Sustainable Interdisciplinarity in Complex Operations Underground – Blue Force Tracking


In the frame of NIKE BLUETRACK, an easily portable positioning and navigation solution will be developed for complex underground structures. The positioning data are visualized in the Subsurface Operations Mission Tool (SOMT). The system will be tested and evaluated as part of a complex underground operation in the “Zentrum am Berg”.

Brief Description

The Austrian Armed Forces have been dealing with aspects of subterranean operations only very superficially. It is therefore not surprising that the current set of regulations deals with this topic on no more than 12 pages. This circumstance, along with fast growing subsurface structures initiated the establishment of the research group NIKE which deals with all aspects of military operations in subsurface service structures being essential for the provision of public services as traffic, energy, diverse provision and disposal of services, sewage and so on since two years. Subsurface operations are major challenges, but lack of lighting and ventilation, the environmental conditions within a widely dispersed infrastructure and an opponent who specifically uses these factors as part of a hybrid attack, constitute a complex scenario bringing action forces to their limits. The challenges associated with coping with complex operations result from the multidimensionality and branching nature of underground structures.
A crucial, because it is vital for survival, prerequisite for a successful operation in complex operations underground is precise positioning of your own forces to avoid situations in tangled underground situations, in which soldiers open fire on their own strength (blue-on-blue).
The basis for obtaining the situation report is a position determination system which allows the continuous and precise position determination of the forces under the given complex conditions. It can be assumed that the use of the existing positioning infrastructure in complex scenarios is fundamentally not possible, as this is not available across the board or could be rendered unusable in the course of the attack. Position determination methods that do not require any infrastructure or those for which the infrastructure can be set up as part of the deployment are therefore particularly suitable. The possibly restricted view due to darkness and smoke in such specific scenarios represent a further limitation. Thus, a position determination system has to be developed which is independent of visibility and which can also be flexibly set up and adapted during use.
Based on a complex scenario within an urban traffic hub, the envisaged research project NIKE BLUETRACK will conduct a technology analysis to identify existing technologies and validate test data, develop algorithms and procedures for precise positioning for easy to carry navigation solutions in a GNSS-denied environment and visualise them in a Proof-of-concept within the Subsurface Operations Mission Tool (SOMT). The Montan Universität´s “Zentrum am Berg” will serve as a unique testing environment.
Criteria for success are the integration within a comprehensive approach along different lines of development within the NIKE Program striving for the full operational capability of a task force capable to operate in a subterranean environment as well as a well-balanced consortium.
The project is being carried out under the lead of OHB Digital Solutions GmbH in cooperation with the Federal Ministry for National Defense / Research Group NIKE, the Chair of Subsurface Engineering at the Montan University Leoben, the Navigation Working Group of the Institute for Geodesy at the Technical University of Graz and the Ingenieurbüro Laabmayr & Partner ZT GesmbH.


Project Partners
  • OHB Digital Solutions GmbH (Lead)
  • Federal Ministry of Defence, Austria / Research Group NIKE
  • Montan University Leoben / Chair of Subsurface Engineering
  • Graz University of Technology, Institute of Geodesy / Working group Navigation
  • Ingenieurbüro Laabmayr & Partner ZT GesmbH
  • The project is funded by the defense research funding program FORTE by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Regions and Tourism (BMLRT).
  • Successfully completed in 2018