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US Army’s Manned-Unmanned Teaming for gaining Air Superiority in A2/AD Environment

Historically, the United States has built its military capabilities on highly capable, multi-function platforms. These platforms have been expensive and have had long development times, but have incorporated sophisticated military technologies that potential adversaries have not had the ability to access or counter. This strategy has been highly successful, leading to a long period of U.S. air dominance.

However, the globalization of technology has made this strategy increasingly unsustainable. Potential adversaries are now able to access advanced technologies with relative ease and incorporate them quickly into military systems—sometimes accomplishing multiple upgrades during a U.S. weapon system’s development and acquisition period.

The adversary through “anti-access / area denial” capabilities is able to employ ballistic and cruise missiles, submarines, air defenses and counter-maritime forces against American forces and keep it away from thousands of miles of coastline. “To operate against adversaries with precision-guided weapons, the U.S. needs to disperse its forces, disaggregate its capabilities, confuse enemy sensors through decoys and deception, and swarm enemy defenses with large numbers of expendable assets,” says Paul Scharre, Senior Fellow and Director 20YY Future of Warfare

Early thinking along these lines is already underway in many corners of the Department of Defense. The Army’s new operating concept includes dispersed operations for anti-access environments. The Marine Corps is experimenting with distributed operations across the littorals. The Naval Postgraduate School is researching aerial swarm combat. DARPA’s System of Systems Integration Technology and Experimentation program aims to disaggregate aircraft capabilities into a swarm of cooperative, low cost expendable air vehicles to operate in this A2/AD environment.

U.S. Army officials is developed and demonstrated  Manned-Unmanned Teaming ( MUM-T ) of a  dual-manned AH-64 Apache  communicating, collaborating and controlling  UAS platforms such as the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. (GA-ASI) Gray Eagle and Textron Systems’ RQ-7B Shadow. “Unmanned systems extend the breadth of a human system’s comprehension of their surrounding environment,” Finneral says. “This enhanced understanding enables more informed decision quality, which in turn leads to more synchronized, responsive actions.

This teaming theory also provides a level of safety for the manned platform. While the Shadow provides the forward scout mission, the soldier remains in a protected, nonhostile area until targets are identified and enemy positions are known.” Manned-Unmanned Teaming was recently used with great success in Afghanistan by the 1-229th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, Army officials said.

Kratos Defense & Security Solutions to explore the use of high-speed drones to support fourth and fifth generation fighter aircraft.

Kratos Defense & Security Solutions was awarded a contract by the US Defense Innovation Unit Experimental to explore the use of high-speed drones in both fully autonomous or semi-autonomous roles to support fourth and fifth generation fighter aircraft. Under this effort, the DIUx has contracted with Kratos for the integration of certain sensors into the UTAP-22, flight services, and for Kratos UTAP-22 to demonstrate in a large, complex exercise.

The Kratos UTAP-22, is a high-performance unmanned jet aircraft designed specifically for tactical missions, collaborative missions with manned aircraft and tactical payload operations/delivery with key features focused on survivability in challenging and hostile environments.

Jerry Beaman, President of Kratos Unmanned Systems Division, said, “The integration of sensors into the UTAP-22 increases the operational utility of the vehicle system and is another forward step in the Unmanned System Division’s Strategic Plan to increase the capability and demonstrate the utility of the UTAP-22 in a large, complex exercise. Manned/Unmanned teaming of tactical aircraft with a UAV capable of tactical speeds and maneuverability will provide the warfighter with an inexpensive force multiplier and unmanned wingman; an unprecedented capability.

The UTAP-22, an internally funded Kratos development initiative, has previously demonstrated the ability to conduct collaborative airborne operations with a manned fighter aircraft, an AV-8B Harrier; command and control through the tactical data link; execution of semi-autonomous tasks; execution of autonomous flight in formation with the AV-8B and with multiple UTAP-22s; transfer of UTAP-22 control between non-line-of-site (over the horizon) operators in the tactical network; and transfer of control (handoff) from the tactical network to an independent dedicated control link.

Kratos demonstrates cooperation of UCAV with Manned Aircrafts

Kratos Defense & Security Solutions, Inc. have announced the completion of a third test flight of a jet-powered unmanned aerial combat vehicle (UCAV). The flight that took place on the US Navy test range at China Lake, CA involved a newly developed jet-powered drone developed by Kratos, and a US Navy/Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier manned jet fighter.

This mission demonstrated two UTAP-22 aircraft in continuous collaborative airborne operations through the tactical datalink while flying formation with one another, flying formation with a third UTAP (simulated) as the lead aircraft, lead-follow in semi-autonomous/autonomous modes, lead-follow in manual/autonomous modes, and multiple autonomous joins from several pre-join scenarios.

Additionally, the Kratos UTAP-22 successfully coordinated semi-autonomous payload deployment, breaking formation to perform independently with a subsequent rejoin, and loyal/trusted wingman flight with one UTAP being flown as if it were a manned aircraft and the second UTAP-22 joining and sustaining autonomous formation. Throughout the mission multiple UTAP-22 were controlled by a single operator.

The Kratos UTAP-22 is a high performance unmanned jet aircraft designed specifically for tactical missions and tactical payload operations/delivery with key features focused on survivability in challenging and hostile environments. The results from this demonstration flight series validated the concept and technical readiness of Kratos’ tactical UAVs with fighter like performance operating collaboratively with each other and collaboratively with manned aircraft. The Kratos technology is scalable, enabling multiple unmanned aircraft and manned aircraft to be deployed simultaneously without requiring an operator for each unmanned aircraft.

Jerry Beaman, President of Kratos Unmanned Systems Division, said, “The successful demonstration series is an unprecedented accomplishment and an important step towards our entry in the Tactical Unmanned Aerial Systems market. Manned/Unmanned teaming of tactical aircraft with a UAV capable of tactical speeds and maneuverability will provide the warfighter with an inexpensive force multiplier and unmanned wingman; an unprecedented capability.”


 US Army establishes first manned-unmanned unit

US Army has established its first manned-unmanned teaming (MUM-T) squadron, combining Boeing AH-64D/E Apache helicopters with Textron Systems RQ-7B Shadow unmanned air vehicles in one heavy attack-reconnaissance unit. The Army wants to assign both manned and unmanned assets to units for more seamless operations. Although the Apache and Shadow have previously demonstrated MUM-T interoperability, having the two types fall under the same chain of command is the result of “years’ worth of planning”, the army says.

US Army Shadows are typically controlled by soldiers in the Universal Ground Control Station (UGCS) , but Apache pilots can also control the UAVs should it be requested. Ground operators have five levels of control available to them, but an Apache pilot can request a particular level.

Level of interoperability (LOI) one has the Apache indirectly receiving payload data; in LOI two the Apache receives payload data directly from the UAV; LOI three means the Apache pilot can fire a UAV missile; LOI four allows the Apache pilot to take over flight control; and LOI five covers the full spectrum, including launch and recovery.

“The U.S. Army is making MUM-T an established part of its tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) by outfitting its combat aviation brigades (CABs) with Boeing’s AH-64D/E Apache helicopters and Textron Systems RQ-7B Shadow Tactical Unmanned Aircraft Systems (TUAS),” says Henry Finneral, vice president of Tactical Unmanned Aircraft Systems Textron Systems in Cockeysville, Maryland.

For this role the “It’s an improved capability that supports soldiers on the ground as they execute the various missions that we assign them,” says Lt Col RJ Garcia, commander of the 3-6 unit, says. “Nothing is stove-piped now. We now have the ability to share across multiple levels.

The Shadow is equipped with the new tactical common datalink, which will allow it to be operated alongside Apaches to fulfil the army’s armed aerial scout role previously provided by Bell Helicopter OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopters, which are due to enter retirement.

Apaches are also teamed with General Atomics Aeronautical Systems MQ-1C Gray Eagle UAVs, and both UAVs can be operated from the Universal Ground Control Station (UGCS).


Gray Eagle Conducts Manned-unmanned Teaming in South Korea

U.S. Army Gray Eagle Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) conducted manned-unmanned teaming exercises in South Korea in August 2015 from Kunsan Air Base, South Korea. “These flights represent a major milestone for the MQ-1C Gray Eagle as they successfully demonstrated manned-unmanned teaming and proved the aircraft’s ability to conduct operations in diverse weather conditions that are typical on the Korean Peninsula,” said Frank W. Pace, president, Aircraft Systems, GA-ASI.

During the exercise, the Gray Eagle UAS streamed video and metadata via a line-of-sight data link directly to a U.S. Army AH-64 Apache helicopter from extended distances. The Apache subsequently was able to re-transmit the imagery to a One System Remote Video Terminal (OSRVT), allowing ground forces to view the video from the helicopter. Field commanders within the Tactical Operations Center (TOC) were able to receive both live Gray Eagle streaming video and re-transmitted video sent by the Apache. Once Gray Eagle was airborne, U.S. ground forces passed contact reports and target coordinates to operators in the aircraft’s One System Ground Control Station (OSGCS). The operators were then able to direct the Gray Eagle’s sensors to positively identify and track the targets.

Technologically advanced and combat proven, the MQ-1C Gray Eagle’s expansive mission set includes persistent, broad-area Reconnaissance, Surveillance, and Target Acquisition (RSTA); communications relay; convoy protection; Improvised Explosive Device (IED) detection; pattern of life analysis; and precision weapons delivery. A key force multiplier, Gray Eagle has an endurance of up to 25 hours, an operating altitude of up to 25,000 feet, and payload capacity of over 1,000 pounds.


L-3 Receives Contract for Apache MUMT-X Upgrade Program

L-3 Communications announced has been awarded a new communications upgrade subcontract from Science and Engineering Services, LLC in support of the U.S. Army’s Apache helicopter program. As part of this project, which offers increased communications capacity between the Apache and unmanned systems, L-3’s technology will deliver high-speed transmit and receive capability of wideband video and data.

L-3’s Manned/Unmanned Teaming – eXpanded Capabilities (MUMT-X) communications suite incorporates state-of-the-art equipment, including a ROVER 6 modem, multiband Radio Frequency Equipment, and an innovative directional antenna capable of relaying multiple video streams back to the command center. MUMT-X significantly increases the Apache aircrews’ situational awareness and combat effectiveness, while shortening decision-making timelines. The Army has been steadily upgrading versions of MUMT.


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  • kat

    Very informative blog post.Really thank you! Really Great.

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