By John Emich, Military Analyst (SMDC/ARSTRAT)July 26, 2011
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. - Current operations have shown the need for Soldiers to have a robust, high capacity communications network to provide responsive information over extended distances and complex urban terrain. Additionally, commanders require the ability to identify potential threats and make knowledge-based decisions and plans. In the future, Soldiers may see a variety of un-tethered Persistence Platforms over the battlefield providing long-loiter, long-endurance capabilities staying aloft for at least five days while carrying various communications, reconnaissance, surveillance, geospatial, target acquisition and weather payloads.
The U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command’s Future Warfare Center is not specifying a particular platform to fulfill mission demands and meet Soldiers’ needs. Persistence Platforms can include both lighter-than-air (LTA) and heavier-than-air (HTA) unmanned crafts, flying at either medium or high altitudes.
The medium altitude Persistence Platform will fly above 20,000 feet mean sea level, carrying payloads of at least 2,400 pounds. Examples of medium altitude LTA systems include Army’s Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (under development) and the AF’s Blue Devil II (under development). Examples of medium altitude HTA systems include the Hunter UAV and Gray Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle.
The high altitude Persistence Platform will fly at an altitude of at least 60,000 feet mean sea level, carrying payloads weighing at least 200 pounds. Some examples of high altitude LTA systems include HiSentinel (under development), and High Scout-B/C (under development). Examples of high altitude HTA systems include Global Hawk, Global Observer, and Zephyr 7 (under development). The payload bay will support a variety of reconfigurable sensor packages to meet several mission sets.
To support this design effort, the Future Warfare Center’s Decision Support Directorate completed a one-week Tabletop War Game with subject matter experts from the Army’s Centers of Excellence. The war game reviewed various gaps as determined by each Center of Excellence and determined which type of platforms and sensors could mitigate the gaps as it related to three operational scenarios: major combat operations, irregular warfare, and force protection. The war game results will provide key operational attributes of Persistence Platforms and identify platforms that provide a cost efficient return on investment based on these attributes.
The war game’s results will inform the Analysis of Alternatives, which will provide information to help the Future Warfare Center’s Directorate of Combat Development further define Persistence Platform requirements in the Capabilities Development Document. This document defines the Persistence Platform’s key performance capabilities in specific, measurable requirements to support the Warfighter and mitigate gaps identified by the Centers of Excellence. The CDD will inform Army leadership of Persistence Platform requirements and anticipated costs to help determine if the program efficiently and effectively meets Warfighter needs.
Commanders require a broad array of systems to support operations at the tactical level and provide wide area coverage over the area of interest. Persistence Platforms will use new technologies to provide longer endurance supplying Soldiers with on-demand capability supporting communications, reconnaissance, surveillance, target acquisition, and command and control. As defined in the Persistence Platform Concept of Operations, “the end goal of (Persistence Platform) Operations is not to replace existing systems, but to enhance, compliment and provide a viable option to those existing systems and exploit the aerial layer for advantageous military purposes.”