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“The electromagnetic spectrum has been used for commercial and military applications for over a century.”(i) As military and battlefield operations depend more and more on the electromagnetic spectrum for communications, targeting and defense, electronic warfare (EW) has become increasingly critical to the success of military campaigns. EW uses the electromagnetic spectrum to attack or impede an enemy or to thwart attacks by the enemy. Examples include intercepting, hijacking, or jamming radio communication and radar signals, and even using directed energy radiation for causing damage. “Just as friendly forces leverage the electromagnetic spectrum to their advantage, so do capable enemies use the electromagnetic spectrum to threaten friendly force operations. The threat is compounded by the growth of the wireless world and the increasingly sophisticated use of commercial off-the-shelf technologies.”(ii)
EW enables military forces to protect themselves from enemy targeting and radars without violence or gunfire by denying the opponent the advantage of wireless communication. “The same construct’s operatives in [classic] industrial warfare apply to cyber [electronic] warfare: strategic attack and the ability to penetrate the adversary’s capability to make war.”(iii) The growing use of EW in warfare creates a need for technology that can out-smart the opponent’s resources, creating an advantage of offensive counter information, hindering its ability to “make war.”
With EW’s increasing role in the battlefield, commanders have a critical need to tactically locate enemy spotter and observation post positions reporting on friendly forces’ convoy movements, patrol routes, and the enemy emplacement of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). Commanders must quickly and accurately determine the precise locations of enemy forces. By utilizing EW technologies, these enemy forces can be located by exploiting the radio frequency emissions of enemy Command and Control (C2) communications networks. Such communications networks use a variety of commercial and tactical transceivers which can be located using direction finding (DF) technology. Existing signals intelligence (SIGINT) and EW systems currently can identify only the general vicinity of such transceivers; determining precise location remains difficult.
A variety of factors limited the precision of existing DF systems. Typically, large standoff distances between the DF sensors and their targets result in large error ellipses that represent a significant uncertainty in precise location. Additionally, many handheld devices used by enemy forces transmit at relatively low power levels or may be masked by terrain, thereby preventing the larger collection systems from detecting, intercepting, and locating these devices. These existing devices provided limited local DF functionality and were too large and cumbersome for use in the field. The solution required a fielded system which would provide a portable, easy-to-use, tactical DF capability.
To fill the coverage gaps and limitations of traditional DF systems, Praemittias Systems created the Wolfhound Cooperative Radio Direction Finding System (Wolfhound). The mobile, lightweight, and ruggedized radio direction finding system was designed for ease-of-use, exceptional accuracy, and support for both single user and team use. Utilizing its advanced detection system, Wolfhound detects signals of interest (SOIs) and visualizes the information on the system’s handheld display head. The system can be used tactically during daily patrols, in prolonged static operations, and in semi-permanent fixed operations. Wolfhound can be incorporated in a variety of platforms including airborne, ground, maritime, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
Wolfhound originally launched in 2007 with great field success. The Wolfhound System includes a portable computing device (often carried in a backpack) and a handheld display head tethered to the computing device. The display head provides a touch screen LCD in a lightweight package which enables users to easily interact with the system.
After more than five successful years in operation, Wolfhound required updates and improvements to enhance system operation and extend product life. Praemittias required upgraded electronics and replacement of obsolete electronic components. The system’s display head also required a redesign to create a more rugged device and improve the cable mechanism, to reduce in-field failure rates. Other requirements of the display head redesign included an increased display screen size and greater readability of data in the field.
To facilitate the creation of an optimal Wolfhound upgrade, Praemittias sought outsourced expertise in portable rugged device design. Praemittias chose SECO USA Electronics to design and complete the Wolfhound electronics and display upgrades. SECO USA’s expertise in military deployed portable devices ensured delivery within Praemittias’ required quick four month completion schedule.
SECO USA utilized a modified COTS approach (wherein a proven commercial off-the-shelf platform is customized for specific product requirements) by redesigning their Texas Instruments AM3703 OMAP based SBC, Siren, to fit into the existing Wolfhound unit as a drop-in upgrade. This approach reduced risk, saved time, and reduced cost, in part because the electronics leveraged a proven design with which the same Wolfhound enclosure could still be used. The updated computing engine increased processing speed, memory, and display controller resolution, and added custom connectivity and additional serial ports. SECO USA also redesigned Wolfhound’s display head [previous version seen in image]: This included upgrading from a 3.5” QVGA (320 x 240) display to a 5” WSVGA (1024 x 600) display, increasing the size while decreasing the weight. The updated display head incorporated a resistive touch screen, compatible with moist environments and gloved operation. Built on chemically strengthened glass mounted within its enclosure with appropriate sealing technologies, the Wolfhound display head’s redesign was updated to a fully-rugged (MIL-STD-810G, MIL-STD-461F, and IP67) unit capable of withstanding the toughest of environments, even submersion. Display head connector issues associated with the majority of in-field failures were resolved with a hot-swappable, quick release connector, enabling rapid field replacement of the display head without having to power down the Wolfhound system.
The result of the updated version of Wolfhound (delivered on time) is a faster, lighter, higher performing, and more user-friendly device with extended product life. These updates help military forces better, more reliably, and more tactically combatenemy forces in the ever-growing technological battlefield. With improved direction finding technology, military forces are able to gain greater advantage by outmaneuvering enemy forces’ resources. This creates an advantage of offensive electronic counter information, which can greatly decrease violent warfare. And with Wolfhound Cooperative Radio Direction Finding System’s improved components and longer life, it now has the potential to save even more lives on the battlefield.
i, ii Electronic Warfare in Operations. (2009, February 20). Retrieved from http://usacac.army.mil/CAC2/Repository/FM336/FM336.pdf
iii Luman, R., McPherson, S. (2007, March 22). Proceedings on Combating the Unrestricted Warfare Threat: Integrating Strategy, Analysis, and Technology (pp 281-296). Retrieved from http://www.jhuapl.edu/urw_symposium/Proceedings/2007/chapters/URW2007Book.pdf
Images provided by Praemittias Systems