By 2009 the us Army will be able to operate A Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) system, called Extended Range Multi-Purpose (ER/MP), which will provide persistent intelligence gathering capability, offering surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) in addition to limited direct attack capabilities (by means of weapons such as the Viper Strike or Hellfire). Warrior, a derivative of the US Air Force Predator UAV, will augment and later replace existing systems including MQ-5B Hunter and IGnat. The ERMP will support Army units at division and corps levels. The selection of General Atomics Warrior UAV for the $1 billion program was announced by the US Army in August 2005. The new UAVs is scheduled to become operational by 2009. Unlike the current Hunter, the Army plans to field up to 132 General Atomics Warrior UAVs at the division level. Each of the 11 units will contain five ground stations and up to 12 aerial vehicles.
The Warrior will be operating in Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Target Acquisition (RSTA) and command, control, communications and intelligence (C31) system. The new UAV will operate at ranges of 200 nautical miles and an altitude of 25,000 feet, carry a payload of 800 pounds and will be able to remain in position for up to 36 hours. The US Army is planning to field an advanced UAV which will assume some of the roles currently performed by the Air Force’s Predator.
Similar to the Predator, Warrior will be equipped with an MTS class multi-system E/O payload for day and night observation, and Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) with Ground Moving Target Indication (GMTI) capability to spot moving targets. Apart from intelligence gathering missions, Warrior will provide an airborne communications node, providing essential radio and data relay for the Warfighter Information Network – Tactical (WIN-T) battlefield network. JTRS radios to be included in the system’s standard equipment package will enable the Warrior to provide communications relay to EPLRS or SINCGARS networks to support forward and isolated units located ahead of the main forces, out of ground communications reach. This service will be critical to support “blue force tracking” – a service which monitors locations and status of friendly forces. By operating as “pseudo satellite”, Warrior will be able to carry out such mission without affecting its primary reconnaissance and intelligence gathering role.
The UAV will have wing hardpoints for external stores including expendable sensors and weapons. Up to four Hellfire / Viper-Strike weapons could be carried. (Testing Viper Strike weapons with Predator UAVs are planned for 2006). While the aerial platform will be new, the Army is trying to minimize the logistical burden by standardizing the ground support systems. Therefore, Warrior will utilize the AAI’s ‘One System’, ground control station which is already used with other UAVs, and is expected to be used by all the Army’s unmanned systems, including future rotorcraft (Class IV UAV), to become an integral part of the Future Combat Systems (FCS). The goal is to be able to move operators from one system to another with few weeks – rather than many months of training.