Manned-unmanned teaming saving lives, session discusses it during Aviation Senior Leaders Conference at Fort Rucker

FORT RUCKER, Ala. - MUM was the word at the Manned-Unmanned Teaming session at Fort Rucker during the Aviation Senior Leaders Conference Jan. 27.

Panel members turned attendees' focus to the "eyes of the Army" - Unmanned
Aircraft Systems - and the communication in theater of unmanned aircraft
systems with manned systems.

Ellis Golson, director of the Capability Development and Integration Directorate based at Fort Rucker, kicked off the session with background on the Army's decade-long "live experimentation" with UAS, including a future that is still being determined.

"We're still trying to define it, when you get right down to it," said Golson, "because every time we turn around the corner, we find out something else."

Army Aviation has flown over 3.2 million hours on its manned and unmanned aircraft systems, providing commanders with the information they want when they want it, in real or near-real time. Since UAS are in high demand by the warfighter, the Army will continue to develop and field the capabilities to meet their needs.

The way ahead, known as the UAS Roadmap, is currently being reviewed by Department of the Army leadership. Glenn Rizzi, deputy director of the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Center of Excellence at Fort Rucker, said not all votes are in yet on the Roadmap.

"Even if we predict we're going to go more unmanned in the future, for a lot of our functional capability areas - intelligence, sustainment, maneuver - it's not quick enough for them. They see it as transitioning even quicker," Rizzi said.

Army UAS, which are Joint assets, are both efficient and effective in theater, Rizzi said. The Soldiers "need it there and need it close."

Col. Jessie Farrington, FORSCOM's assistant G3/5/7, talked about scenarios from his 15-month deployment in Iraq, including an instance where UAS gave one combat aviation brigade the ability to look at 50,000 square miles. This enabled Soldiers to study how the enemy was working.

"Having UAS in my unit made it seem bigger than it was, and we were able to get after the enemy like they hadn't really been pursued in the past," Farrington said of the UAS force multiplier capabilities.

Manned-unmanned teaming enabled them to watch a team of IED emplacers for three hours and then follow them to nearly 10 different locations to take out an enemy network.

"I wasn't a big fan of all this as I arrived in Iraq, but it made me a believer," Farrington said.

Col. Richard Knapp, director of Directorates of Training and Doctrine, and Col. Robert Sova, TRADOC Capability Manager for UAS also at Fort Rucker, talked about challenges to training and doctrine inherent in an era of persistent conflict, and how invaluable the warfighter's knowledge is to the future of UAS and manned-unmanned teaming in the Army.

"There's a lot of good things going on in theater, but it's the Soldiers down range that get it," Sova said. "Now it's just a matter of capturing that and packaging it."

"It is an enterprise approach, and we're just getting at it," Sova said. "There are a lot of niche capabilities, and all our schools and centers, all our battlefield operations systems - they want their UAS, and they want to cover down on their niche area, and we're getting at that, but we've got to look at it from more of an enduring mindset. UAS are going to be around awhile, they're not going to be the panacea. They're another tool in the kit bag."

The bottom line with UAS is that manned-unmanned teaming is all about the Soldier.

"Certainly the eyes of the Army are saving lives and we see it every day," Sova said.

Page last updated Fri January 29th, 2010 at 20:59