In order to be more effective in the operations area, armed forces and security forces need aerial platforms equipped with special mission systems. Aircraft, helicopters, or unmanned aerial vehicles that perform activities such as intelligence, reconnaissance, electronic warfare, surveillance, and underwater warfare provide advantages to armed forces and security forces on the operations area. Depending on the unit’s area of responsibility and station of duty, these aerial platforms are equipped with various special mission devices. However, the most important feature of such platforms is the command and control system that enables the devices and weapons to operate in an integrated manner.
It is quite reasonable that countries need constant reconnaissance, surveillance, intelligence, and patrol activities to protect their borders and their cross-border areas of economic interest. For this purpose, long-range radar systems are the most commonly used sensors. The effective area of use for camera and optical systems is usually limited to the visual horizon. Since it is not possible to install these systems in the enemy territory or in areas that are under threat, they have to be installed within the borders of the country. This, in turn, significantly limits the coverage and effective areas of intelligence and reconnaissance activities. Surveillance activities can be insufficient, particularly in areas where the country’s territory is too large, the coastline is too long, the islands are large in numbers and too close to the continental shelf. Not being able to detect the activities beyond the islands or the terrain may constitute an immense vulnerability for the country’s defense. This applies to numerous countries with long coastlines, such as Turkey, Indonesia, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, France, Norway, and the USA.
Constantly assembling task forces to protect the maritime areas of interest by observing the naturally
sheltered cross-border terrain and beyond the islands is a laboring and costly activity. Also, it may not always be possible due to international rules. With these in mind, the Turkish Naval Forces and the Turkish Coast Guard Command gravitated toward using special mission Aircraft.
Thanks to the efforts initiated in 1999 in Turkey, the Maritime Patrol/Surveillance Aircraft (MPA/MSA) (MELTEM) has been procured. HAVELSAN has provided the Tactical Command System as part of the Aerial Platform, and the Tactical Command and Control Information System and the Simulation & Training System for the Ground System in the MELTEM Projects (MELTEM II & III).
The maintenance, modernization, and configuration checks of the Tactical Command System developed
for the MPA/MSAs within the scope of the MELTEM Projects are going to be performed by HAVELSAN and the works related to preventive, corrective, adaptive, and perfective maintenance have already begun.Thanks to the MELTEM Projects, the reconnaissance and patrol capabilities of the Naval Force and the Coast Guard Command in the operation areas have increased significantly. Able to operate for long flight times, these Aircrafts the Forces to obtain reliable intelligence from the operation area and cross-border regions, which act as multipliers of capability for the Forces.
By the nature of their duties and responsibilities, the Air Forces are able to utilize all the Aircraft in their inventory for reconnaissance and patrol missions. However, other forces and security units do not possess such resources. In particular, the Naval Forces and the Coast Guard Command units need aerial platforms that provide intelligence from areas beyond the horizon and save time for their seaborne fleets.
Such aerial platforms that are capable of performing reconnaissance and patrol duties at sea are usually called MPA/MSAs. These special mission Aircraft are places where the air force and navy concepts become intertwined and each operational need greatly interacts with the other, and these planes are equipped with systems utilizing cutting-edge technologies. MPA/MSAs can be considered to have two main elements and one auxiliary element:
Aircraft and Mission System, and the Operation Support System, respectively.
Following the first maritime patrol Aircraft manufactured in the 1960s, usually standard passenger Aircraft or Aircrafts manufactured for military cargo purposes and the derivatives thereof have been employed for such missions. These platforms are modified to allow the installation and use of sensors and weapons, depending on the operational needs of the naval and coast guard forces. The selection of the Aircrafts is performed depending on the size of the mission area, the required mission time, and the body/engine the configuration that will not hinder the operating performance of the sensors. The bodies of the selected planes are modified to accommodate the sensors and weapons included in the mission system.
What makes MPA/MSAs “special” is, without a doubt, the mission system installed on them. The main components and functions of the Mission System, which are created depending on the operational
requirements, are as follows. Some mission systems may also include Aircraft protection (missile warning, chaff, flare) components. On the other hand, a magnetic declination detector and sonobuoy sensors are used in Aircrafts capable of engaging in underwater warfare for the purpose of locating the targets. Aircrafts expected to engage in electronic warfare are provided with more sensitive signal pick-up and scrambling devices.
|Mission System Component||Subsystems||Function|
|Sensors||Radar||Detection of the elements on the field and intelligence data|
|Magnetic Declination Detector|
|Automatic Identification System|
|Command and Control System||Command and Control software||Threat analysis through data analysis, data fusion, exhibition, and recording, and controlling the Sensor and communication subsystems with the decision-auxiliary units|
|Date processing stations|
|Transferring data, audio, and visual information||Radios (VHF, UHF, HF)||Transferring data, audio, and visual information|
|Satellite transponder unit|
The mission systems of MPA/MSAs do not have a standard subsystem configuration. These subsystems are assembled to suit the duties and responsibilities of and the tactics to be employed by the Naval Forces and the Coast Guard Command units.
Command and Control Software
Sensor and communication devices require high technology and investment. Therefore, these devices are usually manufactured by global companies to have standard features. Still, it is possible to acquire alternative devices with similar capabilities. On the other hand, Command and Control software is specially developed to ensure the most effective use of the components that constitute the mission system. Some companies that manufacture sensors (radar) create a standard mission control configuration according to the needs of the country with the intent of standardizing command and control software. However, the most vulnerable point of this approach is the obligation to use it with a single sensor (radar, camera) model. Thus, the system becomes dependent on a single brand and model throughout its lifecycle.
Since the Command and Control software is responsible for checking and coordinating all subsystems in the mission system, it is called the brain of the mission system. It is quite obvious that the software that is going to control the mission systems needs to be developed with a technology that is compatible with the sensors, the communication system, and other (self-protection, weapons, navigation, etc.) auxiliary systems. However, the essential approach for designing the Command and Control System is to have an in-depth understanding of the operation methods and decision-making processes of the forces and security units that will use the system and to capture these methods and processes in the system. The critical element that makes the mission system special lies here.
The ability to develop command and control software for aerial mission systems is considered a strategic competence that the global defense companies gain by investing for decades and that they maintain meticulously. This is why the companies and countries developing command and control systems only share information on the capabilities of the software but not on the design and technologies thereof. Despite the exorbitant prices offered by countries that are eager to develop their own command and control systems, this field remains outside the scope of technology transfer.
Ensuring the most effective and integrated operation of all the subsystems in the mission system is the greatest engineering problem that needs to be solved with regard to the Command and Control system.
Without having information about the design, production, information exchange, and the operating methods of all subsystems (such as radar, camera, communication, navigation, etc.) constituting the mission system, it is not possible to integrate these systems and make them interoperate.
The activities of special mission Aircraft are planned in Operation Centers that are created for this purpose and the data collected from the operations performed are also analyzed in these centers. A command and control system compatible with the Aircraft system is also used in the operation center.
Conclusion and Evaluation
Established by the Turkish Armed Forces Foundation with a view to developing strategic software with national resources, HAVELSAN develops domestic software and produces authentic system solutions for the Turkish Armed Forces, Security Forces, and the militaries of friendly nations as the largest military software development company of our country. Furthermore, the company invests in the acquisition of critical technologies by engaging in research and development with regard to its strategic objective of developing command and control software. In line with this objective, the Tactical Command System software developed by HAVELSAN and delivered to the prime contractor have been used within the MELTEM Projects that started in 1999 and the next-generation Command and Control Systems are still being developed by analyzing the future needs of the armed forces and security forces with regard to aerial reconnaissance and intelligence.
Efforts continue at full speed, with the vision of having HAVELSAN’s National & Domestic systems installed in all the special mission Aircraft of our country within the next decade. As a consequence of the experience and know-how gained through the command and control systems developed in the MELTEM Projects and for all other ground, maritime, and aerial platforms, the MARTI (powered by ADVENT) Aerial Command and Control System, for which HAVELSAN started developing all the hardware and software will be submitted to the disposal of the Turkish Armed Forces.
Author: Hüseyin Cenk TURHANGİL / Project Manager in HAVELSAN
Cited from Journal of Havelsan/ APRIL • MAY • JUNE 2020