Polish Air Force Institute of Technology To Create a Laboratory for the NATO AGS Reconnaissance Programme

PUBLISHED AT: Monday, 27 November 2017, 12:19

Polish Air Force Institute of Technology is going to be tasked with creating so called Battle Laboratory for the NATO AGS programme. This is going to be done on the basis of a contract signed during this year’s edition of the MSPO International Defence Industry Exhibition organized in Kielce. Battle Laboratory may be compared to an accurate copy of a space ship left on Earth for the purpose of testing new procedures and solutions that could be applied in unforeseen scenarios, before proper actions are taken by the astronauts in the outer spacestates Janusz Błaszczyk, PhD Eng., staff member of the C4ISR Systems Integration Department of the Air Force Institute of Technology. 

On the date when this year’s edition of the MSPO Defence Industry Exhibition in Kielce began, Professor Ryszard Szczepanik PhD Eng. Hab., the Director of the Polish Air Force Institute of Technology [ITWL] signed a contract with the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance Management Agency (NAGSMA). The Allied entity was being represented by Jim Edge. Battle Laboratory may be compared to an accurate copy of a space ship left on Earth for the purpose of testing new procedures and solutions that could be applied in unforeseen scenarios, before proper actions are taken by the astronauts in the outer space. The contract envisages creation of so called Battle Laboratory for the AGS programme. Its value is defined as more than EUR 30 million. The Air Force Institute of Technology was given 31 months to perform the related work.

The contract in question may be viewed as a prize for persistence, patience and teamwork excellence we have been witnessing in case of the Air Force Institute of Technology, Excence company based in Wroclaw and the PGZ S.A.’s PIT-RADWAR S.A. company, throughout the recent years. The cooperation has been taking place since the moment when the Institute financed a costly Industrial Study, on its own. The aforesaid study contained an analysis of the competencies possessed by the Polish defence industry. It was also determined which of the aforesaid areas of competency could be potentially utilized within the AGS programme. I would like to place an emphasis on excellent cooperation with the Polish Ministry of Defence. Thanks to the determination of its representatives, the Ministry was opening the seemingly closed doors, not letting them to be shut in our faces.

Jarosław Sulkowski PhD Eng., Air Force Institute of Technology [ITWL] Deputy Director for Development and Implementation

NAGSMA is a NATO agency remaining responsible for creation of the NATO AGS (Alliance Ground Surveillance) system. The aforesaid initiative is going to involve five RQ-4B Global Hawk Block 40 aircraft manufactured by Northrop Grumman, coupled with a ground component. The latter elements are being prepared by the European NATO member states.

Main Operation Base in Sigonella, Sicily, acts as the main ground-based element. There, the AGS aircraft are to be stationed. Two aircraft at once would remain “on duty”. Data provided thanks to the technologically sophisticated synthetic aperture radars utilized by the UAVs would be analyzed by two expert teams making use of the Mission Operations Support (MOS) suite.

NATO would be obtaining the latest reconnaissance data by utilizing the said system. Data would be gathered within a number of flashpoint areas, regardless of the weather conditions. This independence is guaranteed by high operational ceiling offered by the AGS aircraft.

One of the NATO AGS Global Hawk platforms. Image Credit: Alyssa Cooper/Northrop Grumman.

The data provided by the Sigonella-stationed Global Hawks would be complemented with information collected by other allied systems, so that the NATO commanding officers have a comprehensive view of the situation, with regards to border areas, flashpoints, ongoing conflict areas or in the areas where natural catastrophes occur. AGS would play a key role within the scope of creating the said imagery. 

The flexibility of use would be provided by the forward elements of the system: Mobile General Ground Station - MGGS and Transportable General Ground Station – TGGS. The stations may be deployed close to the operational theatre to shorten the time required to acquire and transfer the information and utilize the benefits offered by a direct datalink. 

The experts employed at the Air Force Institute of Technology will be tasked with development of a complex and comprehensive AGS simulation environment. 

For that purpose the Institute would create a large simulator that would create virtual reality replicating the landscape and actual objects. Furthermore, the system would also replicate the radar imagery, including the data on the moving objects gathered by the very same radar operated in target designator mode. The simulator would also replicate visible light spectrum and infra-red imagery that could be provided by the national reconnaissance assets belonging to the NATO member states. 

AGS System operation - scheme. Image Credit: NATO

During the subsequent stage, the engineers of the Institute would integrate the simulation component with software and hardware functionally identical to the ones utilized at Sigonella (MOS) and at the forward operating facilities (MGGS and TGGS).

Ultimately, the AGS Battle Laboratory is to be stationed at Sigonella. There, it would play a role of test environment that would allow for carrying out simulations and modelling of the operational portion of the AGS system. This would be done to assess the CONOPS concepts and other operational procedures (TTPs – Tactics, Techniques and Procedures). This would be done through provision of an interoperational operational environment.

NATO AGS Battle Laboratory agreement being concluded. From the left: Jim Edge, NAGSMA general manager, and Director of the Air Force Institute of Technology, ITWL, professor Ryszard Szczepanik, PhD Eng. Image Credit: Air Force Institute of Technology.

As AGS would become a living system which is going to be a subject to continuous evolution, before the evolution happens the changes would be lab tested, as the requirements, capabilities, technologies and procedures emerge. The very same methods are used with regards to a space station. 

I am impressed with the changes caused by conclusion of this contract, happening at the Air Force Institute of Technology. Our engineers and employees supporting their effort feel that there is no impossible thing to do. Everyone shares the goal. I hope that the contract would become the beginning of a metamorphosis at ITWL, similar to the one we’ve been witnessing in case of the Spanish INTA. The said entity, from a local significance, has grown to become an European leader, thanks to involvement in international programmes.

As stated by the Technical Team Leader of the Project, Krzysztof Wierzbicki MSc.

As the contract is implemented, Poland would become the only NATO member state, alongside Italy, with all of the elements of the AGS operational software available locally. Here we are referring both to the elements provided by the Italian Leonardo company, as well as by the German Airbus DS branch.

In this way the Polish experts are obtaining peculiar knowledge and skills that are seen as an invaluable advantage within the scope of supporting the AGS system lifecycle management and other NATO contracts. 

Janusz Błaszczyk PhD Eng., C4ISR Systems Integration Department at the Air Force Institute of Technology.

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