The Army is evaluating a cutting-edge force-protection system which combines radar, surveillance cameras, unmanned sensors, gunshot detection and remote-controlled weapons.
The sensors and weapons are combined into a single, integrated system that can scan surrounding terrain for threats and alert soldiers of potential imminent danger, service officials said. The Combat Outpost Surveillance and Force Protection System, nicknamed “Kraken” after the mythological sea creature with many heads, was evaluated in July as part of the Army’s 3,800-soldier-strong Network Integration Evaluation at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. The exercise was designed to assess and integrate a host of technologies.
The individual technologies assembled for the Kraken are integrated through a government-owned, scalable and open architecture software called Joint Force Protection Advanced Security System, said Tom O’Neill, Integrated Base Defense Product director, Joint Project Manager Guardian.
“While the sensor and device payload is impressive and probably offers the most force protection per cubic foot compared to any other system, the key is the integration standard, fusion and automation, which reduces troop to task and provides increased situational awareness — thus resulting in more reaction time for the warfighter,” said O’Neill.
The Joint Force Protection software enables data from all of Kraken’s system components to be integrated via a standard protocol, fused and conditionally automated, O’Neill explained; the information is displayed on screens showing a Common Operating Picture.
“We’ve been able to positively identify targets before they got in range with weapons on our Operating Picture. They have tried to raid us multiple times, but we have been able to positively identify them and engage them before they got close. This is great for tracking the people coming in and out,” said Pvt. James Benham, a forward observer who has been evaluating Kraken in a series of mock-combat exercises at a White Sands “Mountain Village” outpost.
For assessment and identification, a series of 11 cameras are strategically aligned to cover a 360-degree view, including electro-optical/infra-red, low-light perimeter and Forward-Looking Infra-Red, or FLIR, HRC-X all-weather day and night thermal cameras; two of the cameras, a laser rangefinder and a GSR are rotatable atop a 10-meter mast, Benham and O’Neill explained.
Eight white and infra-red perimeter lights are included for night operations, two PRI Trap 250s are employed for defending and two laptops with two larger displays are included for command and control, O’Neill described.
The radar on top of the mast can detect people at distances up to 10 kilometers and vehicles out to 20 kilometers. Also, Kraken has a second mid-range GSR which scans a full 360 degrees every second and is engineered to interface with video cameras, ground sensors and remote weapons applications. Kraken also contains a laser pointer/illuminator.
“We currently have 22 UGS [Unattended Ground Sensors] right now. They are located on the roads and on the avenues of approach. If there are blind spots in the radar, I am able to track targets seismically,” Benham said.
Powered by a 10-kilowatt Tactical Quiet Generator, Kraken’s two remote weapons stations can accommodate an M249 Semi-Automatic Weapon or an M240 machine gun, Benham said.
“The remote weapon’s stations have night capabilities with a thermal digital zoom,” he added.
Kraken was begun as part of a $30-million Joint Capability Technology Demonstration, O’Neill explained.
It was co-developed by the Office of the Secretary of Defense Physical Security Equipment Action Group and the Joint Program Executive Office-Chemical and Biological Defense, with oversight by the Rapid Fielding Directorate, Director Defense Research and Engineering to address the issue of forces being at risk because current technologies, concept of operations, and policies do not provide a comprehensive, effective, and sustainable force-protection capability, he added.
One Kraken system is at White Sands Missile Range for the NIE while another is being refurbished from its use at Joint Forces Command’s Empire Challenge11, an ISR event at Fort Huachuca, AZ, in June. Two more systems are being purchased by the Army for integration with its Entry Control Point program, O’Neill said.
Initial fielding of the Kraken by the REF is planned for the first quarter of fiscal year 12, O’Neill added. Also — based on operator requests — a refined Kraken system will be part of the next NIE, planned for this fall, he said.
“Kraken is showing quantitatively-significant operational utility to the warfighter,” O’Neill said.