Leaders discuss new joint unmanned aerial operations
July 3, 2008
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, July 3, 2008) -- Army and Air Force leaders met Monday to discuss developing a new joint unmanned aerial system concept of operations.
"As opposed to finding independent solutions, we are trying to find joint, collaborative solutions that best support the joint warfighter in any spectrum of war," said Air Force Gen. John D.W. Corley, head of Air Combat Command.
Corley met with Gen. William S. Wallace, commander of Army Training and Doctrine Command, and Lt. Gen. Michael Vane, director of the Army Capabilities and Integration Center. The meeting at Langley Air Force Base, Va., emphasized developing unmanned aerial system operations for the full spectrum of conflict -- from centralized major combat operations to smaller-scale decentralized operations to include stability operations.
Monday's discussion follows dialogue over the past several months in which a joint Army-Air Force team has worked to identify current and future UAS requirements. In January, the chiefs of staff for the Army and Air Force, along with other senior leaders, met to discuss issues of mutual interest regarding interoperability.
From that January meeting, a memorandum was signed to formalize existing arrangements between the Army and Air Force which have been developed over the course of the war on terrorism. The two services also agreed to develop a process to identify and address equipment interoperability issues, including the development of a UAS concept of operations that would lay the foundation for acquisition, airspace, air defense, force structure and organizational strategies.
"The environment we are operating in today, and what we expect to see tomorrow, has changed dramatically over the past few years," said Wallace. "Taking a joint approach on UAS issues will allow us to rapidly develop force capabilities from concept and capability development through employment by identifying, linking and synchronizing all of our activities, so we can give the best capability to joint warfighters who are fighting a very elusive, thinking and adaptive adversary."
The approach will include doctrine, organizations, training, leader development, materiel, personnel and facilities, officials said.
"We need to have the ability to support full levels of joint operations from air-only major campaigns all the way down to counter-insurgency operations," said U.S. Air Force Maj. Matt Martin, ACC A3YU Predator and Reaper Operations Branch chief.
One focus of the CONOPS will be methods to best share information and command and control.
"If we can't share data, then we can't share information," Corley said. "If we can't share information, we can't command and control."
Finding joint solutions begins with new CONOPS that look at every piece of the UAS spectrum, rather than individual pieces of the puzzle, the ACC commander said.
"We have to treat this as a system," he said. "You have to think about all the pieces."
The general said such interoperability will increase effectiveness from a combat standpoint.
"You have to think about all the pieces from training to platform to processing, exploitation and dissemination," said Corley. "That includes how the info is shared and how it fits in the bigger puzzle. You want to know, not just what is in the lower left hand of the canvas, but what the entire painting looks like."
Wallace agreed that efforts should be made to raise CONOPS up a level by focusing on capabilities rather than focusing on service-centric solutions.
"We want to identify areas or opportunities for increasing interoperability in order to optimize support to the joint warfighter," said Wallace. "It's all about working together to get a capability to our troops quickly and effectively."
Martin said the new CONOPS will have far-reaching implications for UAS operations. The goal, he said, is to ensure that a joint forces commander can expect the same level of support from an Air Force UAS unit supporting an Army movement as they would receive from an Army unit and vice-versa.
"The CONOPS will influence how the services organize, train and equip their forces," he said. "The joint forces commander needs to expect the same level of effectiveness from each branch no matter what the mission."
Making changes to the current service-specific procedures has been a continuing process, and commanders in the field are already seeing the effects of those changes on the battlefield, Corley explained.
"Enhancements to the current CONOPS are already underway and have already yielded benefits to the warfighter," he said. "We are looking to shape and inform our future discussions on doctrine, materiel, interoperability and training with this concept of operations. We're not starting from the beginning. This is an effort that's been underway for some time."
(Carroll Kim serves with TRADOC Public Affairs and Staff Sgt. Thomas J. Doscher serves with Air Combat Command Public Affairs.)