Defense New TV - The Future of Unmanned Systems


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21 April 2009
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Good discussion with an all star panel -
Thanks for the link that was very informative, especially the Congressman.
Yes, very informative. It's interesting that Lt. Gen. David A. Deptula needs to make the point that these systems are not unmanned but rather remotely piloted. Referring to these systems as unmanned seems to be very popular but is really a misnomer since it implies that these vehicles have some sort of situational awareness, decision-making ability, and autonomy.
I also like how the three flag officers used the Jedi mind trick in answering the roles and missions question about CAS. ;D
As long as they don't carry weapons (what, a mosquito with a toxic dart?) they will always be subject to the whims of a manned service interested only in maintaining it's manned (union) job security as an ability to do so.

The emphasis on 'remote pilotage' and 'system of systems' hardening of the arteries into a structured infrastructure as much as doctrine is thus terrible news.

The reality of life is that we have long had the mass video memory and expert system recognition tools, along with sensor resolution (APY-8 Lynx can see 'pixel to pixel' resolutions of _4"_ from 15km, through clouds) to do what is called 'Coherent Change Detection' or snapshot to snapshot overlays of target areas which show any changes and then pass both the raw imagery and the synthesis 'grain' over a datalink. The latter, using microwave modems (APG-77 on the F-22 can pass a 170mb radar map in about 3 seconds) and the CDL X/Ka band architecture means that all the 'drone operator' has to do is look at the imagery from his shelter or bizjet lounge seat and grab another donut as he calls for strike air.

The key to understanding why this is dangerous (to manned air as well as the enemy) is that the original DARPA UDS (UCAV Demo System) was designed to exit-phase into the UOS (UCAV Operational System) back in 2006. About the time that the JSF was going from SDD to it's own production ramp decision with the CDR nominally passed and key Congressional seats suitably contract passifiered.

Along about 2002, the USAF got DOD to dump DARPA and 'institute' them as the primary program authority on the followon JUCAS which was no longer light strike, fit 20 in a C-17 and go to a theater, type system. But rather an all doing design that was about 40% larger with consequential increases in baseline and operating costs. Shifting from a Garret engine to a GE F404 for instance brought the fuel load up to about 14,000lbs from 9,000lbs.

Yet the real crime was that, as soon as JSF was 'secure' (read they lied at every level to cover up massive program overruns and unready technology such as the CBO/GAO had been stating was too-concurrent likely since 1997...), the existence of the Iraq boondoggle gave them an excuse to cancel JUCAS altogether.

And this is why all of the above is so wrong:

1. UAV, even A-UAV cannot fly in bad weather. Most of the accidents involving them have in fact been due to turbulence and icing in the mission area or windshear in the landing one.
2. UAV, even 170kt Predator B, cannot rapidly flow into a give mission area or shift between them. Hence a 24 or even 32 hour endurance must be measured in the distance back to base at 110 knot cruise.
3. Back when the UCAV wasn't a bloated monstrosity, stuffed with 'value' that the USAF would rather give a pilot, it could go out 1,100nm and sit there for 2hrs. The F-35, with TWICE the fuel, can only go about 700nm and then spend perhaps 20 minutes in the target terminal area.
4. The F-35 has no more offensive bombload options in the stealth mode than a UCAV. Which is to say 8 GBU-39 (though you could easily get by with half this amount).
5. Pilots _hate_ 'NTISR' or Non Traditional ISR because it amounts to flying up and down roads looking at soda straw FLIR images of vague behavioral uncertainty rather than charging about shooting down what is up and blowing up what is down as part of the general fun of laying waste to a fixed target matrix. As a result, you have $5,500.00/hr F-16/A-10s and $14,000.00/hr F-15E tooling around for 4-6hrs before they have to come home. This in turn means you have to maintain four or eight ship (section doctrine) aircraft plus a red ball backup for every 'ISR' (with guns, aka road recce) orbit you maintain in a 24:7:365 mission environment.
6. The best cheap-fighter on the international market at the moment is the JAS-39 at around $2,500.00/hr. If a UCAV could match that while sustaining perhaps 2 aircraft per day, thanks to it's monumental advantages in endurance, you would be tenthing the operational costs involved.
7. The one good thing JUCAS/JSF fight did was put the Navy in a bad way. Around about 2001, they signed a future tactical airpower agreement with the USMC which basically made the latter the Reserve Force for the emergency task '7 carriers in 7 days' surge option that was so badly blown on 9/11. The problem being that both services also drastically reduced their total commitment down to around 200-250 aircraft and despite all the 'no reductions in requirements' those numbers haven't changed. This in turn has made the low cost F-16 replacement (which the JSF was originally 'CALF'd as being) for the USAF more of a Vark than a Viper. Add to this the utter incompatibility of STOVL with conventional carriers (the USMC's exit clause to their jointification contract will come when they have no more Hornet-C to fly off big decks) and the sheer cost of the B/C models and the USN needs to have a cheap bomb truck, real bad. The UCAV-N can do this because it is designed to. But what isn't mentioned is that the UCAV-C also came in a UCAV-CN format which could have just as easily become the 'standardized' variant overall. If you really want to shrink the force structure sizes to a common, readily deployable, don't make a joke out of things like common training pipes. Go to a common _basing mode_ for your jets. This is particularly of value when the USAF cannot base in to a given region and the USN cannot push enough jets off the pointy end (airwing compliments of 40 aircraft on a Nimitz class ship are an insult to intelligence) to make the Myth Of Carrier Airpower come true.
8. In the ops area, there is no need for a manned operator of the airframe itself because the essence of the design is to designate points or routes of interest as sensor or CEP localizations and then 'fly the autopilot' into the airspace. In a real war, SEAD and glide munitions ensure that the bombs will fly further than the threat sensors can track them (GBU-39 has flown as much as 57nm to hit a barge target within 17" of center). In a followon, pacification, effort, there is no need for heavy fires so much as preemptive ones. You see the ambush being set up as either a 'road crew' burning a tire to melt the asphalt. Or a company deployment of forces which set up a crossfire at a traffic choke, and the FIRST bomb delivered on their heads is also the LAST one before they start running like cockroaches before the flashlight. Manned operation, whether remote or on-airframe, is based on the assumption that the aircraft in question requires a human touch to survive penetration. Or to coordinate with a friendly ground presence. And this is simply not what experience has shown to be the case. Lag keeps the system from yanking and banking (as does Low Signature state) effectively. And if you are 20hrs as much as miles ahead of a vehicle column transport route, you don't need to play fast ambulance to save them.

MAV will happen. It's unfortunate yet true. We should not hurry this intrusive process along any quicker than we have to because it can only be a negative effect aimed at our own national levels of privacy and freedom of speech and thought more than that of any 'hostile indigenous population' in a backwater state.

What will define the 'unmanned' systems state of present drones however; driving them to separate from 'remotely piloted' systems is the within-mission-set need and tactical ability to cover, autonomously, large regions of empty space (rather like ASW) sanitizing it with an immediate weaponized followon strike option for discovered threats. An option that does not require a hot pad QRA launch and 'Pizza Hut' delivery lag to bring a manned finger on the button to the effected target area. Because sensor resolution and threat floor equivalencies will be the same between platforms.

Such a system, when it finds an object of interest, will be 'flown' with signature model (ground threat WEZ bubbles) and sensor LOS graze/resolution fixes in mind, using a top down map type display and portalled sensor FOR windows that any teenager with Windows experience can manage.

It will NOT be vulnerable to the USAF 'Our Predator video is unencrypted because we're cheap like that!' exploitation or spoofing because CDL which is _essential_ for ALL 21st century air operations, will use directional, high power, high rate, wide-pipe technology to send snapshots as much as continuous feed. Snapshots which are made on the basis of CCD technology and mass video memory inherited from the JRO's developments over the decades.

None of which is properly covered in the docudrama.

In essence then, what you were told here was a confidence trick act of fraud by manned services terrified of being outmoded, much as the civilian world has been, by automation. And using all their powers of deception and 'honor' to ensure that officers support officers, at least in the highest-end driver (USAF) of the technology.

Here is how the USAF really feels about things like Predator-

UAV Eulogy

And here is the image they sell to each other and the world-

Warrior Song

The main difference of which is about 326 billion vs. 70 billion dollars in wasted JSF vs. UCAV lifecycle costs. Intrusion on the thoughts of change as much as the act of violence and the loss of important controls over oil resources as manned airpower fails to support ground troops and a misguided press sees a parade of cripples and body bags as an excuse to sabotage a necessary war effort. Not because war never solves anything (ask Napoleon or the Dodo) but because the institutional culture is itself the greatest holdback on the development of warfighting technologies which do accomplish the mission.

Perhaps the greatest sadness here is that 'Terminators' are vastly more advanced than a UAV has to be. Thus 'Vago' is inspiring the conspiracy of dissociative delusion from the opening comments. Airplanes don't open doors. They don't trip over cracks in the pavement. They don't need to negotiate with or differentiate between collateral intelligence sources and active threats. They can deal simply, with the action of hostility itself.

From Aviation Week:

Music Links Mulitple Assets

Sep 13, 2011

By Richard Whittle

The evolving future of U.S. Army aviation will be on display Sept. 15-16 at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, as three of the service’s project offices—Unmanned Aircraft Systems, Apache Attack Helicopter and Armed Scout Helicopter—stage an exercise demonstrating how manned and unmanned aircraft can work together in combat. The Army calls the exercise Music, for Manned-Unmanned Systems Integration Capability.

“Music is intended to be a showcase for innovation, integration and ultimately interoperability,” says Tim Owings, deputy project manager of Unmanned Aircraft Systems for the Army.

The exercise, expected to be the first in a series of Music demonstrations, will focus on new ways of moving intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting imagery among manned and unmanned aircraft and ground forces. It will feature six types of manned and unmanned aircraft that will exchange imagery with each other and ground troops, using it to coordinate attacks on mock targets. Music will demonstrate four capabilities the Army is developing to get the most out of new unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV):

•A Universal Ground Control Station (UGCS), from which UAV operators can fly and operate the sensors of any of the Army’s three largest UAVs: the MQ-1C Gray Eagle, a 3,200‑lb. maximum gross weight aircraft from General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc.; the 380-lb. MQ-5B Hunter from Northrop Grumman Corp.; and the 4.2-lb. hand-launched RQ‑7B Shadow from AAI Corp. “This will be the first time that we’re proving out our UGCS where one ground station has all the software loaded to fly our large platforms,” notes Michelle Vigo, lead planner for Music.

•A mini-UGCS, which will let operators control the Army’s small UAVs—the RQ-11B Raven, Puma and, when it becomes available, Wasp, all built by AeroVironment.

•A one system remote video terminal with bidirectional antenna and data link that will use software developed by Kutta Tech of Phoenix. The bidirectional link will allow ground troops to take control of a sensor aboard a UAV and point it where they want to look, rather than trying to direct a UAV sensor operator to the target.

•Manned-Unmanned Teaming (MUM-T), in which manned helicopter crews will control UAVs and their sensor payloads. Music will include demonstrations of MUM-T at three of four levels of interoperability defined by the Army. The pilot of a Boeing AH‑64D Apache Block III attack helicopter, a version of the aircraft not yet in service, will maneuver an unmanned aircraft in flight, a Level 4 capability. An AH-64D Block II, the latest operational version of the Apache, will receive video from a UAV, a Level 2 capability already being fielded to Apache units preparing to deploy. A Bell Helicopter Textron OH‑58D Kiowa Warrior scout helicopter, meanwhile, will demonstrate another Level 2 capability by receiving video from a UAV and retransmitting it to the ground. The relay increases the range at which troops can receive the video.

Music will mark the first U.S. demonstration of the Army’s new Triclops system, in which three sensor balls are carried on one Gray Eagle UAV (DTI March, p. 21). The exercise will also demonstrate for the first time how manned and unmanned aircraft operate under a single commander.

“Music is a showcase for what we’re doing with the Army and the Marine Corps as well, because most of these systems we’re talking about are used by the Marines,” Owings says.

Once fielded, the new capabilities being demonstrated should pay many dividends in combat, Owings adds, but will all center on one key point—sharing information. Most of the information exchanges being demonstrated at Music have been handled by voice communications, he notes. Once the new systems are fielded, a soldier in a convoy will no longer have to try to explain to an Apache pilot—or a UAV operator— which white truck they should investigate or attack.

The first day of Music will be a media day, where reporters will be able to watch on a large video screen and listen inside a hangar as pilots, UAV operators and ground troops exchange sensor imagery while performing tactical vignettes, including live fire by a Kiowa Warrior. Guests invited for similar demonstrations the second day include Army and Pentagon leaders, staff and members of Congress, as well as other VIPs.
Not because war never solves anything (ask Napoleon or the Dodo) but because the institutional culture is itself the greatest holdback on the development of warfighting technologies which do accomplish the mission.

...Or, in other words, the military mindset is such that it cannot accept the concept of completely replacing the frontline attack forces with remotely-controlled machines because - and I'm paraphrasing an NOI I had in NROTC - "there's no honor in a combat situation where there's man/woman/soldier/sailor/aviator/pilot/jarhead actually wielding the weapon and making the killing stroke."

(Business Wire) Oshkosh Defense, a division of Oshkosh Corporation (NYSE:OSK), announced today the international debut of its Oshkosh TerraMax™ unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) technology, which is available to support militaries globally and will be demonstrated at IDEX (International Defense Exhibition and Conference) 2013 (booth #03-C10), on Feb. 17-21 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

The TerraMax UGV technology provides a solution to two primary needs of today’s military customers worldwide. It helps reduce the threat to Warfighters from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) on today’s battlefields by increasing a driver’s situational awareness or removing a driver from the vehicle entirely. It also serves as a force multiplier by allowing one operator to supervise three to five UGVs from a safe distance. All this at a time when militaries are facing force reductions.

“Crew protection is a crucial priority for militaries as they modernize their vehicle fleets,” said Serge Buchakjian, senior vice president and general manager of International Programs for Oshkosh Defense. “Our TerraMax technology gives forces the option to complete missions in dangerous situations with fewer troops. Our UGV technology has been extensively tested and refined, using input from troops and leveraging our more than 90 years of experience mobilizing military forces worldwide.”

Designed as a scalable kit that can be used on any fielded tactical wheeled vehicle, the Oshkosh TerraMax UGV technology enables vehicles to complete planned missions in full autonomous mode or by “shadowing” a leader vehicle. Oshkosh will demonstrate at IDEX the TerraMax UGV technology’s Operator Control Unit (OCU), a user-friendly control interface that provides the usability and functionality capabilities that troops need for operations in the field.

The TerraMax UGV technology is highly sophisticated but was developed with the user in mind and for ease of control. Troops can be trained to operate vehicles remotely or in full autonomous mode in only a few days. Vehicles equipped with the TerraMax UGV technology retain their original payload and performance capabilities and can operate for extended periods of time – day or night, through dust and adverse weather – without enduring the fatigue that can afflict human operators.

Oshkosh also is transitioning technologies from the TerraMax UGV system to provide active-safety features for the manned operation of vehicle fleets, including electronic stability control, forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control and electric power-assist steering.

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