UAV Capabilities Reach New Heights
Unmanned aerial systems were the topic of the final panel session of MILCOM 2009. Although it seems UAVs have been around for a long time-and are essential in current operations-the ground truth is that a number of challenges remain to be resolved before these aircraft can be used to their full potential. Among the challenges is how to reduce weight, size and power needs. In the area of research and development, a number of programs are underway that will increase UAVs' effectiveness on the field. Although the U.S. Army is not purchasing all of these capabilities today, its Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC) continues to develop them for future use, explained Henry Muller Jr., director, space and terrestrial communications directorate, CERDEC. Items that were being developed for the Future Combats Systems will now be folded into the focus on the Brigade Combat Team transport architecture, he added. "I believe UAVs providing communications relays are going to be absolutely critical on the battlefield," Muller stated. Daniel Kuderna, also a member of the CERDEC team, described some of the various radars that are being developed for UAVs. These include the Tactical Reconnaissance and Counter-Concealment Enabled Radar (TRACER), which is currently working on a manned platform to provide UHF and VHF use in the field. A second set of panelists discussed more details about emerging capabilities that can be placed on UAVs, including the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) system, which will fly on a "substantially modified" Global Hawk UAV. Once it is up and running, BAMS will comprise UAVs persistently flying over five areas of the globe, primarily over large bodies of water. The benefits of the system will be seen in maritime awareness and control, Capt. Bob Dishman, USN, NAVAIR, explained. The BAMS capability is scheduled to begin in late 2015, with all five maritime areas covered by 2019.