By B.C. Kessner
The Army is not looking to put weapons on its Shadow unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) but has agreed to work with the Marine Corps toward that end, the Army’s UAS program manager said last week.
“You may hear rumblings of the Army weaponizing Shadow, and I want to get this straight–we have no requirement right now in the Army to weaponize Shadow,” Col. Greg Gonzalez told reporters at the Association of the United States Army Annual symposium in Washington, D.C.
Gonzalez said that the Marine Corps, however, is interested in arming AAI Corp.’s [TXT] RQ-7B Shadow UAS. The Army has the lead on the Shadow program of record and Gonzalez’s UAS office works closely with the Marine Corps to maintain configuration control, he added.
“We have agreed with the Marine Corps to work with them and do some of the technical work,” Gonzalez said.
Once the Marines get their requirement and approval to weaponize the Shadow, Gonzalez’s office and the Army would do much of the technical integration, he said.
“So if you hear that, it’s because we’re doing it on the Marine Corps’ behalf,” he added.
Several Army officials joined Gonzalez at a UAS media roundtable last week, reiterating that currently the Army is only interested in weaponizing UAS at the Gray Eagle level.
“That is it from a requirements standpoint,” Col. Rob Sova, the Training and Doctrine Command Capabilities Manager from the Army Aviation Warfighting Center, said. “Is there an interest to weaponize below the Gray Eagle level? Yes, certainly,” he added.
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. builds the MQ-1C Gray Eagle, an extended-range, multi-purpose unmanned aircraft capable of carrying four Hellfire missiles.
In September, the Army fielded a quick-reaction capability platoon of Gray Eagle UAS to Afghanistan supporting Army Special Operations Forces (Defense Daily, Oct. 29). The first Gray Eagle quick-reaction capability was successfully fielded to Iraq last year and has since flow over 6,000 hours.
The four Gray Eagles now in Afghanistan have significant improvements over those used in Iraq, including Hellfire missiles, upgraded software, and non-line-of-sight command and control capabilities.
The two quick-reaction capabilities are early fieldings of the Gray Eagle program of record, which is slated to have an initial operational test and evaluation in September 2011.
Sova said the Army has to develop things it can train to, and those it can afford. There are a lot of capabilities that the Army would like to have, and once it determines if they are feasible and affordable, the Army will see what it can put in its toolkit, Sova said.
“From small UAS what were looking at right now is not weaponization but the proof of principle of a small UAS family of systems,” he added.
While the capability production document is being written, the Army has allowed the program office to field into Afghanistan a brigade set of a family of systems comprised of Raven, Wasp, and Puma UAS (Defense Daily, Oct. 27).
AeroVironment [AVAV] makes the Raven, Wasp, and Puma small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that soldiers can launch by hand.
The Army UAS project office is planning a Manned Unmanned Systems Integration Concepts (MUSIC) demonstration in September 2011 at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, to showcase its efforts to build interoperable manned and unmanned systems (Defense Daily, Sept. 7).
The event is designed to demonstrate the interoperability of Army aviation assets in accordance with PM UAS Interoperability Profile (IOP) Version set 2.0, Sova said.
Ground vehicles will also take part in the demonstration that will include larger UAVs Gray Eagle, Shadow, and Northrop Grumman‘s [NOC] Hunter all operating off an AAI Universal Ground Control Station (UCGS).
An Apache Block III helicopter will control the payloads of the Gray Eagle and a bi-directional One System Remote Vehicle Terminal (OSRVT) will control the payloads of the larger UAVs. OSRVT is an effort by AAI and L-3 Communications [LLL].
The MUSIC demonstration will also include a mini-UGCS controlling the small family of systems as well as a new TRICLOPS Gray Eagle payload, achieved by mounting three sensors on the UAV, one on the belly, and one on each wing, Sova said. “The idea is to make one aircraft with three times the capability. We have TRICLOPS variants now for Gray Eagle, Hunter, and Shadow,” he added.