October 28, 2005

Sandia demonstrates device for preventing battlefield friendly fire

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Sandia National Laboratories, along with partners General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. and Sierra Monolithics Inc., demonstrated the Athena Radar-Responsive Tag during Exercise "Urgent Quest" in the United Kingdom (Salisbury Plains Training Area) Sept. 19 through Oct. 9, 2005.

Athena was developed with sponsorship from the U.S. Army CERDEC I2WD Division and the U.S. Air Force Air Warfare Battlelab.

Urgent Quest is a Military Utility Assessment, associated with the Coalition Combat Identification (CCID) Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD), organized to demonstrate the effectiveness of new technologies in preventing friendly fire, or fratricide.

The final report for the exercise will be released in March 2006.

During the demonstration, Athena tags were placed on military vehicles participating in the exercises. The device, tracked via aircraft radar, can be used to identify both U.S. and coalition forces during combat to avoid fratricide. During war, fratricide is the act of killing one's own soldiers.

Aircraft on bombing runs used their on-board radar systems to ensure there were no friendly troops in their sights. If an Athena-tagged vehicle was present, a unique identifier appeared on the pilot's screen alerting him to a friendly force in his target area, thereby avoiding a potential friendly fire incident.

In preparation for Exercise Urgent Quest, the Athena tag has been demonstrated with several U.S. and European aircraft. In addition to combat identification, the tag can be used for blue force tracking, a similar but not identical mission.

Sandia Project administrator Darick Lewis says the exercises were intended to evaluate the effectiveness of various technologies in preventing friendly fire.

"Ideally, worthy candidate technologies can be transitioned into final development programs and produced for warfighter use," he says. "Athena is effective because it utilizes a fighter aircraft's existing radar for detection. It is simple, rugged, small and inexpensive to integrate."

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