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Background Briefing on Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

Background Briefing on Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

DoD News Briefing: Senior Defense Officials, Wednesday, October 31, 2001 - 2:00 p.m. EST. (Background briefing on unmanned aerial vehicles. Slides used in this briefing are on the Web. Source: News Transcript from the United States Department of Defense.

Staff: Okay. Good afternoon. This is a background briefing to provide an overview, an update on unmanned aerial vehicles. And I have some of the smartest people in the world on these subjects. The idea here is that this will be as "senior defense officials." And here is -- for your information only, of course, here is the senior defense official who we will hear from first. And we also have an Army official and an Air Force official --

Q: (Off mike.)

Staff: Oh, it's okay. We'll have these around.

And a Navy official. And they all have fascinating titles, but the short summary is that they're subject-matter experts in the area of unmanned aerial vehicles. And with your -- hope to have your cooperation on this. Each of them will give a few minutes, sort of an introduction, overview, and then we'll take questions at the end of the four presentations, if that's okay.

Sr. Defense Official: Thank you. Good afternoon. We're here to discuss unmanned aerial vehicles. We call them UAVs. I'll start with the basics, and a representative from each of the military departments will follow with specifics on their plans and their service systems.

We are not allowed to release operational information, so we will not discuss those details today.

UAVs are essentially remote-controlled aircraft, but they are different and more sophisticated than the model aircraft that you might fly as a hobby. "Unmanned" is a bit of a misnomer because there is an operator involved in the flight of these systems; the operator just doesn't happen to be inside the aircraft. For some UAV systems, the operator remotely controls the air vehicle with a stick and rudder control, so they essentially fly the vehicle, while others, the operator programs in way points, points in the sky, and the vehicle autonomously decides how to change and adjust its flight profile to get to that point. Global Hawk, Shadow and Fire Scout, which we'll talk to, are those type of vehicles.

We've used UAVs for a number of years beginning as aerial targets, and then primarily for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance roles. UAV air vehicles can be as small as the palm of your hand or as large as -- a size of a large manned aircraft. The systems we'll discuss today are the larger ones, the ones that collect information for multiple users.

An important definition is a UAV "system." A system has three main components: a ground station, communications architecture, and an air vehicle. Most of the systems have multiple air vehicles per system. For example, each Predator system is designed to have four air vehicles. So when you talk about quantities, that can be a bit confusing.

UAVs are primarily used for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance roles, but the payloads, the sensors and the packages can be tailored to the mission.

It might be useful to define intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance for you.

Intelligence is information or data that can be collected or should be collected to assist us in our operations. It can be data about our adversary's movements, their equipment, the lay of the -- layout of the land, et cetera, that adds to our situational awareness.

Reconnaissance is the method that we go about collecting that intelligence. And surveillance is essentially reconnaissance with a time dimension. So it's -- the method of collecting information over a specific area for a longer period of time to gather a more coherent awareness -- persistent sensing, if you will.

UAVs are well-suited for the dull, dirty and dangerous missions -- "dull" being the very long missions that are physically stressing in terms of time on a human; "dirty" being missions like chemical and biological agent-sensing, which is inherently unsafe for humans; "dangerous" being missions that are in high-threat areas that put aircrews at risk.

A UAV mission recently demonstrated was combat capable, specifically Predator with the Hellfire missile. Prior to the Hellfire demonstration on Predator, the U.S. government performed a treaty-compliance review, and the weaponized Predator is fully compliant with the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces -- the INF Treaty.

Costs of the larger UAV air vehicle that we'll talk about today are not cheap enough to be disposable. They range in cost between a half a million dollars and nearly equivalent to manned aircraft. The payloads, sensors, airframes and the control and communication networks that are combined to provide the capability that we need are not inexpensive.

While these systems are not designed to be expendable, meaning that we don't intend to lose them every time we send them out, they are "attritable," which I think is our word that we coined, meaning that you can afford to "attrit" or lose them, especially when the alternative is the loss of a manned aircraft or an aircrew.

In your package you have a UAV evolution slide. Moving from left to right on the chart, you'll see systems that we have used operationally. The Navy's Pioneer, the Army's Hunter, which are tactical within-line-of-sight systems for closer-in sensing. And the Air Force operates Predator, which is a medium-altitude UAV that has longer endurance and broader coverage area. Each of these systems were used in the Kosovo conflict.

You also see, farther over, development programs that will replace or add capability for our war fighters -- Fire Scouts for the Navy, Shadow for the Army. Global Hawk is a high-altitude system. And then there are two combat UAVs in early technology demonstration phases. Those are called UCAVs down at the bottom.

Note also that we have a science and technology base that generates improved airframe, payloads and communications capability.

Now each representative from the military departments will discuss their UAV plans and systems.

We'll start with the Army.

Sr. Defense Official: Good afternoon, I'm -- (name and identification deleted) -- for tactical UAVs.

Q: Strike that.

Q: (Inaudible.)

Sr. Defense Official: Oh. Okay. Sorry about that. (Laughter.)

In any case, I am -- (briefer identity deleted) -- for tactical UAVs -- (laughter) -- and today what I want to do is talk to you about a couple of the platforms the Army is currently using today and also talk to you about some of the evolving developmental capabilities that we're working on within the Army.

(To staff) If I can go to my first slide, please. Next slide.

The information we've provided in the handout provides you a lot of background information on these UAVs. I will be highlighting certain aspects of them as I go through.

The first one I'd like to talk about is the Shadow UAV. Shadow is the newest acquisition for the Army -- the maneuver commanders' UAV. Very small footprint; launch and recoverable on a soccer-sized field. Deployable early-entry-wise with one C-130, the full platoon in three C-130s. Four hours on station. Right now, we've got it at test and training at Fort Huachuca and in the hands of soldiers at Fort Hood. We're going through an April -- we're going through an April operational test, and we'll continue fielding after that test.

(To staff) Next slide.

Next slide I have, I'm showing there is for the Hunter UAV, certainly the Army's workhorse for the last several years. Basically double the size of the Shadow UAV. Longer range, longer endurance, can carry heavier payloads. Has certainly been the centerpiece of our demonstrations for payloads, and for tactics, techniques and procedures development. Right now you've probably heard about them in the news. It's had three different deployments to Kosovo over the last three years. It has been fielded at four different Army posts here in the United States. Again, the Army's workhorse, and it certainly is the interim extended-range multipurpose UAV for the Army as we look at various ways to interplay UAVs with other aspects of Army operations. And that literally leads into the next slide.

Talking evolving capabilities. If you take a look at the upper left-hand corner of that slide, you see an Apache helicopter and a Hunter operating together. We've conducted several tests over the last couple of years, and those tests are continuing, where we have the Apache helicopter actually controlling both the airframe and its sensor in flight. Again, looking at reconnaissance targeting, obviously increases the effectiveness and the efficiency of the Apache crew and increases their survivability.

Looking at the lower left-hand corner, weaponizing UAVs. The Army is looking into this. We have a planned test later on this year of putting the Brilliant Anti-Tank Munition on the Hunter airframe. Again, our first step in weaponizing, looking for lessons learned, and how we can best use UAVs for that particular type of capability.

Looking at the upper right-hand corner is one system, one ground control station. Again, the idea that if you have various UAVs up there in flight, that the same ground control station can control those UAVs. That's been an ongoing initiative by the Army. We're continuing that development. And, in fact, right now we can, in effect, fly Shadow and Hunter using the same or similar GCS [Guidance Control System]. We are continuing that work with the Navy as they work at the tactical control system. The tactical control system -- (inaudible) -- to looking at using software to control all services' UAVs with all GCSs. And that's something that the Navy's working on in the future.

Look at the lower right-hand corner. Recognize we're only looking at the larger UAVs today, but we must remember that there still is the small unit, below brigade level, that does need that UAV support. We are working with DARPA [Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency], other OSD agencies and other services in developing a total concept and architecture for small UAVs, whether they be micro or the small UAVs, let's say, the size of a suitcase, something like that, for both manpackable and for vehicle use, and again, with future Cavalry and Scout system being one example of that.

That really kind of gives you a very quick overview. Again, the slides give you a lot more detail. And at this point I'll conclude mine and hand it over to the Air Force.

Staff: And one announcement: in the meantime we're busy making some more copies because there's more people here than we expected. There will be some paper copies -- more paper copies shortly.

Sr. Defense Official: Well, good afternoon. I'll discuss Predator and Global Hawk, give you a few facts and highlights.

Predator began as one of the very first ACTDs -- advanced concept technology demonstration -- back in '94 with a contract to General Atomics out in San Diego, California. Its first flight was in June of '94, and it was the first ACTD to actually graduate into an operational system. It went operational with a deployment to support the Bosnian operations in '96. And since that time Predator has been continuously deployed overseas to Europe and supporting Southwest Asia since then. And a good example of support is during the Kosovo operations we flew over 50 sorties in support of targeting operations for Kosovo.

The Air Force has stood up two Predator squadrons. They're both located at Indian Springs Auxiliary Airfield in Nevada.

Predator is a long-dwell UAV operating in excess of 24 hours. That's equivalent to flying 400 nautical miles, hanging out for over 14 hours, and then flying home the other 400 nautical miles. It operates usually around 15,000 feet, although it can fly as high as 25,000 feet. The payloads, which I'll talk about a little bit later, is about 450 pounds. And it is flown manually. A pilot with a stick controls the aircraft.

The sensors. We carry an electro-optical and an infrared video cameras, as well as we can simultaneously carry a synthetic aperture radar. Most notably, this aircraft is known for its video. It's become the commander's real-time eye in the sky, providing real-time streaming video back to the command post.

We can identify and track targets four or five miles away with the video.

Predator has been bought as a system, and the system consists of four air vehicles, the ground-control stations and the satellite gear required. Air Force is currently buying 12 systems, and the last two of those are being delivered within the next three months.

In addition to buying systems, we have been buying attrition vehicles because we have lost a few. To date we have received total over 60 air vehicles and we have lost 19 due to mishaps or losses over enemy territory.

Now, originally as an ACTD, it was looking at just an ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] role. It has begun to evolve beyond that. A key lesson out of Kosovo was this is more than just a collector, it can also be used as a forward air controller to call in target strikes. And as part of Kosovo, we added a laser designator as a quick-reaction capability to actually lase the target for other fighter aircraft. Since then, Air Combat Command has come up with a multi-role concept of operations to look at forward air control and other missions. So, starting with this current year, FY '02, attrition buy of aircraft, all of them will be equipped with a laser designator.

The last topic I want to talk about on Predator is weaponization. We've had a lot of questions on that. The Air Force conducted a series of demonstrations and experiments this past spring through summer looking at equipping a laser-equipped Predator with Hellfire missiles. We installed -- modified the wings to have two Hellfires per aircraft. We demonstrated launching missiles at static targets at various altitudes up to 15,000 feet.

And the real purpose of these experiments was to test how well can you control a UAV and have it launch weapons, what kind of communications delays, what kind of controls do you have to have in place, and also, what's the effect on the aircraft. These are relatively small aircraft. The wings are composites. What happens when you fire one missile off and you have now aerodynamic problems as well as stresses on the wings? And this data will all be used for future combat aircraft evaluations.

Now, changing over the Global Hawk, it also began as an ACTD back in 1994. The contract was with Teledyne Ryan, which is now part of Northrop Grumman, in 1995, and the first flight was in February of '98. From '98 to 2000, we conducted a series of military utility assessments by U.S. Joint Forces Command to look at what is the utility and what would be the operations concept for flying a high- altitude UAV?

During the test, we participated in various exercises, including a deployment to Eglin Air Force Base which supported the NATO exercise off the coast of Portugal. So for that exercise, we continuously flew across the Atlantic and collected imagery.

An assessment report from Joint Forces Command in June of 2000 recommended Global Hawk to be operationalized and expeditiously fielded. In March of this year we entered engineering and manufacturing development to try to operationalize the aircraft further, and to date we have over 100 flights and 1,200 flight hours.

Now, Global Hawk is a high-altitude endurance UAV.

It can operate in excess of 35 hours. It's equivalent to flying 1,200 nautical miles, hanging out for over 24 hours, and then flying back 1,200 nautical miles. And we have demonstrated over 65,000 feet.

The payload capacity is about 2,000 pounds, but our intent is to grow that to about 3,000, with the production vehicles.

Flight controls on the Global Hawk are fully autonomous. There is no guy with a stick. It's all preprogrammed in, but we do have the capability to dynamically retask.

The sensors that it carries are both electro-optical and infrared cameras, and a synthetic aperture radar at the same time. Let me note that these are not video cameras, these are still image cameras. And with the cameras, we can identify targets out to 30 miles, and the radar is effective to over a hundred miles.

During the ACTD, we bought five Global Hawks. We did lose one to a mishap. We currently have two more in production to be delivered during this fiscal year. Our plan is to buy 51 production air vehicles and nine additional ground stations, with those first production deliveries being in FY '03.

Some highlights of this past year are, we -- Global Hawk was the recipient of the 2000 Collier Trophy for the year's greatest aerial achievements in astronautics.

From April to June we deployed to Australia. This was the first trans-Pacific flight of an unmanned vehicle. We completed 13 or 14 planned sorties supporting Australian activities for coastal surveillance, maritime surveillance, and we also participated in the exercise Tandem Thrust, which was a joint U.S.-Australian-New Zealand-Canadian naval exercise, in which we found, identified, photographed a carrier battle group that was approaching Australia. We also could dynamically retask and attempted to track and follow a ship engaging the exercise area. And most recently we tested the ability to control two aircraft simultaneously from our ground station.

And with that, I'll turn it over to the Navy.

Sr. Defense Official: Good afternoon. I'll be addressing the Navy's general future vision for UAVs. And in addition, in your packages, I have included specific information on the two UAVs that we're currently looking at and that we're working as programs of record.

The Navy's vision for unmanned aerial vehicles basically seeks to develop a family of naval unmanned aerial vehicles that will accomplish four things for the commander.

First, we seek to minimize risk and maximize return, and that's very much understood in the world of unmanned aerial vehicles. We want to pick those missions for which UAVs are ideally suited, not necessarily anything that a UAV can do, because UAVs are pretty capable.

Second, the Navy seeks to field a family of network UAVs. (To staff.) If you would switch to -- that's it. That's fine. We'll keep that one up through the entire brief.

We're looking at a capability across the entire spectrum of conflict and a full range of capabilities across speed, range, and endurance.

So to do that, you just can't do it with one single UAV. We've found that out, so we want to do it with a family of UAVs.

Third, we need to allow for growth and autonomy in mission payloads, in propulsion and survivability. All of these things are very germane to the success of the UAV in today's battlespace. We don't want to design a stand-alone or stovepipe system, as we call it, one that has very limited utility. We want something that has maximum utility. We also want to be able to incorporate the rapid advances in technology that we're seeing virtually daily in this field.

And finally, there has to be a balance between cost and expendability of these systems. As you heard from the first briefer, expendability is not what we're after. These are not cheap systems. We're looking at attritability for the tactical level of UAVs. And then as you get to the higher level of UAVs, the more capable UAVs, obviously they're less attritable, more expensive assets that we'd like to take care of a bit better.

Obviously, unmanned aerial vehicles don't put lives at risk, and that's a key point. The common misconception is that they're cheap, and again, I think I've just addressed that. We've found that UAVs that are cheap are not necessarily capable, and what we're after is a family of UAVs that are capable to provide all those things that we just talked about and are above vision.

To achieve this, what we've done in the Navy is recently reorganized all the UAV functions under the Directorate of Air Warfare, N-78, who now is responsible for all Navy unmanned aerial vehicle resources and requirement sponsorship. N-78 intends to focus its energy on three tiers of UAVs, and those tiers are tactical, medium-altitude endurance, and high-altitude endurance UAVs. We're most concerned with those UAVs that would affect manned operations, in other words, those assets that might be found on an air-tasking order in support of a campaign or an operation. We are not necessarily looking at small UAVs, although the Marine Corps is definitely leading the charge in the area of small UAVs, and we support that effort. Right now the Navy is focused mainly on the three tiers we just mentioned.

Under tactical UAVs, we're looking to field an expeditionary capability that performs the missions of real-time targeting; battle damage assessment; tactical reconnaissance; signals intelligence; nuclear, biological, and chemical sampling; short-haul communications relay; and mine countermeasures. That's envisioned to be an asset that we'll have larger numbers of in an inventory. It will be attritable, it will be limited stealth, and it will have little sensitive technology. It will be under local tactical control and based from austere land sites and possible from naval combatants and amphibious ships. This is also expected to be the lowest cost of the tiers, as you can imagine.

Under medium-altitude endurance UAVs, the Navy is looking to field a capability to perform the missions of strike support in a medium threat environment, with growth to limited weapons capability to enable strike and SEAD, which is Suppression of Enemy Air Defense.

This UAV requires, obviously, more stealth. We won't have quite as many of them. It requires special maneuverability capabilities, especially because we're looking at basing this off an aircraft carrier. And hence, it's a lot less attritable than a tactical UAV.

We continue also to work with the Air Force jointly to support a DARPA and Air Force effort to develop an unmanned combat air vehicle, or UCAV, and that is a very important effort.

Under high-altitude endurance UAVs, we're looking to fill the capability to perform wide-area surveillance capability, reconnaissance and maritime surveillance; we're looking at land targets also; stand-off strike support; signals intelligence collection; and long-distance communications relay. It's envisioned to be a long-range and endurance asset, a very expensive asset, and hence, not attritable at all. We don't consider this an attritable asset.

It does operate, by its nature, in an altitude and range sanctuary that does provide it its own inherent survivability. And also, we expect this to be -- we won't buy too many of these, as it stands right now.

In the near future, we hope to refine this vision a bit, provide you a lot more details. I'm sure that's more what you're after. And then to determine whether we can actually fit this into an acquisition program that will come to fruition.

That concludes my remarks.

Q: A question on the Predator. Are you saying that your Predators currently have not been used in combat?

Sr. Defense Official: I can't discuss any operational aspects currently.


Q: But you left the impression that you haven't quite figured out how to actually work it with --

Sr. Defense Official: We had intended, as part of our demonstration, to actually continue to go look at hitting moving target, and we have not gotten that far. Kind of ran out of dollars before we got to the phase two of doing the weaponization testing.

Q: So that sounds like you have not gotten to the point where you would actually have used it in combat?

Sr. Defense Official: Well, I can't comment on or speculate on any operational aspects.

Q: But why would that be the case when the CIA, apparently, does have Predators?

Sr. Defense Official: I can only talk for the Air Force. You'd have to ask them.

Q: Also on the Predator, sir.

Q: You may as well just hang out there. (Laughs.)

Q: Can you say what the -- how far the Predator can fly from its operator? And two, of the 19 losses, do you have a breakdown or a rough breakdown of how many due to hostile fire as opposed to malfunction?

Sr. Defense Official: Since Predator can fly for over 24 hours, you could fly in a straight line as far as you want and image for an hour and then come back, if you'd like. So just do the geometry and you can figure out how far you could go, but then your time on station is less.

Q: And how far is that --

Sr. Defense Official: Well, the example I'll give you is fly 400 miles, hang out for over 14 hours, then fly 400 miles back home.

Q: Is there a lag between when the control is moved and when the control is moved on the plane?

Sr. Defense Official: A fraction of a second.

And on your second -- what was your second question?

Q: The mishaps. A breakdown due to hostile fire as opposed to equipment malfunction.

Sr. Defense Official: The losses that we've had over enemy territory we can't always attribute to hostile fire. Generally what happens is you lose the link, and you don't know if you've had hostile fire or you've just had a lost link, which does happen. The aircraft is commanded on a lost link automatically to start flying home. So you kind of have to wait 14 or 20 hours and see if he comes home. (Laughter.) But you don't always know what happened.

Q: But from Kosovo, for example, you must have some intelligence on it.

Sr. Defense Official: We lost four over enemy territory in Kosovo.


Q: I'm sure you're aware, the Project on Government Oversight yesterday published the executive summary of the 2001 DOT&E testing on Predator. My question actually has not to do with that. I know that you guys are dealing with classification issues and stuff on that.

But if you go back into the 2000 report, it talks about how the Predator can sometimes, under certain circumstances, which, from reading it, didn't seem like they would be that unusual -- the Predator's targeting accuracy can be off by as much as a kilometer. I realize that that data is a year old. There's references made to it, though, in the executive summary that was put out. Have you done anything to reduce that, because certainly that is a concern when you start loading it up with weapons.

Sr. Defense Official: Because Predator was an ACTD, we didn't follow normal acquisition procedures. Usually you have an Operational Requirements Document before you start building the airplane. We built the airplane before an ORD was started drafting. So what you had was some estimates on what potential was out there, when they wrote the requirements document. When the operational test was conducted, it was using the ACTD aircraft, and it was conducted over a year ago, against that requirements document. And the operational test community has to use the requirements document as your benchmark to grade you against.

We have evolved a good deal since the ACTD aircraft. We've upgraded engines, we've upgraded sensors, we've done a lot of work. We still have a few ACTD aircraft in the inventory, but most of our aircraft have progressed beyond that.

Q: So you're saying no longer do you have that problem of one kilometer --

Sr. Defense Official: There are still things that we'd like to work on, but a lot of those problems cited in that reporthave since been mitigated in Predator.

Q: Well, what about the current readiness. This thing trashes the system in terms of the sensors and --

Sr. Defense Official: It's still based from the OT [operational testing] done over a year ago against an ACTD aircraft.

Q: But how shall we interpret this, though? This is the Pentagon's top tester, and he says it's not operationally effective or suitable, and the sensors have a lot of -- there's a lot of issues with it.

Sr. Defense Official: The Air Force right now is putting together a response to this, and until that's fully coordinated, the response is pretty much along the lines of what I just said: It's based on an older system.

Sr. Defense Official: The secretary of Defense is also likely to respond to Congress with additional comments on the Predator. You'll note that in the report OT&E did not suggest that we not use Predator. They indicated that there were limitations, or they found that it fell short of the ORD requirements, the Operational Requirements Document, which our Air Force representative mentioned was done, in a sense, after the fact.

Q: This report does put some context along -- of these laudatory stories coming out that the Predator is the silver bullet over Afghanistan. It has serious limitations on it, and this report seems to suggest that. It's not a hunky-dory system. There's still issues to go with it.

Sr. Defense Official: I think Predator proved its case in Kosovo, and I think if you spoke with the CINCs, they thought that it was a useful capability.

Sr. Defense Official: We've been -- to follow up on that. We have been deployed continuously since '96 and all the theater CINCs are begging for more Predators.

Q: That doesn't mean it's meeting every requirement, though, or that it's cost-effective.

Sr. Defense Official: No, but for what it does do, it does a great job.

Q: I wanted to ask about the sensors, as well. How effective is the infrared on the Predator from, let's say, picking out a heat source from a tunnel or a cave?

Sr. Defense Official: I really don't want to talk about those kind of operational parameters.

Q: Well, I'm not talking about the current operation, I'm just curious about tunnels -- (laughter)

Sr. Defense Official: (Laughs) No comment!

Sr. Defense Official: No comment.

Q: Well, let me ask it another way, then. How effective is it at finding a heat source on the ground? (Laughter.) I'm not talking about any particular ground; I'm just talking about ground in general.

Sr. Defense Official: Like most infrared cameras, depending on the temperature of the ground, temperature of the air, you're going to see the heat sources on the ground.

Q: (Off mike.)

Sr. Defense Official: Three or four or five miles.

Q: You said that the Predator, by the end of Kosovo, had been fitted with laser designators. Did it ever guide a piece of ordnance during Kosovo?

Sr. Defense Official: During Kosovo, what they tried to do was what we call a quick-reaction capability. Can you put a laser on there? And actually, we had to remove one of the cameras in order to fit a quick laser in there.

Kosovo ended too quickly in order for us to actually employ this thing to lase for some support. So what we've done since Kosovo is keep evolving that, and now we have a reduction turret that has both cameras in it and the laser designator.

Q: I've just got a question on the Navy side, actually --

Sr. Defense Official: Good move! (Laughter.)

Sr. Defense Official: Wow!

Q: You guys have been basically taking all Pioneers out of service, kind of kept them in a ready status, but they weren't being used because they're just old.

Is that still the current status?

Sr. Defense Official: The Navy and the Marine Corps currently have two systems each, which are in a contingency status, meaning they can be deployed at a moment's notice. And they are maintained in the highest state of readiness for that contingency. They are not deployed regularly, as it used to be prior to that status being enacted.

The airframes, though, are updated and repaired and maintained to make them as tactically relevant as anything else that's out there today.

Q: But they're being nicely taken care of in the hangar right now?

Sr. Defense Official: I'd say that's a fair -- but they're also flown for training as well.

Q: Two -- just one more for the Navy, again. Your long-range endurance vehicle -- there's been speculation that you're looking at Global Hawk, since it's already approved in the system, and you could probably get it cheaper than developing -- is that true?

Sr. Defense Official: I can't confirm where we're going to go for sure. I will say that Global Hawk is definitely one of the considerations that's on the table. I won't say that we're definitely going to do that or not. We're certainly looking at a lot of options. And Global Hawk, I will say, is a very attractive one.

Staff: Dale?

Q: Is there a reason that none of you are talking about the smaller systems that we've heard about today? I'm aware of some systems that are into development, that -- for example, that an individual soldier or Marine could carry on his back, assemble in the field, throw up in the air, and see over the next hill. Is there some reason that you're not talking about those, maybe because they're in use?

Sr. Defense Official: No. (Laughs.) No, it's not that we're not talking about them because of operational aspects; it's because we had scoped this conference here to the larger UAVs that share information amongst a number of people. Some of the smaller ones are what you might call individual UAVs, ones that you might use for information solely for your own purposes.

Q: As a general proposition, are any of those individual UAVs close to deployment to a point?

Sr. Defense Official: Yes, sir. As indicated, we didn't talk about the small UAVs, because the Marine Corps is leading the charge on that. And I will say that the Marine Corps has done a very good job, been working on something called Dragon Eye. That's just one solution. That's not the only. But it is a man-packable system which is very close to a production capability, if that's the direction the Marine Corps decides to go. And it has proven to be very useful for its particular niche.

Q: Can I ask two more on Predator? Specifically, the flying thing -- we were told, after Kosovo, that the experience was that although you say the lag in control is only a fraction of a second, that actually they need a lot of airspace to operate in, and you can't operate them very close together, because there is just a risk of -- they collide, apparently.

And the second thing is, on transmission, we were told that they just eat up bandwidths and that bandwidth is a significant problem if you are having multiple Predators in theater. Could you address those two?

Sr. Defense Official: On airspace, since UAVs were relatively new when Kosovo started -- and they're still kind of in their infancy -- there's a lot of concern about operating manned aircraft and UAVs in the same airspace. We operate Predator only in military-restricted airspace.

When it comes to Global Hawk, we do climb to altitude, and we do cross commercial public airspace, but at an altitude most airliners aren't at.

A lot of that's getting better and better as people get more confident that we can control the aircraft and they're not a danger. So some of that has been fixed. We have actually started doing multiple aircraft from a single ground station and trying to operate them.

On the bandwidth question, if you have a bunch of sensors collecting a lot of imagery, yes, they take a lot of bandwidth.

And that is a constant question is --

Q: What can you do to alleve it, though? I mean, can you use data compression? Have you started on this?

Sr. Defense Official: Depending on the sensor, you can look at compression algorithms. Video can be compressed. We can go to commercial standards like HDTV [high definition TV], things like that we're studying for the future, and/or rent more transponder space.

Q: Could you all comment on how these UAVs that you're developing could be used for homeland defense?

Sr. Defense Official: Actually, there's a number of things that we can use UAVs for. In fact, that's part of the challenge of where we go in the future is what kind of packages, what kind of roles, and, you know, non-traditional roles we might use UAVs for. We need to be flexible. But just because it can do it doesn't necessarily mean that that's a militarily effective or a cost-efficient way of doing things, or even a smart thing to do. We did speak about chemical/biological agent sensing. That might be something that you could do if you thought that there was a homeland problem with that.

Q: At the risk of truly frightening or terrifying a lot of combat pilots, given the pace of technology, given that you've already put -- been weaponize one AUAV [armed unmanned aerial vehicle], and given that the Navy is looking into developing a combat UAV, how soon -- like, how much time before you can actually -- basically, a UAV will be able to do the same things as a manned aircraft, a manned bomber?

Sr. Defense Official: I think it's premature right now. Both the UCAV, the combat -- both the one for the Air Force and also the one for the Navy, is still in the demonstration phases. But as those technologies prove themselves out and as that technology matures, I think then you do need to review for force structure. But right now it's premature to do that. We're very early in the technology.

Q: (Off mike) -- the next 50 years, the next 30 years --

Sr. Defense Official: Oh, it'd be in the next 50 years, I would imagine.

Q: Oh, less than that maybe? (Laughter.)

Q: With your experience -- I know you can't talk about current operations. But with your experience with UAVs and now with your experience -- experimenting with combat UAVs or weaponized UAVs, can you talk a little bit about what kind of CONOPS [concept of operations] you're developing to actually use them, and also, what sort of rules of engagement would apply?

Sr. Defense Official: One of the things, one of the challenges

-- I notice we had a question earlier on on concept of ops and flying UAVs with other UAVs, UAVs with manned aircraft, UAVs where you might be launching cruise missiles. CONOPS -- concept of ops -- is always a challenge for UAVs. There's a comfort level that has to be developed. That is why we do exercises and experimentation with the UAVs.

We try to do that jointly where we can so that we can get a sense of how we would use them; also, developing different rules of engagement, how you would handle that. Right now it's --

Q: Well, could you talk specifically about what type of issues you're facing, though? I mean, you guys have said that for months now, that you're developing it and that sort of thing, but what specific challenges are there other than airspace? What about getting data back to CONUS [continental United States] using DCGS [Distributed Command Ground System], those kinds of things?

Sr. Defense Official: Sure. There are issues with communications. There are issues with combat ID, making sure that you have the ID situational awareness that you might have with a manned platform that you may not have with an operator for a UAV. There are issues with some roles and missions that are more dynamic than you could perform with a combat UAV, air to air, for one thing. Not that we might never do that, but there's a lot of situational awareness and a lot of dynamic aspects about that mission that may never be suitable for an unmanned aircraft.

Q: Just recently, going back to Predator, just to clarify, the testing that was done over the past year on static targets, can you clarify how many months of testing -- how many months was testing performed, performance of the Predator, how it did against the static targets?

Sr. Defense Official: I don't recall exactly what month we started, but roughly from about the May, June, July, August kind of time frame, we conducted these tests. Performance-wise, a lot of them hit dead on. We had, like, an old hulk tank we hit with inert Hellfires. On a couple occasions we missed, and what we found was when you're lasing from both the ground or from the air, some of that laser energy actually is reflecting off the ground behind the tank, so the missile is seeing that, and we find out we're hitting 12 feet behind the tank. We did have one shot where the missile missed by a long distance, and that was determined to be a failure of the missile. And based on Army statistics, that happens every now and then with the missiles.

Q: And if I could just quickly, before, let's say, September 11th, hypothetically, how close were you to being able to start moving on to moving targets?

Sr. Defense Official: What we were looking at is some software upgrades to the laser and the turret to be able to track. Obviously, with a static, you can just assume, even though I have a fraction of a second delay, he's not going anywhere. You'd have to be able to track with the turret. And if you're using optical or you're using infrared, you need to be able to maintain that track.

If he passes something of similar color, similar brightness, you might have lost track. And we were looking at doing other --

Q: Do you have a SIGINT [signal intelligence] payload ready to go for Global Hawk or Predator?

Sr. Defense Official: I'm sorry?

Q: Have you a SIGINT payload ready to go for Global Hawk or Predator?

Sr. Defense Official: Currently we are looking at writing an operational requirements addendum to Global Hawk to add in a SIGINT payload for the future.

Q: Do you actually have one ready to go then?

Sr. Defense Official: No. No, don't have one ready to go.

Q: Just to follow up on those Hellfire tests. Did it turn out with aerodynamic problems launching a missile? I mean, did the thing --

Sr. Defense Official: We were actually worried that we were going to have a lot of trouble, because you're going to have 100 pounds lopsided on your airplane. And we conducted static tests with firings, we conducted flights where we just carried the things around -- two, and then one. And we really found that we didn't have a lot of problems. We did reduce endurance by a couple hours because of the drag, and especially if you only had one hanging on you, but we really didn't have a lot of trouble. We also disassembled a wing to see how much fracturing we had, and we didn't have that much.

Q: On Predator, is the Air Force at all interested in addressing some of the concerns spelled out in the testing report? And then for the other service reps, can you say something about the challenges involved with interoperability?

Sr. Defense Official: I think a lot of the concerns in the report we have been working on over the past couple years, and a lot of them we've gone a long way to solving already. And you'll probably see that when we respond officially later.

Sr. Defense Official: As far as interoperability is concerned, one of the Navy-led joint projects is something called the Tactical Control System, and as you heard from the Army representative, that is a project that gives you two things. One is the ability to command and control other service UAVs, and also to disseminate information across a wide number of C4I nodes, or Command and Control nodes, and that is our primary entry into the interoperability world. The other thing that we're working at a joint level, at the OSD level, is a joint test and evaluation of tactics techniques and procedures to do tactical UAVs and time-critical operations, which is a joint operation, again, between the Army, Air Force, and the Navy, and the Marine Corps. So there's a lot of good things going on, and one of the reasons we can all stand here together and we're all friends is that we are doing some very good things together.

Q: Maybe I can come back to the Predator for a second. Can you just detail for us -- you said there -- you had 68 of these and you've lost 19.

Sr. Defense Official: Correct.

Q: Four were lost over Kosovo. Can you kind of give us a breakdown? How many were lost in testing --

Sr. Defense Official: I don't have that data with me. A good number of them were lost -- operator error. It's hard to land this thing. The operator has the camera pointing out the front of the plane, but he really has lost a lot of situational awareness that a normal pilot would have of where the ground is and where the attitude of his aircraft is.

So we have a lot of losses just from hitting the ground.

Q: To follow up, to put it in layman's terms, are you saying that the report that we're all sort of talking to you about, the more recent report -- essentially they tested an older version of this? But I think that we're sort of puzzled by is, this is the military's chief tester. Why is he testing an older version and not the most up- to-date? Would you say as many of these --

Sr. Defense Official: The test was actually conducted over a year ago.

Q: That doesn't make it valid if the findings are what they are. Just because it was a year ago -- you keep bringing that up. So what?

Sr. Defense Official: Arleigh --

Sr. Defense Official: It was -- like he implied, it was an Arleigh. It was the ACTD version of the aircraft. And the aircraft have evolved quite a bit since then.

Q: Following up on the UCAV question, for the Air Force and Navy, when Secretaries Roche and Aldridge talked about JSF Friday [ transcript:], they cited the UCAV as a potential mitigator of the industrial base concerns vis-a-vis Boeing. Could you say a little more about something they could be introduced -- a little more about what you're looking at in the time frame?

Sr. Defense Official: I don't think we can talk about that. We're not prepared to.

Q: Back on the Predator, could you give us some order of magnitude by which you have improved that targeting error? You want us to accept that it's improved dramatically --

Sr. Defense Official: Right.

Q: -- but maybe you can tell by how much.

Sr. Defense Official: It's not hundreds of meters, like it used to be. There's things we've done with improved cameras. There's things we've done with software in the ground station to improve that. I can't give you specific numbers.

We're also looking beyond that to improving, for example, digital imagery. Right now everything's analogue coming off the jet, going to digitized. Now you're going to have metadata, which is going to actually improve your ability on the ground for the exploiter to point on the image and maybe get a GPS [Global Positioning System] coordinate or a Lat/Long or something like that.

Q: I'm not done yet --

Sr. Defense Official: But that's not fielded yet.

Q: Okay. Are you sufficiently confident in the Predator, as it exists now, to use it as the sole targeting source for -- with its laser, or do you combine it with other --

Sr. Defense Official: When you lose the -- use the laser, the problems of looking at the image and getting a GPS coordinate aren't there anymore, because the weapon coming off of some fighter is following the laser, and the laser's right on the target.

Q: Right. So you do -- you are sufficiently confident in the Predator to use it as a sole targeting platform?

Sr. Defense Official: For lasing. When it's doing a forward air control mission and it's lasing.

Q: In what other situation does it -- do you combine it with other sensors to --

Sr. Defense Official: In other situations where you may see a target, what you're going to do is you're going to talk in a pilot and say, "I see these vehicles that are at this road intersection. It's roughly at this location." And then it's up to the pilot in the other aircraft to determine where he puts his weapons. They've just given him a cue and maybe talked him into it.

Q: Okay.

Sr. Defense Official: Jamie?

Q: Can I just follow up on this targeting issue, though, because during Kosovo you did the overlay of the imagery with

(inaudible) databases. Did you normalize that -- (inaudible) -- since then, or did that work kind of -- you were happy with what it was and will just keep that on the shelf?

Sr. Defense Official: That is continuing to evolve. We do that with not just Predator, but some of the other ISR systems to take data from multiple sources and overlay them, to take good GPS coordinates off of one, but a better image off of another, and try to fuse that data together.

Q: I'm sorry, I just -- I'm sorry, just, I need to be really clear. I mean, this is the targeting data that the Predator was yielding that wasn't good by a kilometer. Was it yielding, like, these are what I think the GPS coordinates are?

Sr. Defense Official: Correct. What you're doing is you're taking straight video off the camera and you said, I believe that that camera is pointing at this spot on the ground. So just doing the math back when you had the older cameras and the GPS equipment that was in the aircraft at that time gave you large errors.

Q: I yield the floor. (Laughter.)

Q: Have Hellfires missiles been shot over Afghanistan?

Sr. Defense Official: I'm sorry, the question again, please?

Q: Well, we know that you used cluster bombs, the B-52 have intervened, et cetera. Are Hellfires being shot over Afghanistan?

Sr. Defense Official: We are not discussing operational issues at this point.

Staff: You should attend one of our regular briefings --

Q: Okay. And about losses, how many were lost over Iraq?

Sr. Defense Official: Over the years? I do -- I don't think I

-- I know -- within the past year we've lost three of them over Iraq.


Q: This is for the Army. You mentioned you're going to test the Brilliant antitank weapon on the Hunter. When is that test going to be?

Sr. Defense Official: Right now it's planned for during this fiscal year, toward the end of this fiscal year.

Q: Was that a planned test, or was it accelerated at all because of the --

Sr. Defense Official: That was -- actually, it was already planned before the events of September 11th.

Q: For Air Force, are you finding it easier to get money and time now for continued development of the Predator? I'm curious if you've got a time line when you hope to --

Sr. Defense Official: Speaking for the Air Force, we're not getting sufficient money. (Laughter.)

Sr. Defense Official: The Air Force has no comment. (Laughter.)

Q: All right. For the Air Force official, can you please talk about where the Air Force is in assessing Predator-B? Do you still -- (inaudible) -- the turboprop version, or are you leaning more towards the turbofan?

Sr. Defense Official: There was a report last spring, and we recently sent another letter to Congress last month -- perhaps it was October, the end of October. We're looking at Predator-B. Predator-B has some positive attributes. It does contain more payload, flies at a higher altitude, and it's faster. We're more inclined to go for the turboprop version because it has a longer endurance than going for the jet version. And we're going to continue to assess that.

Now, one of the drawbacks of Predator would be is it flies at a higher altitude. And your video, which is the best thing on Predator, will degrade as you get higher and higher in altitude.

So there's some drawbacks to Predator-B, as well as some benefits.

Q: I'd like to follow on that if I could briefly. In that initial report, it talked about how there might be some training and logistics issues unique to Predator-B and incorporating them into a Predator fleet and a Global Hawk fleet. Can you talk about where you stand with those? Have you addressed some of those yet?

Sr. Defense Official: That's part of the ongoing studies; you're obviously going to have a different engine. You're to have different parts, and that becomes a logistics addition. But one of the benefits is, we would try to use the exact same ground station, so you'd have people maybe dual-qualified in both aircraft, so you would cut back on some of those training and logistics problems.

Q: Can I just follow that, as well? You mentioned that

Predator B will fly higher; I assume that's for defensive purposes. Are you also looking at defensive systems on any of these UAVs? Chaff? or --

Sr. Defense Official: Global Hawk is programmed to have a defensive system -- a jammer or decoy kind of thing. Chaff and flares for IR [infrared] probably aren't necessary at those altitudes. Right now on -- well, I won't mention Predator. (Scattered laughter.)

Q: There has been some reporting that one reason the Predator -- this is probably for you but maybe for (the other briefer) -- one reason the Predator has been armed --

Sr. Defense Official: I'm unnamed.

Q: -- is to go after human targets. It sounds like that kind of capability is far off, if the testing stage is just looking at fixed targets at this point.

Sr. Defense Official: We are not going to talk about operational issues. He talked about IR and the problem with moving targets.

Q: Well, is it safe to say that that sort of capability is far off in the future?

Sr. Defense Official: I don't think I'll comment on that one.

Q: An Army question: Could you just update us on where Hunter stands? The last time I checked in on it, it was, like, four years ago, and [Gen. Dennis] Reimer (USA) was shutting it all down. How many of them do you have left? Are you going to buy more?

Sr. Defense Official: We have approximately 40 airframes left. Again, we've got --

Q: Four-zero?

Sr. Defense Official: Four-zero. Correct.

Right now we still have them at four different locations in the United States. As I mentioned, they have deployed to Kosovo over the last three years, very successfully, as a matter of fact. I think a couple of your all organizations reported on what happened in June here, when they came through helping out those approximately 80 soldiers on getting back to their home -- their home base.

So, in any case, they store there. We still are actively using them. We expect to use them for several more years to come.

Q: Are you going to buy some more?

Sr. Defense Official: We certainly are exploring that right now. I would state, however, the Army has not made any type of final decision on that.

Q: Can you just give us a status update on the red teaming for Shadow 200 and, you know, where are you? Are you going to make any design changes or anything --

Sr. Defense Official: Basically, the review group, headed by Dr. Hans Mark -- I'm sure many are you are familiar with him -- who headed that, he was called -- he was asked by the Army to come and take a look at the program.

He found that the incidents that were occurring last spring were not systemic, they weren't related. And in fact, he completely agreed with the Army's methodologies on both mitigating and solving those particular problems. In fact, I can feel pretty confident right now that we've done the right things. Many of you may know about our October test, about 95 hours of operations in one single week by a platoon there at Fort Hood, including 70 hours continuous operations of the Shadow system. So we feel like we're doing a pretty good job on that right now.

Staff: Okay, you can have the last one.

Q: On the Predator, are you all looking at ways to equip the Predator with weapons different from the Hellfire missiles, any other types of weapons?

Sr. Defense Official: There's been a very cursory look at what else you could do, but the weight allowance on this really restricts you down to just a handful of possible things.

Q: What would some of the other possibilities be?

Sr. Defense Official: The Stinger would be in the weight class, but we have no plans right now to go do any other experiments with other weapons. I think we kind of achieved the goals of the experiment to see could you fire a weapon, and we've proven that part.

Q: Thank you.


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).