Improving defense capabilities is a never-ending job. Scientists and engineers in both the public and private sectors work day after day, year after year to make our ability to conduct war better. So it is no surprise that the Air Force is reaching out to the private sector in search of new signal processing capabilities that will enhance its ability to detect threats.
Much of what the Air Force does is related to reconnaissance. According to a broad agency announcement published in early September 2020, the Air Force is working to stay abreast of the “increased complexity and volume of the [electronic intelligence] battlespace”. In layman’s terms, they need better signal processing capabilities in order to provide enhanced intelligence services for space-based weapons.
The broad agency announcement dictates the Air Force is interested in three specific things:
1. Hardware Agnostic Technology
First and foremost, the Air Force wants future signal processing technology to be hardware agnostic. What does that mean? Hardware agnostic technology is that which does not rely on specific hardware or platform resources. A good example would be a sensor that can communicate with a full range of computer networks running different operating systems.
Hardware agnostic technology is vitally important in the sense that hardware and platforms change quite rapidly. By making something hardware agnostic, you do not have to worry about your sensors not being able to communicate with future systems. In essence, the technology works out-of-the-box regardless of hardware and platform.
2. Unlimited Data Rights
Next up are unlimited data rights. Interestingly enough, unlimited rights is a concept developed by the federal government for purposes of giving government agencies full access to data rights regardless of who develops a technology. In simple English, unlimited data rights transfers the rights of all collected data from the private sector company that developed the technology to the government.
For practical purposes, this means that the Air Force will be able to use whatever technologies are developed for them in whatever ways it sees fit. They will be able to collect data however they want to. They will have rights to do with that data whatever they please. This is obviously necessary to maintain security.
3. Real-Time Capabilities
Finally, the Air Force is looking for sensor and signal processing technologies that offer real-time capabilities. Real-time capabilities cover four key areas: signal detection, signal processing, data exploitation, and reporting. And just to push things over the top, the Air Force wants all of this with automation.
California’s Rock West Solutions says that what the Air Force is after is a tall order but not impossible. Much of what they are looking for already exists to some degree. The task now before military contractors is to take existing technology and improve it to the point that it exceeds Air Force expectations. That is very doable; it will just take time.
When the Air Force eventually gets what it is asking for, it will be capable of better reconnaissance and intelligence. This is key to our defenses as warfare moves into outer space. It might also be key to the U.S. developing strategic applications for lunar and interplanetary operations.
Rumor has it that NASA wants to go back to the moon as soon as possible. Other rumors suggest that getting back to the moon will open the door to NASA using it as a launching point for future Mars exploration. All of this is being done against a backdrop of space-based defense. It is certainly an exciting time to be a defense contractor specializing in sensors and signal processing.