Monday, August 24, 2015

UAVs Compete for Dominance in the Arctic

The Arctic Circle is a complex environment of harsh climate, shifting ice flows, and remote, barren wastelands. Much ado has been made of late of the region's potential for alternative shipping routes, resource extraction, and of course, the expanded military presence usually associated with those activities. The vast distances and unforgiving temperatures of Arctic air and waters make unmanned aerial vehicles ideal for military reconnaissance there. Practically all of the countries which border Arctic seas have some sort of UAV programs underway.

One of the primary goals of Canada's troubled Joint Uninhabited Surveillance and Target Acquisition System (JUSTAS) project was to conduct Northern Patrols over the country's Arctic territory. In addition to surveilling the area, the yet to be determined type of JUSTAS UAVs will be required to drop search and rescue kits to distressed mariners.  The program's delays have been largely due to competing requirements between the need for maritime and Arctic patrol and more traditional overland persistent surveillance and targeting mission.  In 2012, a version of Northrop's RQ-4B Global Hawk Block 30 named "Polar Hawk" was proposed for the mission. The Polar Hawk was to have employed the deicing and engine anti-icing capability from the U.S. Navy's Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) Program and an enhanced communications package capable of operating within the Arctic's spotty satellite coverage. The system was determined to be too expensive for Canada's requirements. More recently, General Atomics has offered that its jet-powered Predator variant Avenger could meet the JUSTAS requirement.

The U.S. Coast Guard has completed a series of UAV tests from its icebreaker USCGC Healy (WAGB-20), but has also yet to settle on a program of record for its drone surveillance requirements. Both Aerovironment's hand-launched PUMA (see above video) and Insitu's longer ranged catapult-launched ScanEagle were demonstrated. Unmanned air systems may be considered by DARPA for its Future Arctic Sensing Technologies (FAST) research. The FAST solicitation, released in February 2015, is intended to develop "low-cost, rapidly-deployable, environmentally friendly, unmanned sensor systems, including deployment and data reach-back from above the Arctic Circle that can detect, track and identify air, surface and subsurface targets."

Russia has staked aggressive claims to the Arctic and conducted a series of military exercises in the region. The country is building a string of 13 airfields and ten air-defense radar stations and 16 deepwater ports on its Arctic territory.  One of the aircraft flying from these sites on reconnaissance missions is the Orlan-10. The catapult launched UAV is deployed from the Eastern Military District and capable of operating for up to 15 hours.

Russian Orlan 10
Scandinavian countries will not be left out of the Arctic drone race.  In 2013, the Danish Defense Ministry updated its military strategies to place a greater importance on the acquisition of extreme climate UAVs to enhance patrol of its vast Arctic claims. Denmark's own Sky-Watch is developing the hybrid Muninn VX1 platform which will operate from ships for cold weather research and surveillance. The Northern Research Institute in Norway (NORUT) flew CryoWing, a UAV especially designed for extreme Arctic temperatures. The Norwegian Coast Guard and Coastal Agency also tested Swedish manufacturer's CybAero Apid 60 unmanned helicopter over the Arctic ocean in 2011-12. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Advancing Autonomous Systems: Rough Seas Ahead for Command & Control

by Prof Mark Nissen, NPS, mnissen(at)

Command & control (C2)[1] is quintessentially important to military endeavors. As Joint Publication 6-0[2] elaborates authoritatively (I-1): “Effective C2 is vital for proper integration and employment of capabilities.” Further, our contemporary and informed understanding of C2 indicates that it applies to much more than just the technologic underpinnings of command and control systems. As Naval Doctrine Publication 6[3] reinforces: “… technology has broadened the scope and increased the complexity of command and control, but its [C2] foundations remain constant: professional leadership, competence born of a high level of training, flexibility in organization and equipment, and cohesive doctrine.”

Joint Publication 6-0 expounds (I-2): “Although families of hardware are often referred to as systems, the C2 system is more than simply equipment. High-quality equipment and advanced technology do not guarantee adequate communications or effective C2. Both start with well-trained and qualified people supported by an effective guiding philosophy and procedures.” Indeed, the first element of C2 is people: “Human beings—from the senior commander framing a strategic concept to a junior Service member calling in a situation report—are integral components of the C2 system and not merely users.” This concept is embedded deeply within our research, engineering, leadership, command, control and operation of manned systems (e.g., airplanes, ships, networks), forces and operations.

In contrast, however, a great many researchers, engineers, leaders, commanders, controllers and operators of autonomous systems (e.g., unmanned vehicles, robots, cyber applications) concentrate principally—if not exclusively—on technology, paying scant attention to the people, processes and organizations required for command, control and mission efficacy. This leaves a dearth—if any—residual attention to C2 of autonomous systems today. Given the quintessential importance of C2, such technologic focus is problematic, particularly where large-scale, joint or coalition operations are considered.

Moreover, today’s problems portend to become tomorrow’s vulnerabilities. As our research looks five to ten years into the future, not only do we foresee ever increasing technologic advancement of autonomous systems, but we preview it combined with ever increasing integration of manned and unmanned systems. In a great many circumstances, teams of autonomous systems and people (TASP) will become the norm, with both manned and unmanned systems and operators integrating their complementary attributes and capabilities for outcomes more effective and successful than possible through either manned or unmanned alone.

Especially together, the technologic advancement of autonomous systems and the manned-unmanned integration through TASP imply rough seas ahead for C2. Using the state-of-the-art simulation system POWer [4]  we see, for instance, how current C2 organizations and approaches strain already with multiple unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in common airspace. Consider a joint task force (JTF) environment today, for example, say with only two UAS launched from different ships. Who is the lowest level person in the JTF organization with authority over both unmanned aircraft? It is probably the CTG, who may not even be onboard either ship, which signals a serious issue.

Now exacerbate this issue with multiple UAS— perhaps even a swarm—from multiple ships and shore facilities, flying in common airspace. Then exacerbate it still further with multiple UAS (maybe even operated and controlled by a set of diverse coalition partners) flying in common airspace with manned systems. Far from just the physical control issues (e.g., collision avoidance), how do we integrate manned and unmanned systems and missions to leverage their complementary attributes and capabilities? How do we institute and optimize joint manned-unmanned training? How can we expect for the different people and machines from manned and unmanned squadrons to cohere seamlessly when an integrated mission begins? How, when and to which levels do we delegate TASP mission authority and control? What are the major impediments to effective TASP missions, and what should we be doing now to prepare for and overcome them? These are all important C2 questions that we will need to answer well in advance of TASP missions becoming commonplace in the coming half decade.

Through CRUSER sponsorship and guidance, our POWer[5] research is beginning to answer some of these questions. Examining UAS in use today within the CTG mission environment, as an important place to begin, we’ve identified many troublesome C2 problems already. For one instance, the C2 organization reflects a tall, functional hierarchy, with considerable centralization, substantial formalization and frequent staff rotation. This makes for relatively long information flows and decision chains, coupled with perennial battles against knowledge loss from personnel turnover and challenges with cross-functional (and even more so with joint and coalition) interaction. Many organization experts would argue that the correspondingly long decision chains, information flows and staffing turbulence militate against efficient—or even effective—C2.

As another instance, the formalization inherent within this C2 organization reflects strong dependence upon written standards, rules and procedures (e.g., SOPs, TTPs, PPRs, work standards, job qualifications). However, the continuing technological advance and integration of UAS suggests that formalization through written documents may have a hard time keeping up with rapid and local knowledge onboard various ships and across diverse crews. Although this is a knowledge management problem, as with the long decision chains, information flows and staffing turbulence noted above, many organization experts would argue here that the correspondingly high dependence upon standardization and written documentation militate against efficient—or even effective—C2.

Moreover—and perhaps somewhat counter intuitively—for many years to come, unmanned missions will likely require more planning, monitoring, intervening and like control activities than their manned counterparts. Hence greater numbers of C2 staff—or more skilled and experienced staff members—will be required for unmanned than for manned missions, and such missions will be expected to take more time, suffer from more mistakes, and generally tax the C2 organization more greatly. (Overall, many unmanned missions are still more economic, but they exact greater demands in terms of C2 coordination load.) This eventuality will exacerbate for integrated manned-unmanned events, particularly as we expand across joint and coalition operations.

As a third instance, problematic issues are highly likely to arise also in terms of different skill levels, lack of common training or co-operational experience, and very low—or no—trust between manned and unmanned aircraft operators. A great many manned and unmanned systems personnel are members of different tribes—with distinct cultures and status—that recruit, train, operate and promote separately for the most part. TASP requires manned and unmanned mission integration, flying together in common airspace, and relying integrally upon one another. Imaging telling a Fleet aviator that he or she will have an unmanned wingman!

Of course the simple solution is to keep manned and unmanned systems separate: in separate organizations, in separate airspaces, with separate skill sets, with separate procedures. Such simple solution negates the integrative power and efficacy of TASP, however. Where teams of autonomous systems and people can be more effective than either manned or unmanned systems alone, an adversary can potentially become victorious with C2 sufficiently advanced for TASP. This can be the case even where the technology of our manned and unmanned systems is superior. In other words, advances in C2 may trump superior technology.

So where do we go from here? Our ongoing research continues to employ POWer to project and analyze the comparative performance of different missions, technology degrees, levels of manned-unmanned integration, and approaches to C2 organization. We compare performance metrics across an array of measures including time for effective mission completion, mission errors and corresponding rework, C2 communication and coordination load, along with mission cost, risk and others.

We also examine UAS across a wide range of technology degrees: from operational UAS in the current inventory, through those undergoing test and evaluation today, to future systems envisioned with performance levels matching—and even surpassing—those achievable only through manned systems today. This enables us to examine a correspondingly wide array of C2 organizations and approaches, mis- sion scenarios, technology degrees and levels of manned-unmanned mission integration, from those taking place in current operations through counterparts likely five to ten years hence.

Further, POWer supports computational experiments that allow us to examine this wide array in a very systematic and precise manner. Changing the level of only one variable at a time—or analyzing suites of level changes across multiple variables simultaneously—we can ascribe resulting performance differences specifically and unambigu- ously to each such level change, and we can explain precisely how each variable—independent, dependent or control—is defined, operationalized and manipulated. This supports exceedingly high reliability and internal validity through our experiments.

Moreover, the cost of computational experiments is exceptionally low, and the speed is exceptionally high, so we can assess hundreds or thousands—even millions—of different scenarios in short periods of time, with no risk of losing valuable equipment or people (e.g., as can occur through lab and field experiments) in the process. This capability equips us to peer well into the future, to make informed decisions, and to take dominating actions, not only regarding which alternate futures to select, but also regarding how to achieve each future in a competitively advantageous way.

In light of the issues identified above, we’re looking in particular at how to address the long decision chains, information flows and staffing turbulence that militate against efficient or effective C2 at present, and we’re concentrating on managing the kinds of fast-changing local knowledge that challenges even the best efforts in terms of written standards, rules and procedures. We’re considering further how to decrease the coordination load on C2 of unmanned systems, and we continue to envision alternate approaches to the integrated recruiting, training, promotion and performance of manned and unmanned operators.

In the near future, we anticipate laying out a list of highly promising, agile approaches to adapting C2 in response to such issues, with a set of milestone markers to signal when each will likely become most appropriate, and a set of plans for how to effect each of them. The idea is to peer sufficiently far into the future so that we can provide leaders, policy makers and technologists today with the time and guidance needed for them to prepare for and navigate the rough seas ahead.

[1] The term C2 as discussed here subsumes and largely replaces the myriad extension of “Cs” (e.g., C3, C3I, C4, C4I, C4ISR, C5I).
[2]  JP6-0, Joint Publication 6-0: Joint Communication System Washington, DC: Joint Chiefs of Staff (2015).
[3]  NDP6, Naval Doctrine Publication 6: Naval Command and Control Washington, DC: Department of the Navy (1995).
[4]  POWer derives from the VDT Group at Stanford and has been tailored and validated to simulate the qualitative and quantitative behaviors of C2 organizations, approaches, personnel and systems.
[5]  See, for example, Nissen, M.E. and Place, W.D., “Computational Experimentation to Understand C2 for Teams of Autonomous Systems and People,” Technical Report NPS-14-007, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, CA (December 2014).

Reprinted with permission from the Naval Postgraduate School's CRUSER News. All opinions expressed are those of the respective author or authors and do not represent the official policy or positions of the Naval Postgraduate School, the United States Navy, or any other government entity.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Operating in an Era of Persistent Unmanned Aerial Surveillance

By William Selby
In the year 2000, the United States military used Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs) strictly for surveillance purposes and the global commercial UAS market was nascent. Today, the combination of countries exporting complex UAS technologies and an expanding commercial UAS market advances the spread of UAS technologies outside of U.S. government control. The propagation of this technology from both the commercial and military sectors will increase the risk of sophisticated UASs becoming available to any individual or group, regardless of their intent or financial resources. Current and future adversaries, including non-state actors, are likely to acquire and integrate UASs into their operations against U.S. forces. However, U.S. forces can reduce the advantages of abundant UAS capability by limiting the massing of resources and by conducting distributed operations with smaller maneuver elements.
Leveraging the Growth in the Commercial UAS Market
While armed UAS operations are only associated with the U.S., UK, and Israel, other countries with less restrictive export controls are independently developing their own armed UAS systems. Chinese companies continue to develop reconnaissance and armed UASs for export to emerging foreign markets. Earlier this year, social media reports identified a Chinese CH-3 after it crashed in Nigeria. Reports indicate China sold the system to the Nigerian government for use against Boko Haram. Other countries including Pakistan and Iran organically developed armed UAS capabilities, with claims of varying levels of credibility. In an effort to capitalize on the international UAS market and to build relationships with allies, the U.S. eased UAS export restrictions in early 2015 while announcing the sale of armed UASs to the Netherlands. Military UAS development is expected to be relatively limited, with less than 0.5 percent of expected future global defense spending slated to buying or developing military drones. For now, long range surveillance and attack UASs are likely to remain restricted to the few wealthy and technologically advanced countries that can afford the research costs, training, and logistical support associated with such systems. However, short range military or civilian UASs are likely to be acquired by non-state actors primarily for surveillance purposes.
Still captured from an ISIS documentary with footage shot from a UAS over the Iraqi city of Fallujah(
Still captured from an ISIS documentary with footage shot from a UAS over the Iraqi city of Fallujah(
HamasHezbollahLibyan militants, and ISIS are reportedly using commercial UASs to provide surveillance support for their military operations. Current models contain onboard GPS receivers for autonomous navigation and a video transmission or recording system that allows the operators to collect live video for a few thousand dollars or less. Small UASs, similar in size to the U.S. military’s Group 1 UASs, appeal to non-state actors for several reasons. Namely, they are inexpensive to acquire, can be easily purchased in the civilian market, and are simple to maintain. Some systems can be operated with very little assembly or training, which reduces the need for substantial technical knowledge and enables non-state actors to immediately integrate them into daily operations. These UASs are capable of targeting restricted areas as evidenced by the recent UAS activity near the White HouseFrench nuclear power plants, and the Japanese Prime Minister’s roof. The small size and agility of these UASs allow them to evade traditional air defense systems yet specific counter UAS systems are beginning to show progress beyond the prototype phase.
Economic forecasters may dispute commercial UAS sales predictions, but most agree that this market is likely to see larger growth than the military market. Countries are currently attempting to attract emerging UAS businesses by developing UAS regulations that will integrate commercial UASs into their national airspace. The increase of hobby and commercial UAS use is likely to lead to significant investments in both hardware and software for these systems. Ultimately, this will result in a wider number of platforms with an increased number of capabilities available for purchase at a lower cost. Future systems are expected to come with obstacle avoidance systems, a wider variety of modular payloads, and extensive training support systems provided by a growing user community. Hybrid systems will address the payload, range, and endurance limitations of the current platforms by combining aspects of rotor and fixed wing aerial vehicles. The dual-use nature of these commercial systems will continue to be an issue. Google and Amazon are researching package delivery systems that can potentially be repurposed to carry hazardous materials. Thermal, infrared, and multispectral cameras used for precision agriculture can also provide non-state actors night-time surveillance and the ability to peer through limited camouflage. However, non-state actors will likely primarily use hobby and commercial grade platforms in an aerial surveillance role, since current payload limitations prevent the platforms from carrying a significant amount of hazardous material. 
Minimizing the Advantages of Non-State Actor’s UAS Surveillance
As these systems proliferate, even the most resource-limited adversaries are expected to have access to an aerial surveillance platform. Therefore, friendly operations must adapt in an environment of perceived ubiquitous surveillance. Despite the limited range and endurance of these small UASs, they are difficult to detect and track reliably. Therefore, one must assume the adversary is operating these systems if reporting indicates they possess them. Force protection measures and tactical level concepts of operations can be modified to limit the advantages of ever-present and multi-dimensional surveillance by the adversary. At the tactical level, utilizing smoke and terrain to mask movement and the use of camouflage nets or vegetation for concealment can be effective countermeasures. The principles of deception, stealth, and ambiguity will take on increasing importance as achieving any element of surprise will become far more difficult. 
The upcoming 3DR Solo UAS will feature autonomous flight and camera control with real time video streaming for $1,000 (
The upcoming 3DR Solo UAS will feature autonomous flight and camera control with real time video streaming for $1,000 (
At static locations such as forward operating bases or patrol bases, a high frequency of operations, including deception operations, can saturate the adversary’s intelligence collection and processing capabilities and disguise the intent of friendly movements. Additionally, massing strategic resources at static locations will incur increasing risk. In 2007 for example, insurgents used Google Earth imagery of British bases in Basra to improve the accuracy of mortar fire. The adversary will now have near real time geo-referenced video available which can be combined with GPS guided rockets, artillery, mortars and missiles to conduct rapid and accurate attacks. These attacks can be conducted with limited planning and resources, yet produce results similar to the 2012 attack at Camp Bastion which caused over $100 million in damages and resulted in the combat ineffectiveness of the AV-8B squadron.
In environments without the need for an enduring ground presence, distributed operations with smaller maneuver elements will reduce the chance of strategic losses while concurrently making it harder for the adversary to identify and track friendly forces. Interestingly, operational concepts developed by several of the services to assure access in the face of sophisticated anti-access/area denial threats can also minimalize the impact of the UAS surveillance capabilities of non-state actors. The Navy has the Distributed Lethality concept, the Air Force is testing the Rapid Raptor concept, and the Army’s is developing its Pacific Pathways concept. The Marine Corps is implementing its response, Expeditionary Force 21 (EF21), through several Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Forces.
The EF21 concept focuses on using high-speed aerial transport, such as the MV-22, to conduct dispersed operations with Company Landing Teams that are self-sufficient for up to a week.  In December 2013, 160 Marines flew over 3,400 miles in KC-130s and MV-22s from their base in Spain to Uganda in order to support the embassy evacuation in South Sudan, demonstrating the EF21 concept. Utilizing high speed and long-range transport allows friendly forces to stage outside of the adversary’s ground and aerial surveillance range. This prevents the adversary from observing any patterns that could allude to the mission of the friendly force and also limits exposure to UAS surveillance. Advances in digital communications, including VTCs and mesh-networks, can reduce the footprint of the command center making these smaller forces more flexible without reducing capabilities. The small size of these units also reduces their observable signatures and limits the ability of the adversary to target massed forces and resources.
Confronting the Approaching UAS Free-Rider Dilemma
Non-state actors capitalize on the ability to rapidly acquire and implement sophisticated technologies without having to invest directly in their development. These organizations did not pay to develop the Internet or reconnaissance satellites, yet they have Internet access to high-resolution images of the entire globe. It took years for the U.S. to develop the ability to live stream video from the Predator UAS but now anyone can purchase a hobby UAS that comes with the ability to live stream HD video to YouTube for immediate world-wide distribution. As the commercial market expands, so will the capabilities of these small UAS systems, democratizing UAS technology. Systems that cannot easily be imported, such as advanced communications relays, robust training pipelines, and sophisticated logistics infrastructure can now be automated and outsourced. This process will erode the air dominance that the U.S. enjoyed since WWII, now that commercial investments allow near peers to acquire key UAS technologies that approach U.S. UAS capabilities.
The next generation of advanced fighters may be the sophisticated unmanned vehicles envisioned by Navy Secretary Ray Maybus. However, other countries could choose a different route by sacrificing survivability for cheaper, smaller, and smarter UAS swarms that will directly benefit from commercial UAS investments. Regardless of the strategic direction military UASs take, commercial and hobby systems operating in an aerial surveillance role will remain an inexpensive force multiplier for non-state actors. Fortunately, the strategic concepts developed and implemented by the services to counter the proliferation of advanced anti-air and coastal defense systems can be leveraged to minimalize the impact of unmanned aerial surveillance by the adversary. Distributed operations limit the massing of resources vulnerable to UAS assisted targeting while long-range insertions of small maneuver elements reduces the exposure of friendly forces to UAS surveillance. Nation states and non-state actors will continue to benefit from technological advances without investing resources in their development, pushing U.S. forces to continually update operational concepts to limit the increasing capabilities of the adversary.
William Selby is a Marine officer who completed studies at the US Naval Academy and MIT researching robotics and unmanned systems. He previously served with 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines and is currently stationed in Washington, DC. Follow him @wilselby or Reprinted with permission from the Center for International Maritime Security.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Where is the U.S. Navy Going To Put Them All? (Part 2)

Part 2: UUVs, Fire Scouts and buoys and why the Navy needs lot’s of them.
Guest post by Jan Musil.
AORH class jpeg
Sketch by Jan Musil. Hand drawn on
 quarter-inch graph paper. Each
 square equals twenty by twenty feet.
This article, the second of the series, lays out a suggested doctrine of use for the UUVs and Fire Scouts that have already been developed. It is an incremental strategy, primarily calling for using what the Navy already has in hand, adding use of buoys in quantity combined with appropriate doctrinal changes and vigorously applying the result to the ASW mission.
In getting this program underway the U.S. Navy can utilize existing sensors, whether for prosecuting ASW, developing sonar projections of the water below, including occasional deep diving missions and whatever else we find a need for the UUV to do. In practice though, generating useful results is far easier to accomplish if the UUV is routinely, though not exclusively, used with a tether so the data generated can easily be transmitted back aboard for analysis and use.
Utilizing tethered UUVs with a suite of frequencies to listen and broadcast on opens up some interesting opportunities for the ASW mission. By significantly expanding outward the range of ocean area being searched the U.S. Navy can realistically anticipate creating the possibility of being able to establish a rough range number to a detected target. Spread the sonar emitters out far enough and the use of parallax kicks in and if there is just a little difference in vector to the target from two widely separated hunters they now have a working range number. This range estimate will almost certainly be nothing close to accurate enough to fire on, but it will certainly indicate a distinct patch of ocean to direct any orbiting P-8s or other airframes toward. Finding a needle in haystacks is a lot easier if you have a solid clue as to which haystack you should be searching.
Particularly if the Fire Scouts are simultaneously dynamically moving dipping sonar equipped buoys around the ocean in conjunction with the UUV equipped buoys. For discussion purposes let’s say a Fire Scout starts its day by moving one UUV equipped and four dipping sonar equipped buoys, all transmitting locally to an ISR drone or ScanEagle just overhead, in relays, across the ocean. As the hours pass an enormous amount of ocean can be searched, further and further out from the task force, yet the buoys will be able to keep up with the task force as it travels, even in dash mode. With only one buoy in the air at a time, each one only being moved hundreds or a few thousands of yards at a time, there will be a constant stream of much better data generated for the ASW team than the existing use of sonobuoys can provide. And the deployed equipment will be able to reliably function on station for many more hours than a manned helicopter team can provide.
Perhaps not at a 24/7 rate nor for days and days on end, but a task force with 15 Fire Scouts and 60 buoys deployed, potentially separated by many miles, has added multiple alternatives to the ASW teams quiver.
It is suggested above that 15 Fire Scouts dynamically rotate 60 UUV or dipping sonar equipped buoys across the ocean. 15 and 60 are merely suggestions though. The real point is that to derive the greatest value out of the newly developed UUVs and Fire Scouts the Navy needs to be thinking in terms of a dozen plus helicopters and scores of buoys at a time, regardless of the particular mix of equipment and sensors dangling beneath them. Again, think and operate in quantity.
Ultra Electronics Sonobuoys
At this point a brief description of the buoy noted above, to be deployed in scores at any given time, is in order. A set of eight hollow, segmented and honey combed for strength where necessary tubes, say one foot in diameter, made of a 21st century version of fiberglass can be configured in a square. Stacking the ends of the tubes on each other log cabin style, but deliberately leaving the space between each pair of tubes empty creates as much buoyancy as possible, but very deliberately reduces freeboard. Whether the resulting buoy is equipped with a dipping sonar or UUV, both the sensors and the equipment needed to operate the tether, reel for the line and so forth is going to get soaked anyway. Simultaneously, we want a minimum of tossing and reeling about in various sea states as the sonar or UUV does its job or as a helicopter drops down to utilize a hook to grab the buoy and gently lift it clear of the water. So if the waves and swell are moving between the pairs of tubes, this will substantially reduce the buoys unavoidable acrobatics in the water, vastly easing the helicopters task in relifting it for redeployment.
So long as the pyramid resting on top of the buoy containing the motor driving the reel and its power source has a double sealed compartment and the necessary electronics, radar lure and antenna are in a triple sealed compartment above it; both routinely riding above the waves, limited freeboard is actually an advantage. At this point all that is needed is to add an appropriately sized circle of steel for the helicopter to snag each time it moves the buoy and we have an extremely practical piece of equipment to deploy, in large numbers and at a rather low price, across the fleet.
In years to come the Navy can incrementally add the ability to transmit and receive on different frequencies to measure the difference in time back to the emitting sensors thereby creating additional ways to monitor the underwater environment, detect targets and potentially be less intrusive when operating amongst our cetacean neighbors. By doing so we can build a much more sophisticated picture of surrounding water conditions as well. Knowledge that good computerized analysis of the data and developing a doctrine of best practice to utilize this knowledge of water conditions will leave the mission commander’s CIC in a position to make much better informed decisions on where to deploy their search assets next.
Sounds great doesn’t it? But as always there is a problem or three lurking about that need to be dealt with. For now we have reached the point where we need to consider the question used as the title for the article. Where is the U.S. Navy going to put them all?
In the next article we examine two new ship classes that can be used by the fleet to go to sea with the various types of drones, UUVs, Fire Scouts and buoys suggested, in quantity, as well as the needed sailors aboard.
Jan Musil is a Vietnam era Navy veteran, disenchanted ex-corporate middle manager and long time entrepreneur currently working as an author of science fiction novels. More relevantly to CIMSEC he is also a long-standing student of navies in general, post-1930 ship construction thinking, and design hopes versus actual results and fleet composition debates of the twentieth century. Reprinted with permission from the Center for International Maritime Security.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Where is the U.S. Navy Going To Put Them All?

Part 1: More Drones Please. Lot’s and Lot’s of Them!

Guest Post by Jan Musil
AORH class jpeg
Sketch by Jan Musil. Hand drawn on quarter-inch
 graph paper. Each square equals twenty by twenty feet.
Recent technological developments have provided the U.S. Navy with major breakthroughs in unmanned carrier landings with the X-47B. A public debate has emerged over which types of drones to acquire and how to employ them. This article suggests a solution to the issue of how to best make use of the new capabilities that unmanned aircraft and closely related developments in UUVs bring to the fleet.
The suggested solution argues for taking a broader look at what all of the new aerial and underwater unmanned vehicles can contribute, particularly en masse. And how this grouping of new equipment can augment carrier strike groups. In addition, there are significant opportunities to revive ASW hunter killer task forces, expand operational capabilities in the Arctic, supplement our South China Sea and North East Asia presence without using major fleet elements and provide the fleet with a flexible set of assets for daily contingencies.
These sorts of missions provide opportunities for five principal types of drones. Strike, ISR and refueling drones as winged aircraft to fly off fleet platforms, UUVs and the Fire Scout helicopter. So we have five candidates to be built, in quantity, for the fleet. Let’s examine each of the suggestions for what they should be built to accomplish, what sort of weapons or sensors they need to be equipped with and what doctrinal developments for their use with the fleet need to happen.
Strike drone
The current requirements are calling for long range, large payload, and the ability to aerially refuel and are to be combined with stealth construction techniques for the airframe, even if not stealth coated. These size and weight parameters mean this drone will require CATOBAR launching off an aircraft carrier’s flight deck. Which also means it will be supplementing, and to some extent replacing, the F-35C in the air wings for decades to come. The merits of how many strike drones versus F-35Cs, and the level of stealth desired for both, will be an ongoing debate for the foreseeable future.
Given that a strike drone built with these capabilities will be tasked with similar mission requirements to the F-35C, we will assume for now that the weapons and ISR equipment installed will be equivalent, if not exactly the same as the F-35C. This implies that whatever work the U.S. Navy has already done in developing doctrine for use of the long range strike capacity the F-35Cs brings to the fleet should only need to be supplemented with the addition of a strike drone.
It is worth remembering that while these drones are unmanned, since they are CATOBAR they will still require sailors on deck to move, reload and maintain them. Sailors who also need a place to eat, sleep, etc.
And the carriers are already really busy places. However welcome the strike drone winds up being, there is not going to be enough room on the carriers to be add even more equipment. Therefore each drone will be replacing something already there, both physically within the hangar bay and financially within the Navy’s budget.
ISR drone
Most of the current public discussion surrounding an ISR equipped drone is rather hazy about what sort of sensors, range and weapons, if any, are wanted. However, the philosophical debate over mission profile, including a much smaller size, localized range requirement and the presumed emphasis on ISR tasks is revealing. The key points to concentrate on for such a drone are the suggested set of missions to be conducted by an arc of ISR drones around a selected location, sensor and networking capabilities, range and durability requirements and a limited weapons payload.
The traditional use of aerial search capabilities onboard a carrier task force was over the horizon, well over the horizon thank you very much, locating of the opponents surface assets. Over the years the extended ranges of aircraft and the development of airborne ASW assets changed the nature of the search and locate mission and the assets being used to conduct it. Adding space based surveillance changed things once more. The coming improvements in networking and data processing capabilities inside a task force, a steadily rising need for over the horizon targeting information coupled with the need to function within an increasingly hostile A2AD environment has once more altered the requirements of the search and locate mission. Search and locate essentially has become search, locate, network and target.
Being able to fund as well as field large numbers of anything almost always means keeping it smaller, and deleting anything not strictly needed beyond occasional use is an excellent way to accomplish this. For the ISR drone, not arming it with anything beyond strictly self-defense weapons is an excellent way to keep size and costs down. Since the primary missions of the ISR drone will be the new search, locate, network and target paradigm, concentrating funding on those capabilities is an excellent way to limit both development and operating costs.
Particularly since putting a large number of the drones, each capable of at least 24-30 hours on station, supplemented by refueling, in an arc around a task force in the direction(s) of highest concern means that the Super Hornets of the fleet can largely be freed from the loiter and defend mission and return to being hunters.
Since I am assuming the railgun will also be joining the fleet in large numbers some discussion about the range of the search, locate, network and target arc suggested above as it relates to the railgun is in order. The publicly disclosed range of the railgun is 65 miles, so an arc of ISR drones needs to be farther out from the task force than that, quite some way beyond that to provide time to effectively network location and target data developed back to the shooters. In the anticipated A2AD environment the primary threat is very likely to be a missile, mostly subsonic but the potential for at least some of them being hypersonic exists. Therefore, the incoming missiles or aircraft will need to be located, networked information sent to the surface assets armed with railguns and the targeting information processed quickly enough that the bars of steel launched as a result will be waiting for the incoming missile at 65 miles. Precisely how far out beyond the railguns effective range the arc of ISR drones will need to be will almost certainly vary by circumstance and the nature of the opponent’s weaponry. Nevertheless, whether subsonic or hypersonic, missiles move rapidly and this means an effective arc of ISR drones will have to be a long distance out from the task force. The farther out the arc is, a higher number of drones will be needed to provide adequate coverage.
This implies a need for a minimum of 6-8 ISR drones on station, 24/7, in all kinds of weather. Since there are inevitable maintenance problems cutting into availability time, this implies a task force will need take twice that number to sea with it. Particularly if a second arc of two or three ISR drones is maintained just over the horizon, or simply overhead. This inner group can also provide local networking abilities for the ASW assets of the task force. Having at least one ISR drone close in to provide a rapid relay of information around the task force by its sub hunters should also be planned for as a doctrinal necessity.
This arc of ISR drones is a wonderful new capability to have, but…., but fifteen drones are not going to fit on a CVN. Not when an essentially equivalent number of something else needs to be removed to make room for the newcomers. Our carriers are packed as it is with needed airframes and trading out fifteen of them from the existing air wing is not going to happen.
Nor is there room elsewhere in the fleet. The CCGs and DDGs have limited space on their helo decks, but even if the new ISR drone were equipped with the modified VTOL engine from the Osprey program, there still wouldn’t be space for more than a few of them. Once more, it is a case of needing to take something out of the fleet to put the new capability in.
This means we have to build a new class, or classes, of ships to operate and house the quantities of drones desired, including operating space, hangar and maintenance space and sailor’s living spaces.
Refueling drone
A drone primarily dedicated to the refueling mission takes on another of the un-glamorous, but unending tasks involved in operating a task force. Instead of the proposed return of the S-3 Vikings as tankers, a somewhat larger drone can be designed from scratch to be a flying gas station with long range and loitering times, presumably with vastly more fuel aboard and built to only occasionally load weapons or sensors under the wings. It could have ISR capabilities or ASW weapons slung under the wings as distinctly secondary design characteristics. In understanding when to use manned versus unmanned systems obviously any extra weight and space gained by losing a cockpit allows for more fuel carried, longer loitering times and extra range. These advantages need to be balanced against the occasional need for a pilot’s skills on scene.
As for the UUVs in development, much has been made of their ability to dive deeply and search for things as well as their ability to autonomously operate far out in front of a task force, including the possibility of submarine launched missions. While interesting a more incremental use of the roughly six feet long torpedo shaped UUV currently in use for deep diving missions might be more appropriate.
While we wait on further research developments to establish ways to effectively utilize a long range, long duration UUV reconnaissance drone, a more mundane use of what we have right now can readily be used for ASW purposes. We could equip a six-foot UUV with the sensors already in use for ASW purposes and cradle it in open sided buoy in order to hoist the UUV in and out of the water. This buoy could be used over the side, or far more usefully, launched and recovered by helicopter. Wave and say hello Fire Scouts.
Fire Scouts
Any helicopter asset that the U.S. Navy has can be used of course, but without a pilot aboard the Fire Scouts are much better suited for the long hours required to successfully prosecute ASW. Taking off with the UUV cradled inside it’s buoy, the Fire Scout can deploy the buoy, allow the tethered UUV to swim to the thermocline or other desired depth, hover while allowing the UUV to transmit or simply silently listen, wait for the resulting data that is collected to be reported via the tether and broadcast by an antenna on the buoy and then once the UUV has swum back into it’s cradle within the buoy, drop back down and relift the buoy and move it to the next needed position. This redeployment can be hundreds or thousands of yards away at the mission commander’s discretion. This cycle can be repeated as many times as wanted or fuel for the Fire Scout allows. A difficulty that can be resolved aboard the nearest surface ship with a helo deck, leaving the buoy drifting in place, UUV on station and transmitting as refueling takes place. Shift changes by pilots should not materially interrupt this cycle. The most likely limitation that will force the Fire Scout to lift buoy and UUV out of the water for return aboard will be the exhaustion of the power source aboard the buoy being used to operate the reel for the tether and broadcast the data collected to an overhead airframe. Which just happens to be another use for the ISR drone or a ScanEagle.
In the next article we will examine how the Navy can make profitable use of UUVs and buoys, deployed and maneuvered across the ocean by the Fire Scout helicopter, in quantity, in pursuit of the ASW mission.
Reprinted with permission from the Center for International Maritime Security.
Jan Musil is a Vietnam era Navy veteran, disenchanted ex-corporate middle manager and long time entrepreneur currently working as an author of science fiction novels. More relevantly to CIMSEC he is also a long-standing student of navies in general, post-1930 ship construction thinking, and design hopes versus actual results and fleet composition debates of the twentieth century.