Secrecy News

Unmanned Aerial Systems in Joint Air Operations

Unmanned aerial systems (UASs) like the Predator drone, which are increasingly in demand for U.S. military missions in Afghanistan and elsewhere, involve challenges to mission control, according to a new Pentagon publication on joint air operations (pdf).

“Recent operations have demonstrated that UASs can be critical to the success of dynamic targeting missions and prosecution of targets of opportunity (unplanned, unanticipated) or TSTs [time sensitive targets].”

However, “UAS communication links are generally more critical than for manned systems, relying on a nearly continuous stream of communications for both flight control and payload for mission success. Therefore, communications security, and specifically bandwidth protection (from both friendly interference and adversary action), is imperative.”

Furthermore, DoD says, “Our adversaries are developing and acquiring UASs, so it is imperative our C2 [command and control] and DCA [defensive counterair] nodes are able to differentiate between friendly and enemy UAs and cruise missiles.”

See “Command and Control for Joint Air Operations,” Joint Publication 3-30, Joint Chiefs of Staff, January 12, 2010.

“Drones are more glitch-prone than traditional planes,” wrote Noah Shachtman in Wired’s Danger Room on January 25, and a U.S. drone reportedly crashed last weekend in Pakistan.