WASHINGTON: Raytheon has won the Air Force’s $197 million contract to develop and build a new ground-based data processing system for missile warning, the company said today, which will allow operators in future to use data not just from the Air Force’s own infrared satellites but from any sensor based in space, on land or at sea.
Called the Future Operationally Resilient Ground Evolution (FORGE) Mission Data Processing Application Framework (MDPAF), Raytheon’s open-source, software-centric system is being developed to process data from both the Air Force’s Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) satellites and the follow-on Next Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared (Next-Gen OPIR) constellation.
“We may be taking data from other sources in the future as well,” Karen Casey, chief engineer for Raytheon intelligence, information and services (IIS), told me today. “We are not limited.”
While the OPIR is the first and primary mission for FORGE, Raytheon’s revolutionary design also is directly applicable to Air Force plans for multi-domain operations and the military’s evolving Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) network to link all sensors to all shooters in all domains.
“The US has more than 350 satellites in space right now, doing everything from monitoring weather patterns, providing GPS signals, collecting intelligence and relaying communications. That doesn’t even include the hundreds of commercial satellites operated by US companies,” said Ted Glusko, vice president for C2, Space and Intelligence at Raytheon in a Jan. 15 backgrounder. “We need to make sure we’re able to make use of all the information those satellites are collecting.”
Further, Casey added, the system in future will be able to link to and process data from sensors such as ground-based weather radar, and ship-based ocean monitoring systems.
The data will be collected and shared not only to and from the military, Casey said: “We are going to unlock data and information at a scale that’s never been seen before. We’re going to make it available for commercial customers, for civil environmental uses, it’s truly somewhat unlimited.”
The Next-Gen OPIR constellation will consist of five satellites: three in Geosynchronous Orbit (GEO) and two in a polar orbit. Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor for the GEO satellites, the first of which is known as Block 0 GEO; Northrop Grumman is the prime for the polar orbiting satellites. Raytheon was chosen in 2018 by Lockheed as one of two subcontractors for the advanced sensor suites on the GEO satellites, along with a team comprising Northrop Grumman and Ball Aerospace. The Air Force currently plans for the first GEO satellite to launch in 2025.
As Breaking D readers know, the Air Force wants FORGE to be able to link with future Low Earth Orbit (LEO) constellations for missile tracking being planned by the Space Development Agency (SDA) and DARPA.
“Essentially, this is a smartphone model,” said Dave Wajsgras, president of Raytheon ISS in a statement announcing the contract today. “We’ve built an operating system that everyone can build applications for – from Raytheon to the Air Force to universities to small companies. These applications allow the system to process specific types of data.”
The overarching FORGE ground system program comprises three pieces, Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) told Breaking D back in October: Command and Control (C2), Mission Data Processing (MDP), and Relay Ground Station (RGS). It involves both software and hardware development, but the focus is on software. SMC is planning for the overarching FORGE framework to be operational in 2024.
Further, the FORGE effort is being run slightly differently than traditional DoD development programs, SMC explained in a June article, using an “agile program management methodology” — also known as “dev ops” — to rapidly move to a prototype that can be transitioned directly into operational use.
Indeed, Casey said one of the critical elements in the program is “how fast we are going to move.”
“We just went through a one year competition, where our customers vision was build as much as you can as fast as you can. Which gave us this amazing latitude to be very commercial like,” she added.
The other competitors were Booz Allen Hamilton and BAE Systems.