YUMA PROVING GROUND, Ariz. — The Army Futures Command Future Vertical Lift Cross-Functional Team, or FVL CFT, held their Experimental Demonstration Gateway Event 23 at U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground over four weeks in April and May.
As part of the event known as EDGE, the FVL CFT, along with help from its military, industry and international teammates, aggressively tested most every facet of the Army’s Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft and future vertical lift capabilities, as well as advancing knowledge on electronic warfare.
Unmanned aircraft, launched effects and all manner of ancillary technologies to expand communications capabilities and Soldier survivability were tested simultaneously. Participation from dozens of Army National Guard Soldiers from four different states was a vital component of everything from air traffic control to test activities to demonstration of emerging technologies.
Louisiana and Tennessee Guardsmen crewed a mobile tower system that was used in conjunction with YPG’s range controllers to coordinate the safe flight of dozens of manned and unmanned aircraft participating in the event. This occured while active air assault training exercises were in progress simultaneously along various parts of YPG’s vast ranges. The successful management of all these activities allowed for other vital testing to occur simultaneously.
The Georgia Army National Guard furnished a UH-60V for the event. This helicopter is new territory for Army Aviation in its design and implementation of a digital communications/network backbone based upon the Modular Open Systems Approach, or MOSA, protocol. This allows avionics from different vendors to connect and communicate based upon a common interface. Knowledge gained with use will further define MOSA compliant interfaces and ultimately inform the next iteration of its implementation into Future Long Range Assault Aircraft and Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft.
To illustrate the power of MOSA, new radio software first developed by private industry earlier this year allowed this flight crew to communicate with individuals and entities using a wide variety of different radio systems with a quick search on a preset page available on their center console’s display modules. The pilots were then able to do radio checks with local emergency frequencies from the air during the event.
“Where it becomes a big leverage for the National Guard is in disaster response,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Sean Brigham of the Georgia National Guard. “We could talk to emergency operations centers, police departments and fire departments directly. If a fire department set up a landing zone for us to medevac casualties, we could talk directly to them on their own organic radio system.”
The Oregon National Guard, meanwhile, was on hand to demonstrate how groundbreaking elements of their HH60-M Medevac helicopters could inform the medevac variant of the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft, a nearly full-sized model of which was on hand during the event.
Particularly, the new flexible kit allows for weight savings through use of lighter components that provide the ability to easily reconfigure its shelving or litter-pans used to transport patients. The flexibility the kit allows provides extra safety for the aircraft, crew and passengers when operating in mountains at high altitudes, where what seems like relatively inconsequential amounts of weight can make landing riskier.
“We’ve been testing it and using it for the past two years,” said 1st Sgt. Patrick Casha, flight paramedic. “In Oregon, we do a lot of high-altitude hoist missions for medevac, and a heavier aircraft means reduced performance. With this system, we can pull pieces off to fit the mission.”
Integrating these disparate units into the larger test and demonstration picture was made easier by the presence of YPG test personnel who are themselves National Guard service members.
Steve Mullins, operations lead, is a pilot in the Alaska National Guard, offered his perspective. “I know how they operate on a day-to-day basis, so I can make informed decisions on planning,” he said. “I have a little more ability to know what the Soldiers are thinking, which helps me properly support their part of the mission.”