Unmanned Vehicle Management System Capability Under Evaluation
May 18, 2007
SUFFOLK, Va. - A U.S. Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM) Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD) designed to create a set of common joint standards and architecture for unmanned vehicles continues to make progress towards its goal to provide support to the joint warfighter.
The Joint Unmanned System Common Control (JUSCC) ACTD is currently involved in its second of three Joint Military Utility Assessments (JMUA) to look at its overall joint effectiveness and ensure its ability to support the joint warfighter. USJFCOM acts as the lead combatant command for the ACTD, while the Navy's Fleet Forces Command takes on the role of operational manager.
Gregg Koumbis, a contractor who supports USJFCOM as ACTD/JCTD science and technology manager, said the goal of the JUSCC ACTD is to come away with a capability that manages the battlefield use of air, land, sea, and undersea unmanned vehicles and allow them to be interoperable with one another.
"The idea was to develop a common control, one that can command and communicate with any unmanned vehicle whether it's ground, surface, sub-surface, or air," he said.
The JUSCC will bring together select technologies, legacy unmanned systems and emergent joint standards to enhance the joint force commander's ability to conduct effective joint and coalition operations.
Navy Capt. Ronald Raymer, Fleet Forces Command branch head for transformational concepts and experimentation, said benefits of common control for unmanned vehicles will be seen in all mission areas.
"There are the obvious practical aspects of not having to pack around 4 or 5 different control devices when you head into the field, but a greater advantage is the reduction in training requirements and maintainability when all systems use a common control architecture," he said. "Operationally, common control will allow unmanned systems to communicate with one another."
Koumbis said the original issue that brought forth this idea was that the U.S. Navy required a common control capability for unmanned vehicles to support the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program. LCS needed an integrated and interoperable solution to the problem of operating and controlling many unmanned vehicles from a single platform.
He said USJFCOM approached the services about using this ACTD to promote and expand upon existing standards for unmanned vehicles. The ACTD team, which also included Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Advanced Systems and Concepts, determined the best way to execute the program would be to identify or promote command and control standards for unmanned vehicles.
"Rather than build another parochial capability, it was decided to select best of breed C2 [command and control] standards, get the services to agree to their use, and build to that benchmark," Koumbis said.
"It's a challenge because of the many legacy systems that already exist and those legacy systems have their own command and control architectures associated with them. There is no real standard that has been universally accepted for any future systems.
Koumbis said another important issue was funding and training.
"If you need a unique command and control capability for each unmanned vehicle, you're creating an interoperability problem and you're creating a problem with cost in having to sustain, maintain, operate and train all of those different [systems]," he said.
One of the possible solutions to this problem is the JUSCC ACTD.
"The JUSCC ACTD, at its conclusion, will have built software patches to select legacy or current unmanned platforms to permit various levels of control, and will develop a capability keyed to a standard for all future systems to build to," said Koumbis.
This will enable a commander to communicate and control present and future unmanned vehicles from a single controller and alleviate the need for different proprietary and parochial C2 systems.
Raymer summed up how fielding this capability will greatly benefit the warfighter.
"The advantage to the warfighter is that eventually, they will be able to deploy to the battle field with a single common control device for all the unmanned systems they employ and it will allow for interoperability between these systems," he said.
This is the second JMUA for JUSCC and the third and final assessment is scheduled for fall of this year. Once a final report on all of the assessments is complete, the ACTD will wrap up and the transition phase to get it into theater could possibly begin.