Eyes in the Sky

Arial Systems

by Colonel Ronald W. Wilson

Family of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

In 1988, Congress directed the Department of Defense (DOD) to establish a Joint Program Office for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and develop a master plan for military UAVs. The Family of UAVs continues to evolve based on field experimentation, Service requirements, and operational requirements from the various warfighting commanders in chief. All current and planned UAV systems are multi-Service and intended to be as interoperable as practical and connected to Service command, control, communications, computers and intelligence architectures.
Tactical UAV. Designed to support Army maneuver brigade and armored cavalry regiment (ACR) commanders, the Outrider close-range Tactical UAV (T-UAV) will have a range of 200 kilometers (km) with three hours on-station time at maximum range. It will carry a day and night electro-optical (EO) and infrared (IR) sensor for reconnaissance, intelligence, surveillance, and target acquisition (RISTA) missions. In time, the Outrider tactical UAV may have a moving target indicator (MTI) and synthetic aperture radar (SAR), electronic warfare, communications and data relay, and minefield detection capabilities. This program is currently a two-year Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD). This system will likely see it's first use in the 4th Infantry Division (Mechanized) at Fort Hood, Texas, in fiscal year 1997 (FY 97). If this ACTD transitions to a complete materiel system's fielding, the Army will field T-UAV to all Active Component Army units by FY 02.
Hunter UAV. The short-range Hunter UAV system's design supports Army commanders from echelons above corps (EAC) to ACR at ranges of up to 300 km for 8 or more hours of endurance on station. DOD canceled this program in 1995. However, one Hunter system remains at Fort Hood, Texas, for contingency operations, experimentation, and doctrinal development activities, and a second system is at the DOD UAV Training Center at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, for training purposes.
Medium-Altitude Endurance UAV. The Medium-Altitude Endurance UAV (MAE UAV), also known as the Predator UAV, will complete its ACTD program on 1 July 1996. The program then will transition to the Air Force for continued development and fielding. This system will provide Army commanders at EAC, corps, and division with the ability to see deep, out to ranges of 300 km or more, for missions of 24 hours duration or longer. The basic Predator system has day-night EO/IR and SAR sensors with growth plans for MTI, signals intelligence (SIGINT), and communications and data-relay payloads. The Predator has successfully deployed twice to the Balkans supporting North Atlantic Treaty Organization, United Nations, and U.S. forces. Although the MAE UAV system will be organic to the 11th Reconnaissance Squadron, U.S. Air Force, the Army will have forward control elements at military intelligence (MI) units from EAC through ACR to control the Predator air vehicles providing direct support to Army commanders.
High-Altitude Endurance UAV. The High-Altitude Endurance UAV (HAE UAV) is currently a three-year ACTD under sponsorship of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Services. It will be a strategic and joint task force (JTF)-oriented system. Currently, there are two HAE UAV systems under development. The Global Hawk is a conventional UAV with a range in excess of 3,000 nautical miles (approximately 5,560 km) for a duration in excess of 24 hours on station. It will have EO/IR and SAR capabilities initially, with growth planned for a UAV communications node or surrogate satellite, MTI, and SIGINT payloads. The Dark Star is a low-observable UAV designed to penetrate into heavily defended areas and conduct reconnaissance, intelligence, surveillance and target acquisition missions with an EO or SAR payload. When Global Hawk or Dark Star missions are allocated to Army commanders, or an Army officer is the JTF commander, the Enhanced Tactical Radar Correlator (ETRAC) and Modernized Imagery Exploitation System (MIES) (or successor processors) will process the imagery. If the U.S. Air Force is the "lead" Service, the processor would be the Contingency Airborne Reconnaissance System (CARS); if the Navy and Marines go in first, the Joint Services Imagery Processing System-Navy (JSIPS-N) would process the imagery. The Common Ground Station (CGS) will display the imagery no matter which system processed it.

Guardrail Common Sensor

The Guardrail Common Sensor (GRCS) is a corps-level airborne signal intercept, processing, direction-finding (DF), and targeting system. It provides continuous near-all-weather indications and warning, situation development, tracking, and target identification over the entire corps area of interest and beyond. The unique GRCS method of conducting multiplatform airborne cooperative geolocation produces a level of speed and accuracy in SIGINT targeting unmatched by any other system in the field today. A Guardrail system comprises 12 aircraft, and no more than 3 will fly at one time.
Major components of the system include the Airborne Relay Facility (ARF), the Integrated Processing Facility (IPF), and Associated Ground Equipment (AGE). There are up to 24 operators in the IPF who remotely control mission equipment and receivers in the ARF (mounted in the RC-12 aircraft) through the interoperable datalink (IDL). Use of the IDL also allows the IPF to control the SIGINT payloads on other Service's platforms. The AGE allows GRCS to operate in a split-based mode when aircraft launch from a remote location and establish datalink with the IPF during flight. Additionally, the XVIII Airborne Corps GRCS system has the capability to deploy to a forward area while leaving its IPF in sanctuary, reducing both the airlift requirement and the size of the forward element.
The GRCS mission equipment consists of a communications intelligence (COMINT) subsystem, a high-accuracy COMINT subsystem, and an electronic intelligence (ELINT) subsystem. The basic COMINT intercept and DF subsystem is an enhanced version of the Improved Guardrail V (IGRV) system supplemented with the Communications High-Accuracy Airborne Location System (CHAALS). CHAALS uses time-difference-of-arrival (TDOA) and frequency-difference-of-arrival (FDOA) techniques to provide precise target location with accuracies that exceed the targeting requirements of current and planned division and corps weapons systems (including the Army Tactical Missile System Block II). The Advanced QUICKLOOK ELINT subsytem also includes TDOA and FDOA targeting capability. After detection, location, and identification of the targets, the CTT or area common user network forwards the tactical reports to the corps analysis and control element. Over the past twenty-four years, Guardrail systems have provided critical U.S. SIGINT collection capability in all theaters. Guardrail provided collection coverage along the inter-German border from 1972 through 1990, in Korea from 1974 to the present, and in Central America from 1983 through 1994. Two systems deployed to Southwest Asia during Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM. As of May 1996, one system remains in Korea, one system is in Europe supporting Operation JOINT ENDEAVOR, the XVIII Airborne Corps system has deployed in support of the combined exercise Atlantic Resolve, and the fourth and final GRCS system is under construction in California.

Airborne Reconnaissance Low

The Airborne Reconnaissance Low (ARL) system is one of the latest MI manned aerial collection platforms. The system developed from a Commander in Chief U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) requirement for a manned aviation platform that could provide an IMINT and SIGINT collection capability in SOUTHCOM. The design requirements submitted stated that Airborne Reconnaissance Low should support nation-building, counternarcotics, and promote-democracy missions (now classified as stability and support operations or operations other than war) in SOUTHCOM's area of responsibility.
The DeHavilland of Canada Dash-7, a four-engine, turboprop, commuter airplane was chosen as the platform for SIGINT and IMINT collection. The Dash-7 aircraft's ability to operate out of austere runways, its ability to carry the mission payload and its endurance led to the Dash-7's selection. It is an extensively modified aircraft that has a higher maximum gross weight and extended range capability added in the ARL conversions. ARL aircraft survivability equipment includes the AN/APR-39A(V1) radar warning receiver, the AN/AAR-47 infrared missile warning receiver, and the M-130 flare and chaff dispenser.
Two separate systems, the ARL-IMINT (ARL-I) and the ARL-COMINT (ARL-C), designated the O-5A and EO-5B respectively, were initially developed to meet SOUTHCOM's requirements. The ARL-C has a high-frequency, very-high frequency (VHF), and ultrahigh frequency (UHF) direction-finding (DF) capability controlled by four onboard operator stations. Dissemination is through secure UHF (line-of-sight and SATCOM) or VHF-frequency modulation communications, or in the post-mission downloads of COMINT data. ARL-I has three separate imagery systems onboard: first-generation forward-looking infrared camera turret, a day-imaging system camera turret, and an infrared line scanner. The system can send RS-170 video imagery via downlink to commercial off-the-shelf systems, such as TACLINK II, which is a portable video receiver. Two onboard operators can record information on 8-millimeter videotape or transmit "live" to the ground forces commander.
Designated the RC-7B, the ARL-M (Multifunction) includes upgrades to systems already installed on ARL-I and -C, and added MTI SAR capabilities. The MTI-capable ARL-M will replace the retiring OV-1D Mohawk side-looking airborne radar aircraft. Planned SIGINT collection improvements include the Superhawk radio intercept and DF system. Four onboard operators manipulate IMINT, SIGINT, and MTI SAR data. ARL-M has growth potential to include systems like the Communications High-Accuracy Location System Exploitation (CHALS-X), a second-generation FLIR, the Radar Ground Display System, and improvements to the airframe.
A comprehensive in-depth look at the ARL systems will be in a future article in the Military Intelligence Professional Bulletin. The article will discuss system capabilities, mission tasking, dissemination, and more.
Colonel Ron Wilson is currently the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command Systems Manager for UAVs, GRCS, and ACS. He has held several commands including the 319th MI Battalion (Airborne) and a variety of staff positions in intelligence and aviation units. During Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM, he was the XVIII Airborne Corps Deputy G2; and served as a G2 Operations Officer during Operation JUST CAUSE. Colonel Wilson's military education includes the Army Command and General Staff College, the School of Advanced Military Studies (SAMS) where he earned a Master in Military Arts and Science degree, and the National War College. He has a bachelor of science degree from Ohio State University, and a second master of science degree in National Security Strategy from the National Defense University. Readers can contact him at (520) 533-1804, DSN 821-1804,and E-mail [email protected]