Modeling and Simulation Employed
in the
Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Program


Maj Gen Kenneth R. Israel
Defense Airborne Reconnaissance Office
7 March 1997


Modeling and simulation are increasingly being employed as tools in the Department of Defense (DoD) to provide better insight into weapon system performance, reduce testing and training costs, and develop force mixes of weapon quantities and types. These uses ultimately support the twin goals of reducing DoD weapon acquisition costs and dramatically shortening the time to weapon system fielding. This paper briefly explores the uses of modeling and simulation in the Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) program.

Program Background

The Predator Program is the Department's first Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD) to successfully demonstrate military utility. It is now transitioning to a DoDD 5000.1 formal acquisition program. The system provides extended range, long-dwell, near-real-time imagery intelligence (IMINT) to satisfy reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition (RSTA) mission requirements. The Predator air vehicle carries both electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) and synthetic aperture radar (SAR) sensors. A Ku-band satellite communications (SATCOM) link enables Predator to acquire imagery beyond line-of-sight and disseminate it world-wide. The ACTD commenced on 1 January 1994 and concluded on 30 June 1996. During that period three Predator systems were acquired. Each system consisted of three or four air vehicles, a ground control station (GCS), a communications terminal, currently a Trojan SPIRIT II, and ground support equipment (GSE).

In July 1995, a Predator system was deployed to Albania to support Joint Task Force (JTF) Provide Promise. That deployment clearly demonstrated the potential of UAVs to support military forces by monitoring civilian activities, troop locations, artillery positions, garrison activities, and compliance with agreements. Predator was instrumental in verifying that Bosnians were not complying with agreements to garrison their forces. When air forces were employed in Deliberate Force, Predator was used for real time targeting and retargeting. As a result of the Deliberate Force operation, Bosnian compliance was achieved and the Dayton Peace Accord was signed by all parties.

Upon returning to CONUS in November 1995, an effort was initiated for Predator to acquire an ice mitigation capability, which included a heated pitot tube, ice detection sensors, and a modification to the engine air inlets. Concurrently, an effort was initiated to develop a de-icing capability. On 16 December 1995, US Atlantic Command, the Predator ACTD's operational sponsor, briefed the Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC) and recommended that Predator be fielded and 16 systems procured. Subsequently the JROC recommended assignment of the Predator system to the US Air Force which was directed by the Secretary of Defense on 9 April 1996. On 12 February 1996, the JROC stated that the Predator had demonstrated sufficient military utility to warrant transition to production, requested that 16 systems be fielded, and identified upgrades for consideration.

Deployed to Taszar, Hungary in mid-March 1996, the Predator system was initially operated by the US Army. On 3 September 1996 operational command and control was passed to the USAF ACC 11th Reconnaissance Squadron, located at Indian Springs, NV. A detachment of personnel from that unit continues operations of Predator in Taszar. As of 4 March 1997 there have been 189 mission flights, totaling over 1,570 flight hours by Predator within the Bosnian area in support of Implementation Force (IFOR) and the present Stabilization Force (SFOR) of Operation Joint Guard.

To address weather limitations, a de-icing system which dispenses ethylene glycol over the wings was developed in 1996 and installed on two specially configured air vehicles. In mid-November 1996, these two air vehicles were deployed to Taszar, Hungary to be tested in European theater conditions. Due to the worst winter in 40 years in Europe, little flying was accomplished as prevailing weather conditions were below flight minimums. A thirty day de-icing test at Duluth, MN is scheduled to begin in mid- March 1997.

With the demonstrated capability of Predator, Congress has been most supportive of this UAV, increasing requested funding in both FY96 and FY97. Currently, there is projected funding to acquire 13 Predator systems and to develop all the pre-planned product improvement (P3I) actions required by the JROC and ACC.

Modeling and Simulation

Modeling and simulation have been employed extensively in the Predator ACTD. It has been used in the broadest context to address 'global issues' such as force mix assessments, in a lesser context to simulate capabilities in exercises, and in an even more narrow context to address specific performance issues such as identification of design trade-off parameters.

At the highest levels, modeling and simulation are being used to develop assessments of alternative force mixes of manned and unmanned reconnaissance systems, including Predator. Several classified studies, such as the Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) Joint Warfighting Capability Assessment (JWCA), and the Command, Control, Communications, and Computers ISR Mission Assessment (CMA) are using modeling and simulation to identify reconnaissance architecture options for JROC/CINC considerations. Additionally the DARO Architecture Development includes within its force mix considerations of all UAVs including Predator. Predator has been integrated into each of the exercises and its performance characteristics (platform and sensors) are incorporated in the full range of studies which include campaign and mission level analyses. Results of these efforts are assisting in the determination, for example, of the number of Predator UAV systems that will be needed to support the objective of "dominant battlespace awareness" at an affordable cost.

At the next level, modeling and simulation are being used to support Predator participation in operational exercises. In these exercises, "virtual" Predators are flown by operational users because the limited quantities of real hardware assets are unavailable and because modeling and simulation yields substantive insights at considerably lower cost than operating the real assets. These exercises have contributed significantly to the development of the concepts of operation (CONOPS) for Predator and to an increase in the user knowledge base about the employment of UAVs in general. For instance, in FY96 Predator was modeled in a simulation called MUSE, the Multiple Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Simulation Environment, which was used in a Republic of Korea/US Combined Forces and US Forces, Korea exercise called Ulchi Focus Lens 96. The MUSE was combined with an improved Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) simulation to provide a representation of real-time capabilities at selected theater, corps, and division level command and control headquarters. The simulations also demonstrated the tremendous challenge facing operational user staffs in synchronizing real-time imagery assets with battlefield operations. The US Army's III Corps has also used MUSE to do predictive simulations of Predator for its Corps-level Command Post Exercise (CPX) to test new CONOPS prior to live exercises in the field. MUSE was employed in February 1997 during III Corps UAV exercise ramp-up in preparation for the Force XXI's Advanced Warfighting Exercise (AWE) to be held at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, CA beginning in mid-March 1997.

At a third level, modeling and simulation have been used in the Predator program to assess operational performance, analyze performance parameters, conduct tradeoffs, and evaluate potential system changes and improvements. Examples include:


The Predator UAV program, as an ACTD, is an example of acquisition reform in action. The judicious use of creative modeling and simulation has directly contributed to managing costs in all aspects of the ACTD by predicting operational effectiveness in conjunction with abbreviated operational assessments, assessing air vehicle survivability cost-effectively, determining optimum system configuration, and assessing alternative force structure options.

Figures 1 and 2