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Using Near Space Vehicles in the Pursuit of Persistent C3ISR

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Conference paper

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US Air Force leaders issued a challenge to create a battlespace of the future that does not want for situational awareness. In this future, the warfighter can access up-to-date information through a network of sensors that are on duty 247 around the battlespace. The persistence of command, control, and communication as well as intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance C3ISR available today does not meet the 247 dream. Even the US dominance in the high ground of space could not meet the current appetite. A combination of manned and unmanned C3ISR platforms supported operations in Afghanistan and Iraq but they could not provide round-the-clock information to the commanders and the warfighters. To correct those gaps, the USAF chief of staff and others propose to exploit the relatively unused portion of the vertical dimension near space. This paper explores how near space vehicles NSV traversing altitudes from 20 km 65,000 feet up to 150 km lower confines of earth orbit generate the C3ISR effects future warfighters require. First, the current manned and unmanned platforms are compared for effects, cost, and persistence. Manned platforms include AWACS, JSTARS, and Rivet Joint. Typical unmanned platforms include Predator, Global Hawk, and representative low earth orbit satellites. The second part of the paper looks at modifying state of the art technologies to reach and operate in the near space region. The paper compares adapted balloon, lighter-than-air craft airships, and aircraft designs for operation in near space. The comparison continues to the physical architecture to provide persistent C3ISR effects. Constellations for several of the NSV designs are detailed with respect to various communication, electro-optical, radar, and signal gathering payloads. The paper concludes with a final emphasis on the persistence gaps the warfighters face and the potential for Near Space Vehicles to close the gaps to meet the 247 appetite of tomorrows warfighter.

Subject Categories:

  • Command, Control and Communications Systems
  • Unmanned Spacecraft
  • Manned Spacecraft

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