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ISTAR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Target, Acquisition & Reconnaissance)

General Dynamics UK is a leading provider of ISTAR capability. The company delivers a family of ISTAR capabilities to domestic and export customers, which range from integrated systems through to the provision of specific technologies, products and sub-systems.

ISTAR Capabilities

ISTAR solutions provide actionable intelligence to the right person at the right time, to achieve the right effect.

Efficient delivery of joint and coalition ISTAR capability can be achieved by the synchronisation of processes and systems across the following key ISTAR functions:

  • Management and Tasking.
  • Collection and Processing.
  • Exploitation and Dissemination.

General Dynamics UK has the ability to act as a system integrator right across this ISTAR chain, from electronic systems within collection platforms and ground stations to the exploitation and provision of intelligence products to the decision maker.

Management & Tasking

General Dynamics UK is investing in the development of intelligence management and tasking applications which can be integrated as core functions within General Dynamics UK or third party ground exploitation stations.

Collection & Processing

General Dynamics UK has many years of experience in providing imagery and intelligence collection systems, such as the UK Tornado Infra Red Reconnaissance System (TIRRS). This continues today as a provider of state of the art airborne Reconnaissance Management Systems, within the F-16 TARS and F/A-18 ATARS programmes.

Exploitation & Dissemination

General Dynamics UK is a world leader in the design, development and delivery of intelligence exploitation and dissemination systems. The company has developed a wide range of NATO interoperable airborne and ground based solutions for a number of platforms, including F-16, F/A-18 and Tornado.

Additional capabilities lie in the areas of deployable Ground Station integration (e.g. the RAF Tornado Reconnaissance Exploitation Facility – TREF) and military ruggedisation. In April 2005, General Dynamics UK was awarded the Modular Exploitation Capability Technology Demonstrator Programme (MEC TDP) by the UK MoD. Within MEC TDP, General Dynamics UK is defining an architecture for achieving interoperability between current and future UK ISTAR systems, such as ASTOR, Watchkeeper, RAPTOR and Soothsayer. The MEC architecture will be a blueprint for UK joint service multi-source intelligence processing, exploitation and dissemination.


General Dynamics UK offers a number of off the shelf ISTAR tools, which can be integrated as software modules into a range of ground or airborne command stations.

  • NATO STANAG 4559 Intelligence Reference Library.
  • Intelligent Data Link.
  • MIDAS (Modular Imagery Dissemination & Analysis Suite).

Modular Exploitation Capability Technology Demonstrator Programme (MEC TDP)

MEC, an 18-month programme which started in March 2005, aims to meet the MoD Customer’s requirement to “improve both the operational and cost effectiveness of (initially) Imagery Exploitation within the overall ISTAR System of Systems mix” and is led by Mission Systems. The programme is divided into the following four work streams:

Migration Strategy

The Migration Strategy involves preparation for the eventual exploitation of the MEC concept and includes capturing the user and system requirements. It also proposes a roadmap for upgrading legacy and future systems to meet the MEC requirement and how compliance with MEC could be validated.

Systems Architecture

The MEC System Architecture has been implemented as a Web Service based, Service Oriented Architecture. Interoperability is core to the MEC vision and the Service Oriented Architecture is the key enabling technology. Additionally, this work stream will inform future CONOPS and Workflow Processes.


The Security Stream proposes architectures capable of dealing with the necessary multi-level secure environment. A Security Working Group is proposing areas to be de-risked by demonstration. It will also produce a roadmap of how the architecture can be taken to full accreditation.


Four demonstrations are planned, each addressing a different area of risk. All demonstrations will be run in representative military vignettes, which map to the Studies Advisory Group (or SAG) scenarios. The demonstrations will range from how stove-piped legacy systems can be modified to improve interoperability to a larger-scale system of systems demonstration. This joins the previous demonstrators together and extends further to link to a US JSTARS Ground Station, mission support teams and targeting cells.


General Dynamics UK is the manufacturer of the Reconnaissance Management System (RMS) for the F-16 Reconnaissance variant. This is in service with a number of countries including the United States with the F-16 TARS system. The highly adaptable modular architecture of the RMS allows cost effective modification for many sensors, data links recorders and aircraft interfaces. The RMS supports multiple concurrent sensors of different formats, real time data link, near real time data link with and without recording and aircraft display.


General Dynamics UK supplies that Reconnaissance Management System (RMS) at the centre of the F/A-18 Advanced Tactical Airborne Reconnaissance System (ATARS). The RMS interfaces with SAR, multiple EO and IR sensors, includes integrated solid-state recording with a maximum storage capacity of 512Gbytes. The RMS has a CDL interface supporting all operating modes of the CDL, supports real time near real time data link. The airborne display capability features advanced image data processing and display formatting.

NATO STANAG 4559 Intelligence Reference Library

The Intelligence Reference Library (IRL) is a server and client implementation that ensures comprehensive remote access and near instantaneous retrieval and dissemination of multi source intelligence data.

It will work over limited or high bandwidth communication links and interface seamlessly with any other STANAG 4559 compliant library. Open Standards and Service Oriented Architectures have been key design drivers. The General Dynamics UK IRL features an intuitive user interface with a mapping facility to enable area searches of recent and archived intelligence products. Useage of the IRL enables:

  • Increased tempo of exploitation.
  • Shared awareness of available intelligence.
  • More efficient usage of limited intelligence resources and collection assets.
  • Reduced demands on networks for intelligence dissemination.

General Dynamics UK’s IRL is in service within the UK ASTOR Ground Control Station, and in a number of export customer intelligence systems.

Intelligent Data Link (IDL)

The General Dynamics UK Intelligent Data Link (IDL) offers a low-risk, low-cost alternative to high bandwidth systems for time-sensitive intelligence dissemination.

General Dynamics UK’s experience in the field of Airborne Communication Networks has been applied to reducing the sensor to shooter time lag against mission critical targets. Advances in data compression techniques enable data linking of large high-resolution images in incremental levels of resolution using relatively low bandwidth data modem connections. The IDL allows the remote user (e.g. at a Ground Station) to rapidly view a wide area sensor image at low resolution in order to select, prioritise and only transfer the high resolution image segments that are of particular interest. This, allied to the ability of modern modems to provide permanent network connections to the ground exploitation system, results in real time interactive exploitation capabilities. Use of of the General Dynamics UK Intelligence Reference Library (IRL) server and client architecture along with the broker function allows multiple exploitation systems on the network to operate on common data with seamless dissemination. The General Dynamics UK IDL has been supplied within a number of export customer intelligence exploitation systems.

Modular Imagery Dissemination & Analysis Suite (MIDAS)

The Modular Intelligence Data Analysis System (MIDAS) makes available to the intelligence community, a fully functioning, scaleable and interoperable imagery exploitation and intelligence analysis system.

Based upon a common modular ground station approach to Exploitation Facilities, the MIDAS has been designed as a small portable unit, which can be deployed anywhere, or as a larger distributed system. To ensure inter-operability MIDAS supports the display of all imagery and intelligence formats and is fully integrated with IDL and IRL operation. The modular architecture of General Dynamics UK’s integrated intelligence systems ensures that MIDAS is not constrained to a particular sensor, collection unit or location, for data reception, exploitation tasking and storage, allowing MIDAS to exploit imagery from collocated or distributed third-party platforms.

Future ISTAR Technologies & Programmes

General Dynamics UK is committed to delivering end to end ISTAR capability including prime contracting, systems integration and provision of key sub-systems, technologies and products.

Supporting this vision are a number of General Dynamics UK Internal R&D programmes which concentrate on delivering key future ISTAR technologies such as Multi-INT Data Fusion, Visualisation, Multi- Level Security, Modelling and Simulation, Enterprise Architectures and Human Machine Interfaces. The objective is to deliver scaleable, interoperable and affordable integrated ISTAR solutions that support Time Sensitive and Effects Based Operations and act as enablers to Network Enabled Capability. General Dynamics UK is focussing on the deployment of our capabilities in future domestic and international ISTAR programmes. In the UK we are targeting UK MoD opportunities where we see significant customer benefits of pulling through expertise and capability generated as part of the MEC TDP.

A key future capability is DABINETT. DABINETT is the MoD programme which will enhance current ISTAR capabilities through better interoperability. DABINETT will then seek to develop a deep and persistent ISTAR capability. The MEC TDP is directly supporting the DABINETT programme.