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By Kris Osborn - Managing Editor - Warrior Maven

The Army is taking its intelligence data base and accelerating it to the edge of combat with a series of strategic and technological initiatives including ruggedized laptops and an increased ability to enable tactical operations in challenged or “disconnected environments,” service officials announced.

Through a new deal with Raytheon and Palantir technologies, the Army plans to quickly integrate hardware and software improvements to its Distributed Common Ground System-Army such that it can better access and organize combat relevant information at the “tactical echelon,” Army officials announced.

Called Capability Drop 1, the emerging Software will “enable operations in a Disconnected, Intermittent, and Limited bandwidth environment, enhance ease of use, and provide improved tools for Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield and Processing, Exploitation, and Dissemination,” according to an Army statement from Program Executive Office Intelligence, Electronic Warfare & Sensors.

Upgrades will further harden the system and integrate an improved graphical user interface to enhance soldier’s ability to see and utilize intelligence information; this can be information from nearby drones, ground vehicles, aircraft and other sources of intelligence of great significance to combat operations.

The new deal, which includes a 10-year, $876 million possibility, is part of a key Army strategy to better enable rapid expeditionary operations. This includes a decided push to strengthen connectivity for dismounted units and other combat assets as the “tip of the spear.”

For instance, infantry preparing for an assault would doubtless be better positioned with access to new, fast-moving intelligence about enemy movement, weapons or location information for other connected sources of intelligence. The Army already uses existing UHF data links to connect intelligence information from aerial surveillance plans such as EMARSS ( Enhanced Medium Altitude Reconnaissance and Surveillance System) to inform ground operations; upgrades to DCGS will substantially improve the efficiency of these operations.

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The technological advances will enable dismounted or fast-moving mechanized forces to, for instance, use new computer algorithms to organize, interpret and disseminate ISR data from nearby sensors. Also, the technology, as described the Army, incorporates an emphasis on challenged environment wherein more traditional networks, such as some radios or GPS connectivity, are disabled or comprised by enemy attacks.

The DCGS system gathers, integrates and organizes information from more than 500 sources to interpret combat data, assess terrain information, receive SIGINT feeds, monitor sensor input and collect other kinds of ISR information. The system is used widely among the military services and other government agencies that share intelligence.

“DCGS-A Inc 1 CD directly addresses Soldier’s feedback for improving usability, will enhance the tactical military decision making and intel processes, and support situational understanding at the tactical level” Col. Robert Collins, PM DCGS-A, said in a written Army statement.

At the same time, developers want to facilitate a fast-emerging emphasis upon “cross domain fires” with systems such as DCGS. This includes real-time sharing of intelligence information between air, sea, cyber and ground operations. DCGS is engineered to harness both government and private sector innovations to improve upon some of the segmented or stove-piped information generated by the intelligence database.

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As a result, the current cross-domain effort seeks to secure and exchange intelligence information across various military service systems and within individual networks and databases themselves, program managers and developers say.

US military DCGS developers have explained that this effort, aimed at helping analysts access all the pertinent information, should include data-tagging to ensure that data can be successfully exchanged both vertically and horizontally across and within networks utilized by DCGS.

This means using network data-sharing and organizing techniques to implement better filtering processes for operators to give them timely access to the proper intelligence resources.

Facilitating this effort means developing and acquiring algorithms and computer programs able to “auto-cue” analysts about intelligence they need to know or prioritize, including auto-target recognition, movement sensors and other methods of discerning impactful intelligence.

An essential impetus behind cross-domain operations is an effort to help joint military operations improve effectiveness by connecting otherwise disparate information networks and intelligence sources together in a seamless and accessible fashion.

An Air Force drone, for instance, may want to quickly pass targeting information or combat video feeds to a supporting ground unit – a process improved through a system such as DCGS designed to help gather organize and relay information of that kind.

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Kris Osborncan be reached

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