Total Pageviews

Saturday, April 2, 2011

RISTA Platforms Sought For Persistent Vigil

Entrusted with the task of conducting persistent, all-weather year-round surveillance of the 4,057km-long Line of Actual Control (LAC) since 2004 along the undemarcated Sino-Indian border, the Dehra Dun-based National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) is soon expected to acquire up to four airborne reconnaissance, intelligence, surveillance, and target acquisition (RISTA) platforms, which will be flown and maintained by the Research & Analysis Wing’s Aviation Research Centre, but will come under the NTRO’s operational control. The new acquisitions will supplement the ARC’s existing fleet of two Israel Aerospace Industries-built Astra 1125 twinjets that are both equipped with belly-mounted long-range oblique photography cameras. The to-be-selected RISTA platform for the NTRO is widely believed to be a customized version of the SEMA, which has been developed by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). The SEMA can be used for strategic SIGINT operations as well as theatre-wide battlespace surveillance. For the latter role, the SEMA, using the Gulfstream Aerospace-built G-550 bizjet as the platform, can be equipped with the EL/M-2060P synthetic aperture radar (SAR)—developed by the ELTA Systems subsidiary of IAI, for real-time ground moving target indication (GTMI). The EL/M-2060P is capable of tracking hostile ground targets—both stationary and mobile—300km away and using Ku-band and X-band data links for transmitting battlespace reconnaissance data to ground-based theatre command-/Corps-level HQs in real-time. When used for SIGINT missions, the SEMA comes equipped with a belly-mounted EL/I-3001 SIGINT suite that will search, intercept, measure, localise, analyse, classify and monitor short-duration ground and airborne transmissions and their signals parameters—all aimed at building up, in real-time, a full-spectrum picture of the electronic order of battle.

While the NTRO’s RISTA platforms will be employed primarily for peacetime monitoring of India’s land-locked border areas, those that will be procured by the Indian Air Force (IAF) in future will become the most critical supporting component of the Indian Army’s theatre-wide Strategic Operational Information Dissemination System (ASTROIDS) by using innovative network-centric solutions (including a satellite-based communications network) to be seamlessly linked to the Army’s ground-based battlefield surveillance system (BSS) at the theatre command- and operational levels, and the Command, Information & Decision Support System (CIDSS) at tactical levels. Simply put, the IAF-owned-and-operated airborne RISTA systems will provide theatre commanders and troops on the ground with an unprecedented situational view of the battlespace from the instant it arrives overhead. By detecting hostile troop movements and intercepting communications and radar transmissions, the airborne RISTA platforms, by processing wide varieties of data from multiple sensors (radar-, SIGINT- and optronic-based) will process and dessiminate in real-time fused tactical pictures and bring deadly massed fire assaults down swiftly on adversaries in a non-linear battlefield with devastating effect.

The IAF’s airborne RISTA platforms—four of which are likely to be procured--will be required to support the Army’s early entry and/or forward deployed forces (like the rapidly deployable Integrated Battle Groups) by providing timely indications and warning, dominant situational awareness, battle management, and all-weather precision targeting capabilities across the full spectrum of air-land combat operations. These capabilities will assist the theatre-level, Corps-level and Brigade-level commanders in the planning, preparation, and execution of their assigned missions. As key enablers, the airborne RISTA platforms will help the ground forces commander to ‘see’ the battlefield, and thereby allowing him to shape the battlespace and conduct decisive manoeuvre warfare-based campaigns under conditions of his choice. Such platforms will thus be integral to the Army’s deep strike architecture. They will also be used to survey new areas of operations to facilitate changes to smart weapon algorithms. They will also provide the dynamic precision targetting data needed by future deep strike weapon systems (like surface-to-surface battlefield support ballistic/cruise missiles), and, with advances in tri-mode sensor packages (organic or linked), will enable on-the-spot battle damage assessments. The sensor packages will also enable the ‘detection’ of movers, sitters, emitters and hiders--a first from any airborne RISTA platform, and will provide information directly to ground-based tactical operations centers of the CIDSS at the Brigade-level and higher echelons through a SATCOM-based Intelligence Broadcast Service (IBS) protocol, with the data and imagery being received in land-mobile tactical terminals located inside the Common Ground Station for integration into the Common Operational Picture). Mission tracks will be flown in standoff orbits beyond the range of hostile anti-aircraft artillery assets. Multiple RISTA platforms will be required to be flown simultaneously, providing 24-hour and instantaneous SIGINT targetting accuracy, increased collection throughput, shorter target revisit times, and better overall coverage of the extended battlespace that will be the norm in future non-linear areas of operations.

It is believed that four aerospace OEMs—IAI/ELTA, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin—will be invited for submitting requests for proposals for the IAF’s requirement. Raytheon s expected to offer a customised version of the ASTOR system, which it has already sold to the UK and which provides 24-hour surveillance and target acquisition capabilities and delivers wide-area, all-weather surveillance and reconnaissance imagery in near real-time for peacekeeping, warfighting and homeland security needs. At the heart of the ASTOR system is a combined, belly-mounted, dual-mode SDAR/moving target indicator (MTI) sensor. The active phased-array SAR provides high-resolution images of the battlefield, while the MTI monitors the quantity, direction and speed of moving targets for unparalleled situational awareness. IAI/ELTA is expected to offer a variant of the already operational Nachshon RISTA system, which is mounted on a Gulfstream G-550 business jet. Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin are most likely to present bids centered around the Aerial Common Sensor—a system they had previously proposed for  the US Army and Navy.--Prasun K. Sengupta


SSG said...

Prasun da nice to have you back. Hope to get more articles from you. But only baseline F414 for Mk2 ? I was hoping that they will get the EPE version. And any news on Kaveri K10 ?

Prasun K. Sengupta said...

To SSG: Many thanks. It is best to adopt the crawl-walk-run approach and therefore, start with what's available right now in order to expedite the Tejas Mk2's R & D process. It is perfectly logical to expect that the EPE variant can and will be ordered by 2016. It will be very interesting to see how ADA goes about incirporating the IAF-mandated updates to the Tejas Mk2's integrated avionics suite.
Later tonight I will upload details and photos of the integrated internal EW suite of both the Tejas Mk1 and the MiG-29UPG.

Prasun K. Sengupta said...

To SSG: Definitive design and performance details on the Kaveri K-10 will be available only by mid-2012.