Advanced Hardware-in-the-Loop Sensor Simulation

AFRL team develops advanced scene generation techniques for testing missile sensors.

AFRL researchers and their counterparts at CG2, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Quantum3D, Inc., are collaborating through a Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract to develop advanced scene generation techniques that support algorithm development and testing for the Missile Defense Agency's next-generation missile sensors. Radiance Technologies, one of the CG2 team's key project participants, is adapting and optimizing government-furnished scene generation software and algorithms for use on the contract.

The goal of this effort is to fulfill the missile developer's need for a high-frame-rate, high-fidelity, personal computer (PC)-based missile seeker simulator. During Phase I of the SBIR contract, the CG2 team completed design trade studies and feasibility analyses to determine the system requirements and design approach for a next-generation, commercial off-the-shelf (COTS), PC-based approach to hardware-in-the-loop (HWIL) scene generation. Under the Phase II contract, the CG2 team will finalize the system design, implement a functional prototype system based on Quantum3D's Independence® Image Generator (IG) Solution, and demonstrate the system's capability to perform real-time scene generation using the government-furnished program code optimized by Radiance Technologies. The new system will provide a high-fidelity HWIL environment for simulating the performance of missile defense sensors and systems under a variety of engagement scenarios (see figure). Key elements of this technology investigation include the incorporation of parallel graphic units (using the recently proposed advanced switching interface implementation of PCI Express®), as well as multiple parallel graphic processor units (GPU) per computer central processing unit. These implementation elements will enable AFRL-developed parallel graphics codes to leverage the GPUs' higher processing throughput and thus improve highfidelity simulations.

Infrared missile image

To support the unique performance and fidelity requirements associated with HWIL applications, the CG2 prototype system will include the COTS Independence IG Solution, modified to enable higher sustained frame rates, enhance full-scene antialiasing, and provide an optimized real-time Linux® operating environment. Combined with the team-optimized scene generation code, the enhanced Independence IG will supply an infrared scene generation system wherein multiple GPUs operate in parallel with pixel-level synchronization technology and channel composition to deliver the required high frame rate, extremely low-latency performance, and high level of fidelity (16 bits per color component, with 64 subpixel sampling for full-scene antialiasing). In addition, because the Independence IG Solution supports future technology insertion, the system will accommodate upgrades to further improve performance, throughput, and functionality. Scientists from AFRL's HWIL simulation technology team worked with the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency's Polymorphous Computer Architecture Program Office and several of its university- and contractor-based principal investigators to define this machine as a test bed for evaluating parallel computing advances in streaming architectures and the use of dynamic GPU mapping for complex physics-based simulations.

"Missile defense applications represent a particularly challenging test environment, based on the mission complexity and the variety of phenomenological effects occurring simultaneously that are within the spectral bands of interest," states Mr. Ross Q. Smith, Quantum3D cofounder and president. "The Independence IG-based prototype system provides the performance and fidelity these complex HWIL applications require, while at the same time supporting future technology insertion as newer and more capable PC-based subsystems and graphics technologies become commercially available. This means that the system can economically deliver increasing performance and fidelity levels while assuring application compatibility."

According to Mr. Tom Florence, director of tactical programs at Radiance Technologies, "The integration of real-time, high-fidelity simulations within a commercially supported, scalable parallel graphics architecture represents a significant opportunity for the defense community to achieve economies of scale and realize a much-needed order of magnitude improvement in HWIL simulation fidelity. We believe that our efforts with CG2 on this important AFRL program provide a great start to what should prove to be a watershed improvement in HWIL simulation fidelity and value."

The requirements for missile seeker simulation are rigorous and have previously strained the capabilities of PC-based platforms. AFRL is confident that the CG2 prototype system will meet future HWIL simulation requirements and also provide a cost-effective path for realizing performance enhancements as they become available.

Mr. Don Snyder and Mr. Charles Coker, of the Air Force Research Laboratory's Munitions Directorate, wrote this article. For more information, contact TECH CONNECT at (800) 203-6451 or place a request at . Reference document MN-H-05-17.