System helps keep bases safe
- By Gregory Slabodkin
- Nov 10, 1997
At the center of this heightened state of security is the Tactical Automated Security
System, an intrusion-detection system designed to monitor the perimeter of a military
TASS, a high-tech approach to handling force protection, lets Defense installations
leverage limited base security personnel, said Capt. Nate White, TASS program manager.
Using TASS, security officers no longer need to constantly patrol a wide-area base
Patrols can perform other duties as TASS equipment stands guard over the base. Once an
alarm or sensor is tripped, the security breach is relayed to a central computer that
alerts a nearby detachment to check the area.
The Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., in September awarded
TRW Inc. a five-year, $495 million contract to supply DOD bases worldwide with TASS
equipment, including sensors, handheld monitors, notebook and desktop computers,
communications equipment, handheld and long-range thermal imagers and software.
The Air Force last month awarded TASS contracts to two small-business contractors: Lau
Technologies of Littleton, Mass., and EER Systems of Seabrook, Md.
The TASS program office at Hanscom will match user requirements with the vendor that
best meets the particular needs. The TASS contract is open to all DOD and federal
"TASS is a combination of tactical sensors that have been in the inventory before
that have been packaged into a system that's deployable," White said.
The system is based on an established suite of tactical sensors, including microwave,
magnetic, passive and active infrared sensors, as well as trip wires. TASS is primarily
designed for deployed, semipermanent bases, but it can also be used in a more permanent
"When somebody comes through a boundary of sensors, it sets off a radio frequency
that is carried back to a desktop computer which acts as a base command post, illuminating
an alarm on a computerized map of the base," White said.
"Security personnel sitting at the computer will get a beeping noise on their
computer and see a red light on the map in the exact location where the intruder has come
across," he said.
Under the contract, TRW is providing Pentiums from Gateway 2000 Inc., handheld monitors
from Racal Communications Inc. of Sunrise, Fla., and ruggedized Pentium notebooks from
GETAC of Irvine, Calif. Because it is an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity
contract, TRW plans frequent technology upgrades, company officials said.
The desktop and notebook PCs run Microsoft Windows NT and map software from Intergraph
Corp. of Huntsville, Ala.
"Below the desktop level, we have a laptop version with a map and a handheld
monitor that security police in a Humvee driving around the perimeter could use and get a
word description of where the alarm has gone off," White said.
"When a sensor trips, it's essentially like a switch closure that gets read by a
smart card in the power unit and then sends a message out through the communication module
to the headquarters," said Craig Carter, TRW's TASS program manager.
TASS also includes wide-area surveillance thermal imagery cameras developed by Texas
Instruments Inc. that can identify a human-sized object as far away as one mile and a
vehicle from a distance of three miles. The thermal imagers operate at night and during
The Air Force began TASS development before the Khobar Towers bombing. The incident
pushed up the urgency to field a base security system rapidly, White said.
Last October, the Air Force awarded TRW a sole-source $47.3 million contract to
manufacture and deploy TASS to meet compelling urgencies in force protection in southwest
TASS will be installed by the end of this month at 11 sites in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and
the United Arab Emirates.
MEI of Boston had the original TASS contract and developed the initial prototype. But
TRW repackaged the power unit, the rechargeable battery module and the communications
module converter into a ruggedized, portable kit.
TRW will supply an initial delivery order for TASS kits to the security forces training
facility at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. The Air Force earlier this year established a
force protection battle lab at Lackland to develop and test security equipment for
The kits will include desktop PCs, radio links, software and all the connections plus
the wide-area surveillance thermal imagers.