Army moves to expand ground signals intell system
Prophet Enhanced system flexes its combat muscle
- By Kimberly Johnson
- Sep 14, 2011
The Army’s intelligence arm is building combat muscle as the service prepares to expand the mobile Prophet Enhanced (PE) ground signals intelligence (sigint) system that it says is proving vital through its flexibility and mobility on the battlefield.
The deployed PE system, built by General Dynamics C4 Systems, is beefing up situational awareness for ground forces through the use of technology that allows the collection, analysis and exploitation of enemy signals of interest, said the service’s top program official, Lt. Col. Jim Ross. For security reasons, Ross said he could not expand the definition of enemy signals, which he referred to as “a wide array of enemy emitters.”
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“Prophet is the system that is bringing that higher classification — secret, top-secret information — to the [brigade combat team] commander,” Ross said. Commanders have the flexibility of using the PE system for different missions. One element of PE’s success has been its component design and the ability to use it in hardened vehicles, he said. “While mobile, the system will be on a survivable platform. It also has the capability to be integrated onto several different platforms.”
To date, the Army has spent about $160 million of Prophet’s $860 million contract ceiling for the purchase and support of 37 PE systems. The service has received authorization for another 25 in the coming year “and quite possibly developing and delivering another 25 systems after that,” Ross said.
The enhanced version of Prophet, the Army’s sole ground SIGINT system, is an improvement over previous iterations deployed in the past four years, such as Prophet Spiral 1 and Triton III, said the service product manager. “The early systems were pretty much hardwired into a Humvee. All the equipment was integrated tightly into the vehicle so that the primary means and mode of operation was inside the vehicle,” Ross said.
The key to perfecting Prophet was getting it road-ready for the battlefield. That meant making the system compatible with a new fleet of mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles with a V-shaped blast hull, such as the six-wheeled Panther variant. System components have been packaged in transit boxes that allow for quick installs into vehicles.
“They can take the system in the vehicle outside the safety of a forward operating base to wherever they need to go and do the mission, as well as be protected within the confines of the vehicle,” Ross said.
PE has smaller components, requires 80 percent less power and weighs 40 percent less than earlier variants. “This new configuration provides a more flexible architecture that provides increased flexibility, simultaneity of operations and is easier to upgrade,” said Stuart Beltson, senior program manager of Prophet Enhanced at General Dynamics C4 Systems.
System enhancements also included multiple communication methods that support emerging cloud computing and a new software baseline that takes advantage of the latest enterprise software from the National Security Agency, Beltson said.
“The system is very modular, so it doesn’t require a lot of work to get the vehicle ready to accept the system,” Ross said. Going modular has also proven to be major a time saver. Soldiers can go from dismounted to fully mobile in less than 10 minutes, compared to what had been as long as an hour with previous system variants, he said.
Kimberly Johnson is a contributing writer for Defense Systems.