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Saturday, May 18, 2024
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Compact Video Gear Makes Waves With Navy

BAE Systems employees in Rancho Bernardo and Point Loma have caught the attention of intelligence specialists who serve aboard the smaller classes of U.S. Navy ships.

They did it with electronics: a prototype system called ICOP.

The electronic gear was a hit during the Trident Warrior exercises of 2011 and 2012, reported Jon Dorn, vice president for business development for BAE’s Intelligence & Security business.

“We need these on board our ship now,” intelligence officers reportedly told BAE employees.

ICOP stands for Intelligence Carry-On Program, but this carry-on is probably heavier than anything an executive would take aboard a commercial jet.

It’s meant to be a cost-effective solution for intelligence officers to lug aboard cruisers or destroyers.

On the show floor of West 2013, the yearly defense conference at the San Diego Convention Center, BAE representative Jeff Dunlap showed the ICOP in action, displaying maps of the Korean peninsula as well as other hot spots. (AFCEA International, aka the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association, and the U.S. Naval Institute co-sponsor the conference.)

The unit looks like a small suitcase but it weighs 40 pounds. It expands into three large video displays, lined up end-to-end. These can show military maps synched up with Google Earth, and can display the geography in three dimensions. The 3-D map can pinpoint the location of an aircraft — and which way that aircraft is pointed — from whatever point of view the intelligence officer wants to view the scene.

Specially equipped ICOP units can pull up windows to show full-motion video, such as that gathered by aerial drones or ships.

Enhanced Intelligence

The point is to keep track of the bad guys and watch over the battle space.

ICOP is a far cry from the laptop computer which intelligence specialists use now, Dunlap said.

The unit is only a prototype, which BAE produced under a $72 million contract, Dorn said.

BAE wants production work, but to get it, the U.K.-based company will have to compete against other military electronics builders.

The Pentagon may open bidding for the production contract in 2014. It depends on the state of the Pentagon budget, Dorn said.

Dunlap asserted that the electronics can help intelligence officers perform their jobs more efficiently. Consider, for example, an officer looking at an area off Somalia which, historically, has had a lot of pirate activity. Are the pirates out today? The weather overlay feature on the ICOP might tell the officer that there are 12-foot waves, and that conditions are too rough for Somali pirate boats to operate. The intelligence officer can then narrow down his search to something else.

Navy ships have limited communications bandwidth, Dunlap also said, noting the ICOP electronics will adjust to whatever size data pipe is serving the ship at the moment.

BAE says the electronics might be appropriate for the U.S. Coast Guard — or the navies of U.S. allies.

BAE has roughly 4,000 employees in San Diego, counting its ship repair business. Roughly half of the work is in electronics. BAE uses Rancho Bernardo for its line of geospatial exploitation products, known for short as GXP.

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