An upgrade for the Kiowa Warrior is designed for more accurate targeting, industry officials say. (Sgt. 1st. Class Eric Pahon/Army)
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Raytheon is developing an upgrade for the common sensor payload for Grey Eagle drones and Kiowa Warrior helicopters that would use GPS technology to more accurately designate targets for satellite-guided missiles, according to company officials.
The company’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance is in the midst of demonstrating the system, which is meant to identify targets’ GPS coordinates for weapons launched remotely. Satellite-guided missiles include the Joint Direct Attack Munition and Joint Stand-Off Weapon.
“What makes it complicated is it’s a dynamic situation, you’re moving, the target may be moving,” said Andrew W. Bonnot, Raytheon’s director of surveillance and targeting systems. “It’s a fairly sophisticated hardware problem—because you have to have the hardware to properly extrapolate the target—but a software problem because of the math.”
The common sensor payload is in its family of multispectral targeting systems in use not only on Army systems but the Navy’s MH-60’s, the Air Force’s MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper and on foreign platforms. The company plans to announce this week it has fielded 2,000 of these systems and that they have spent a combined 2.5 million hours in the air.
The company upgraded the common sensor payload for the Army last year to provide high definition imagery in the optical, visible and mid-wave infrared bands, Bonnot said.
However, users have been interested in improving the accuracy of the targeting system, which relies on a laser designator, Bonnot said. It’s a tricky problem because the sensor must not only locate the target in space and time, but adjust for errors and extrapolate where a target is going based on its trajectory.
“At this point in time, that target was at these coordinates with this known error circle, moving at such-and-such a velocity,” Bonnot said. “You can obviously build a track and do some prediction as well.”
The company is demonstrating the technology internally in anticipation of the Army’s eventual interest. The demonstrations are taking place in McKinney, Texas, using a decades-old DC-3 aircraft.
The system works by projecting a laser onto a target and calculating the coordinates of the target based on the reflection.
“Today, we can do a limited amount of that,” Bonnot said. “This just really, really improves it.”