An aH-64D Apache Block III equipped with the new Unmanned Aerial Systems Tactical Common Data Link Assembly (UTA) recently controlled an unmanned vehicle, while both were in flight. This marks the first time an unmanned vehicle has been controlled from the cockpit of an Apache, a significant accomplishment in manned-unmanned teaming.
During flight tests, the UTA controlled the payload and flight path of a Gray Eagle (MQ-1C) while both the Apache and unmanned aircraft system (UAS) were airborne.
“This is a true game-changing capability that the Block III will bring to the warfighter.” said Lt. Col. Bailey, U.S. Army Apache Block III product manager. UTA enhances situational awareness between Apache pilots, ground commanders and the UAS to create a true net-centric battlespace.
Photo: Lockheed Martin
The LONGBOW UTA is a two-way, high-bandwidth data link for Apache aircrews that allows sensor and flight path control of the UAS. UTA-equipped Apaches enable aircrews to exercise control of UAS at long ranges and receive real-time, high-definition streaming video on their multi-function displays. The UTA is fully integrated into the Block III Apache mission computer. The U.S. Army’s LONGBOW system consists of either a fire control radar or the new UTA, a fire-and-forget radar frequency HELLFIRE millimeter wave-guided missile, and an all-digital M299 launcher for the AH-64D Apache helicopter. The LONGBOW UTA will be fielded on the Apache Block III aircraft beginning in 2012.
The UTA was developed by Longbow, a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.
Northrop Grumman Corporation has started work outfitting the U.S. Navy’s MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned helicopter with the Advanced Precision Kill Weapons System (APKWS) laser-guided 70mm rocket. Such an armed unmanned platform will provide naval platforms, specifically the Littoral Combat Ship an autonomous engagement capability highly suitable for littoral warfare.
This light weight precison guided weapon is in production for the Navy since 2010. Arming the FireScout with the guided rocket will enable the unmanned helicopter flying off Littoral Combat Ships to engage hostile targets independent of air support from carrier groups or shore based aircraft.
“By arming Fire Scout, the Navy will have a system that can locate and prosecute targets of interest,” said George Vardoulakis, Northrop Grumman’s vice president for tactical unmanned systems. “This capability shortens the kill chain and lessens the need to put our soldiers in harm’s way.”
Northrop will develop and deliver the equipment needed to control the weapons system under a $17 million contract awarded to the company Sept. 23 by Naval Air Systems Command. Final delivery of an operational system is expected by March 2013. FireScout is already equipped with an EO/IR payload providing the target location and designation for the rockets.
Once delivered, Fire Scout will be Navy’s first sea-based unmanned system to carry weapons. According to Northrop Grumman, its ability to operate at low ground speeds makes it particularly well suited for supporting littoral missions such as drug interdiction, antipiracy actions, search and rescue, reconnaissance and port security.
Parralel to its successful participation in the operations in Libya, the Navy also deployed the FireScout to Afghanistan, where the unmanned vehicle gathered over 300 hours per month, supporting Marine Corps in theater. FireScout is expected to continue deployment in theater through 2012.
Northrop Grumman will operate and maintain the UAV systems through October 2012 under an $18.65 million contract awarded to the company Sept. 28 by Naval Air Systems Command.
“We are providing a level of situational awareness many soldiers in the field have never experienced,” said Rick Pagel, Fire Scout’s operations lead for Northrop Grumman. “In the first five months we surpassed 1,500 hours with over 400 flights. Since Fire Scout doesn’t require a runway, we are conveniently nearby and arrive on station quickly.”
The Indian Air Force is seeking government approval to order two additional Il-76 Phalcon AWACS aircraft at a cost of $800 million, to expand the current fleet of three such aircraft procured by the IAF under the previous US$1.1 billion program. The first aircraft was delivered in 2009 with the second and third scheduled for delivery in the two following years.
India plans to field a parralel AEW capabilities based on a modified Embraer EMB-145 jet converted by Embraer to accomodate the DRDO developed AESA radar which is expected to fly in 2014. The two platforms are designed for different roles, one offers long endurance, long range coverage and the other used mostly on shorter duration, medium range missions.
India also considered fielding the Israeli Gulfstream G550 CAEW version, already employed by the Israel and Singapore air forces, but this platform proved to be off the mark the performance/cost range the Indians were aiming for.