September 23, 2011 Beth Stevenson, SHEPOARD GROUP
London - The Universal GCS (UGCS) will be integrated into Shadow and Gray Eagle fleets ‘within the year’ following successful testing as part of the Manned Unmanned System Integration Capability (MUSIC) experiment, the US Army has revealed.
According to Tim Owings, Deputy Project Manager UAS ‘those systems are slated to be fielded within the next year within a Shadow fleet, and in the following year within the Gray Eagle fleet’.
Conducted by the US Army’s Project Offices for UAS, Apache and armed Scout helicopters, MUSIC took place at Michael Army Airfield in Utah on 16 September, and was used to demonstrate interoperability; manned/unmanned teaming; and a number of different systems that are in the final stages of testing.
‘The UGCS has been tested with the individual variants in the past year. What was new was simultaneously transitioning from one air vehicle to another air vehicle to operate,’ he continued. AAI is responsible for the design of the UGCS while AeroVironment designed the Mini-UGCS for control of small UAS.
The unmanned systems involved in MUSIC included: the MQ-1C Gray Eagle; the RQ-7B Shadow; the RQ-11B Raven SUAS; the Puma AE; and the MQ-5B Hunter, plus the Apache and Kiowa Warrior manned helicopters.
‘We controlled one of sensors from the OSRVT [one system remote video terminal], we controlled one of the sensors from the Mini-UGCS, and we controlled one of the sensors from the primary control station. So quite a demonstration of the complete gambit of air operability, open architecture, and manned/unmanned teaming,’ Owings added.
For the first time bi-directional control from the OSRVT was demonstrated, and the OSRVT ‘now basically controls the payload’. Another first for the tests was ‘air operability profiles’, which are open architecture standards that allow anybody to attach to the systems, both of which are expected to be fielded in the next year.
The data link used during the exercise comprised a combination of a tactical common data link (which the army is in the process of building currently with Shadow and has already fielded with Hunter and Gray Eagle) and the digital data link for small UAVs that is also expected to be fielded.
The testing was completed with a live firing of rockets based on targeting information from an unmanned aircraft system to a Kiowa Warrior.
These capabilities will be fully showcased when the army builds the full-spectrum Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB) because Shadows and Gray Eagles are going to be teamed with manned aircraft as part of this movement, an army representative added.
Having described the tests as ‘flawless’, the army described its intention to conduct the MUSIC exercise every two years and the service has not ruled out the possibility of collaborating with coalition nations in future testing.