The unique expeditionary capabilities of U.S. naval forces allows them to bring early and extended reconnaissance capabilities to undeveloped areas of operation. Wherever the United States has naval forces deployed, it also has an in-place strategic intelligence collection capability that supports the National Command Authority, the unified CINC, and the Joint Task Force commander. At the tactical level, real-time airborne intelligence provides a means to support early strikes and the precision engagement of stationary and mobile enemy forces and facilities.
Navy airborne reconnaissance platforms are organic ISR assets that are key to naval, and U.S., power projection. These aircraft must be able to provide ISR data to a variety of weapon systems and platforms via the most direct and expeditious means possible. The measure of effectiveness for Naval Aviation's airborne reconnaissance platforms is the extent to which they allow the prompt placement of the appropriate weapon on the correct target. Consequently, they must be participants in joint information networks in which intelligence and situational awareness data from all available sources are fused and disseminated. The two primary joint communication links Naval Aviation will use are JTIDS/Link 16 and the Tactical Information Broadcast System/Information Broadcast System (TIBS/IBS). These joint information "pipes" are being incorporated into naval reconnaissance aircraft.
The Marine Corps Advanced Tactical Airborne Reconnaissance System (ATARS), an internally-mounted, palletized system carried by the F/A 18D, will replace the capabilities lost when the Marine Corps retired its RF-4B reconnaissance aircraft in the early 1990s. The Navy will develop a reconnaissance system for the F/A-18F (F/A-18F TACRECCE) that will replace the F-14 TARPS. The Tomcat will continue to provide the only manned tactical reconnaissance capability until the introduction of ATARS. The F-14's "Roadmap for the Future" includes the incorporation of a digital imaging and data link capability in 24 TARPS pods to provide battle group commanders and allied forces tactical battlefield imagery in support of ongoing intelligence gathering requirements. The TARPS digital imaging (DI) system will provide near real time imagery for detection and identification of tactical targets and immediate threat and bomb damage assessment. This unique, one-of-a-kind, capability deployed with Tomcat squadron VF-32 in November 1996. Both systems will provide Naval Aviation with armed, penetrating, rapid-response tactical reconnaissance capability. They will provide real-time or near real-time, high resolution, digital, day/night, all-weather and through-the-weather reconnaissance, either by direct overflight or from stand-off ranges. The F/A-18D ATARS will reach Marine Corps IOC in the second quarter of FY 1999, while the Navy's F/A-18F TACRECCE will debut operationally around FY 2003-2004.
Until a fully marinized Tactical UAV (TUAV) system is developed, the retention of the Pioneer UAV - the Department of the Navy's only operational UAV system - will remain a Naval Aviation priority. Capable of operating from LPD-class amphibious ships and from shore locations, Pioneer has proven extremely useful in supporting amphibious and expeditionary operations.
In terms of new UAV procurement, Naval Aviation's highest priority is the marinized TUAV system. The ongoing TUAV Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration is designed to meet the requirements of the Navy, Marine Corps, and the Army. Naval Aviation supports the continuing research, development, and testing of evolving vertical take-off and landing technologies, which may be incorporated into the TUAV that supports the Navy and Marine Corps.
Naval Aviation also remains committed to demonstrating Medium Altitude Endurance (MAE) UAV technologies as part of an overall effort to refine our UAV requirements and develop concepts of operations in which they are featured. The Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center is addressing these requirements and examining manned versus unmanned force mix issues.
Naval Aviation's interest in the High-Altitude Endurance (HAE) UAV system is directed toward three areas. One involves the ability to task HAE UAV missions, retask the aircraft's route of flight, and redirect its sensors to support either joint or naval operations. The second area is the ability to receive HAE sensor data in real-time, and the third is the ability to process sensor data afloat and on shore.
In the area of UAV support and control, the Tactical Control Station
(TCS) is being designed to be a common link between all UAV systems. TCS
will be used to control the TUAV, while its secondary function will be
to receive Imagery Intelligence data from Endurance UAVs. TCS will be a
key element in the Naval Services' ability to receive and disseminate UAV