The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) wants the Pentagon to outline ground moving target indicator (GMTI) research and acquisition efforts underway to avoid duplication with the U.S. Space Force’s (USSF) planned space-based radar.
“The committee recommends a provision that would prohibit the duplication of effort across multiple programs to provide air- and space-based ground moving target indicator capability across multiple services and agencies until the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in consultation with the secretaries of the military departments and applicable agency heads, provides to congressional defense committees a list of all procurement and research and development efforts funded with Department of Defense or other executive agency resources, as well as how those efforts will provide real-time information to the warfighter through the Joint All Domain Command and Control efforts of the Department,” according to Section 161 of the report by SASC on its version of a fiscal 2022 defense authorization bill.
The Space Force has been discussing with the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and the intelligence community (IC) a space-based GMTI radar that Vice Chief of Space Operations Gen. David “DT” Thompson said could be fielded in the “relatively near future” (Defense Daily, July 28).
“If you’re talking about anti-access, area denial, a large, large portion of that data has to come from space,” he said. “There’s plenty of room for the national security space enterprise to work those problems together.”
USSF officials have said that the space-based radar is still in the planning stages but that USSF wants to field it as rapidly as possible.
USSF Chief of Space Operations Gen. John “Jay” Raymond has said that Space Force wants to use “the full spectrum of options” for space-based GMTI, including trying “to leverage commercial more than we’ve done in the past” to drive competition (Defense Daily, May 12).
The U.S. Air Force began the space-based GMTI radar effort but transferred it to USSF. The radar has a funding line in the USSF budget request for research and development and is part of USSF’s total obligation authority.
USSF is considering whether it is able to provide other tactical intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) missions from space better and at lower cost than Air Force air assets.
The Department of the Air Force is considering a buy of the Boeing [BA] E-7 Wedgetail, as the department eyes conducting air moving target indication (AMTI) from space, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown said at the Air Force Association Air, Space & Cyber conference last week (Defense Daily, Sept. 21).
The Air Force said that the Wedgetail supported Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq and Syria and that the E-7 provides better AMTI than the service’s aging fleet of Boeing E-3A Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft. U.S. Indo-Pacific Command has said that fielding Wedgetail is one of its urgent operational needs.
Space-based GMTI has shown promise in other nations’ research efforts, including the Canadian RADARSAT-2 experiment and the Chinese Gaofen-3 low Earth orbit remote sensing satellite.
The U.S. has initiated space-based GMTI efforts before–efforts that entailed cost estimates in the tens of billions of dollars for an operational system. In 1998, the Air Force, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and the NRO began the Discoverer II program to explore high-resolution space-based GMTI, but Congress canceled the program in 2000.
In 2004, the Air Force awarded a Lockheed Martin [LMT] team a contract for Space Radar, but the Pentagon killed the program in 2008 as being too costly.
A 2007 report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated the cost of a space-based GMTI radar system as ranging from nearly $26 billion to more than $94 billion.