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AFRL is seeking Multi-INT Fusion to implement US Airforce ISR strategy for A2/AD environments

ISR is one of the  US Air Force’s five enduring core missions along with air and space superiority, rapid global mobility, global strike, and command and control. AF ISR is integral to Global Vigilance for the nation and is foundational to Global Reach and Global Power. ISR is defined in Joint Publication 1-02, Department of Defense (DoD) Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms as “An activity that synchronizes and integrates the planning and operations of sensors, assets, processing, exploitation, and dissemination systems in direct support of current and future operations. This is an integrated intelligence operations function.” Intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) is defined as an activity that synchronizes and integrates the planning and operations of sensors, assets, processing, exploitation, and dissemination systems in direct support of current and future operations, according to US DOD.



A significant challenge for Air Force ISR concerns operations in anti-access/area denial environments (A2/AD). These challenges can be addresses through improved sensing, processing, exploitation, data integration, and dissemination technologies. This includes reaching across domains in order to combine the information received from air, space, and cyber sources.


Cross-domain challenges will require cross-domain synergy of ISR capabilities to maintain situational awareness dominance. Synchronizing forces across the three domains in time and purpose for effect is paramount for mission success and a major S&T challenge. The air, space, and cyber domains possess dramatically different characteristics with respect to speed, time, distance, and governing physics and forces.


Contested environments compress decision timelines, which make the relevance and timeliness of ISR products ever more critical. These products must be tailored to meet the requestor’s requirements in order to successfully achieve the commander’s objectives. Additionally, ISR requirements should be timely enough to plan and execute effective operations. Intelligence resulting from timely ISR can provide information to aid a commander’s decision-making and constantly improve the commander’s understanding of the dynamic operational environment. Air Force ISR strategy will require technology improvements to further integrate cross-domain sensing capabilities, including technology to improve automated support to analysts to shorten timelines from tasking through product dissemination.


Rebalance and Optimize Integrated ISR Capabilities

AF ISR is exquisitely equipped to operate in permissive environments is directed to be transformed into one more suited to win the nation’s wars in contested or highly contested environments.  Our air, land, maritime, space, human, and cyber sensors must be able to penetrate denied space, survive to operate, and provide required levels of persistence.


The challenge is to integrate these sensors through a robust information architecture that allows highly trained multi- and all-source analysts to rapidly access and analyze all pertinent data and deliver it quickly to the war fighter and decision makers. To achieve this optimal mix of Airmen and machines, we will rebalance the AF ISR portfolio by divesting some platforms/sensors and, where possible, reinvesting the savings in information architecture, all-source analytic training, and next-generation penetrating ISR platforms/sensors.


AF ISR’s processing, exploitation, and dissemination (PED) capability has evolved considerably over the last decade. To continue the maturation, we will break the linear relationship between collection and analysis, where every increment of additional collection capacity requires a proportionate increase in analytical manpower. We will embrace the need for increased automation while recognizing that analysts play the critical role in synthesis, integration, and insight.


To achieve this balance we will transition the Air Force Distributed Common Ground System (AF DCGS) to a service-oriented architecture (SOA) with an initial focus on cloud data storage, analytic and collection planning tools, and ISR visualization. To share our all-source analytical expertise across the entirety of AF ISR, we will provide our Airmen with an integrated information architecture that connects the entire Enterprise—from our Airmen



Revolutionize Analysis and Exploitation

The highly complex strategic environment of 2023 will require robust multi- and all-source analysis. It will demand focus on all phases of the intelligence cycle and capability to perform in all phases of conflict.


Second, information-age technology is advancing at a stunning pace, yielding increasingly common information architectures, data accessibility, and knowledge management—all of which have created the conditions for a leap in intelligence processes. Whether it is labeled as “big data,” data mining, activity-based intelligence (ABI), or object-based production (OBP), the vast amount of information that we collect demands a transformation in the way we process, organize, and present data. To optimize our limited manpower and resources, we will “flip” today’s larger investment of Airmen in processing and exploiting single collection streams of data to an enterprise model where ISR Airmen develop, construct, and conduct multi- and all-source analysis in concert with the squadrons, wings, Air Operations Center (AOC), Joint Intelligence Centers, joint, and national producers.


The most important and challenging part of our analysis and exploitation revolution is the need to shift to a new model of intelligence analysis and production. The growing complexity of the data we collect along with the sheer quantity of data has obviated the traditional linear model of production. The new model treats all intelligence collection as sources of meta-tagged data accessible across multiple domains, organizational, and security divides from which analysts—trained in all-source techniques and methods—can discover, assess, and create relevant knowledge for commanders and decision makers at all levels. The AF will present and implement this model at the forefront of the IC, as a full partner of the IC Information Technology Environment (IC-ITE) and Joint Information Environment (JIE).


AFRL posts Multi-INT Fusion RFI

The volume and complexity of Multi-INT data streaming from AF and national sensors has challenged the analyst’s capacity to sort through, analyze, and report. The Air Force is moving into a new exploitation paradigm, coined Sense, Identify, Attribute, Share (SIAS) by AF Deputy of Staff for ISR, Lt Gen VeraLinn Jamieson, which will mandate new approaches, workflows, and capabilities to successfully execute Multi-INT fusion and analytics.


The 24 Jul 2018 approved Flight Plan signed by the Secretary of the Air Force and the Chief of Staff of the Air Force states, “To accomplish the Flight Plan aims, we must have the architecture and infrastructure to enable machine intelligence, including automation, human-machine teaming, and ultimately, artificial intelligence; these initiatives will define how the ISR Enterprise executes operations.” Technology components designed to support SIAS will need to ingest, reason over, and inform both analysts and other emerging technologies designed to automate both ISR database queries and physical collection.


An Open Architecture framework affords the ability to rapidly host, test, modify, update, and transition new tools, including tools that will enable the future of SIAS.


Through Nov 2018 RFI, AFRL is seeking potential DoD Laboratory, Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDC), Academia, and/or Industry vendors who are working technology capabilities that can provide Multi-INT analysis and fusion capabilities in the following areas:

1. Establishing/maintaining fusion priorities and mission planning via workflow and workforce management.

Assist with workflow management to assign analysts tasks that satisfy fusion requirements based upon analyst training, qualifications and past performance. Effectively manage and refine requirements and make recommendations to mission planners for improved sensor, process employment, collection orchestration, and collection from any relevant data source.

2. Performing automated or machine-assisted time-dominant fusion.

Analyze intelligence data from multiple sources, correlate related objects and activities identified in those sources in space and time, and fuse (e.g., associate) them into actionable and timely multi-source intelligence products to improve decision making in time-dominant analysis.
• Ability to automatically fuse data across multiple sources to create patterns of life and detect anomalous activity such as new tactics or procedures; provide contextually aware personalized data feeds, summaries, and visualizations focused on RFIs, EEIs, and other requirements.
• Provide autonomous capabilities to the analyst that provide analytical support and recommendations, capture models for both analyst and object behavior, and support predictive analytics to include mission order of battle and adversary modelling.

3. Providing situational awareness to analysts and/or decision makers.

Enable seamless access to intelligence data and provide event-triggered dynamic updates to fused Situational Awareness (SA) data within user-defined constraints using descriptive and predictive analytics to identify and predict significant changes to the battlespace. Depict identified multi-INT indications and warnings, trends and patterns of significant activity in support of a continuously updated operational User Defined Operating Picture (UDOP). Support collaborative human-human, human-machine and machine-machine exchange of information.

4. Performing automated or machine-assisted content-driven fusion.

Analyze and fuse intelligence data from broad variety of sources including airborne, satellite and open source to facilitate understanding of the operational picture to include adversary doctrine, training, seasonal weather effects, etc.
• Ability to conduct foundational intelligence preparation of the operational environment to produce assessments of capabilities and activity based on fused intelligence from multiple sources.
• Ability to correlate and fuse objects and activities from multiple sources to identify the commander’s priority intelligence requirements (PIRs).

5. Creating and disseminating multi-INT products/data.

Dynamically disseminate single and multi- source fusion ISR products. Involves system aided creation of products at multiple security / releasability levels according to user defined templates and rules. Ensure products are discoverable and disseminated according to established guidelines.


AFRL S&T Strategy

From uncontested to completely denied environments, AFRL sees an Intelligence Community (IC) in great need of increased integration and autonomy; sensing modalities to support longer range and passive sensing; new ways to manage massive data stores; and tools to support both analysis and dissemination of product. The Air Force needs faster, better ways to accomplish ISR missions.

Tenets Driving the AFRL ISR S&T Strategy:

AFRL has adapted the tenets identified in the overall Air Force Science and Technology Strategy to guide the AFRL ISR Strategy:

  • Align, Leverage, and Grow: Align our S&T with Air Force ISR requirements and leverage DoD, IC, and global S&T developments to create affordable and effective capabilities. Continuously strengthen and grow our ISR competence and enhance our unique ISR research facilities so AFRL continues to develop preeminent ISR capabilities and serve as the S&T agent to the Air Force materiel acquisition enterprise and the broader DoD acquisition community.
  • Shape the Future: Discover, investigate, and evaluate game-changing ISR technologies and perform S&T to develop, integrate, and demonstrate leap-ahead capabilities that meet documented warfighter needs for contested ISR environments. Lead the effort to optimize the capability of weapons systems for ISR. Through our IC involvement and in-depth understanding of past and present Air Force ISR operations, AFRL will shape the future by providing technological options that underpin future all-domain ISR capabilities.
  • Streamline: Partner with operational communities to rapidly and affordably transform the art-of-the-possible into force multiplying ISR capabilities spanning air, space, and cyberspace. AFRL must work to accelerate and streamline the ISR technology lifecycle from research and development, to acquisition, fielding, and sustainment.



S&T Strategic goals

Three S&T strategic goals have been identified to ensure forces retain the ability to quickly and efficiently gather and share information to enable battlespace awareness. These goals will enable AFRL to focus its ISR S&T efforts and drive toward achieving its vision:

  • Advance ISR Technologies: Advance S&T and apply new technologies to enable Air Force ISR operations in the A2/AD environ­ment while preserving a reasonable level of investment in research supporting the permissive environment.
  • Increase Analyst/Operator Effectiveness: Increase the effectiveness of Air Force analysts/operators by developing and integrat­ing adaptable autonomy, effective human-machine teaming to augment Air Force ISR personnel, persistent and penetrating sensing capabilities, modern architectures, more efficient data management, and analyst/operator tools.
  • Leverage Partnerships: Partner effectively with industry, coalition partners, academia, and other DoD and national labs to find the most cost-effective solutions for Air Force ISR needs and gaps.


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