Unmanned Aircraft Systems / By COL Courtney Cote: We owe our absolute best to Soldiers and to operational commanders. The team in the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Project Management Office (UAS PMO), in coordination with a vast and diverse community of stakeholders, remains programmatically focused and operationally engaged to deliver the absolute best support we can to our Soldiers and operational commanders. There are a lot of great things going on with UAS and with the Army’s UAS portfolio. Some of the major efforts to update the community on the UAS portfolio include driving toward a higher level of commonality between the systems, refining interoperability in support of the concept of operations for Manned Unmanned Teaming (MUM-T), fielding Gray Eagles, Ground Based Sense And Avoid (GBSAA), Shadows, One System Remote Video Terminals (OSRVT) and providing Small UAS capability at the tactical level. Additionally, the UAS PMO continues to work toward further transitioning maintenance and readiness into the hands of the Soldier and operational commander while supporting the force with forward deployed operators, maintainers and technicians as well as focusing on integrating UAS into Aviation Ground Support Equipment and Aviation Mission Equipment. All of these activities are executed daily with the backdrop of and in the context of our programs of record.
The Shadow v2 retrofit includes a Universal GCS, Universal GDT, improved PGCS and a longer wing which will provide over nine (9) hours of endurance. The system is compatible with the One Station Remote Video Terminal (OSRVT) increment 2 which provides displays that support identifying/distinguishing people and behavior. / U.S. ARMY UAS PMO PHOTOS
Increasing Commonality and the Universal Approach
Shifting center of gravity towards the control segment and focusing on a higher level of commonality between our Gray Eagle and Shadow systems is a major effort. The ground control station is where the operator interacts with others in the battlespace and where they employ the unmanned asset in support of the ground maneuver commander’s plan. In the short term our investment efforts will result in a common physical hardware configuration in the ground control station that hosts a common software architecture able to control different air vehicles. The longer term objective is to migrate the current physical configuration and software to a Scalable Control Interface (SCI) for dismounted, mounted, and emplaced UAS operations conducted in the battlespace through permissioned based capabilities. Recognizing the ground control station as the cockpit of the UAS is paramount.
The Improved Gray Eagle fuel and avionics payload capacity is increased by approximately 40% through its deep belly fuselage design and it shares a high level of commonality with the baseline Gray Eagle.
MUM-T – Interoperability
MUM-T is a concept of operations enabled by technologies and refining how we enable MUM-T is an ongoing endeavor. MUM-T operations are made possible by the introduction of a standardized interoperability protocol supporting video/data transmissions between ground-manned-unmanned platforms. This manned unmanned network allows for the handoff of payload control, receiving and transmitting of real time streaming video/sensor data and manned pilots to control unmanned air vehicles. The UAS PMO focuses on the interoperability protocols and is responsible within the Program Executive Office, Aviation for defining and maintaining the protocols. We do this within a large community of interest and through published Interoperability Protocols (IOPs) derived, discussed and refined through the Interoperability Control Working Group (ICWG) attended by industry as well as DoD entities and non-DoD entities. The IOPs are in constant refinement as technology evolves and higher level standards, such as NATO, continue to change. Continually refining these IOPs and proliferating them is essential to maintaining interoperability across not only the aviation manned and unmanned systems but also the numerous users of information from the unmanned platforms.
Fielding and Training Teams
The Army is currently fielding the 11th of 15 Gray Eagle companies. The New Equipment Training (NET) focuses on building unit capacity to train themselves then assisting the unit commander in executing training according to their priorities. When NET is completed the unit is certified by the owning command as trained. Historically, Gray Eagle units deploy shortly after they are certified to support current operations. Beginning in FY18 the Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM) and Special Operations Command (SOCOM) formations will begin retro fielding the extended range capable Gray Eagle referred to as the Improved Gray Eagle (IGE). The IGE’s fuel and avionics payload capacity is increased by approximately 40% through its deep belly fuselage design and it shares a high level of commonality with the baseline Gray Eagle. In some locations it is necessary to enable the Gray Eagle to transition from the airfield to segmented airspace when the airfield is not located in the segmented airspace. The GBSAA system enables this to take place without ground observers or chase aircraft. The GBSAA is currently operational at Fort Hood, Texas and is being emplaced for operations at Fort Riley, Kansas, Fort Stewart, Georgia, Fort Bragg, North Carolina and Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
The “Bi-Directional” capabilities added to the OSRVT allows safe control of the sensor payload of an unmanned vehicle, and includes features such as; stare at, stare from, and follow-me-modes; Payload control (pan, tilt, zoom); and automated optical tracking of fixed and moving targets.
The Tactical UAS (TUAS) Shadow Team has fielded an additional 24 RQ-7Bv2 Systems (platoons) this year and is now about two thirds complete with transitioning the Shadow fleet to v2 systems. The transition to v2 systems will continue through 2018 as we field v2 systems into combat aviation brigades (CAB) and brigade combat teams (BCT). In addition to fielding v2 systems to the Army, the Shadow program reached a major milestone in 2016. On 12 May 2016 a crew from the 2nd Armored Calvary Regiment in Germany crossed the Shadow program one million hour mark.
The OSRVT is an extremely powerful tool that empowers the ground maneuver commander to conduct MUM-T operations with unmanned aerial systems up to level of interoperability three (sensor control). Along with the Small UAS, these are the most prolific systems in the UAS PMO portfolio. The OSRVT team trains Soldiers and fields up to one hundred systems per month across CONUS and OCONUS locations in BCTs and other formations. The OSRVT is also migrating to an on the move capability and eventually to a soldier portable on the move configuration with the potential to port over to the NET Warrior system.
Readiness and Sustainment
UAS PMO made strides in 2016 to further empower Soldiers and commanders in maintenance and readiness of Gray Eagle and Shadow UAS. In 2016 the Army began reporting UAS readiness through monthly Unit Status Reporting (USR) in accordance with revised Army Regulation 700-138. The UAS Fleet Management Office worked with the Aviation and Missile Command (AMCOM), Logistics Support Activity (LOGSA), HQDA G4 and Army Staff to integrate UAS into the Army’s Logistics Modernization Program (LMP). The Fleet Management Office combined with the sustainment community will continue to transition the UAS sustainment from an availability based approach to a readiness based approach participating as part of the already establish sustainment system for the manned platforms. Additionally, more maintenance tasks will migrate from the contractor to the Soldier and more of the aviation ground support equipment (AGSE) and tooling will leverage more of the existing AGSE that is already resident in the Army inventory.
The PM UAS, in conjunction with the TRADOC Capability Manager, made a concerted effort to visit the operational stakeholders this year and conducted visits to all theaters at least twice and will continue to engage the CONUS and OCONUS users of UAS. The Army has an ever increasing reliance and demand for the capability that UAS provides. In order to respond to the demand, it is imperative that we continue to deliver as promised now and shape the future of UAS while fully empowering the Soldier and commander in the readiness and sustainment of the UAS.
COL Courtney Cote is the project manager for Unmanned Aircraft Systems, Program Executive Office Aviation at Redstone Arsenal.