Low-cost tech prepares Army for new threats

Army researchers, as part of a national security team, are keeping a close eye on the evolution of new, low-cost threat emitters to improve the Army’s ability to represent the adversary’s equipment and actions accurately and dynamically.

Threat emitters provide a current, simulated battlespace environment designed to train allied warfighters to identify and defeat ever-changing adversaries.

The new tools will supplement current threat emitters used for research, training and testing at DOD sites, including the U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence at Fort Huachuca and the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base. The goal is to develop dynamic, agile systems at a lower cost while replicating known and anticipated threats in the electromagnetic spectrum.

Dr. Eric Holder, an Army research psychologist with the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, known as DEVCOM, Army Research Laboratory, said accurate threat representation is essential for Army research.

“Intelligence will be critical to upcoming operations in the multi-domain battlefield,” Holder said. “Multi-domain battles are centered on knowing the enemy and the battlefield, and adapting to their strengths and weaknesses using all the domains available to conduct intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, targeting and determining the impact of actions taken.”

Current threat emitters are expensive, some pricing as multi-million-dollar systems, but the new low-cost solutions under development at Luke Air Force Base and Fort Huachuca can fill the gaps the more expensive systems do not fill right now yet typically cost between $15,000 and $30,000, he said.

Holder is part of a multi-disciplinary team comprised of federal government, university and industry members that is exploring ways to support the development of a Multi-Domain Operations and electromagnetic spectrum testing and training range complex at Fort Huachuca.

The team, which also includes networking and sensors experts from Arizona State University, the National Security Innovation Network, the U.S. Army Electronic Proving GroundIntelligence Electronic Warfare Testing Directorate and Luke Air Force Base, are exploring, adapting and integrating low-cost threat emitters developed by the university for the U.S. Air Force.

“Fort Huachuca is looking to leverage these emitters and adapt them to represent other threat capabilities assets and create a realistic testing and training environment in support of Army modernization and MDO readiness requirements,” said Jeff Jennings, deputy to the commanding general, U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence & Fort Huachuca.

This effort is synergized with other ongoing EMS range efforts to procure 5G mesh networks, leverage materials to contain emissions and conceal target signatures within an operational testing area and provide an environment to innovate on advanced concepts for interpreting, visualizing and optimizing intelligence and electronic warfare capabilities.

“If you don't accurately represent threats in both static and dynamic ways, how are you going to find them and figure out what they are doing in future operations?” Holder asked. “You need to train like you fight and because we research advanced capabilities, they should be tested on realistic signatures and behaviors.”

Officials expect the emitters to support joint testing and training both locally, and across operational and training sites in Arizona and New Mexico.