Army Aviation

STARLite Cuts Through the Fog of War

GreyEagleBy John Higgins PEO IEW&S Public Affairs

The fog of war, a term coined by military theorist Carl Von Clausewitz, describes the chaos and lack of information that has plagued warriors since, well, war.

Aerial photography and Radar have grown significantly in recent years, through as much from necessity as innovation, systems have changed to take advantage of both. The synthetic aperture radar (SAR) system of the Small Tactical Radar – Lightweight (STARLite) brings the big picture to Soldiers in the field. It is housed in the forward payload bay in the nose of the Army’s Gray Eagle unmanned aircraft. 

“Think of using the camera (EO/IR) as looking through a straw and then using synthetic aperture radar is like a big screen TV, that’s a real difference,” said Maj. Christee Cuttino, the Assistant Product Manager for Sensor – Unmanned or Rotary Wing (PM SURW) under Program Executive Office Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors (PEO IEW&S).  “The camera by design focuses on a very small area while the radar can cover a very large area.”

That very large area is critical for solid, real time battlefield intelligence. It can provide Moving Target Indication (MTI), tracking targets such as vehicles and those personnel who are on foot.  In 2016, the STARLite forward Processing Exploitation and Dissemination (PED) team covered over 800 missions, supporting surveillance, reconnaissance, counter-indirect fire and base defense. In addition, it provided Traffic Pattern Analysis and generated over 300 pieces of intelligence imagery. These intelligence products have been key in planning overwatch, transportation and patrol missions through current areas of operations.

STARLite functions both day and night so it must be supported by engineers in and out of uniform in the field and in the United States.  “Over the past 16 months, PdM SURW utilized a forward deployed Processing, Exploitation and Dissemination (PED) team to provide real time analytical support to commanders of the Gray Eagle UAS.” said George Nardone, Systems Engineer under Research, Development and Engineering Command.  “This team works closely with the teams deployed and provides 24/7 support for intelligence requirements.”

Future endeavors with STARLite include an integrated tactical display, service based modularity and improved operating tools in line with feedback from soldiers in the field.