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Video Pentagon Pursues AI for Space War to Stop Anti-Satellite WeaponsAbove:

By Kris Osborn - President & Editor-In-Chief, Warrior Maven

During the Gulf War and Operation Iraqi Freedom, enemy Iraqi and terrorist forces often used sandstorms, cloud cover and inclement weather conditions to maneuver for the specific purpose of evading detection by overhead surveillance drones. 

While this did not always work, the tactic became well known and helped inspire numerous innovations designed to help coalition forces “see through” and overcome impediments caused by weather obscurants, technological advancements have only accelerated in the time since.

The United States Space Force is working with industry partners to architect a new generation of weather satellites capable of “seeing” through smoke, sand, heavy clouds, snow and other weather obscurants to greatly expand opportunities for success and efficiency in military operations.

While the wars in Iraq sparked numerous innovations to help coalition forces “see through” and overcome impediments caused by weather obscurants, technological advancements have only accelerated in the time since.

“All Weather” Sensors 

More weapons systems, missiles, bombs and sensors are now engineered with “all weather” sensors such as millimeter wave detection and other technologies. 

These innovations can bring new levels of resiliency and precision to air-fired weapons, such as the new Stormbreaker weapon which uses a tri-mode seeker with millimeter wave, infrared and laser targeting. 

Beyond the now-ubiquitous EO/IR sensors, similar technologies abound, such as systems engineered to help helicopter pilots see through “brown-outs” or “degraded visual environments.”

Merlin Helicopter Creates a 'Brownout' Dust Cloud Landing in Afghanistan MOD

Merlin Helicopter Creates a 'Brownout' Dust Cloud Landing in Afghanistan MOD

USSF Space Systems Command Electro-Optical Infrared Weather System (EWS) Satellite Program

Today, the impact of weather on tactics, planning and weapons effectiveness is driving the U.S. Space Force to work closely with industry to architect military-capable weather sensors through its USSF Space Systems Command Electro-Optical Infrared Weather System (EWS) satellite program. 

A view of the Earth from the EWS-G1 satellite taken on 1 September 2020. Credit: Credit: US Space Force’s MARK IV-B Program Office.

A view of the Earth from the EWS-G1 satellite taken on 1 September 2020. Credit: Credit: US Space Force’s MARK IV-B Program Office.

One of the key industry competitors now engineering and testing prototypes of the system is General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS).

General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS) Spacecraft

Having a detailed advanced understanding of the current and upcoming weather naturally bears heavily upon strategic and tactical dynamics in warfare. Newer, more accurate and timely weather data, tailored to the needs of military decision makers, can enable leaders to adjust tactics, change course or make advantageous maneuvers in battle.

That’s just the capability GA-EMS aims to deliver, according to a statement. “The GA-EMS EWS spacecraft will have the capability to provide the Department of Defense with operational weather data support as a precursor to an innovative future weather capability.” What’s more, GA-EMS data explains their EWS prototype satellite system as a “pivot...from solely an on orbit sensor demonstration program.”

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USSF EWS

GA-EMS completed an initial design review of the USSF EWS satellite programme earlier this year. Credit: General Atomics.

“The GA-EMS EWS spacecraft will now be able to provide extended operations, direct broadcast of weather data to tactical users, and increased reliability to meet mission requirements,” Scott Forney, president of GA-EMS, said in a company statement. 

“This pivot, from solely an on orbit sensor demonstration program to now include residual operational capabilities, illustrates the confidence in GA-EMS’ design to perform as needed and ensure the USSF can continue to provide critical weather information to warfighters around the globe.”

A key context is the rapidly approaching end of life for the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP).

“The GA-EMS EWS spacecraft will be ready to fill the EO/IR sensor gap as the DMSP quickly approaches obsolescence and end of life, while also providing the USSF with a next generation advanced weather satellite, sensor and weather products for national security missions,” a senior officials from Missile Defense and Space Systems at GA-EMS, said.

As part of the effort, GA-EMS leads an industry team including EOVista and Parsons Corporation to build the Enterprise Ground Station. The program is of great importance to the USSF and has been up-scoped from a one year on orbit sensor demonstration to a three-to-five year prototype spacecraft with “residual operational capability.”

General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS) is designing for the United States Space Force (USSF) Space Systems Command (SSC) an Electro-Optical Infrared (EO/IR) Weather System (EWS) satellite. This program has now been up-scoped from a one year, on-orbit sensor demonstration to a three-to-five-year prototype spacecraft with residual operational capability.

General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS) is designing for the United States Space Force (USSF) Space Systems Command (SSC) an Electro-Optical Infrared (EO/IR) Weather System (EWS) satellite. This program has now been up-scoped from a one year, on-orbit sensor demonstration to a three-to-five-year prototype spacecraft with residual operational capability.

While technical specifics of relevance to the exact offerings are not likely available for security reasons or due to the ongoing competition, it would seem quite possible that the new satellite system is being designed to leverage a new generation of technologies.

Some of these may include longer-range, higher-fidelity cameras and sensors. Perhaps most of all, GA-EMS and its partners may be exploring AI-enabled information analysis. Often called PED, for processing, exploitation and dissemination, incoming data is pooled, analyzed, organized and then tailored for transmission to decision makers. The intent is to identify the most significant and pressing objects or developments from among massive volumes of data with as little latency as possible.

A high-speed AI-empowered computing system could naturally massively expedite this process by comparing incoming data against a vast database to make predictions, assess new weather indications as they relate to previous weather patterns and developments and make informed, highly detailed projections for military decision-makers. 

Given the pace of innovation in this area, it seems likely that this kind of data analysis and transmission specific to tactical national security circumstances would deliver truly unprecedented capability, as described by GA-EMS developers.

Video Above: The Militarization of Space

Military planners have been thwarted by the elements in every era of human history; that may be changing. The capabilities coming online from industry innovators like General Atomics may permanently deliver a new normal for what military leaders can and should expect to see.

Kris Osborn, Warrior Maven President

Kris Osborn, President, Warrior Maven- Center for Military Modernization