Friday, April 20, 2007

Battlefield technology key to Atlantic Strike V - Update

Photo: A "Condor" Unmanned Aerial Vehicle without its protective skin sits on top of its carrying case April 17 before flying in Atlantic Strike 5. Atlantic Strike is a joint forces semi-annual training event involving Joint Terminal Attack Controllers, or JTACs, from the Air Force Army and Marines at Avon Park Air Ground Training Complex, Avon Park, FL.(U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Stephen J. Otero)

Editor's Note: Frequencies and callsigns associated with this exercise are at the end of this article. The RF spectrum profile below updated at 0952 EDT 20 April 2007

by By Staff Sgt. Amanda Savannah
U.S. Central Command Air Forces Public Affairs

4/19/2007 - AVON PARK, Fla. (AFNEWS) -- As the convoy travels down the dusty path, the lead Humvee's Joint Terminal Attack Controller zeroes in on a potential target 1,500 meters in front of him. He sends the coordinates to the waiting aircraft above.

"Target is verified JTAC, expending munitions." The aircraft releases its munitions precisely on target, decreasing collateral damage and allowing the convoy to continue on, unharmed.

Although not an actual account, scenarios like this one would not be possible in theater without technology such as the Remotely Operated Video Enhancement Receiver, or ROVER, and Venom, a remote-controlled, laser designator rangefinder telescoping mast system. Air Force, Marine Corps and Canadian Air Force JTACs are training on these and other battlefield technologies during Atlantic Strike V April 14-20 at the Avon Park Air Ground Training Complex in Avon Park, Fla.

ROVER can receive video and telemetry data from manned aircraft, remote-controlled unmanned aerial vehicles and the Venom system to display on a laptop or television monitor. The receive-only terminal can receive most Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance video from C, L and KU Band frequencies. This capability allows ground commanders to see around corners, over hills or on top of buildings -- providing critical battlefield situational awareness and targeting capability.

"The ROVER terminal gives JTACs the same aerial picture the aircraft sees," said Lisa Diamanti of L3 Communications, the company responsible for designing the ROVER system. "The JTACs on the ground need to see this picture to positively identify targets. This cuts down the talk-on-target time (from hours) to 10 minutes or less."

Before ROVER, JTACs had to have their eyes on the target and relied on verbal communication between themselves, aircraft and the Air Support Operations Center. JTACs would provide the target, which the ASOC then confirmed before the aircrew could execute.

Master Sgt. Craig Hillsman, an Air Force JTAC with the 19th Air Support Operations Squadron at Fort Campbell, Ky., appreciates how the ROVER system "cuts out the middleman."

"The ability for JTACs to operate without (having to contact) forward (command and control) is great," he said. "It also expands my ability to do my job without putting myself in harm's way, because it gives me a bird's-eye view of the area instead of just line of sight. For example, I can spot a target individual and instead of giving away my position, I can watch (on the ROVER) the receiving aircraft follow him to a point a safe distance from me before engaging."

Northrop Grumman's Venom system will give JTACs even more of a chance for survival.

"With the growing need for up-armored Humvees, the military needed a system that would allow its occupants to stay under that armor while identifying targets," said Bob Raulerson, marketing manager for Northrop Grumman. Venom uses a Lightweight Laser Designator Rangefinder on a universal, stabilized platform that mounts on top of the vehicle and enables military members to observe targets during the day or night. The versatile system can be mounted on a mast that can be attached to any vehicle, Mr. Raulerson said.

If fitted with a ROVER transmitter, the Venom can send its images to ROVER systems, adding a line-of-sight image to the aerial image a JTAC receives from an aircraft. When in laser tracking mode, Venom also allows units to identify and lock on to a target while moving out of the area before the military members are discovered.

"I have also been told that some forward-operating bases are benefiting from mounting Venom on top of a building while the operator remains inside, out of harm's way," Mr. Raulerson said. "All in all, Venom will do more to ensure warfighters return home safely."

During a scenario involving a high-value target, the Army convoy commander parked the Venom system outside a village, adding another vantage point to his maneuvers. The convoy was able to engage enemy forces on the other side of the village, while monitoring buildings to avoid an unexpected flanking maneuver. The Venom system also allowed the ground commander to find a hidden sniper position -- a position only visible from the reverse angle the Venom system provided.

The mounting platform being tested at Atlantic Strike V is scheduled to be used in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility in August.

Aircraft at Atlantic Strike V capable of transmitting full-motion video include the F-16 Fighting Falcons, A-10 Thunderbolt IIs, B-52 Stratofortresses, Navy P-3C Orions, the Condor and Swiper UAVs and Cessna aircraft simulating Unmanned Aerial Systems.

Here is a list of freqs/designators/callsigns that have been reported and are associated with Atlantic Strike V.

Atlantic Strike V Frequencies

126.150 Avon Park Range Control
131.825 COASTAL
133.475 COASTAL

138.050 FLYER interflight
138.125 Homestead ARB
138.200 FLYER interflight
138.400 Homestead ARB
139.750 Homestead ARB
139.800 Homestead ARB
143.625 WARHAWK

242.050 BLUE 1
258.100 LIGHTNING 22
264.625 Avon Park Range
269.250 Jax Center – Ocala Low
271.600 "SHERIFF NET" (convoys)
276.600 WARHAWK
279.600 Tampa App
281.500 Miami Center
283.700 MacDill AFB – BEAR CAVE (VAW-124) / BUCCANEER OPS (111th FW)
285.000 ORION / JAGUAR
285.725 Avon Park Range
291.600 Miami Center - Pahokee
292.200 Avon Park Range Control
297.500 FLYER air-air
303.150 Homestead ARB (also being used for air-air on the range)
306.000 P-3
349.000 Miami Center – Avon Park
349.300 BEAR / STARGATE (MOA check in freq)
354.400 STARGATE, BEAR 01, 02 / (STARGATE – DRAGNET VICTOR air-air)
379.400 Barksdale AFB 93rd BS (SCALP air-air)

Freq Designators:
BLUE 1 – 242.050
BLUE 2 – 258.100
BLUE 3 – 349.300
BLUE 5 – 271.600
BLUE 6 – 354.400
GREEN 5/11 – 133.475
YELLOW 1 – 264.625
YELLOW 3 - 285.725
WHITE 5 – 143.625
WHITE 7 – 276.600
WHITE 8 – 349.300 (also passed as BLUE 3)
WHITE 12 – 292.200
Satcom – (BEAR mentioned working WARHAWK on Satcom)

AKULA – F-16C+, 93rd FS
BEAR 01, 02 – E-2C, VAW-124
BUSHMASTER 17, 19, 20, 66 (20 Convoy JTAC)
COASTAL AIR – Cessna (simulated UAV)
COASTAL GROUND – ground support for UAV
FLYER – A-10A, 111th FW
JAGUAR ground support for P-3
HARDROCK 09, 10, 11
HORSEMAN 13, 14, 15
LIGHTNING 22, 23, 35 – JTAC
MAKO – F-16C+, 93rd FS
OMEGA 18, 68 (Convoy)
SCALP – B-52H, 93rd BS
SHARK – F-16C+, 93rd FS
SLAYER 03, 04
STARGATE – E-8C; 330th CTS