Inside Unmanned Systems

APR-MAY 2018

Inside Unmanned Systems provides actionable business intelligence to decision-makers and influencers operating within the global UAS community. Features include analysis of key technologies, policy/regulatory developments and new product design.

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10   April/May 2018 unmanned systems inside ended up becoming the most famous Air Force aircraft a few months into the Global War on Terror. Air Force budgets ref lected this switch. In the mid 2000s, Air National Guard units started converting from fighters and transport units into drone squadrons. The Air Force trained more drone pilots than bomber and f ighter pi- lots combined starting in 2010 and hasn't let up since. In 2012, a single drone squadron at Creech Air Force Base f lew more hours annually than the entire Pacific Air Force. The Navy watched this conversion from manned to unmanned aviation in the Air Force, which was relatively safe because there wasn't a drone capable of surviving the rigors of carrier aviation. Yet. After NATO's air campaign in Libya in 2011, the Navy came under pressure from the Secretary of Defense to develop a carrier-based strike drone. Air Force Predators had to fly 10 hour round trips from NATO land bases, leaving a little over half their fuel for the actual mis- sion. A Navy carrier drone could have performed the missions from minutes offshore versus hours. However, instead of rushing a car- rier drone into production, naval avia- tion took its time. I'm convinced they did so to allow the pressure to die down from simultaneous operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Horn of Africa and Libya to prevent a carrier drone from competing with the naval variant of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The entire Nav y isn't unmanned adverse, however. The Navy's carrier aviation experts might be drone doubt- ers but the opposite is true of the oldest warfare community in the Navy—their surface warriors. The Navy's frigate, destroyer and cruiser commanders have been early adopters of drone tech- nology. Even though the U.S. Air Force had watched the Israeli Pioneer drone shred Syria's air defenses in the Bekaa Valley Campaign, the first American users of the Pioneer drone weren't in the U.S. Air Force. The first American Pioneers f lew with the Navy's surface warriors off the battleship USS Iowa in 1986 and they're still f lying with the Navy and Marines. The surface war- fare follow-up to the Pioneer was with Northop Grumman's unmanned Fire Scout helicopter in 2000 and Insitu's Scan Eagle in 2005. From the late 1980s until today, the leaders in na- val unmanned aviation have been the Navy's Surface Warriors, not her Naval Aviators. FIGHTING FOR INNOVATION The Army and Air Force experienced something similar, but with their large in- telligence communities as leading drone advocates versus their combat arms or aviation communities. The Army's Military Intelligence (MI) Corps have enthusiastically supported drones since the late 1970s with their Aquila program. The Army was the second service to fly the Pioneer and I had Pioneers in the MI Brigade I was attached to during Desert Storm in 1991. The famous Predator itself started out as an Army advanced con- cept, technology development project in the mid 1990s before the Air Force took it over. The Army has drone systems in all levels of combat command, down to the platoon level in some units. Supported by some innovative fight- er generals, the Air Force intelligence, THE FOLKS YOU THINK WOULD BEST SEE THE ADVANTAGES OF UNMANNED AVIATION—THE AVIATORS—ARE OFTEN THE TOUGHEST SELL. MAJOR GENERAL JAMES O. POSS (RET) is a leading expert on UAS, having targeted the first armed UAS strikes, designed the U.S. Air Force's remote split operations system for UAS control, and designed the Distributed Common Ground Station for UAS intelligence analysis. General Poss was the Executive Director of the Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence (ASSURE) of the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Center of Excellence Team. He is CEO of ISR Ideas—an intelligence, unmanned systems and cyber warfare consulting company with decades of intelligence community experience, coupled with insider FAA knowledge. General Overview by James Poss, Maj Gen (RET) USAF

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