By Ann Roosevelt

NASHVILLE, Tenn.–The Army is preparing for the Manned Unmanned Systems Integration Capability (MUSIC) Exercise to be held in September, officials said here at the Army Aviation Association of America annual conference.

The goal is to demonstrate interoperability and system integration among the Army’s aviation assets, and set the stage for future interoperability improvements.

This is not a test for VIPs, said Col. Gregory Gonzalez, project manager, Unmanned Aircraft Systems (PM UAS). This will “demonstrate to the Army, Army leadership and the entire aviation community that we have put in place an architecture.”

The information has been out there, but on separate platforms, he said. ” We’ve been able to connect all those platforms (whose) the purpose is to overwhelm the enemy and provide a seamless environment.”

The PM UAS office has been working on common system interoperability–developing interoperability profiles over the last several years. A set of specific standards have been agreed to for such things as command and control and data packages.

“A year ago there were different versions of interoperability profiles,” Gonzalez said. “I picked a point in time, September 2011, to get everyone on the same version.”

MUSIC will also then be a “forcing function,” Gonzalez said. Everyone will be on the same interoperability profile, software Version 2.0. It will then become a repeatable process, so that even if a platform has its own software, at the plug-in level, there’s an agreed open standard, so the interoperability could be applied to other platforms, such as CH-47 Chinook, or UH-60 Black Hawk. This also lowers costs by having the same protocols.

This will be the first of such exercises planned for every two years to demonstrate how much interoperability has improved, Gonzalez said. PM UAS is providing a number of assets for MUSIC: Gray Eagle aerial vehicle, produced by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems; Hunter AV, Northrop Grumman [NOC]; Shadow AV, AAI Corp. [TXT]; Raven AV and Puma AV, both produced by AeroVironment.

The office will also provide the Universal Ground Control Station (UGCS), the mini-UGCS (m-UGCS) and the One System Remote Video Terminal (OSRVT).

MUSIC will demonstrate that Shadow, Hunter and Gray Eagle can be controlled consecutively by one universal ground station, Gonzalez said. This would allow the service to train operators on one type of system, conceivably able to fly all three aircraft. Additionally, there would be cost savings from having one ground control station, not three.

The MUSIC exercise also is particularly important this year, since this is the first year a full spectrum Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB) will be fielded, with manned and unmanned assets. The Shadow UAS will join Kiowa helicopters in the CAB’s armed reconnaissance squadron, and it’s important that all systems communicate and pass data. Today, AH-64 Apache helicopters are deployed with level two UAS interoperability, said Col. Shane Openshaw, project manager, Apache Attack Helicopters. Level two means the Apache can receive the video feed from a UAS. The exercise will show how the tactics, techniques and procedures have evolved from the fielded system, and validate the architecture.

Openshaw said his office is working to bring a Block III prototype Apache with higher-level UAS controls to the demonstration.

Lt. Col. Kirk McCauley, product director, Armed Scout Fielded Systems, said the OH-58D will go to the exercise with its fielded level 2 manned-unmanned teaming system. “It’s one of the most adaptive capabilities we have,” he said. It gives soldiers the tools to communicate to the platform and the UAV adapts to the mission soldiers have. “UAVs expand capability,” he said.

Gonzalez said the Universal Ground Control Station would demonstrate interoperability through common hardware and software.

The One System Remote Video Terminal will demonstrate its new bi-directional capability, not yet fielded, by which the operator will control the Shadow, Hunter and Gray Eagle payload by TCDL link. Also, OSRVT will receive video from the Raven and Puma small UAS via a separate link, the Digital Data Link, DDL.

The Mini-Universal Ground Control Station (M-UGCS) will control the Raven and Puma small air vehicles.

The Army UAS Project Office continues efforts to pace increasing demands for unmanned aircraft while continuting upgrades and technological advances.

One advance is the Triclops, a sensor package with three separate balls, sensors on the wings and center of the craft, allowing multiple users to autonomously acquire targets, Tim Owings, deputy project manager, UAS, said.

A Gray Eagle AV with Triclops supporting an area of operation allows three units or individuals to operate sensors independently of one another from the same platform, Owings said, while decreasing required manpower and equipment requirements.

UAS deployments have increased 47 times that of Fiscal Year 2003, and continue as the most dynamic and rapidly changing tech on to the battlefield, Army information on MUSIC, officials said.