Aging Kiowa, vertical unmanned aerial systems among aviation challenges

WASHINGTON — Prob­a­bly by this sum­mer, the Army will be float­ing a new idea past the troops for intel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance and recon­nais­sance.

Lt. Col. Hilton Nunez, with Army G‑2, talks with Steve Bond of Northrop Grum­man about the Long Endurance Mul­ti-Intel­li­gence Vehi­cle, near a mod­el of the LEMV, dur­ing the Asso­ci­a­tion of the Unit­ed States Army Avi­a­tion Sym­po­sium and Expo­si­tion just out­side Wash­ing­ton, D.C., Jan. 12, 2012.
Click to enlarge

Not a pro­gram of record, but some­thing the Army expects to test in Afghanistan this sum­mer, the Long Endurance Mul­ti-Intel­li­gence Vehi­cle. It’s a hybrid air vehi­cle — like a blimp — that can car­ry mul­ti­ple intel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance and recon­nais­sance, known as ISR, pay­loads for more than 21 days at alti­tudes greater than 22,000 feet. 

While dis­cussing efforts to resource and trans­form Army avi­a­tion dur­ing the Asso­ci­a­tion of the Unit­ed States Army Avi­a­tion Sym­po­sium and Expo­si­tion just out­side Wash­ing­ton, D.C., Jan. 12, Lt. Gen. Robert P. Lennox, deputy chief of staff, Army G‑8, touched on the future of ver­ti­cal take-off and land­ing unmanned aer­i­al sys­tems, or UAS

The gen­er­al said Army avi­a­tion has a “good path” for ver­ti­cal UAS

“We are using over­seas con­tin­gency oper­a­tions dol­lars and we are hus­tling sys­tems to the­ater and we hope to learn from that,” Lennox explained. 

The LEMV, devel­oped by Northrop Grum­man, “has got some real promise,” the gen­er­al said. “We will see the val­ue of the per­sis­tent stare that that gives us.” 

Oth­er ver­ti­cal take-off and land­ing, or VTOL, capa­bil­i­ties the Army is look­ing at include the Boe­ing A160 Hummingbird. 

“It’s won­der­ful not being tied to a long run­way,” Lennox said. And the platform’s long endurance and “pret­ty good stare capa­bil­i­ty when teamed with some of the lat­est sen­sors, I think it can give us some pow­er­ful capabilities.” 

Where such pieces of equip­ment can go in the Army, or if the Army can even afford them, remains to be seen, he said. “We think it’ll help in Afghan significantly.” 

Lt. Gen. William N. Phillips, with the Army Acqui­si­tion Corps and the Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of the Army for Acqui­si­tion, Logis­tics and Tech­nol­o­gy, said the Army must con­sid­er ver­ti­cal UAS “through an afford­abil­i­ty lens. What does this pro­vide to the Army, what capa­bil­i­ty could it pro­vide and then again how much does it cost?” 

Lennox said the Kiowa War­rior fleet is now about 35 years old, on aver­age. The rest of the heli­copters in Army avi­a­tion are about 15–20 years old, and have been “used at incred­i­ble rates over the last ten years,” he said. 

The gen­er­al said Con­gress and indus­try have helped reset the fleet. “But we haven’t fixed the age of the fleet, and the one that stands out like a sore thumb is the Kiowa War­rior,” Lennox explained. “We have to fig­ure out some­thing to do with that.” 

Two options for that air­craft include con­tin­u­a­tion of the Cock­pit And Sen­sor Upgrade Pro­gram along with the Ser­vice Life Exten­sion Program. 

“We can do that now,” he said, and “rel­a­tive­ly cheaply.” 

That option comes to between $2.9 and $4.1 bil­lion, he said. Anoth­er option, which would be to devel­op a replace­ment, might run as much as $12 billion. 

“My chal­lenge for the Army is how do you afford that?” Lennox said. 

Chal­lenges for Army avi­a­tion, Lennox said, also include mod­ern­iz­ing an Army fleet that con­tin­ues to be used at his­tor­i­cal rates and will like­ly con­tin­ue to be used that way. 

It will be a chal­lenge to fix exist­ing short­ages, Lennox said, like the Kiowa War­rior. One solu­tion might be to devel­op an Armed Aer­i­al Scout to replace the Kiowa War­rior, he said. 

Oth­er chal­lenges includ­ed: mul­ti-year con­tracts, mod­ern­iza­tion of unmanned aer­i­al sys­tems, incre­men­tal­ly improv­ing air­craft, and devel­op­ing the right avi­a­tion force structure. 

Right now, said Col. Patrick Tier­ney, direc­tor of Army Avi­a­tion, the Army’s avi­a­tion port­fo­lio is in “good health.” About sev­en per­cent of the Army force is avi­a­tion — though it is an expen­sive part. 

There are cur­rent­ly 12 active-com­po­nent com­bat avi­a­tion brigades, with a 13th com­ing. There are also eight Reserve-com­po­nent CABs. The Army has about 3,850 rotary air­craft, about 350 fixed-wing air­craft and more than 5,000 vehi­cles total of all sizes among its unmanned aer­i­al systems. 

Phillips said the Army has expe­ri­enced “expo­nen­tial growth in UAVs,” and the growth, he said, has been successful. 

“The ground brigade com­man­ders, bat­tal­ion com­man­ders, com­pa­ny com­man­ders — have learned how to use UAVs in the most extra­or­di­nary ways, to extend their abil­i­ty to achieve a sit­u­a­tion­al aware­ness on the battlefield.” 

The Army’s fis­cal year 2012 invest­ment port­fo­lio includes $2 bil­lion for util­i­ty heli­copters, includ­ing vari­ants of the UH-60 Black Hawk; about $700 mil­lion for UAS; over $1 bil­lion for attack heli­copters and about $1.5 bil­lion for the CH-47 Chi­nook. The Army expects to buy about 68 UH-60 Black Hawk vari­ants in the next year, 47 CH-47 Chi­nooks, 19 Block III Apach­es, and 39 of the light util­i­ty helicopters. 

There’s “con­sid­er­able invest­ment in FY12, and it’s going to pay off for us,” Lennox said. 

U.S. Army 

Face­book and/or on Twit­ter

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →