USJCOM Tests UAV Capabilities in Urban Environments
USJCOM Tests UAV Capabilities in Urban Environments
U.S. Joint Forces Command worked to
test unmanned aerial vehicle capabilties in urban environments as part of a U.S.
Marine Corps exercise in Louisiana. By Army Sgt. Jon Cupp, USJFCOM Public
Slidell, Louisiana -- (USJFCOM) December 23, 2004
-- U.S. Joint Forces Command recently teamed with
the U.S. Marines Corps and others to experiment with unmanned aerial vehicle
(UAV) capabilities that can be applied to enhance warfighting operations in
Personnel from the command's Joint Operational Test Bed System (JOTBS), the
Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), and the Fort Monmouth, N.J.-based
Army Intelligence Information Warfare Directorate (I2WD), along with industry
partners, coordinated the experiment, called Extended Awareness 1 (EA1), and
flew UAVs from the airport here.
The experiment was done in support of more than 2,000 Marines from the 26th
Marine Expeditionary Unit near New Orleans, La., as they participated in the
Marine Corps' Training in Urban Environment Exercise (TRUEX) that ran Dec. 3-17.
"The experiment was the first in a series of follow-on experiments to our
Forward Look experiments which began our testing of integrating multiple sensors
for UAVs," said Frank Roberts, head of UAV initiatives for USJFCOM's
Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Division (J28).
"In EA1, we were testing not only the integration of multiple sensors but we
were simultaneously able to put this into warfighting training," he continued. "It
was a complementary activity."
Most of the goals set for the experiment dealt with evaluating the utility of
dissimilar UAV capabilities supporting ground forces in urban warfare.
One of the primary goals for the experiment involved the testing the Shot
Spotter, an acoustic locating system that cues a UAV sensor to locate an enemy
when he fires a weapon, whether on a battlefield or in an urban environment.
"Initial data shows that the capability was fairly well integrated with a
reasonable accuracy, when sensors keyed into the firing location within the
field of view of the sensor," said Roberts. "This allows early detection of the
location of enemy forces and the identification of those forces."
"This helps lead warfighters to bring in assets to engage the target."
JOTBS spent much of their time evaluating Internet protocol tools in the UAV
architecture, including the I2WD's Distributed Common Ground System surrogate
test bed, which fuses data from multiple dissimilar types of UAV sensors and
integrates it into a common operational picture.
Also, DISA tested its Internet Protocol-based two-way wideband satellite video
and data capability, which works through a Global Broadcast IP Return Channel
Satellite, allowing wide band connectivity for a soldier or tactical unit on the
Operators on the ground are able to directly send queries to the satellite for
different potential tasks related to UAVs. Another capability allows soldiers on
the ground to see more than one picture of the battle space, allowing them
better situational awareness.
Two air vehicles were used during the experiment. The Scan Eagle UAV performed
the basic work with Shot Spotter. A manned Predator UAV surrogate, called
Pelican, carried a Predator sensor ball and flew over the urban area. Scan Eagle
flew at low altitudes, while Pelican flew at medium altitudes.
Many of the scenarios in the wargame concerned the identification of the
potential location of hostile forces when command decisions were needed to
engage enemy positions. Some reconnaissance done by the UAVs was based on prior
intelligence, such as the location of a simulated improvised explosive device
The UAVs flew reconnaissance missions for Marine convoys during TRUEX, flying
along routes prior to convoys hitting the road. The UAVs gave intelligence
information on things that the convoys might experience in an urban setting,
such as civilian and commercial traffic or opposition forces.
They also flew with the convoy as it moved from point to point.
EA1 provided 26th MEU Marines with the unique opportunity for training that
normally is not available to them, said Roberts.
"All of the Marine Corps' UAV capabilities are currently deployed, so their
ability to train prior to deploying with UAVs could not have been accomplished
without JOTBS support," he said. "The participants took from the experience and
saw the value in what our collective activity is doing. They really appreciated
the level of training that we could give them."
Experimenters had only two months to put the EA series of experiments together,
but even with such short notice were able to put together a testing and training
venue that yielded some positive results, according to Roberts.
"We were successful beyond our expectations going into this. The ability to
put this together, pull it off and then achieve the level of success that we
achieved is a real tribute to all of those who worked to make the experiment
The insights from this new set of EA experiments will greatly benefit the
warfighter, according to Roberts.
"We're really validating a very low tech architecture that can provide full
situational awareness as to where all the UAVs and any other assets that you
want to put into that architecture are and where their sensors are collecting
information from," he said. "One of the things that we're still researching is
what is the appropriate level of information to make available within that
network to users so they can see what's out there."
"It gives them situational awareness but then also gives the information that
now gives them situational understanding."
The second set of experiments in the series, EA2, should take place in spring
2005 at Fort Huachuca, Ariz. with EA3 planned for later in the year.
According to Roberts, EA2 will involve the participation of most of the military
services, the I2WD, DISA and others in industry. It may also include
multinational partners in the role of observers.
EA2 and EA3 will advance net-centric UAV architectures developed during the
Forward Look series of experiments and expanded on in the first experiment.
According to command officials, the experiments will serve as venues for further
research into the use of multiple sensors and integration of various UAV
In preparation for EA2, JOTBS is currently gathering data from EA1 and refining
tasks, techniques and procedures to support the experiment.