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The United States Army’s newest ambition is to develop a high-altitude intelligence, cyber and electronic warfare sensor.
Its purpose would be to fly over enemy territory, provide data to allied forces and even jam or disrupt enemy capability.
The system is dubbed High-Altitude Extended-Range Long Endurance Intelligence Observation System, or HELEIOS (not to be confused with the HELIOS laser) and is part of the US Army’s wider Multidomain Sensing System family.
The family is a series of high-altitude systems that will help the Army cover the vast distances over which it expects to operate in future conflicts.
HELEIOS will be an attritable sensor mounted to a solar glide vehicle or a balloon, designed to operate at 60,000 feet or above.
It is still a concept and there is little concrete still. The Army is looking for technologies that include coherent, distributed, electromagnetic attack capability; multiple low-power transmitters; and effectors on different balloons or gliders that are coordinated in time to deliver a jamming to a target’s signal.
To put it simply, the idea is to “blanket” the area behind enemy lines with a “low-cost attritable” sensor. The aim is to get the payload light enough to fly on this penetrating, high-altitude, attributable platform and then to get it close to the target so it can fulfill its function.
The Army is going to begin experimenting with the system during upcoming Project Convergence exercises and at a technology demonstrator in the Indo-Pacific in 2022.
Initially, the US Army wants to mount the sensor on a balloon right over a target and move on from there, recognizing that, as the platform moves and the sensor gets farther away, that will present size, weight and power issues.
All of these systems, and the above-mentioned Multidomain Sensing System family are part of the US Army’s push to form a Combined Joint All-Domain Command and Control.
To this end, an integration office was established within the Program Executive Office Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors. The office is comprised of three parts.
The first is “Architectures”, which is focused on system-of-systems engineering and common standards for interfacing with other programs.
The second part is “Futures”, which is focused on understanding threat analysis and conducting science and technology transitions from groups across the Army, which also is responsible for the development of HELEIOS, and other similar systems.
The final part has no official name and is looking at interfacing the program executive office with other elements of the Army.
Information is a valuable resource and the US Army evidently is attempting to do its due diligence so that it doesn’t fall behind in a future conflict.