A Family of UAVs—

Providing Integrated, Responsive Support to the Commander at Every Echelon

by Colonel William M. Knarr, Jr.

Since 1988, we have envisioned an unmanned aerial vehicle architecture with UAV systems support- ing commanders at brigade, divi- sion, and corps while also providing access to non-Army theater- and national-level UAVs. During the past several years, the advent of “miniaturizing” technologies in the aerospace industry has extended that vision to include micro- and mini-UAV support to squad-, platoon-, company-, and battalion- level commands as well as special operations forces. Addi- tionally, the “smorgasbord” of available payloads and the emergence of teaming concepts to link the UAV and manned Special Electronic Mission Aircraft (SEMA) or attack (Comanche and Army Tactical Missile System) assets have highlighted the versatility and value of the UAV. The vision: A family of UAVs providing integrated, res- ponsive support to the Com- mander at every echelon.

Lessons learned during Operation DESERT STORM and in Bosnia, reinforced with the successful Advanced Warfighting Experiments (AWEs) at the National Training Center (NTC) and Fort Hood, Texas, show us that the commander with the most accurate “vision” of the battlefield will win the battle. This is battlefield visualization. Army UAVs are an essential component in providing the commander with accurate, continuous, and timely battlefield visualization. Another lesson learned—there is no silver bullet! The UAV, as a commander’s tool, is a confirming sensor and relies on sound intelligence preparation of the battlefield and cueing by other sensors or systems. As such, it needs to be consistent, dependable, and linked in time and space to the commander’s plan and operation. If it is not, it becomes a “free lancer” on the battlefield—it loses its synergistic effect, and it may diffuse the commander’s efforts by diverting focus and fires to less important areas.

This article addresses the Army’s UAV requirements and concept of operations. It also briefly looks at each of the UAV systems or programs that indirectly or directly support these Army requirements.

“A Family of UAVs”

UAVs have application across the battlefield. Figure 1 reflects UAVs and support systems in various stages of development that are available, in total or part, to the Army. As we work to field UAVs to the force, however, we may not be able to afford separate systems at all tactical echelons. We also need to leverage other Service systems, such as the U.S. Air Force (USAF) endurance systems, to provide as much support as possible to ground force commanders.

Our focus during the past few years has been on the brigade, division, and corps. However, as we walk the battlefield from the micro- to the high-altitude endurance (HAE) UAVs, the reader will see a more complete picture of these systems, which includes their stages of development and their applicability at the various levels. I will also discuss the Tactical Control System (TCS), designed to supplement our Ground Control Stations (GCSs) and allow us access to other Service UAVs and simulation support. Finally, I will discuss the development of an Integrated Concept Team (ICT) to coordinate the multitude of UAV initiatives.

Task Force UAVs

Task Force (TF) UAVs consist of micro air vehicles (MAVs) and small or mini-UAVs; essentially, they will support mounted and dismounted forces, scouts, and special operations forces at battalion and below. TF UAV missions include urban and special target reconnaissance, hostage rescue, and counterdrug operations; trails, routes, and ambush-site surveillance; or simply over the next hill reconnaissance.

MAVs, such as the one pictured, are currently under development by the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency. DARPA has been working with the Services and industry to develop an air vehicle no larger than 15 centimeters in length, width, and height, capable of performing a useful military mission at an affordable cost. The draft Mission Needs Statement (MNS), currently out for review, calls for a system capable of 10-kilometer (km) range, endurance up to one hour, and operations in urban environments. This system is most appropriate for small unit and special operations use. The U.S. Army Electronic Proving Ground (EPG) at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, is currently working with DARPA to develop a MAV range and facilities on Fort Huachuca to support MAV demonstrations and testing and to host airframe competitions.


Small or mini-UAVs have the capability of ranging 20 to 25 km for one to two hours, have a wing span of four feet or less, and weigh no more than 25 pounds. These UAVs can be soldier-packed or vehicle- mounted and launched. Systems exist today with those capabilities; examples include the Mini Backpack by Mission Technologies, Inc. of San Antonio, Texas, and the Sender UAV, built by the Naval Research Laboratory. The small or mini-UAV requirement is still on the drawing board.

Tactical UAVs (TUAV)

Since 1988, the Army has documented its tactical UAV requirements with the Close Range (CR) TUAV supporting the brigade commander and the Short Range (SR) TUAV supporting the division (heavy) and corps commanders. The endurance systems will support echelons above corps (see Figure 2). Let me first address the tactical systems—CR and SR systems.

The design of the brigade commander’s CR UAV will be relatively simple, light, inexpensive, easily maintained and trainable, with a threshold range of 50 km. This UAV—