Passive surveillance to track aircraft using only the RF signals they emit

U.S. Air Force researchers are ready to ask industry for passive surveillance techniques to identify, pinpoint, and track aircraft, land vehicles, and surface ships using only the RF signals these targets emit.

Apr 1st, 2017
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WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB, Ohio - U.S. Air Force researchers are ready to ask industry for passive surveillance techniques to identify, pinpoint, and track aircraft, land vehicles, and surface ships using only the RF signals these targets emit.

Officials of the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, have issued a presolicitation (FA8650-17-S-1022) for the future Radio Identification (RID) program.

This initiative, which should begin in May or June, seeks to demonstrate and evaluate the benefits of identifying and geo-locating surface and air platforms via reception, processing, and display of their communications, navigation, and identification signals, as well as other signals of interest.

The ability to identify, locate, and track military and civil aircraft, ships, and vehicles in this way could enable covert surveillance and reconnaissance without the use of active sensors like radar. The result could be the ability to locate and track aircraft, ships, and vehicles without the targets knowing they are being tracked.

Such a project most likely will involve very sensitive RF receivers, directional and steerable antennas, and sophisticated power digital signal processing to pick targets of interest out of the staggering amount of RF noise and interference that exists from radio communications, cellphones, radio and television stations, and random RF noise.

Air Force researchers are looking for covert ways to track aircraft based only on the RF signals these aircraft emit.

The RID program will focus on non-cooperative target identification and geo-location via passive reception of RF signals of interest, AFRL officials say.

The project will mature technologies and develop techniques for detection, identification, and reporting of any spoofing attempts, and demonstrate passive reception of at least one cooperative identification system. Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) emitting signals at 1090 MHz is the planned capability.

Air Force researchers are looking for modular RID software architectures based on open-systems standards where practical to support upgrades to algorithms and incorporating additional signals of interest.

The system architecture must be able to support agile multifunction signal processing and fusion of sensor tracks. Researchers are interested in system architectures that could work on a variety of platforms and locations, and that could move to Air Force or U.S. military systems using multi-channel, multifunction apertures and receivers integrated with software-defined architectures and equipment.

A formal solicitation for the RID program is expected by late May or early June. The program should run for five years, and could be worth as much as $24.92 million to the contractor or contractors ultimately chosen to carry it out. Air Force researchers are not ready to accept proposals until the formal solicitation comes out in May or June.

For technical questions or concerns, contact the Air Force's John Bollinger by e-mail at john.bollinger@us.af.mil or by phone at 937-713-4304. For contracting questions, contact Cindy Brocker by e-mail at cynthia.brockert@us.af.mil or by phone at 937-713-9840.

More information is online at www.fbo.gov/spg/USAF/AFMC/AFRLWRS/FA8650-17-S-1022/listing.html.

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