OUSD (R&E) CRITICAL TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Trusted AI and Autonomy;Hypersonics;Space Technology
The technology within this topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), 22 CFR Parts 120-130, which controls the export and import of defense-related material and services, including export of sensitive technical data, or the Export Administration Regulation (EAR), 15 CFR Parts 730-774, which controls dual use items. Offerors must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals (FNs), their country(ies) of origin, the type of visa or work permit possessed, and the statement of work (SOW) tasks intended for accomplishment by the FN(s) in accordance with the Announcement. Offerors are advised foreign nationals proposed to perform on this topic may be restricted due to the technical data under US Export Control Laws.
OBJECTIVE: Develop a new type of laser designation pulse code, or other technology, to significantly improve the countermeasure resiliency of laser guided weapons while providing benefits to performance and logistical employment.
DESCRIPTION: Semi-active laser guided weapons have been in use for decades. Commonly, these weapons lock-on to an encoded laser designator to allow deconfliction between multiple munitions and multiple designators, as well as to provide resiliency against countermeasures. Two type of pulse codes, existing in the open literature, include pulse repetition frequency (PRF) and pulse interval modulation (PIM). PRF codes have a consistent interval between each pulse. PIM codes have a varying interval between each pulse. Due to the sensitivity of this topic, details about the current employment of laser pulse codes, beyond a certain point, cannot be shared openly in this topic. However, some materials are available in the open domain covering these techniques. Countermeasures, especially from sophisticated adversaries, can significantly degrade the performance of semi-active laser seekers. As these codes are decades old, it is likely that there is significant risk in using these codes against near-peer adversaries. The Air Force is seeking new concepts that will provide robust defense against active laser countermeasures often referred to as “spoofing.” This topic is not intended to address destructive directed-energy countermeasures.
An ideal code will have the following attributes:
1) Despite being measured by an adversary in real-time, the munition will not lose track on the original code.
2) The code does not result in any performance loss (range, lock-on time, etc) compared to simple code options. Ideally results in performance benefits compared to baseline alternatives.
3) The code does not require cumbersome logistics for employment, such as robust communications between laser designator operator and weapon platform or regular updates in the field.
4) The code will be backwards compatible with other common codes and will not require munition or laser modifications to switch between codes.
5) The code will primarily require software modifications. Ideally involves zero hardware modifications, or limited/simple hardware modifications.
6) Mathematical efficiencies within the code generation and decode process such that the code generation is simple, yet the code decomposition is complex.
In addition to this understood need, the Air Force will also consider other approaches, which may not be well-understood, for laser designators or seekers that may provide high-value benefits in terms of performance or counter-measure resiliency for SAL seekers. These approaches should be limited to a single sub-system or component which can be upgraded (hardware or software) to provide a benefit when combined with the other existing sub-systems in inventory. Approaches requiring a complete overhaul of existing infrastructure will not be considered. Proposers should consider partnerships with manufacturers of SAL seekers, and clearly articulate a strategy for acquiring appropriate hardware and demonstration of algorithm improvements on that hardware (ideally in a shoot-out comparison with currently fielded hardware). Following successful laboratory demonstration, laser ranges will be available at Eglin AFB, FL for field testing.
PHASE I: As this is a Direct-to-Phase-II (D2P2) topic, no Phase I awards will be made as a result of this topic. To qualify for this D2P2 topic, the Government expects the applicant to demonstrate feasibility by means of a prior “Phase I-type” effort that does not constitute work undertaken as part of a prior SBIR/STTR funding agreement. Prior work expected to be completed in a "Phase-I type" effort, in order to qualify for this D2P2, requires demonstrated feasibility which should include work and results in the following areas:
1) Complete analysis of multiple laser encoding scheme options, to including software modeling & simulation with objective mathematical metrics to access benefits and risks. Subjective benefits and risks, such as human factors which may affect user-adoption, will also be relevant.
2) Down-selection of theoretical laser encoding scheme, with objective mathematical and modeling results which demonstrate practical feasibility for future hardware development, to include laser repetition rate, pulse width, or any other factors that may affect compatibility with fielded or next-generation laser designators, such as duty cycle or other power limitations. Seeker processing limitations should also be considered and characterized, at least at a basic fundamental level.
3) While not required, an excellent proposal may include results from prior work which involves physical laboratory testing. Any data which objectively proves agreement between computer modeled and laboratory measured data would be the strongest form of established feasibility.
PHASE II: Develop a system design and produce a prototype capable of demonstrating functionality and benefits. Prototypes will be tested in both laboratory and field environments.
PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Successful demonstration will result in transition through hardware development partners to update fielded munitions. There are a wide variety of fielded munitions using SAL guidance that this technology will directly apply to.
- Patent US 7,767,945, “Absolute time encoded semi-active laser designation,” Raytheon Company, Darin S. Williams, Aug. 3, 2010.;
- Patent US 5,023,888, “Pulse code recognition method and system,” Martin Marietta Corporation, Thomas E. Bayston, Jun. 11, 1991.
KEYWORDS: semi-active laser seeker; laserr designator; infrared seeker; laser pulse code; missile guidance; laser countermeasure