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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 Affairs.

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 urban environments.

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 ground.

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 factory.

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 possible."

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 capabilities.

In preparation for EA2, JOTBS is currently gathering data from EA1 and refining tasks, techniques and procedures to support the experiment.

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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).