Now integrated into the Defence Innovation Hub, Defence’s successful Capability Technology Demonstrator (CTD) program has spawned some cutting edge technologies, with many in the Electronic Warfare (EW) domain.
Three of the emerging technologies in the EW sphere are the Passive Radar program, the Cuttlefish electronic attack technology and Scrannel Missile Approach Warning System (MAWS). All three of these initiatives have now progressed into defence industry and are the subject of ongoing development programs which promise to deliver enhanced capability to Defence.
The Defence Innovation Hub is one of the strategies announced in the 2016 Defence Industry Policy Statement (DIPS) and, together with the Next Generation Technologies Fund, is aimed at delivering a streamlined approach to innovation.
An estimated $640 million will be spent between 2016 and the end of the 2025/26 financial year.
“The initiative accepts proposals that are ready to enter the engineering and development stages of the innovation process from concept exploration and technology demonstration, through to prototyping and integrated capability demonstration and evaluation,” a Defence spokesperson explained.
“The Defence Innovation Hub enables Defence, industry and research institutions to collaborate on innovative technologies that can be developed into an advanced capability for Defence.”
A passive radar system, as its name suggests, does not emit energy but gathers information such as bearing of arrival, velocity and range of an object through the exploitation of changes to background sources of energy, such as television or radio broadcasts.
The program began within DST in 2007, when Dr James Palmer and his colleague, Simon Palumbo began a decade-long research program which culminated in the awarding of a contract to BAE Systems and Daronmont Technologies under the CTD fund in September 2013. This contract was aimed at developing and demonstrating the next generation of passive radar in a collaborative Integrated Project Team (IPT) arrangement with DST Group.
“We ran the program effectively internally within DST and industry came in and supported us,” remembers Dr Palmer, today the CEO of Silentium Defence. “That culminated in a really capable system. We were able to grow from a two channel system that required a steerable antenna to a multi-channel system that enabled 360 degree persistent situational awareness by the end of the CTD program.”
The IPT team combined the specialised passive radar algorithmic research conducted by DST with the specialist engineering expertise of BAE Systems and Daronmont and resulted in a successful demonstration of the capability to Defence at HMAS Harman in Canberra.
In 2017, Daronmont was awarded a further contract through the Defence Innovation Hub to develop the technology and demonstrate a soldier-mounted and dismounted passive radar system.
Following the original CTD program, James Palmer and Simon Palumbo left DST Group and established Silentium Defence, based in Adelaide, to further develop the technology.
“At the end of the CTD program we realised that, while passive radar has a lot of advantages, it does have a number of nuances associated with it. If you’re not familiar with these specific nuances, as a developer, it can be a learning journey,” Dr Palmer explained to ADM. “At that point, defence industry may not have been necessarily well positioned to understand the technology fully and get the best out of it, so we committed to step into defence industry ourselves and we opted to do that through a start-up company.”
Silentium Defence is now working on commercialising the next generation of passive radar technology.
“DST’s role is not to produce capability for Defence, that’s the role of defence industry and we’ve been engaging with potential end users, both in the Defence and in the civil sectors around what demonstrations they desire to understand what this technology means in their particular application space,” Dr. Palmer added. “We are improving performance of the technology, making it better suited to a wider variety of potential end-users and extending its domains of viability – even out to surveillance of space.”
The Cuttlefish project developed a core set of electronic attack functions, operating within a demonstrator support framework, as a CTD program between 2006 and 2012. The electronic attack capability is intended to be among the first layers of a layered Anti-Ship Missile (ASM) defence strategy.
The current project began in November 2016 with the award of a $4.9 million contract to BAE Systems and the work, to be performed over a two year period will culminate in sea trials in 2019. Considered to be a high priority in the countering of emerging threats, in terms of advanced radars and hypersonic ASMs, the project seeks to increase the flexible maturity of the prototype system.
“The project’s emphasis is to review and improve obsolescence of signal processing hardware, improve power management, adapt a stabilised antenna system, reduce equipment footprint, adopt standardised open system architecture and demonstrate performance in an indicative electronic warfare environment,” said a Defence spokesperson.
Avalon Systems (now Ultra-Avalon) was initially awarded a contract through the CTD program in June 2006 for the development of the Scrannel Missile Approach Warning System. The body of work demonstrated the latest MAWS technology in real time in the maritime environment, which is aimed at providing vital additional warning time to surface platforms against emerging threats.
An extension to the original contract followed in 2009 to improve system sensitivity by the incorporation of digital signal processing technology and the results suggested that Scrannel had the potential to classify the type of ASM and therefore allow countermeasures to be optimised, as well as providing additional time to counter the threat.
A further project through the Defence Innovation Realisation Fund and managed by the Defence Innovation Hub in 2016 is providing a technical refresh to the system using current IT technology.
“The project builds on innovative technologies originally developed through the CTD program to technically refresh the system to provide defence for naval surface platforms against low altitude air threats such as ASMs,” said the Defence spokesperson.
This article first appeared in the May 2018 edition of ADM.