The heart of our mission is to deter aggression. We don’t want to fight wars – we want to prevent them – and the way you prevent conflicts is to convince the other side that you have the will to resist and the capability to defeat aggression.
Frank Kendall, Secretary of the Air Force
Dept of Air Force (DAF) Operational Imperatives, March 3, 2022
To advance the Department of Defense (DoD) capability to deter and defeat adversaries on the contemporary battlefield, the Moving Target Indications (MTI) information stream supports six Joint Warfighting Functions: Command and Control (C2), Intelligence, Fires, Movement and Maneuver, Protection, and Sustainment.
MTI is particularly important in major combat operations, where the battlefield is rapidly changing and where enemy forces may be dispersed and mobile. The tracking of moving objects, provided through rapid and persistent MTI data, informs commanders by improving situational awareness and enabling more effective battlespace management. For maximum effectiveness, MTI is integrated with other military information systems, such as C2, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), and targeting to provide a more comprehensive and coordinated picture of the conflict landscape.
MTI will be crucial on the multi-domain battlefield during major combat operations, and with this capability US military decision makers can:
- understand the conflict landscape to locate, track, and maintain custody of critical capabilities,
- have tools in place so that relevant decisions can be made reliably at the speed the warfighter needs,
- have the ability to act in a timely manner for necessary defensive or peacekeeping action, and
- establish authoritative organization structures to endure sustained conflict.
Investments in Next Generation MTI
Secretary Kendall announced in 2021 the pursuit, in coordination with the United States Space Force (USSF), of “a space-based ground moving target indicator, or GMTI, capability” to replace a portion of the aging, and increasingly vulnerable, Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar Systems (JSTARS). In addition to DAF and USSF MTI initiatives, the US Army is separately pursuing high-altitude MTI capabilities, specifically the High Accuracy Detection and Exploitation System (HADES) payload.
MTI is recognized as mission critical by the DoD, which is requesting increased resources from Congress to modernize, integrate, and transform MTI capabilities across the services. Therefore, now is the time to plan for a future that includes space-based and other emerging MTI technologies.
MTI is changing dramatically
MTI as a capability has been around for decades, but global access, persistent coverage and the ability to maintain custody across diverse MTI providers creates opportunities for new or augmented ways of operating at scale.
Understanding the unique capabilities of space-based and airborne collection platforms allows for more comprehensive approaches to utilization of resources and sharing of high-interest target custody. The increase in number and diversity of MTI data providers presents both opportunities and challenges.
The global access enjoyed by space-based assets will enable deployment of MTI capability to theatre users within minutes, not days to weeks as is typical for airborne assets. Similarly, the logistics for space assets (spacecraft operations center) can be separated from the tactical operations and maintained elsewhere. Satellite constellations provide a unique combination of theater collection capabilities with a global distribution of assets that drive significant change and opportunity for the operations community. For example, any given satellite will pass over multiple combatant commands (CCMDs) several times each day, and allocating the collection resources of that satellite to individual commanders requires some form of centralized planning and prioritization. At the same time, theater-level control of the assets is necessary for the collection responsiveness required to support tactical operations.
Moving Target Engagement at Scale
In parallel with the effort to acquire next-generation MTI capabilities, there is a similar transformation going on within DoD with respect to maintenance and sustainment of information and decision advantage using MTI data. The Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) strategy, published by the DoD in 2022, provided the vision, requirements, standards and imperatives to ‘push on actions to empower our Joint Force Commanders with the capabilities needed to command the Joint Force across all domains.’
These developments will necessitate automated methods of digesting and disseminating perishable MTI data rapidly to decision makers within the battlespace. As MTI data production changes, military operations and operator roles likewise need to evolve to take advantage of global access, contextual intelligence, joint planning and execution, and multi-domain operations. Convergence of MTI with other data sources contributes to Joint Intelligence Preparation of the Operational Environment (JIPOE), targeting, and fusing operational data at speed, and aligns to the JADC2 implementation plans being enacted through the U.S. Army Project Convergence, U.S. Navy Project Overmatch, and DAF Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS).
OR at the forefront
MTI is and will continue to be an essential component of ‘command, control, communications, computers, cyber (C5), intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR)’ on the battlefield. Military Operations Research professionals will play a critical role in providing military decision-makers with insights and recommendations on how to optimize military operations using MTI information during competition, crisis, and conflict.
What enduring operational problems can be solved by the coming evolution in MTI? What new approaches to operating can be formulated? To explore these questions and more, join us at the Military Operations Research Society (MORS) 91st Symposium for a Special Session from 1530-1700 on Wednesday, 14 June 2023. Together we will identify the MORS Communities of Practice and Working Groups impacted by changes in MTI, and delve into the opportunities and challenges that arise when providing innovative MTI solutions to the Joint Force from the viewpoint of stakeholder Defense components and agencies. Applicable topics will be consolidated and incorporated into the agenda for a September MTI Special Topic meeting.
The ‘Joint All-Domain Global Moving Target Indication’ three-day MORS Special Topic Meeting will explore opportunities and propose resolutions to the challenges of using MTI by answering the following questions:
- What currently limits the utilization of MTI for regional conflicts?
- What is the state of the art of MTI usage, and how can space-based and other novel MTI data sources be incorporated to greatest effect?
- How do we plan now for the future that includes space-based MTI?
- What barriers need to be removed or modified (i.e., message interface, operator load, automation) to better exploit MTI across the multi-domain mission?
The objective of the MORS MTI Special Meeting is to foster collaboration within the military operations research and planning communities in the development of methods to take advantage of all-domain MTI data sources and address challenges. This is your opportunity to effect change through identification of MTI challenges, state-of-the-art approaches, procedures and techniques for MTI consumers, and sharing emerging MTI solutions to hard problems.
The MORS has a role in defining how future MTI information will be used to defend the nation’s interests. Evaluation of the new joint requirements for MTI that are driving this transformation presents a great opportunity for timely and accurate national security analysis contributions to this effort.