By Ann Roosevelt

The Army’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Project office plans a number of improvements in fiscal year 2010 to current systems as well as fielding the most advanced systems to support warfighters, an Army official said.

“The mission of the UAS Project Office is focused on the Warfighter; we are here to provide our nation and allies world class systems that are interoperable and affordable, and we do that through excellence in our program management,” Col. Gregory Gonzalez, project manager, Unmanned Aircraft Systems, said in a statement. “We work through our Training and Doctrine Command partners to accept feedback directly from our Soldier/Operators and Commanders in the field to develop and field the enhancements that will help them complete their missions more efficiently and effectively. We are excited about the new technologies we will deliver throughout 2010.”

The program office laid the groundwork for much of the coming year’s effort during 2009, which has allowed it to move ahead and ready systems for the surge into Afghanistan and to cope with that nation’s harsh terrain (Defense Daily, Dec. 11).

During Fiscal Year 2010, upgrades will be conducted on AAI Corp’s [TXT] Shadowr Tactical UAS and Warrior Block 0 produced by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA ASI).

For Shadow, upgrades will include a laser designator, an improved fuel injection system, and longer wings for carrying heavier payloads such as a Tactical Common Data Link (TCDL).

Additionally, Shadow will be upgraded with Type Two Interim Encryption System (TIES) for encrypted video downlinks.

New technologies also will be tested for Shadow: the Special Operations Payload System (SOPS) for the Special Operations Command, providing a classified capability; and Corporal, a technology providing limited electronic attack and Reconnaissance, Surveillance, Target Acquisition (RSTA) networking capability using Shadow.

Warrior Block 0 will receive an upgraded 2-liter heavy fuel engine, as well as secure voice communication and an encrypted satellite communications data link.

The GA ASI Extended Range/Multi-Purpose (ER/MP) system this year also will face its Milestone C decision to move into low-rate initial production.

The ER/MP Quick Reaction Capability-2 (QRC-2) will conduct live flight testing of the new weapons-carrying aircraft by the operators in training, followed by a Limited Users Test and eventual deployment. QRC-2 systems can carry and launch as many as four Hellfire P+ missiles. A deployment would include four aircraft and two Ground Control Systems.

There will be plenty of integration work with the One System Remote Video Terminal (OSVRT), an effort by AAI and L-3 Communications [LLL].

The OSVRT will be integrated into Northrop Grumman‘s [NOC] Hunter Tactical UAS and Raven Small UAS produced by AeroVironment (AVAV).

Also, Hunter systems will be upgraded with the Type Two Interim Encryption System (TIES) to encrypt video downlinks.

The terminal also will be integrated into the OH-58 Kiowa Warrior helicopter fleet for manned-unmanned teaming as has been done with AH-64 Apache fleet. Bell Helicopter Textron [TXT] produced the Kiowa and Boeing [BA] makes Apaches.

The first production models of Rover 6 for OSRVT are expected in FY’10, which will add bi-directional capability and encryption not available in the currently-used Rover 4.

The UAS office will also integrate the Digital Data Link (DDL) into the Gasoline Micro Air Vehicle (gMAV), Class I system, and OSRVT. Honeywell [HON] has been developing the Class 1 for the Army, and it is expected to be part of increment one fielding of an advanced set of capabilities to Infantry Brigade Combat Teams.

Meanwhile, propulsion testing on the Class I Block 0 Heavy Fuel Engine will be conducted in preparation of the Critical Design Review.

To meet high altitude conditions, particularly in Afghanistan, Raven will be retrofitted with an improved motor and propeller.

The office is also working with a soldier unit on a one-year evaluation of a family of systems–a Small UAS Proof of Principle–to include evaluation in a combat area to address RSTA shortfalls at the platoon and battalion levels. The family would include three small UAS, a Raven, and one larger and one smaller air vehicle.

The year will also see the office testing new technologies, such as the Type Two Interim Encryption System and the Heterogeneous Airborne Reconnaissance, Surveillance, & Target Acquisition (RSTA) Teams (HART)–a Defense Advanced Projects Agency project designed to shorten tasking, re-tasking and sensor-to-shooter timelines.

Moving into FY ’10, the project office said Army UAS approached a million hours flown, with “88 percent, or 782,658.8 hours” flown in support in Iraq and Afghanistan. The total monthly flight hours now averages 20,175.9, the office said.