NAWCWD Team Achieves Automatic Target Recognition Milestone

Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division personnel developed software that enables a radar to accurately alert the warfighter to adversary submarine periscopes on the cluttered and choppy surface of the ocean.

The development team, within the command’s Target Recognition Branch of the Avionics Department, achieved a major technical milestone with the successful operational test of a surface target imaging system known as Automatic Radar Periscope Detection and Discrimination (ARPDD).

“This system represents our first successful application of automatic target recognition on an aircraft,” said Dave Breitigam, the ARPDD team lead at NAWCWD.

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The team developed the software that provides real-time data via the AN/APS-153 Multimode Radar on the Seahawk (MH-60R) helicopter. Breitigam said that this involved months of flight testing, many data collection exercises and significant commitment from team members. An upgrade to the previous radar system, ARPDD enhances situational awareness by effectively detecting, imaging and sizing all sea surface disruptions, no matter the environment.

Researchers developed the complex algorithms that are the basis of ARPDD’s capability. The mathematical equations are bundled into computer software programs designed to accurately detect submarine periscopes and distinguish them from other objects or disturbances on the water’s surface. An operator can then make a final periscope confirmation based on the data and take appropriate action.

NAWCWD scientists and engineers have been working on the ARPDD program from its inception.

“Our role has been front and center in this project for a number of years,” said Breitigam, who is a 10-year veteran of the ARPDD program.

Work began in 1976 with a joint Naval Research Laboratory and NAWCWD program focusing on automatic target recognition for ships. Since the beginning, the two labs cooperate on surface target imaging.

In 1993, the work shifted to periscope detection technology under the Air Anti-Submarine Warfare Systems Program Office (PMA-264) with Office of Naval Research sponsorship. NAWCWD had two roles in this early development. They provided an integrated technical team and system testing leadership with Naval Air Systems Command Avionics Department personnel. They also developed the automatic periscope discrimination technology and system for future improvements.

The system achieved initial operational capability in 2013. Full scale production and rollout of the radar continues to move forward with a successful operational evaluation in early 2014.

“NAWCWD efforts to develop and mature the ARPDD technology have resulted in significant fleet operational benefits for MH-60R Anti-Submarine Warfare and Surface Warfare mission performance,” said Capt. James Glass, manager of NAVAIR’s H-60 Helicopters program office (PMA-299). “NAWCWD's initial experimental and demonstration work matured ARPDD technology to a level that enabled the acquisition community to integrate this game changing technology into the MH-60R. Additionally, during the MH-60R ARPDD development contract execution, the NAWCWD team did an outstanding job of working with the aircraft prime contractor, major radar subcontractor, and HX-21 as teammates with the PMA-299 MH-60R ARPDD integrated product team, to achieve excellent results for the fleet within a very aggressive program schedule.”

NAWCWD continues to be involved with the ARPDD program, according to Breitigam.

“We are working to demonstrate the capabilities of this system,” Breitigam said. “We are providing training support and training tools to the fleet. We are working with PMA-299 to support Naval Aviation Training Systems Program Office (PMA-205) with training on the system.”

Source: Naval Air Systems Command
Date: Dec 4, 2014