Sur­veil­lance

System (LRAS3). The LRAS3 is a lon­grange multi-sen­sor system for the US Army scout, pro­vid­ing de­tec­tion in real-time, recog­nise, iden­tify and geo-lo­cate dis­tant tar­gets. The LRAS3 gives 24-hour ca­pa­bil­ity with the com­bi­na­tion of: For­ward-look­ing in­frared (FLIR) sen­sor, GPS, Eye­safe laser rangefinder and Day TV cam­era. It can be mounted on any high mo­bil­ity ve­hi­cle like the Stryker or a Humvee truck It can also be de­ployed dis­mounted. Long-range Scout Sur­veil­lance Sys

tem (eLRAS3). eLRAS3 is the next gen­er­a­tion long range scout sur­veil­lance system with third-gen­er­a­tion FLIR. eLRAS3 meets or ex­ceeds all LRAS3 re­quire­ments, with a 55 per cent re­duc­tion in sen­sor weight and vol­ume and is fully com­pat­i­ble with all ex­ist­ing LRAS3 plat­forms. TOW Im­proved Tar­get Ac­qui­si­tion Sys

tem (ITAS). The TOW, ITAS pro­vides a highly mo­bile, ad­verse weather, day or night ca­pa­bil­ity to counter ar­mour at greater stand­off ranges. ITAS in­creases tar­get de­tec­tion, ac­qui­si­tion, recog­ni­tion and en­gage­ment

ranges; fires all ver­sions of the TOW mis­sile from both the M41 ground launcher (dis­mount mode) and the M1121 high mo­bil­ity mul­ti­pur­pose wheeled ve­hi­cle plat­form.

Weapon Lo­cat­ing Radars (WLR). Lo­ca­tion of enemy’s and then carry out en­gage­ments to neu­tralise them is done by WLRs. In­dia has AN/TPS-37 and for shorter ranges a BEL made WLR. Thales Raytheon’s AN/TPQ-37 Radars. After the lift­ing of sanc­tions on In­dia dur­ing 2001, the US sold 12 AN/TPQ-37 Radars to In­dia un­der the FMS pro­gramme. The radars were in­te­grated on a Ta­tra truck. The Fire­finder (FF) AN/TPQ-37 is a mo­bile phased ar­ray radar which au­to­mat­i­cally lo­cates sin­gle or mul­ti­ple hos­tile ar­tillery and rocket launched weapons. The system then di­rects ef­fec­tive counter fire against the hos­tile weapon. The radar uses a com­bi­na­tion of radar tech­niques, com­puter con­trolled sig­nal pro­cess­ing, and au­to­matic height cor­rec­tion to de­tect, ver­ify and track the pro­jec­tiles in flight, and to au­to­mat­i­cally ex­trap­o­late both the fir­ing po­si­tion and the im­pact point. The AN/TPQ-37 is ca­pa­ble of first round de­tec­tion at ranges of 3 to 50 km, depen­dent on weapon type. BEL Weapon Lo­cat­ing Radar (WLR). This is also a mo­bile phased ar­ray radar de­vel­oped by In­dia. This counter-bat­tery radar is de­signed to de­tect and track in­com­ing ar­tillery and rocket fire to de­ter­mine the point of ori­gin for counter-bat­tery fire. The WLR has been jointly de­vel­oped by the De­fence Re­seach and De­vel­op­ment Or­gan­i­sa­tion’s (DRDO) Ben­galuru-based lab­o­ra­tory, LRDE and the Gov­ern­ment owned Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL). It has a range for ar­tillery 2-30 km, for rock­ets 4-40 km and mor­tars 2-20 km.

CO­BRA of Ger­many. The CO­BRA (counter bat­tery radar) is also a phased ar­ray radar which can lo­cate mor­tars, rocket launch­ers and ar­tillery bat­ter­ies and to pro­vide in­for­ma­tion for coun­ter­ing them. Has a de­tec­tion range of 40 km and is ca­pa­ble of lo­cat­ing and clas­si­fy­ing up to 40 bat­ter­ies in two min­utes. UAVs Size of UAVs de­pends upon whether it is em­ployed at pla­toon/com­pany/bat­tal­ion or bri­gade level.

AeroViron­ment’s RQ11BRaven. This is a light­weight tac­ti­cal UAV, weigh­ing 1.9 kg, which pro­vides aerial ob­ser­va­tion, by day or night, at line-of-sight ranges of 10 km or more and pro­vides real-time colour or IR im­agery to ground con­trol and re­mote view­ing sta­tions, as well as IR laser il­lu­mi­na­tion of ground tar­gets. AAI (an op­er­at­ing unit of Tex­tron Sys­tems) Shadow®. The Shadow® is des­ig­nated as the RQ-7B in US and op­er­ates at bri­gade level. It has range up to 125 km. RQ-7B trans­mits im­agery and teleme­try data di­rectly to the Joint Sur­veil­lance and Tar­get At­tack Radar System, Ad­vanced Field Ar­tillery Tac­ti­cal Data System and other sys­tems in near real time. Gen­eral Atomics Aero­nau­ti­cal Sys

tems’ Gray Ea­gle™ UAV. Gray Ea­gle® is an ex­tended range/multi-pur­pose which can carry out the role for per­sis­tent RSTA and at­tack op­er­a­tions. It has an en­durance of 25 hours, speeds up to167 knots, can op­er­ate up to 29,000 feet and car­ries 488 kg of in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal pay­load. The air­craft can carry mul­ti­ple pay­loads aloft, in­clud­ing EO/IR with laser des­ig­na­tion, SAR, com­mu­ni­ca­tions re­lay and four Hell­fire mis­siles.

Is­rael Aerospace In­dus­tries’ (IAI)

Searcher UAV. Searcher is a mul­ti­mis­sion tac­ti­cal UAV which can carry out the role of sur­veil­lance, re­con­nais­sance, tar­get ac­qui­si­tion, ar­tillery ad­just­ment of fire and dam­age as­sess­ment. Searcher has been con­stantly im­proved from Mk 1 to Mk II and Mk III. The Searcher Mk III has mul­ti­ple op­er­a­tional con­fig­u­ra­tions, SAR/GMTI (Ground Mov­ing Tar­get In­di­ca­tor), SIGINT and EO/ IR has a max­i­mum al­ti­tude of 23,000 ft, and of en­durance of 18 hours and mis­sion ra­dius is 350 km.

IAI’Heron. Heron 2 is the largest medi­u­malti­tude long-en­durance UAV built in Is­rael with an op­er­a­tional al­ti­tude of 45,000 ft and is ca­pa­ble of mis­sions of more than 36 hours du­ra­tion. It pro­vides deep-pen­e­tra­tion, widearea, real-time in­tel­li­gence to na­tional agen­cies, the­atre com­man­ders and lower ech­e­lons with pri­mary role be­ing in­tel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance and tar­get ac­qui­si­tion. Pre­ci­sion Guid­ance Mu­ni­tion (PGM) A PGM (also called smart weapon, smart mu­ni­tion, smart bomb) is a guided mu­ni­tion de­signed to pre­cisely hit a spe­cific tar­get and also to min­imise col­lat­eral dam­age. Brief de­tails are given be­low.

M982 Ex­cal­ibur. This is a 155mm ex­tended range guided ar­tillery shell de­vel­oped by Raytheon Mis­sile Sys­tems and BAE Sys­tems AB. It is a GPS-guided mu­ni­tion, ca­pa­ble of be­ing used for close sup­port of within 75-150 m of friendly troops. It has a range of 40-57 km and cir­cu­lar er­ror of prob­a­bal­ity (CEP) of around 5-20 m. Ex­cal­ibur was de­vel­oped as a longer-ranged al­ter­na­tive to con­ven­tional ar­tillery shells with GPS guid­ance for im­proved ac­cu­racy.

M712 Cop­per­head. This can be fired from a 155mm cal­i­bre, is fin-sta­bilised, ter­mi­nally laser guided, ex­plo­sive shell in­tended to en­gage hard point tar­gets such as tanks, self-pro­pelled how­itzers or other high-value tar­gets. It can be fired from many types of 155 cal­i­bre ar­tillery guns like M777, M198, etc. The pro­jec­tile has a min­i­mum range of 3 km and a max­i­mum range of 16 km. For Cop­per­head to func­tion, the tar­get must be il­lu­mi­nated with a laser des­ig­na­tor. Once the laser sig­nal is de­tected, the on-board guid­ance system will op­er­ate the steer­ing vanes to ma­noeu­vre the pro­jec­tile to the tar­get. Cop­per­head op­er­ates in two modes. With good vis­i­bil­ity and high cloud ceil­ing, Bal­lis­tic mode is used. Glide mode is used with low vis­i­bil­ity and low cloud ceil­ing. XM395 Pre­ci­sion Guided Mor­tar Mu­ni­tion (PGMM). This is a 120mm guided mor­tar round de­vel­oped by Al­liant Tech­sys­tems. Based on Or­bital ATK’s Pre­ci­sion Guid­ance Kit for 155mm ar­tillery pro­jec­tiles, XM395 com­bines GPS guid­ance and di­rec­tional con­trol sur­faces into a pack­age that re­places stan­dard fuzes, trans­form­ing ex­ist­ing 120mm mor­tar bod­ies into PGMs. It has CEP of 5 m at 7,000 m. M898 155mm Sense and De­stroy Ar­mour (SADARM) shell. SADARM can be fired from a nor­mal 155mm ar­tillery gun. SADARM shell has a nose-mounted M762/ M767 fuse set to burst at 1,000 m above the tar­get to re­lease two SADARM sub­mu­ni­tions. The sub­mu­ni­tion is ejected from the pro­jec­tile with the help of two para­chutes. Each sen­sor with the sub­mu­ni­tions has a mil­lime­tre ra­diome­ter which scans an area of 150 m in di­am­e­ter that tracks and guides the sub­mu­ni­tion onto the tar­get. SP

(Top) Raven UAV; (above) AN/TPQ-37 Fire­finder radar

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