U.S. Army upgrading Unmanned Aerial Systems

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The U.S. Army is mov­ing along with a series of upgrades and tech­no­log­i­cal improve­ments to its Unmanned Aer­i­al Sys­tem plat­forms, or UAS, Pro­gram Office offi­cials said April 3.

The 3,200-pound Gray Eagle Unmanned Air­craft Sys­tem waits for its mis­sion at sun­set dur­ing Oper­a­tion Endur­ing Free­dom in Afghanistan. Ten of the UAS are cur­rent­ly deployed as part of a Quick Reac­tion Capa­bil­i­ty and the QRC has helped refine require­ments before the next Low-Rate Ini­tial Pro­duc­tion of the Gray Eagle.
Click to enlarge

The UAS improve­ments are part of a broad­er effort to bring increased sens­ing and sur­veil­lance capa­bil­i­ty to deployed forces, offi­cials said at the Army Avi­a­tion Asso­ci­a­tion of America’s 2012 Pro­fes­sion­al Forum and Exhi­bi­tion in Nashville. 

Some of the key activ­i­ties include: 

  • the addi­tion of a new Syn­thet­ic Aper­ture Radar, or SAR Ground Mov­ing Tar­get Indi­ca­tor sen­sor, known as GMTI, to the Gray Eagle UAS,
  • plans to build and deliv­er a new engine for the Shad­ow UAS,
  • and the devel­op­ment of a Uni­ver­sal Ground Con­trol Sta­tion, or UGS, able to show video feeds from Gray Eagle, Shad­ow and Hunter UAS on a sin­gle system.

At the same time, PM UAS is approach­ing these activ­i­ties with a mind to find­ing effi­cien­cies, low­er­ing costs wher­ev­er pos­si­ble and increas­ing com­pe­ti­tion among ven­dors as part of a broad­er strat­e­gy to imple­ment the tenets of the Pentagon’s Bet­ter Buy­ing Pow­er pro­gram, said Richard Kret­zschmar, deputy project man­ag­er, UAS

“The chal­lenge we put across to our pro­grams is to look for oppor­tu­ni­ties to increase bet­ter buy­ing pow­er. That was the com­mand guid­ance. The specifics are going to be unique to var­i­ous pro­grams. We’re doing things like look­ing at the ele­ments of cost and exam­in­ing what is dri­ving reli­a­bil­i­ty so maybe we can increase the sus­tain­ment growth curve and increase com­pe­ti­tion,” said Kretzschmar. 

Kret­zch­mar point­ed to two upcom­ing Indef­i­nite Deliv­ery Indef­i­nite Quan­ti­ty, or IDIQ, con­tracts PM UAS is plan­ning for its Fam­i­ly of Small UAS, an effort to refine require­ments and deliv­er a group of small UAS such as the Raven, Puma and var­i­ous micro-sized UAS

“The intent of these IDIQ con­tracts is to increase com­pe­ti­tion, dri­ve costs down and get a bet­ter val­ue. One of these con­tracts is for UAS-relat­ed ser­vices and one is for prod­ucts and mate­r­i­al,” he added. 

The Army is still work­ing on a capa­bil­i­ties doc­u­ment out­lin­ing the para­me­ters of the Fam­i­ly of Small UAS, ser­vice offi­cials explained. 

At the same time, PM UAS has recent­ly released a Request for Infor­ma­tion, or RFI, to indus­try in order to solic­it tech­ni­cal solu­tions for a new engine for the Shad­ow UAS aimed at improv­ing reli­a­bil­i­ty, said Lt. Col. Scott Ander­son, prod­uct man­ag­er, ground maneu­ver, UAS

“The Shad­ow UAS engine replace­ment is designed to improve reli­a­bil­i­ty and add addi­tion­al capa­bil­i­ty and decrease sus­tain­ment cost. It’s a mul­ti-phase pro­gram to open up the com­pe­ti­tion to mul­ti­ple ven­dors. We have issued an RFI and we’re very excit­ed about the response we got. We got 14 respons­es,” said Anderson. 

Also, the Army is observ­ing Marine Corps efforts to weaponize the Shad­ow UAS and may pur­sue a sim­i­lar course of action, Ander­son added. 

The medi­um-alti­tude Gray Eagle UAS pro­gram , deployed cur­rent­ly in Afghanistan as part of what’s called a Quick Reac­tion Capa­bil­i­ty, or QRC, is prepar­ing for an upcom­ing Ini­tial Oper­a­tional Test and Eval­u­a­tion slat­ed for this sum­mer, said Col. Tim Bax­ter, project man­ag­er, UAS

The Gray Eagle recent­ly par­tic­i­pat­ed in the AH-64 Apache Block III attack heli­copter IOT&E at Fort Irwin, Calif., in which the UAS were able to suc­cess­ful­ly demon­strate Lev­el IV Manned-Unmanned Team­ing, or MUM. Lev­el IV MUM allows Apache pilots to not only view the live video feeds from near­by UAS from their cock­pits, but it allows pilots to con­trol the sen­sor pay­load and UAS flight path as well. 

“This is a sub­stan­tial capa­bil­i­ty we are pro­vid­ing. For the first time the Apache pilots were able to see their tar­gets before they even took off,” said Bax­ter, refer­ring to the Apache Block III IOT&E.

In fact, Apache and OH 58 Kiowa War­rior scout air­craft cur­rent­ly in Afghanistan have the abil­i­ty to per­form Lev­el II MUM, mean­ing pilots can view video feeds from near­by UAS in real-time from their cockpits. 

Mean­while, the Gray Eagle QRC, which brought two small groups of four Gray Eagle’s to Afghanistan, is designed to help inform and refine require­ments for a con­cur­rent­ly devel­op­ing Pro­gram of Record; the QRC brings the added advan­tage of get­ting valu­able emerg­ing tech­nol­o­gy to the force more quickly. 

“The Gray Eagle UAS are pro­vid­ing unprece­dent­ed val­ue to the oper­a­tors. The feed­back we’re get­ting from the QRCs is that this is a game-chang­ing capa­bil­i­ty,” said Kretzschmar. 

A full com­pa­ny of 12 Gray Eagle UAS have deployed as part of a new­ly recon­fig­ured, full-spec­trum Com­bat Avi­a­tion Brigade, he added. 

The Gray Eagle UAS is also slat­ed for a Defense Acqui­si­tion Board, or DAB review by the mid­dle of next month in order for the pro­gram to receive autho­riza­tion to pro­ceed with anoth­er Low-Rate Ini­tial Pro­duc­tion purchase. 

By the spring of 2013, PM UAS plans to deploy a new, more ver­sa­tile and effi­cient Uni­ver­sal Ground Con­trol Sta­tion, or UGS, said Lt. Col. James Kennedy, prod­uct man­ag­er, Com­mon Sys­tems Integration. 

“This is a ground con­trol sta­tion that will be able to fly the Shad­ow, the Gray Eagle and the Hunter — all of those dif­fer­ent air­craft. The Army will be able to deploy a sin­gle per­son able to fly all three of these UAS,” Kennedy added. 

PM UAS is also get­ting ready to field a next-gen­er­a­tion One Sys­tem Remote Video Ter­mi­nal, or OSRVT, with portable, lap­top com­put­er-like dis­play screens able to show real-time feeds from near­by UAS. Cur­rent OSRVTs are only able to receive or view incom­ing video, how­ev­er the next-gen­er­a­tion sys­tems will be “bi-direc­tion­al,” mean­ing they will allow the oper­a­tor to con­trol the sen­sor pay­load of a near­by UAS as well, Kret­zschmar indicated. 

The Army is also hop­ing to devel­op a uni­ver­sal con­trol sta­tion for its now-in-devel­op­ment Fam­i­ly of Small UAS, he added. 

U.S. Army 

Face­book and/or on Twit­ter

Team GlobDef

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

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →