Communications Networks to Support Integrated Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance, and Strike Operations

by Elham Ghashghai


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The focus of the study is on combat systems operating at medium and low altitudes, which pose challenges different from intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) platforms operating at high altitude. Medium- and low-altitude platforms are closer to jammers and signals intelligence receivers, so an adversary might more readily intercept or jam signals. The platforms' low observability can be compromised if they transmit large amounts of data, increasing their chance of detection. After discussing data requirements and threats and examining the current communications programs and shortfalls, the analysis finds that there is no one solution for all situations and platforms. A combination of options will be needed to ensure a reliable and robust communications link. These options will vary depending on altitude, range, data rate, and threat. Although communications does not appear to be a limiting factor for future ISR forces, programmatic action will be required to develop the necessary systems and the costs could be high.

The research reported here was sponsored by the United States Air Force and conducted by RAND Project AIR FORCE.

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