The Weekly Debrief: TITAN Leads Army Intelligence Transition To New Era

This Tactical Ground Station Humvee will eventually be replaced by the TITAN ground station.
Credit: U.S. Army

The U.S. Army's intelligence branch has developed a new set of skills during two decades of war against mostly terrorists and insurgents. An Army constructed after the Vietnam War to blunt the second echelon of Soviet armed divisions flowing into Western Europe adapted to a new adversary. 

Instead of detecting armored columns on the move over 150 nm away through any weather, Army intelligence analysts adapted to learn how to immediately detect, identify and locate anyone using a single-channel, push-to talk radio or cellular device within an area of interest. 

Now the Army’s intelligence branch is adapting again. A pivot to preparing for a theoretical war against China and Russia has changed the priorities. The new requirement is a ground control system that can fuze together a common picture from a patchwork of far-flung sensors, automatically identify targets and feed the data within moments to the Army’s future Long-Range Precision Fires (LRPF) batteries. 

The Army’s solution to that problem is the Tactical Intelligence Targeting Access Node (TITAN).

As the Association of the U.S. Army’s virtual annual meeting kicks off on Oct. 12, several higher-profile—and expensive—Army modernization priorities will capture more of the spotlight, including LRPF and the Future Vertical Lift’s two new rotorcraft programs: the Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft and the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft.

The Army’s investment so far in the TITAN program pales by comparison to those acquisition efforts, with a $30 million line item budgeted in fiscal 2021 to deliver two prototypes in fiscal 2022. But few programs are more important to a concept of future operations defined by a fusion of information from sources in multiple domains, with automated systems processing the data into targeting information. 

In the background, TITAN is at the center of a wide-ranging modernization push by the Army’s Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors (IEW&S) program executive office (PEO). 

In space, the National Reconnaissance Office has teamed up with the PEO to launch prototype satellites into low earth orbit (LEO) under an $86.8 million line item requested in the fiscal 2021 budget, according to a June report by the Congressional Research Service. Meanwhile, the Multi-Domain Sensor System (MDSS) is seeking to introduce a host of manned and unmanned aircraft systems at medium and high altitudes, equipped with variants of the new High Accuracy Detection and Exploitation System payload. Finally, the Terrestrial Layer System (TLS) will replace the Prophet signals intelligence (SIGINT) system on the ground with a new capability that combines SIGINT collection, electronic attack and cyber operations. 

The sensor data from all three future systems—the future LEO space layer, MDSS and TLS—are intended to converge in the TITAN ground station.

The "station" itself could be plural. The Army has laid out a plan to acquire a large TITAN component based on the chassis of a 5-ton truck called the Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles. A smaller version would be deployed on the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle or the Joint Tactical Light Vehicle. 

Once TITAN is fielded in fiscal 2023, the Army expects to operate the system like a roving command post, capable of receiving data from sensors in any domain, fusing the data into a common picture and automatically transmitting targets of interest to the LRPF batteries. The concept pushes technology boundaries for the Army in several areas, including artificial intelligence and machine-learning algorithms, multi-band antennas and hybrid power systems. 

To develop TITAN, the Army is starting with a risk-reduction effort. Two prototype systems scheduled for delivery in fiscal 2022 will evaluate the ability of TITAN to connect with satellites, including sensor data from military and commercial spacecraft. A new phase of the TITAN program will begin in fiscal 2022, with the goal to gradually integrate more sensors from the MDSS and TLS programs, as well as other airborne platforms. 

“The opportunity here on this Titan space-ground prototype is the ability to bring in this space-based [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] data and fuse it together in a way that’s faster than probably current timelines,” said Troy Brashear, Northrop’s vice president for integrated national systems. 


Steve Trimble

Steve covers military aviation, missiles and space for the Aviation Week Network, based in Washington DC.