Systems & Technology Research to develop algorithms and sensors for combat airspace management testbed

Jan. 13, 2021
The ASTARTE program seeks to provide real-time, low-risk joint deconfliction between airspace users and joint fires at an Army division-level.

ARLINGTON, Va. – U.S. military researchers needed to develop a virtual and live testbed for military combat airspace management. They found their solution from Systems & Technology Research LLC (STR) in Woburn, Mass.

Officials of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., have announced an $8.3 million contract to STR as part of the Air Space Total Awareness for Rapid Tactical Execution (ASTARTE) program.

ASTARTE will develop a virtual and live testbed for airspace management, algorithms for airspace planning and operations, and a sensor network for delivering real-time spatial and temporal tracking of aircraft over congested and complicated battlefields.

STR engineers will develop a virtual lab testbed to help model, simulate, and virtualize current joint military airspace management systems with interfaces to connect real-world hardware and software in a common software framework that supports virtual and real-world environments.

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Company experts will develop algorithms for airspace planning and operations, and a sensor network that delivers real-time spatial and temporal tracking of manned and unmanned combat aircraft, as part of the ASTARTE Airspace Deconfliction Via Integrated Sensing and Efficient Replanning (ADVISER) effort.

The overall ASTARTE program seeks to provide real-time, low-risk joint deconfliction between airspace users and joint fires at an Army division-level to enable responsive support to tactical units and build a resilient air picture in an anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) environment while conducting joint all-domain command and control (JADC2) operations.

ASTARTE enabling technologies will handle sensor tasking, data processing, multi-modal data fusion, and near-real time dissemination to enable dynamic spatial and temporal airspace management and operations.

The ASTARTE program has three parts. First is understanding and decision algorithms that identify and predict airspace usage conflicts, determine restricted operating zones, propose alternative airspace de-confliction courses of action with assessed risk levels, and dynamically planning and tasking sensors to create an airspace picture.

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Second, the project will develop sensors that in real time can detect and track manned and unmanned aircraft, missiles in-flight, unmanned balloons, and other potential flight hazards.

Third is a virtual lab testbed that enables modeling, simulation, and virtualization of military airspace management systems, and connects to connect real-world hardware.

The current approach to airspace planning and control predominately involves manual and static procedures that allocate lanes and zones over the battlefield, which can prohibit adaptive re-tasking and reapportionment.

This approach also can be over-previsioned to provide any flexibility, but can cause very inefficient use of available airspace, causing slow or inaccurate coordination between fires and airspace users, which allows an adversary to fire and maneuver unchallenged.

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Prior attempts to create a more dynamic, joint picture of the airspace relied on an overly complex and burdensome centralized approach that attempted to force all operations, data, command, and control into a common framework.

Instead, ASTARTE seeks to gather data, form a refined airspace picture, and re-plan by exception as necessary to support dynamic joint-service operations.

ASTARTE focuses on the most challenging airspace problem: the airspace above an Army division under battlefield airspace that measures about 360 square miles, and extends from the ground to about 18,000 feet in altitude.

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This area contains Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, Special Operations, allied, and enemy manned and unmanned aircraft and munitions passing through the airspace. It also contains forces conducting fire missions and close air support. The airspace also may include commercial aircraft and other hazards.

Still, the system must be aware of adjacent air spaces and the airspace above the division airspace to include high-altitude aircraft, satellites and manned spacecraft.

On this first phase of the ASTARTE program, STR will do the work in Woburn and Lexington, Mass.; Orlando and Melbourne, Fla.; Niskayuna, N.Y.; and Boulder, Colo., and should be finished by February 2022. For more information contact Systems & Technology Research online at, or DARPA at

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