By COL Courtney P. Cote
First let me start by saying how excited I am to be project manager of one of the more complex project management offices within the Army. The Project Management Office, Unmanned Aircraft Systems (PM UAS) continues to field and sustain our current programs while improving functionality and technology along the way. I have been in position for nearly 90 days, and continue to evaluate and assess current operations and am fortunate to have an exceptional deputy as well as product managers to assist me with the myriad everyday responsibilities that come with my position.
The mission of PM UAS is to provide our nation and its allies world class interoperable unmanned aircraft systems and integrated payloads through excellence in program management and lifecycle support. The PM UAS team, comprised of Soldiers, civilians and industry partners alike, works tirelessly to provide world class UAS technology and support to our nation’s forward deployed men and women.
So where have we come from, and more importantly where are we heading in the near term? PM UAS currently manages four programs of record, (Gray Eagle, Shadow, Raven/Puma, and OSRVT) focused on enhancing combatant commander and Soldier capabilities. The UAS fleet has logged over 2.1Million flight hours to date. 90% of those hours have been flown in direct support of combat operations.
As many of you know, the Army has recently determined the need for a wide scale restructure of manned aviation assets, and unmanned aircraft, specifically the Gray Eagle and Shadow systems have been called upon to fill the void left from divesting certain manned aircraft within the armed reconnaissance squadrons. In doing so, combat aviation brigade (CAB) commanders now enjoy an organic manned-unmanned teaming (MUM-T) capability never afforded in the past. PM UAS is currently fielding UAS assets in order to fulfill the requirement to include unmanned aircraft within the CABs.
Medium Altitude Endurance Product Office
The MAE Product Office (Gray Eagle) is in the planning stages for the execution of Fielding and New Equipment Training (NET) for the Follow-On Operational Test and Evaluation (FOT&E), currently scheduled for Third Quarter FY15. The FOT&E is focused on the migration of maintenance tasks to the soldier, implementation of LINK 16, the universal products (Ground Control Station, data terminal and sitcom terminal) and the new unit organization. The test unit is Company F, 227th Aviation Regiment, located at Fort Hood, Texas. The Gray Eagle Company will execute reconnaissance, surveillance, security, attack, and command and control missions to provide dedicated mission configured UAS support to an assigned division combat aviation brigade, fires brigade, battlefield surveillance brigade, brigade combat teams, and other Army and joint force units based upon mission priorities.
Small UAS Product Office
The SUAS Product Office is in the process of transitioning the SUAS fleet under the new Rucksack Portable UAS (RPUAS) Capabilities Production Document (CPD) signed late last year. The RPUAS CPD defines the small UASs as Long Range Reconnaissance (LRRS), Medium Range Mobile (MRM) and Short Range Micro (SRM). Initially these will be resourced with the current inventory of the Puma and Raven systems on hand. The SUAS logistics team established a warehouse and inventory control point (ICP) as well as shifted to a new contract approach leveraging several vendors to bring the best the community has to offer at the best value to the taxpayer for repair of the SUAS fleet. The SUAS team has laid the groundwork for other platforms to make informed decisions about the establishment of their own ICP.
Maintenance, Training, Supply
PM UAS is making several improvements in the areas of maintenance, training, and supply. Our maintenance initiative is focused on providing the required knowledge, documentation, and tools for the Soldier to operate and maintain the Shadow system without reliance on a field service representative (FSR). FSRs are now centered in geographic regions to provide the flexibility to respond to unit needs.
Changing the Shadow maintenance system requires careful coordination with the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and the Army’s organic supply and maintenance organizations. Logisticians are carefully reviewing the Technical Data Package (TDP) and other variables to determine the appropriate levels of repair (Level of Repair Analysis). This is a critical process influencing every facet of the maintenance concept. The Business Case Analysis (BCA) uses the repair analysis data to determine the appropriate maintenance strategy. The BCA will be complete by 2015 and used to influence the maintenance strategy in 2017 and beyond.
The One System Remote Video Terminal logistics team has had a busy year actively managing and deftly guiding the OSRVT logistics program through the labyrinth of changing hardware, parts obsolescence, dynamic schedules and documentation requirements in order to meet its Initial Operational Test and Evaluation in FY15 with the Level of Interoperability 3 (LOI3) capable OSRVT. Currently, OSRVT meets all threshold CPD requirements with the exception of the LOI3 bi-directional capability which begins fielding 1st Qtr. FY14 – three months ahead of original schedule.
Mobile Technology Team
The Tech Management Mobile Technology team has overseen the design and development of multiple mobile applications including interactive technical manuals, programs of instruction review, and a localized Army Publication library. The Ground Maneuver Product Office (Shadow) has been the primary stakeholder since the inception of this concept and continually seeks soldier input as the driving force behind many of the design requirements. As the Mobile Technology team has moved forward, meeting the guidelines of Training and Doctrine Command and ALC 2015 has been at the forefront of their vision. By providing Soldiers with a dynamic one-stop source of information for all learning material, as well as additional Interactive Multimedia Instruction, we are putting Soldiers in the driver seat of the training environment.
The Multiple Unified Simulation Environment/Air Force Simulation Environment for Reconnaissance and Surveillance (MUSE/AFSERS) developed by the UAS Joint Systems Integrated Lab at Redstone Arsenal is the primary Command and Staff UAS Trainer for the DoD and coalition partners. Extensive use of simulation for UAS training has proven to be a highly cost effective approach due to the lower relative costs of simulation based training. Procurement cost for a UAS Universal Mission Simulator (UMS), which is capable of training Gray Eagle, Hunter, and Shadow UAS operators, is relatively inexpensive per unit because it leverages the actual ground control environment. The saving that the UMS brings in terms of flying hours is recouped well within the first year of a unit’s flying hour program and allows training over a much broader range of system failures/conditions and mission scenarios.
PM UAS continues to provide our nation and its allies world class interoperable unmanned aircraft systems and integrated payloads through excellence in program management and lifecycle support. The Soldiers, civilians and contractors that make up the PM UAS team, as well as our industry partners work diligently to provide exceptional support to our nation’s deployed men and women and those at home station.
COL Courtney P. Cote is the project manager for Unmanned Aircraft Systems, Program Executive Office, Aviation, at Redstone Arsenal, AL.
Credit 1: Gray Eagle undergoing hardware/software in-the-loop testing
Credit2: The Army Manned-Unmanned Teaming (MUM-T) Aircraft
Credit3: U.S. Army RQ-20A Puma
Credits: U.S. ARMY PM UAS COURTESY PHOTO