Air Force eyes passive surveillance to track aircraft using only the RF signals they emit

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB, Ohio – U.S. Air Force researchers are ready to ask industry for passive surveillance techniques to identify, pinpoint, and track aircraft, land vehicles, and surface ships using only the RF signals they emit.

Content Dam Mae Online Articles 2017 03 Rid Program 30 March 2017
WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB, Ohio – U.S. Air Force researchers are ready to ask industry for passive surveillance techniques to identify, pinpoint, and track aircraft, land vehicles, and surface ships using only the RF signals they emit.

Officials of the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, have issued a presolicitation (FA8650-17-S-1022) for the future Radio Identification (RID) program.

This initiative, which should begin in May or June, seeks to demonstrate and evaluate the benefits of identifying and geo-locating surface and air platforms via reception, processing, and display of their communications, navigation, and identification signals, as well as of other signals of interest.

The ability to identify, locate, and track military and civil aircraft, ships and vehicles in this way could enable covert surveillance and reconnaissance without the use of active sensors like radar.

The result could be the ability to locate and track aircraft, ships, and vehicles without the targets knowing they are being tracked.

Related: Air Force looking into advanced staring infrared search and track for fighter aircraft

Such a project most likely will involve very sensitive RF receivers, directional and steerable antennas, and sophisticated power digital signal processing to pick targets of interest out of the staggering amount of RF noise and interference that exists today from radio communications, cell phones, radio and television stations, and random RF noise.

The RID program will focus on non-cooperative target identification and geo-location via passive reception of RF signals of interest, AFRL officials say.

The project will mature technologies and develop techniques for detection, identification, and reporting of any spoofing attempts, and demonstrate passive reception of at least one cooperative identification system. The automatic dependent surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) emitting signals at 1090 MHz is the planned capability.

Air Force researchers are looking for modular RID software architectures based on open-systems standards where practical to support upgrades to algorithms and incorporating additional signals of interest.

The system architecture must be able to support agile multifunction signal processing and fusion of sensor tracks. Researchers are interested in system architectures that could work on a variety of platforms and locations, and that could move to Air Force or U.S. military systems using multi-channel, multi-function apertures and receivers integrated with software-defined architectures and equipment.

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A formal solicitation for the RID program is expected by late May or early June 2017. The program should run for five years, and could be worth as much as $24.92 million to the contractor or contractors ultimately chosen to carry it out.

This announcement is a presolicitation only, and Air Force researchers are not ready to accept proposals until the formal solicitation comes out in May or June.

For technical questions or concerns contact the Air Force's John Bollinger by email at john.bollinger@us.af.mil, or by phone at 937-713-4304.

For contracting questions contact Cindy Brocker by email at cynthia.brockert@us.af.mil, or by phone at 937-713-9840.

More information is online at https://www.fbo.gov/spg/USAF/AFMC/AFRLWRS/FA8650-17-S-1022/listing.html.

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