WASHINGTON — The Army is seeking ways to identify, monitor, target and strike opponents from farther distances and with greater precision amid the U.S. military’s pivot to the Indo-Pacific.
To do so, the service is pursuing what officials, including Secretary Christine Wormuth and Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville, dub “deep sensing.”
Key to the effort is a “family” of in-development situational awareness tools, Wormuth said this week at the McAleese and Associates defense conference in Washington, D.C. They include the Terrestrial Layer Systems, or TLS, that can provide soldiers with cyber and electronic warfare assistance; the High Accuracy Detection and Exploitation System, or HADES, an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance jet outfitted with advanced sensors; and the Tactical Intelligence Targeting Access Node, or TITAN, meant to centralize and accelerate the collection, parsing and distribution of data.
“The first operational imperative for the Army of 2030 is really to be able to see and sense farther and more persistently, at every level across the battlefield, than our enemies,” Wormuth said. “So how are we going to do that? We’ve got to be able to collect and analyze unprecedented quantities of raw data from many different sources.”
The Army’s fiscal year 2024 budget documents underline deep sensing as necessary to address challenges in the Indo-Pacific, home to some of the world’s largest militaries and nearly two-thirds of its economy. The documents also highlight plans to spend $191 million on HADES and $143 million on TITAN.
The service in 2022 tapped Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics Mission Systems for work on the TLS variants and L3Harris Technologies and Raytheon Applied Signal Technology for HADES sensor development. The year prior, it turned to Palantir and Raytheon to flesh out TITAN.
The deals totaled tens of millions of dollars. The Program Executive Office for Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors, or PEO IEW&S, had a hand in them all.
“To improve our deep-sensing capabilities, we’re investing in sensing technologies, data analytics and target recognition aids,” Wormuth said Wednesday. The Army’s latest budget proposal comes to $185.5 billion, about 5% more than its previous ask.
As the U.S. prepares for potential conflict with China and Russia and moves away from smaller-scale counterinsurgency campaigns, defense officials are emphasizing the value of observation across vast distances as well as speedy decision-making.
The thinking may be best encapsulated by the Pentagon’s Joint All-Domain Command and Control initiative, or JADC2, which envisions a seamlessly linked military, with information securely flowing to and from land, air, sea, space and cyberspace.
Each service has its own contribution to JADC2. The Army has Project Convergence, a weekslong crucible during which technologies and networking techniques are tested under realistic scenarios. In 2022, the experiment folded in the Air Force and Navy as well as troops from the U.K. and Australia. Canada and New Zealand observed.
“We’ve really got an array of ISR capabilities that we want to knit together,” McConville said at the McAleese conference. “Some of that is on the joint side, some of that is with us. And that’s where the whole sense of convergence comes in.”
The “real secret sauce,” the chief of staff added, is the ability to quickly corral available data, make sense of it and forward it “to the appropriate shooter or effects mechanisms.” And that well-situated force could be wielding keyboards, jammers, rifles or something heftier.
“If we’re going to do long-range precision fires, you need to do long range-precision targeting,” McConville said. “In order to do that, you have to have deep sensing.”
Colin Demarest is a reporter at C4ISRNET, where he covers military networks, cyber and IT. Colin previously covered the Department of Energy and its National Nuclear Security Administration — namely Cold War cleanup and nuclear weapons development — for a daily newspaper in South Carolina. Colin is also an award-winning photographer.