SECTION 1 - INTRODUCTION
1.1 PURPOSE This Concept of Operations (CONOPS) describes the operational employment of various classes of Endurance Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) being designed to support warfighters. These unmanned vehicles include the Predator, a Medium Altitude Endurance (MAE or Tier II); the Global Hawk, a Conventional High Altitude Endurance (Conv HAE or), Tier II+); and the DarkStar, a Low Observable High Altitude Endurance (LO-HAE ),or Tier III-) UAVs. This CONOPS will provide an overview of the principal endurance UAV components and organizations, the intended operational environment, and the primary command and control relationships and responsibilities. It also provides a framework for the development of theater-specific concepts of employment and operations planning documents. This document will also serve as the foundation for future Mission Need Statements (MNS) and Operational Requirements Documents (ORDs).
1.1.1 Concept Goal The goal of this Endurance UAV CONOPS is to provide the conceptual framework for integration of these new vehicles and their capabilities into air operations. to Endurance UAVs are intended to aid theater commanders in their reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition (RSTA) needs.
1.1.2 Concept Philosophy This CONOPS is a living document, intended to evolve with the development of the various endurance UAV programs. The contents provided in this initial concept are in an evolutionary state since basing, training, and force structure decisions will continue to be modified with further definition and experience with these systems. The Predator is first of the endurance UAV systems to be fielded, which explains why planning details are more clearly defined than with the HAE program. As these systems come on line, initial baseline capability will be established, theater planners will need to consider the limitations of these early baseline systems in order to properly integrate them into theater operations to generate future planning and to surface issues for further definition (i.e. UAV training, exercise participation, force structure, basing, etc.).
1.2 MISSION NEED STATEMENT The Chairman of the Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC) has signed a validated MNS entitled, Mission Need Statement for a Close Range and Long Endurance Reconnaissance, Surveillance, and Target Acquisition Capability (JROC MNS 003-90). This MNS states:
"The warfighting Commanders-in-Chief (CINCs) have a need to provide commanders a responsive capability to conduct wide-area near-real-time reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition (RSTA), command and control, signals intelligence (SIGINT), electronic warfare (EW), and special operations missions during peacetime and all levels of war against defended/denied areas over extended periods of time. The evolution of the hostile surface-to-air and air-to-air threat and their collective effectiveness against manned aircraft and satellites can generate unacceptably high attrition rates. Current systems cannot perform these missions in a timely, responsive manner in an integrated hostile air defense environment without high risk to personnel and costly systems. There is a need for a capability which can be employed in areas where enemy air defenses have not been adequately suppressed, in heavily defended areas, in open ocean environments, and in contaminated environments. Nuclear survivability is required as necessary to perform missions in a nuclear contaminated environment, including operating in the presence of high-altitude EMP."
1.3 OPERATIONS REQUIREMENT DOCUMENT Air Combat Command’s Director of Requirements has an Operational Requirement Document (ORD) for Endurance Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. This ORD proposes:
"The Endurance UAV is a fully autonomous, dynamically retaskable, medium to high altitude, long endurance, survivable, unmanned aerial vehicle which can gather and provide near real time, high quality imagery (IMINT) and/or signals (SIGINT) intelligence of areas where enemy defenses have not been adequately suppressed, in heavily defended areas, in open ocean environments, and in contaminated environments."
1.4 BACKGROUND UAVs have been grouped into four operational categories: maneuver range, tactical range, medium range and endurance. The endurance UAV category describes a class of vehicles operating at medium and high altitudes, carrying payloads with multi-mission performance capabilities and on-demand support across all mission areas, with flight duration normally in excess of 24 hours. The Predator MAE, Global Hawk HAE, and DarkStar LO-HAE fall under the endurance category.
1.4.1 Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD) All three endurance UAV programs are using the ACTD strategy for development. The ACTD strategy for development and acquisition provides a streamlined method for working closely with the user to rapidly demonstrate and field a new capability in limited quantity. ACTDs provide a critical step in evaluating the military utility of new technologies before commitment to acquisition. ACTDs are intended to reduce acquisition risks and uncertainties at relatively low costs. Major investment is delayed until demonstration of the value and maturity of the technology is proven. The ACTD process will continue to be an integral part of the evolution of the endurance UAV concept. For the Predator UAV system, which is the first to graduate from ACTD status, it is important to understand that the only stated requirement for the conclusion and declaration of a successful ACTD is to field a system that has some measure of military utility. The only endurance UAV ACTD requirement is to conclude this process within a budgetary constraint.
1.4.2 Medium Altitude Endurance UAV The Predator MAE UAV (Tier II) completed its program is a 30-month ACTD activity, responding to a Joint Chief of Staff (JCS) initiative to bring near-real-time imagery to the warfighter Joint Task Force (JTF) Commander, on 1 July 96. The system is designed to provide a low-risk, cost-effective, and dynamically retaskable platform for RSTA throughout the operational continuum. During the 30-month Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD) period and for any period of follow-on procurement, the Joint Cruise Missile and UAV Joint Project Office (JPO) will direct development of the MAE UAV, under the guidance of the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Advanced Technology (AT). The air vehicle is equipped with an infrared (IR) electro-optical (EO), and synthetic aperture radar (SAR) sensors.
1.4.3 High Altitude Endurance UAV The HAE UAV program consists of two complementary systems: a conventional design HAE UAV (Tier II+), nick-named Global Hawk and the LO-HAE UAV (Tier III-), nick-named DarkStar. For the purposes of this CONOPS, Global Hawk and DarkStar will be treated as separate UAV classes. The HAE UAV programs are long-term demonstrations to satisfy broad area coverage and deep target surveillance/reconnaissance. The Global Hawk demonstration will be significantly more capable than the Predator, including a much larger radius of action, greater operating altitude, greater payload capacity, and increased bandwidth satellite data links. Both the Global Hawk and DarkStar are under program management of Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (ARPA) UAV JPO. Program management will transfer to the Services during the ACTD’s Phase III. Phase III consists of field demonstrations conducted by the Unified CINCs to determine military utility and validate the CONOPS (scheduled for Summer 97).
1.4.4 DarkStar The DarkStar is designed with low observable technology features, allowing this vehicle to be capable of sustained high-altitude surveillance and reconnaissance over and into high threat areas. The vehicle has been flown but is undergoing further research and development due to initial flight test results. Flight testing for this vehicle is scheduled to begin Oct 95.
1.5 GENERAL Theater commanders require an organic, responsive, economic, multi-source, long-endurance, near- real- time (NRT) reconnaissance capability to collect, process and report intelligence throughout any level of conflict. Additionally, commanders need the ability to obtain that data from anywhere within enemy territory, day or night, regardless of weather. Endurance UAVs contribute to meeting this goal and complement our manned penetrating and stand-off reconnaissance aircraft, as well as space systems. The inherent characteristics of this new generation of UAVs provide flexibility to operate in the enemy’s battlespace. The three types of endurance UAVs being developed are intended to provide a mix of vehicles capable of supporting various levels of conflict and risk.
1.6 THREAT Unmanned vehicles, as a consequence of being unmanned, are not impeded by the restraints that might be imposed on manned systems during sensitive operations where the vehicle could be lost. These characteristics provide additional operational flexibility to the theater commander that may not exist with manned platforms. The lack of threat to aircrew members (i.e., the avoidance of potential killed in action [KIA], missing in action [MIA], and prisoner of war [POW] situations), should the vehicle be lost over "unfriendly" territory, may offer flexibility to conduct missions deemed unduly risky for manned aircraft. Since the projected operating profiles differ greatly, the threat to the Predator, Global Hawk, and DarkStar will vary depending on the specific platform. All three systems are designed to operate in any crisis area throughout the world, so there are a variety of threats--depending on the airframe--that could impact successful mission accomplishment.
1.6.1 Predator The Predator is the most vulnerable of the three platforms to hostile threats, given its operating envelope. The MAE UAV’s concept of operations includes operating at altitudes no greater than 25,000 ft mean sea level (MSL) at airspeeds of 60-110 knots; 15,000 ft and 85 knots are the nominal altitude and airspeed. Additionally, the EO and IR sensors provide enhanced resolution at lower altitudes (5,000 ft vice 15,000 ft MSL). The threat to the Predator in this environment is broad: radio frequency and infrared guided surface-to-air missiles; anti-aircraft artillery; and second, third, and fourth generation combat aircraft equipped with air-to-air missiles, guns, and rockets. Notably, even with friendly air superiority, a Predator UAV operating at an altitude of 5,000 ft could find itself in the threat envelope of the more unsophisticated, visually acquired AAA and man-portable SAM systems. Although the Predator UAV was not specifically designed to meet low signature requirements, its relatively small size, composite materials, and shape will enhance its low signature. It does not contain an onboard electronic attack (EA) system. Depending on its operating altitude for a given mission, it will be necessary to operate in either a standoff role or overfly target territory outside known engagement envelopes to defeat hostile SAM and aircraft systems.
1.6.2 Global Hawk In contrast with the Predator UAV, the unique operating profiles of the Global Hawk enable it to operate worldwide with smaller numbers of weapon systems capable of threatening its mission. This assessment is based on the air vehicle’s operating altitude at above 50,00065,000 feet. Threats to the Global Hawk HAE UAV system include both high altitude SAM systems, and high altitude interceptors. Due to its operating altitude, many of the threats posed against Predator--especially in lesser-sophisticated regions of the world--would not be a factor against a Global Hawk HAE UAV mission. Standoff tactics will be employed, where possible, to avoid known threats and the use of early threat detection and warning capabilities (onboard and offboard) will assist with dynamic threat avoidance. These capabilities, coupled with the limited onboard electronic counter-measures and integrated composite force planning, will enhance survivability.
1.6.3 DarkStar The low observable characteristics, combined with the high-altitude (>45,000 ft) employment profile, will allow DarkStar to accomplish a penetration surveillance and reconnaissance mission in an integrated air defense system environment. The DarkStar’s low observable characteristics will limit the ability of all but the most advanced hostile SAM and aircraft systems to successfully engage it.
1.6.4 Electromagnetic Spectrum Threats Threats to the endurance UAVs include not only physical threats to the platforms themselves, but also those in the electromagnetic spectrum. These include active and passive detection capability that would enable target area concealment and deception activity, and also systems that could threaten the transmission of collected EO, IR, and SAR data from the sensors onboard the UAV to the respective ground station (MCE). Although air defense networks vary greatly around the world, a fairly modern, robust, and integrated active radar and passive detection network could provide adequate warning of approaching Predator or HAE UAVs to a target country’s command authority. This detection capability would be greatly reduced, if not nullified, for the DarkStar. Hostile nations throughout the world employ numerous types of camouflage, concealment, and deception (CC&D) devices, including multi-spectral netting and radar corner deflectors. Endurance UAV communication pathways are also susceptible to intercept or jamming, since all three endurance UAVs employ either line-of-sight (LOS) or UHF SATCOM for command-and-control uplink and data down links. Both classes of the high altitude UAVs will be capable of encryption, while the Predator UAV is designed to operate with unencrypted datalinks. Depending on the theater of operation and hostile electronic combat systems present, the threat to the UAVs could range from negligible with only a potential of signal intercept for detection purpose, to an active jamming effort made against an operating, unencrypted UAV. The link characteristics of the baseline Predator system could be vulnerable to corruption of down links data or hostile data insertions.