Performance of automatic target recognition (ATR) systems depends on numerous factors including the mission description, operating conditions, sensor modality, and ATR algorithm itself. Performance prediction models sensitive to these factors could be applied to ATR algorithm design, mission planning, sensor resource management, and data collection design for algorithm verification. Ideally, such a model would return measures of performance (MOPs) such as probability of detection (Pd), correct classification (Pc), and false alarm (Pfa), all as a function of the relevant predictor variables. Here we discuss the challenges of model-based and data-based approaches to performance prediction, concentrating especially on the synthetic aperture radar (SAR) modality. Our principal conclusion for model-based performance models (predictive models derived from fundamental physics- and statistics-based considerations) is that analytical progress can be made for performance of ATR system components, but that performance prediction for an entire ATR system under realistic conditions will likely require the combined use of Monte Carlo
simulations, analytical development, and careful comparison to MOPs from real experiments. The latter are valuable for their high-fidelity, but have a limited range of applicability. Our principal conclusion for data-based performance models (that fit empirically derived MOPs) offer a potentially important means for extending the utility of empirical results. However, great care must be taken in their construction due to the necessarily sparse sampling of operating conditions, the high-dimensionality of the input
space, and the diverse character of the predictor variables. Also the applicability of such models for extrapolation is an open question.