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Navy Wants Software To Predict Swarming Attacks on Warships

May. 9, 2012 - 10:43AM   |  
By MICHAEL PECK   |   Comments
The aircraft carrier Carl Vinson is seen underway in the Persian Gulf.  The U.S. Navy has had difficulty determining hostile intent of vessels when close to shore, where there are higher numbers of various types of ships.
The aircraft carrier Carl Vinson is seen underway in the Persian Gulf. The U.S. Navy has had difficulty determining hostile intent of vessels when close to shore, where there are higher numbers of various types of ships. (MCSN George M. Bell / U.S. Navy)
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With Iran likely to employ swarms of small water craft to attack U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf, the Navy is looking for ways to get early warnings of surprise attacks. It’s turning to the same sort of behavioral-detection software that intelligence analysts use to scan video imagery for signs of suspicious behavior.

The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) solicitation, called “Enhancing Situational Awareness to Counter Swarming and Other Nonlinear, Dispersed Tactics Against Naval Surface Forces,” calls for software that can discern signs of an attack from data provided by airborne radar and electro-optic sensor data. The solicitation notes that Navy crews have difficulty determining hostile intent when close to shore, where waters teem with fishing, pleasure and cargo vessels.

“At present, airborne surveillance radar and electro-optics are of limited value to the surface combatant,” the solicitation says. Collecting data on the speed, angle of approach, and location are not enough to provide “actionable information” to those standing watch on ship. This allows crews to determine a vessel’s intent only at the last minute.

The problem isn’t with the radars, which are now advanced enough to identify and classify ships, says the solicitation. “The missing component and the focus of this topic is the development [of an] intelligent agent to predict impending threats, much as is done with crime forecasting tools, based on a knowledge of target classification and behaviors of all contacts within the surveillance field of view,” it says.

Phase I of the SBIR would identify specific analysis algorithms that could work with radar, electro-optical and high-range-resolution radar fingerprinting. Phase II would develop an intelligent agent, which is software that can automatically perform a task (in this case, spotting suspicious nautical behavior) based on the data fed into it. The solicitation opens May 24 and closes June 27.

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