Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR)

Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance is an essential part of modern military operations. Operating on land, at sea and in the air, ISR systems are at their best when they provide actionable information to guide decisions for military missions; the decision maker may be a theater-level commander, a squad leader at the front edge of a battlefield, or someone at any level in between.

Today’s ISR uses three primary ‘modalities’, employing different types of electronic sensors to capture information.

  1. Electro Optical/Infrared (EO/IR) sensors are essentially highly advanced cameras, or sets of cameras, that create streams of detailed gigapixel images.
  2. Radar, commonly used for targeting and other combat functions, is also used for ISR imaging; for example, Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) is used on airborne platforms to create detailed ground images through cloud cover.
  3. Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) systems use multiple antennas to detect signals of interest and then determine the location of the signal source, often constrained to make the detection and location within a very small time interval.

Each of these ISR modalities requires an embedded computing system that can process their sensor data streams in real time.  Each sensor type has unique processing requirements; however, several types of sensor applications are often deployed together in multi-mission payloads.  So, for example, a given ISR payload may need to support SIGINT, searching for signals of interest, as well as EO/IR capability to create an image of the signal source location.   This type of application complexity creates difficult challenges for ISR system designers.

Curtiss-Wright meets the needs of system designers by providing open architecture Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) based rugged embedded computing boards for ISR.  The “building block” approach to providing solutions gives our customers great benefits with respect to cost, lead time and supportability.  Our solutions include powerful digital signal processing (DSP) modules based on the latest commercial processors, modules implementing cutting edge Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) and others with Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs) and Analog-to-Digital converters (ADCs), as well as Single Board Computers (SBCs) that can be configured together to address ISR applications, especially in small platforms.

These COTS boards are ruggedized to operate in harsh environments and deployed in hundreds of defense programs. Curtiss-Wright continues to provide support throughout their life cycle; a suite of Continuum Lifecycle Services safeguards your programs and mitigates the challenges associated with leveraging COTS technology for long-term mission-critical systems.

Electronic Warfare (EW)

Electronic Warfare involves jamming or spoofing an adversary’s electronic sensing or electronic communications.  Common examples include detecting communications at a certain frequency and then jamming that frequency or detecting an incoming radar signal and responding with a simulated return signal indicating a bogus location.

In today’s world, Electronic Warfare is often overlapping with ISR.   The embedded processing requirements are similar to those of SIGINT, but with some additional unique characteristics such as Digital-to-Analog converters (DACs) and large banks of Digital RF Memory (DRFM) for radar spoofing and other Electronic Countermeasures (ECM).

Curtiss-Wright offers FPGA-based modules to meet the most demanding EW requirements, including solutions in both 3U and 6U OpenVPX form factors.  They include ADC/DAC capability, DRFM capability and the processing power to operate on high bandwidth data streams with very low latency.

Curtiss-Wright is collaborating with General Dynamics Mission Systems to deliver open architecture artificial intelligence (AI) based COTS solutions for Signal Intelligence (SIGINT) and electronic warfare (EW) situational awareness applications. The combination of General Dynamics’ SignalEye threat detection software and Curtiss-Wright’s Intel Xeon D processor-based CHAMP-XD1 module provides system designers with a deployable COTS solution for RF spectrum situational awareness that automatically classifies signals through the use of machine learning.

Further Reading

David Jecynak, Chief Technology Officer and Tammy Carter, Senior Product Manager, wrote about how Designing Multifunction Radar and EW Systems Means Staying Ahead of the Tech Curve in Military Embedded Systems Magazine.

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