US Army’s Terrestrial Layer System (TLS) Prototype Readies for Delivery

The U.S. Army officially asked industry to help take a big step towards repairing the U.S. Army’s long-neglected EW corps and countering Russian and Chinese jamming – and it’ll have an unexpected missile defense dimension as well. Lockheed is still building rival prototypes for the U.S. Army’s next-generation cyber/electronic warfare vehicle, the Terrestrial Layer System set to enter service in 2022. The new system, known as TLS-EAB — will be TLS’s much bigger brother. The service has set a pretty brisk schedule, talking of fielding something by the end of 2023.

The original-flavor TLS, aka TLS-BCT, will fit on an 8×8 Stryker armored vehicle and accompany frontline Brigade Combat Teams. TLS-Echelons Above Brigade will fill a pair of heavy trucks, probably Oshkosh FMTV. This long-range offensive cyber/EW/SIGINT capability is essentially a supersized version of what the TLS-BCT will do, albeit operating over much greater distances. Lockheed Martin is also developing a drone-borne jammer for the Army, MFEW-Air-Large, that cyber/EW system does not include the SIGINT capability.

Each of the U.S. Army's future jammers plugs into a larger electronic warfare network.
Each of the U.S. Army’s future jammers plugs into a larger electronic warfare network.

Lockheed Martin is working on the first stage of the TLS program. TLS prototypes are expected before the end of fiscal year 2021, with the first equipped by 2022. During phase one, Lockheed Martin’s Spectrum Convergence team will integrate a prototype onto a vehicle. Demonstrations of this technology proved its ability to operate with a similar aerial capability. Lockheed Martin’s system design conforms to the DoD’s C4ISR/EW Modular Open Suite of Standards (CMOSS) and will for years to come.

For TLS, Lockheed is offering a ground-based variant of its Silent Crow technology, which was also the basis of its winning bid for MFEW-Air-Large. But a ground-based system presents some very different technical challenges than an aerial one. TLS unit can park in a covered position, drape some camo netting over their vehicles, and keep silent watch for enemy signals as long as the commander requires. Terrain that hides the TLS from the enemy can also mask the enemy’s transmissions from TLS, however. Even on open ground, you can’t see objects hidden by the horizon, which is much closer if you’re at ground level than if you’re in the air.

Lockheed Martin Terrestrial Layer System (TLS)
Lockheed Martin Terrestrial Layer System (TLS)

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