Raytheon to develop combat airspace management testbed to simulate tracking of crewed and uncrewed aircraft

April 4, 2022
ASTARTE technologies will handle sensor tasking, data processing, multi-modal data fusion, and near-real time dissemination for airspace management.

ARLINGTON, Va. – Raytheon Technologies Corp. is moving forward with a project to develop a virtual and live testbed for combat airspace management under terms of a $10.1 million order announced last week.

Officials of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., are asking the Raytheon Intelligence & Space segment in Tewksbury, Mass., to carry out the second phase of the Airspace TacticaL Automation System (ATLAS) effort supporting the Air Space Total Awareness for Rapid Tactical Execution (ASTARTE) program.

Raytheon experts will refine a virtual and live testbed for airspace management systems, algorithms for airspace planning and operations, and a sensor network for real-time spatial and temporal tracking of crewed and uncrewed aircraft.

Raytheon won a $7.6 million contract for the project's first phase in February 2021. This contract modification brings the total value of the contract to $17.7 million. Systems & Technology Research LLC (STR) in Woburn, Mass., also is involved in the project's first phase.

Related: STR to develop algorithms for combat airspace testbed

Raytheon engineers will continue developing 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.

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.

Related: Raytheon eyes sensor network for combat airspace management

Second, the project is developing sensors that in real time can detect and track crewed and uncrewed 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.

This area contains Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, Special Operations, allied, and enemy crewed and uncrewed 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.

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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 second phase of the ASTARTE program, Raytheon will do the work in Tewksbury and Cambridge, Mass; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Fulton, Md.; Dulles, Va.; and Durham, N.C., and should be finished by June 2023.

For more information contact Raytheon Intelligence & Space online at www.raytheonintelligenceandspace.com, Systems & Technology Research at www.str.us, or DARPA at www.darpa.mil.

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