Skip to comments.Manned-Unmanned Synergy (UAVs and the Future Army)
Posted on 07/10/2002 9:26:37 AM PDT by TADSLOS
US Army's UAV-Related Efforts Gain Momentum
While the US Air Force's unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) programs--specifically, the Predator and the Global Hawk--have received a lot of attention over the past year, the US Army has quietly shifted the pace of its UAV efforts into higher gear.
The Shadow 200, the Army's first tactical UAV (TUAV) system, successfully completed operational testing this past spring and is set for a full-rate production decision in September. It will fly surveillance missions in support of Army maneuver brigades.
The Service's larger, longer-range Hunter, a division- and corps-level asset, has proven to be a reliable workhorse for the Army in recent years. Even though the Service cancelled the Hunter program in 1996 before it entered full-rate production, the Army retained the 42 or so Hunter air vehicles that had been produced and has used them extensively for real-world deployments, training, and experiments. The Army expects to begin the process of selecting a replacement air vehicle for the Hunter next year, although Hunters will likely remain in the Service's inventory for five or six more years.
The Service's plans for the future also include acquisition of small, ground vehicle-mounted and backpackable surveillance UAVs for the squad level up through battalion level. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has been developing innovative small and micro UAVs of this kind for the Army.
One of the most significant occurrences of the past year involving Army UAV systems was the transfer of responsibility for their development and fielding from the Service's intelligence and electronic warfare community to its aviation component. Army Aviation has readily embraced this responsibility and is aggressively pursuing a number of initiatives aimed at maximizing the potential benefits of tactical UAVs--across the full spectrum of conflicts--for air and ground maneuver forces in the Army's future Objective Force. These initiatives include teaming UAVs with manned helicopters and arming UAVs with weapons.
The Army selected the Shadow 200, built by AAI Corporation of Hunt Valley, MD as its TUAV in December 1999. A year later, AAI began delivering four low-rate initial production (LRIP) systems, each with four air vehicles. The Army ordered four additional LRIP systems from AAI in April 2001 and five more in March 2002.
The RQ-7A Shadow 200 air vehicle weighs 350 pounds and is 11 feet long with a wingspan of 13 feet. It cruises at 70 knots, can reach 14,000 feet in altitude, and has range of more than 125 km and 6 to 8 hours of flight endurance. It can remain on station over an area 50 to 70 kilometers away for four hours. Its gimballed electro-optical and infrared (E-O/IR) sensor turret, supplied by Wescam, produces day or night video, which is relayed to its ground station in real-time via a C-band line-of-sight data link. The air vehicle can carry up to 60 pounds of payload.
In addition to four air vehicles, each TUAV system, which can be operated by three personnel, includes two identical ground-control stations mounted on Humvees and a hydraulic launcher. The Shadow 200 features automated takeoff and landing; catapulted from a rail on the launcher, it is recovered with the aid of arresting gear.
Each Shadow 200 system is manned by 22 personnel, including its maintenance section. An Army Shadow 200 platoon and all its equipment, which equates to one system, can be transported on three C-130 aircraft. The Shadow 200 has already been fielded to III Corps' 4th Infantry Division at Ft. Hood, TX and will be going to the Army's new Interim Brigade Combat Teams at Ft. Lewis, WA.
After completing several intensive Operational Tempo exercises last fall and winter, the system underwent its formal Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) 23 April to 5 May in the hands of 4th ID soldiers. While the Army Test and Evaluation Command is not expected to release its IOT&E report until next month, Col. Michael Hamilton, the Army's TUAV Project Manager at Huntsville, AL, stated a week after the testing, "Every indicator that I have received is that we expect it to be a very positive report. The system performed very well, and we're elated with the result." He said that, over the period of the IOT&E, a Shadow 200 air vehicle was on station conducting surveillance an average of 17 hours for each 24-hour period.
Following the full-rate production decision in September, the Army plans to order 10 more Shadow 200 systems.
The RQ-5 Hunter air vehicle, built by TRW and Israel Aircraft Industries' (IAI) MALAT Division, weighs 1,600 pounds and has a 29-foot wingspan. Its cruise speed is 90 knots, its range in excess of 200 km, and its endurance 8 to 12 hours. Its altitude ceiling is 15,000 feet. It carries an E-O/IR sensor turret supplied by IAI's TAMAM Division.
Hunter systems have been in use with III Corps at Ft. Hood, at the Military Intelligence School at Ft. Huachuca, AZ, as a Shadow 200 surrogate with the first Interim Brigade Combat Team at Ft. Lewis, and at the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) at Ft. Polk, LA. Hunter has supported 18 JRTC exercises undertaken by rotating units.
Since 1999, Hunter detachments from III Corps' 15th Military Intelligence Battalion at Ft. Hood, TX have completed three operational deployments in the Kosovo theater; they are doing a fourth this year. Illustrating Hunter's value, in March the Army directed the transfer of the Hunter company at the JRTC by August to XVIII Airborne Corps at Ft. Bragg, NC, the Service's premier light fighting force. And in April, the Army directed that a Hunter company (minus) be transferred to V Corps in Germany in Fiscal Year 2003. Hunter is already in service with the French and Belgian armies.
The Army has a new requirement for an Extended-Range Multi-Purpose (ER/MP) UAV to replace Hunter in providing near-real-time surveillance capabilities at the division and corps levels. It would have a range of 200 to 300 km, 10 to 14 hours of flight time, and a payload in excess of 200 lbs.
Hamilton said that the Army is potentially interested in both a fixed-wing and a rotary-wing variant of the ER/MP UAV. His office released a request for information to industry last December for the fixed-wing variant and plans to release a request for proposals in FY03. The Army wants to evaluate two competing airframes before making its selection and plans to field the new UAV in FY06. Potential candidates include an enhanced Hunter, the Predator-A, the larger Predator-B, and the Shadow 600. Hamilton said that the Army will buy only air vehicles, because the fixed-wing ER/MP will use components of the Shadow 200's ground control station and ground equipment. In the meantime, the Hunter UAV will serve as the interim fixed-wing ER/MP.
As for the rotary-wing ER/MP, Col. Hamilton noted, "As we look at [the Army's Objective Force] concepts so far, what we're seeing is that there is a fairly obvious need for both a rotary-wing and a fixed-wing ER/MP. The rotary-wing solution is a little more questionable right now. Is the A160 Hummingbird a possible answer right now? Yes, it is, but we don't know if it's the [final] answer. It's still very early in development right now, and we're watching that development very closely."
The A160 Hummingbird, about the size of the Predator-A, is a "revolutionary" long-endurance, long-range, vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) UAV built by Frontier Systems Inc. in Irvine, CA. DARPA has funded its development.
The A160 prototype made its first forward flight on 29 January. A DARPA statement said that it "hovered for several minutes before retracting its landing gear to execute forward and backward flight and other maneuvers." The statement noted, "The Hummingbird...is expected to cruise at 15,000 feet altitude, have an unrefueled range of 3,000 nautical miles, and more than 40 hours of endurance carrying a 200 kilogram [450-lb] payload. It exploits a hingeless, rigid, variable-speed three-bladed rotor system to produce a VTOL UAV with very low disk loading and high endurance. Powered by a 300-shaft-horsepower piston [commercial automobile] engine, the aircraft incorporates a patented flight-control system that allows for routine flight operations just above a stall. The A160's predicted top speed is 140 knots." The Hummingbird is 35 feet long with a 36-foot rotor diameter.
DARPA has planned three years of flight testing, although Army leaders have indicated that the Service may want to take over management of the program by the end of 2003 because of the potential role it could play as a member of the Army's Future Combat System of lightweight manned and unmanned platforms, the centerpiece of its planned Objective Force.
Plug N' Play Air Vehicles
A major thrust of the Army's UAV plans is to develop common ground equipment and software in the future for all its UAVs. As Hamilton said, "The air vehicle is a relatively small piece of the overall cost of a UAV system. It's all the ground-support equipment that makes up the bulk of the costs of a system--what it takes to launch the air vehicle, control it in the air, maintain it, perform C4I activities. What that says is that our long-term strategy should be to have one common set of ground-support equipment for all our UAVs. The air vehicles should be 'plug and play.' By doing that, we can reduce logistical support costs and reduce the overall cost of integrating new capabilities.
"If I have a ground control station at, let's say, the brigade level, it should be able to take over control of a Hunter air vehicle when it flies into the brigade's sector. We've already demonstrated that we can fly Hunter with the Shadow's ground-control station, and we're in the process of converting the Hunter ground-control station to a Shadow-like configuration." Hunter completed successful tests this spring with Sierra Nevada's UAV Common Automatic Recovery System or UCARS, which allows the air vehicle to automatically take off and land. UCARS is similar to the Tactical Automatic Landing System being developed by Sierra Nevada for the Shadow 200.
"Part of our evolving UAV capabilities involves teaming UAVs with helicopters," Hamilton said. "Our first priority is using them to provide reconnaissance and surveillance for the ground maneuver commander, but we see a growing priority for the use of UAVs to improve manned helicopter [effectiveness], whether it be enhancing the helicopter's survivability [by keeping the manned system out of harm's way], identifying targets [at longer ranges than the helicopter's organic sensors], or conducting attacks themselves."
The Army's Aviation Applied Technology Directorate (AATD) at Ft. Eustis, VA has been a pioneer in science and technology experiments involving manned-unmanned teaming. Its commander, Col. Waldo Carmona, told AFJI, "The challenge that we have ahead of us, and we're working very closely with [the Army Aviation School and Center and the Air Maneuver Battle Lab at] Ft. Rucker [AL], is to look at manned-unmanned teaming to see how we can use it to improve the warfighting capability of the ground maneuver force." AATD has conducted a series of experiments over the past three to four years that demonstrated the value of teaming manned and unmanned aviation systems.
Five levels of interaction are used to describe such teaming. Level 1 involves receiving UAV surveillance information indirectly after it has been downlinked to the UAV's ground-control station (GCS). At Level 2, the UAV, still under GCS control, transmits real-time sensor video directly to the cockpit displays of the helicopter. Level 3 adds manual control of the UAV's E-O/IR sensors by the helicopter aircrew. At Level 4, the aircrew takes physical control of the UAV's flight path from the GCS and sends navigational waypoints to the UAV's auto-pilot system.
Beginning in 1998, AATD pursued teaming under the Manned/Unmanned System Technology (AMUST) program. A key milestone was achieved in July 2000 when an Army AH-64D Longbow Apache attack helicopter demonstrated Level 4 teaming for the first time with a Hunter air vehicle.
During the Joint Contingency Force-Advanced Warfighting Experiment in September 2000, Apache pilots from the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) again demonstrated Level 4 teaming and developed initial tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs). While their aircraft maneuvered, they used a Hunter UAV both to screen for enemy forces on the flanks of friendly forces and to locate targets for their Apaches to engage. This successful demonstration led to operational use of the teaming capabilities by the 101st during its rotation at the JRTC at Ft. Polk in February 2001. Longbow Apache pilots helped refine the TTPs as teaming was realistically integrated into the division's operations. They used the Hunter UAV to clear ingress routes and attack positions and to find targets at safe standoff distances. And for the first time, teaming operations were conducted at night.
These demonstrations showed that teaming of the Hunter UAV with the Longbow Apache increased the situational awareness of the helicopter's aircrew and increased the manned aircraft's survivability and lethality. The UAV essentially worked as a long-range sensor beyond the view of the Apache's sensors.
The AMUST program will be completed next year and will transition into the Hunter Standoff Killer Team (HSKT) Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration, which will include further experimentation with the teaming capability. A company of eight Longbow Apache helicopters and an Army Airborne Command and Control System (A2C2S) helicopter (modified UH-60 Black Hawk), both with Level 4 capability, will deploy to Korea for the experiments.
A key part of the teaming technology, Col. Carmona noted, is cognitive decision-aiding software for aircrews, which grew out of the Army's previous Rotorcraft Pilot's Associate research program. The automated decision aiding helps an aircrew manage control of the UAV and still engage in other tasks. As Carmona illustrated, "The system knows that it's a Hunter UAV and that it can't hover, so if the pilot mistakenly tells the UAV to go to zero airspeed, the software will say, 'No, at 60 knots it stalls.' The pilot can direct the UAV to go to a waypoint and hold, and it will do so automatically while the pilot does other tasks. When the UAV gets there, the system lets the pilot know."
Carmona opined, "There certainly is no shortage of UAVs now available to the Army. The question is, 'What's the right type of UAV for specific missions?' I believe firmly that we're going to find that the Army needs a family of different UAVs. I'm also convinced that the key to the successful application of UAVs by the Army is having UAVs that are inexpensive enough to be [expendable]. "We're focusing right now on experimentation. One of the issues we're examining is what VTOL or helicopter UAV modes can offer. One VTOL application that jumps out very quickly, for example, is the MOUT [Military Operations in Urbanized Terrain] environment. A VTOL UAV could stand off, hover, perch, and maintain eyes on specific areas such as streets and alleyways for as long as you want."
AATD has used the Vigilante VTOL UAV, built by Advanced Technologies and SAIC, as a testbed for UAV experimentation. About eight feet tall, it is 26 feet long and has a rotor diameter of 23 feet. It can carry a 275-lb. payload and enough fuel to operate for about four hours. It is fitted with a Wescam MX-15 E-O/IR sensor turret and is being upgraded with a laser target designator. Carmona said that AATD plans to use the Vigilante for an upcoming MOUT experiment. Work is also under way at AATD in the area of "weaponizing" or arming UAVs. AATD plans many experiments involving firing a variety of weapons from the fixed-wing Hunter and the VTOL Vigilante, including the Hellfire, Javelin, and Stinger missiles, a 20mm cannon, guided rockets, and the lightweight Israeli Lahat laser-guided antiarmor weapon. One set of planned demonstrations involves dropping BAT terminally guided anti-armor submunitions from the Hunter at its normal operating altitude.
Carmona was delighted that two Hunter air vehicles were slated for transfer to AATD recently for experiments, since the lack of Hunter availability in the past had limited the experiments that AATD could conduct. "But what I'm most excited about is that we just got two [surplus] AH-1 Cobra helicopters. Starting in October, we're going to let a contract that will make these Cobras into UAVs, but optionally manned. We're going to turn them into weapons and sensor testbeds."
Maj. Gen. Richard Cody, the commanding general of the 101st, has been an enthusiastic supporter of AATD's UAV-related efforts. Cody agreed to let the 101st at Ft. Campbell, KY be the operational user for various experiments. Carmona told AFJI, "Gen. Cody has generated a draft set of CONOPS [concepts of operation] for UAV employment. Now that we have the Hunters, and the Vigilante is flying, we're going to take both to Ft. Campbell. The challenge that Gen. Cody has put on the table for me is to get his Longbow Apache pilots controlling Hunter UAVs [and to have the Hunter firing weapons] by the time of the big Millennium Challenge joint exercise [24 July-15 August 2002]."
The Army's UAV activities are now growing rapidly--"increasing exponentially," in the words of Col. Hamilton. To its credit, the Army is pulling out all the stops to tap the potential benefits of UAVs for future maneuver forces.
First we target them with our mission statement, annoy them with our sales managers, offer to share vendor lists and schedule pre-meetings on right-sizing hostile force agendas against physical year budgets.
What's wrong with good 'ol:
It looks good on a PowerPoint slide though ;~)
Pretty cool I guess, unmanned helo.
There is a video on that sight, pretty cool.
The same could be said for naval aviation in the 1920s and 30s or the advent of the helicopter in Korea and early stages of Vietnam. You have to start somewhere. We don't know what we don't know. It's called trial and error and is a fact of life.
Choppers don't fly without ground crews, maintenance, and other support. Given the total package, they may be comparable.