Army wants to see the forest for the trees

The Army has asked vendors with expertise in radar and computing technology that can help pinpoint enemy assets covered by trees or camouflage, or located underground, to pass on information that would be useful in launching an acquisition for the gear.

The service asked information technology companies to volunteer information about the algorithms and associated software for processing radar signals and extracting the signatures of military equipment.

To prepare for fielding the system in early summer, the Army on March 19 issued a request for information (RFI) document that called on vendors to respond by April 7. The RFI asked vendors to provide details about their experience in operating and maintaining such radar systems, along with cost and schedule requirements. The service may seek to hire a contractor for the work this summer

The service's aircraft-based Foliage Penetration (FOPEN) radar system detects targets such as camouflaged sites and weapons, hidden roadside weapons and lines of communication, processes the collected data in real-time and transmits accurate, real-time data to ground systems.

FOPEN transmits data about the enemy assets in the proper format and with the correct information fields so it can be fed directly into Army weapons systems. The service will deploy FOPEN on RC-12D fixed-wing aircraft in its Southern Command region in June.

Lockheed Martin developed the FOPEN technology in the late 1990s in cooperation with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Army and the Air Force.

The system's airborne component is a VHF/UHF dual-band synthetic aperture radar and the computer equipment needed to process target imagery, the Army said. The radar can penetrate foliage, buildings and the ground to detect targets such as small roadside targets, weapons caches buried in the open and vehicle-sized targets under foliage.

The airborne systems connect using either a 45 Mbps line of sight link or a 3.2 Mbps satellite link to the system's ground components. Those ground systems include workstations for displaying images, and carrying out mission planning and target exploitation, along with data storage gear. FOPEN's ground station software uses the Army's Common Data Format. The system's target reports include all of the variables needed by the Army's weapons systems for launching attacks.

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