Looking ahead

Lockheed Martin gazes into future with HI Vision system

Special report on new defense opportunities

Doglas Barton of Lockheed Martin: "If decision-makers have 10 minutes to make a decision, they shouldn't spend nine and a half minutes gathering data."

Henrik G. deGyor

"Decision makers aren't paid to be data collectors," said Douglas Barton, director of technology for the missions systems division of Lockheed Martin Corp. "If they have 10 minutes to make a decision, they shouldn't spend nine and a half minutes gathering data."

That's the underlying concept for Lockheed Martin's new prototype battle management system, called HI Vision, designed to anticipate the information needs of military leaders during the heat of battle.

Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed Martin is the single largest defense contractor for the military market of command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, capturing 17.9 percent of the $11.3 billion market, according to research firm Frost & Sullivan Inc., Mountain View, Calif.

To keep such a stronghold, the company must anticipate the needs of the military. As a result, the company builds prototypes of systems, such as HI Vision, to demonstrate the capabilities it could provide to the services. Today's prototypes must meet the military's vision of network-centric warfare.

Designed for operations officers who watch over theaters of conflict, HI Vision would help officers draw in data from a vast number of sources and decide quickly how to respond to events. Such a system, Barton said, could reduce the time needed to develop a flight plan to meet hostile threats, a process now done using grease pencils, stacks of text files and spreadsheets.

On the front end, HI Vision is a simple setup: a workstation with three monitors. For demonstrations, the company projects the images from the monitors onto three wall-mounted screens.

For HI Vision, Barton said his office looked at a few hundred commercial and emerging technologies to see which ones would be applicable. They narrowed the candidates to a few dozen and built HI Vision system around those capabilities.

On the center screen is a three-dimensional map of a theater of operations -- the common operational view -- that an operations officer would oversee. The screen to the right is a dashboard with e-mail, video news clips, meeting and other pertinent information. On the left screen is a task list for the officer. It also contains an alert box should emergencies arise.

Barton ran through a scenario that such a system could handle:

The screen with the common operational view overlooks an area where air forces are prepared to strike. It shows the locations of the fighter planes as they head toward their target. On the task screen, the system is helping the officer run through a crew change on another plane, presenting a check list of tasks that a crew needs to complete.

Suddenly, a medium-range, radar-guided missile, SA-11 Gadfly, appears on the common operational picture, spotted by an unmanned aerial vehicle in the area. The enemy missile is marked in red on the screen, and an alert pops up on the task screen instructing the officer that something must be done about this threat.

Software-based intelligent agents, anticipating what information the officer will need to extinguish this threat, gather relevant intelligence and establish a link the operations officer can click on to get information. The information would include aerial photographs of the threat, a list of available aircraft in flight to take out the target, the weapons on board those aircraft and whether the aircraft's missions can be interrupted, and their proximity to the target.

The system will allow the operations officer to task a fighter plane to destroy the target. It will forward the operational data and photographs to the fighter pilot, and the operations officer can return to the previous crew change. The systems will post updates of the mission.

Afterward, it will add the work to an operational scorecard that shows how well the officer's unit is doing in meeting the mission of the command.

HI Vision has been demonstrated for Air Force Secretary James Roche. Other demonstrations have resulted in small contract wins with the Navy and the Army, Barton said.

"We go to the customers and show them the value of this approach," Barton said. "We try to persuade them that for the fixed amount of dollars they have, they can get the transformation they are looking for." *

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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