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September 24, 2021

Johns Hopkins APL’s Augmented Reality Toolbox Helps Army Improve Situational Awareness

Image of 36th Space Symposium
Image of 36th Space Symposium

At the 36th Space Symposium, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Lt. Col. Joe Mroszczyk (left), an active-duty space operations officer on assignment at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), and Army Space and Missile Defense Command (SMDC) Command Sgt. Maj. Finis Dodson demonstrate an APL-developed augmented-reality, 3D-visualization capability (ArmourX) that serves as the foundation for the Joint All-Domain Operational Tool Suite (JADOTS) prototype system.

Credit: U.S. Army

Military forces that can understand and act together across the domains of land, air, sea, cyber and space will hold the upper hand in what military commanders refer to as decision dominance: the ability to sense, understand, decide, act and assess faster and more effectively than any adversary. To that end, the Department of Defense has undertaken an effort — Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) — to connect sensors from all of the military services into a single network.

The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, is working with the U.S. Army as part of this effort to develop the Joint All-Domain Operational Tool Suite (JADOTS), an experimental prototype for the Multi-Domain Task Force (MDTF) that leverages augmented reality to provide situational awareness, targeting and operational intelligence preparation for military units.

APL is the lead integrator for JADOTS, developing most of the software applications, providing training for the end users and leading the experimentation alongside operators from the Army. The Army is benefiting from investments made by other government sponsors to advance the technology integrated within JADOTS to a point where the Army can leverage it to meet the needs of the MDTF.

The work stems from an APL project named Cygnus, a multi-domain common operating picture prototype that taps into a suite of tools to allow leaders to receive, consolidate, fuse, graph and overlay data from multiple sources at the required security levels into a single deployable unit. JADOTS uses augmented reality (AR) to enhance leaders’ view of a complex battlefield to develop a shared understanding.

Key to JADOTS’ visualization is the Augmented Reality Mission Operations UseR eXperience (ArmourX), an APL-developed tool that brings the flat-map world into 3D for better understanding of the complex, invisible and nonlethal aspects of the operational environment, explained Ralph Siegrist, the JADOTS principal investigator within APL’s Space Exploration Sector.

“It also provides geographically distributed AR for remote viewing and briefing of the operational overlays or layers within the user-defined display,” he said. “This means a leader forward in one operations center can see and get briefed by another interacting with the same virtual environment.”

ArmourX was developed as a space situational awareness tool, but the Laboratory is expanding it in support of the Army’s multi-domain transformation, to include information about all five warfighting domains with visualized aspects of weather, terrain data, the electromagnetic spectrum and the information dimension of the operational environment. The technology could theoretically be adapted for use anywhere data efficiency would be helpful.

“ArmourX supports an improved understanding of the complex operational environment that includes information from all warfighting domains,” said Lt. Col. Joe Mroszczyk, an active-duty Army space operations officer providing subject-matter expertise to APL under the Lab’s Training with Industry program.

Mroszczyk emphasized that the power of JADOTS comes from the entire suite of software tools working together for planning and targeting in support of convergence packages, or layered and integrated kinetic and non-kinetic effects. He demonstrated the ArmourX capability and provided a briefing on JADOTS at the Army’s Space and Missile Defense School during the 36th Space Symposium last month in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

APL will support a demonstration of the JADOTS prototype at the MDTF’s All-Domain Operations Center during the Army’s Project Convergence 21 (PC-21) exercise later this year. The objective is to address multiple identified gaps in the unique command and control requirements for the MDTF mission.

APL has collaborated with the Army’s Cyber Center of Excellence for the effort with MDTF and will be working with the Army’s 75th Innovations Command and Army Futures Command. They will ensure best practices and that operational utility is assessed and captured to inform Army and Joint requirements for JADC2 as it pertains to expanding the effort with other MDTFs or formations within the Joint force.

APL will conduct additional demonstrations ahead of PC-21 for Army senior leaders and other service sponsors.

Media contact: Paulette Campbell, 240-228-6792, Paulette.Campbell@jhuapl.edu

The Applied Physics Laboratory, a not-for-profit division of The Johns Hopkins University, meets critical national challenges through the innovative application of science and technology. For more information, visit www.jhuapl.edu.