Monday, February 22, 2016

Joint Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Swarming Integration Testing

by F. Patrick Filbert, Subject Matter Analyst-UAS, frederic.filbert.ctr(at)pacom.mil

As technology improves, so does the capacity to expand a defensive perimeter to ever increasing ranges both horizontally and vertically. Identifying ways to penetrate this perimeter with assets and capabilities that do not require ever more expensive solutions requires creative use of current and emerging technological advances. Potential adversaries understand the United States (U.S.) is extremely technologically advanced with its warfighting systems. This requires a thinking enemy to develop ways to keep America’s advanced systems outside their sphere of influence; specifically, to both deny and create an inability to gain access to specific areas of operation. In the current vernacular, this is called creating an anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) environment which has, as its backbone, advanced integrated air defense systems (IADS).

A Bit of History 
Being able to provide a “layered” offensive capability with manned kinetic/non-kinetic payload armed aircraft has been done for some time. One example is how a joint Army-Air Force helicopter team (Task Force Normandy: comprised of U.S. Air Force (AF) MH-53J/PAVE LOW III and Army AH-64/APACHE attack helicopters) blinded Iraqi IADS early warning radars with non-kinetic electronic attack (PAVE LOW IIIs) and destroyed the radars (APACHES) with kinetic weapon's strikes (i.e., HELLFIRE missile, HYDRA rocket, and 25mm cannon fire) in the opening minutes of Operation Desert Storm to allow follow-on USAF strike aircraft access through coverage “holes” in Iraqi IADS to attack key targets further into Iraq.1 Similarly, future use of an advanced wave of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) equipped with electronic warfare (EW) payloads leading a subsequent wave of attacking aircraft from carrier strike groups is one potential way to enter and counter a potential adversary’s A2/AD environment.

Notional Air Defense Network
However, while emerging EW payload testing on UAS is occurring, mating electronic attack (EA) payloads onto a coordinated semi- or fully-autonomous swarm of smaller unmanned aircraft (UA) is still an emergent test environment effort. However, once such capabilities mature, being able to employ them requires that a foundational concept be in place. The Joint Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Swarming Integration (JUSI) Quick Reaction Test (QRT) was directed on February 27, 2015 by the Deputy Director, Air Warfare under the authority of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Director, Operational Test and Evaluation to address such a foundational approach.

The JUSI QRT was established under the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation’s Joint Test and Evaluation Program on July 29, 2015. It is colocated with U.S. Pacific Command’s (USPACOM) J8 Resources and Assessment Directorate, Camp H.M. Smith, Oahu, Hawaii. The JUSI QRT reports to the AF Joint Test Program Office (AFJO), Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada and receives support from USPACOM J81 (Joint Innovation and Experimentation Division). The JUSI QRT will develop, test, and validate a concept of employment (CONEMP) for the integration and synchronization of swarming UA performing EA in support of the joint force against an advanced IADS. The JUSI QRT effort is focused on a 2015-2020 timeframe to research and identify previous and ongoing swarm related efforts while building a swarming UA community of interest, concurrent with CONEMP development.

Advanced Integrated Air Defenses and How to Address Them – The Problem 
Modern surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems are an integral part of advanced IADS. These IADS are, in turn, integral parts of a potential adversary’s networked A2/AD environment. For the purpose of the JUSI QRT effort, IADS refers to a networked system of adversary capabilities (e.g., a series of detection and tracking radars coupled with SAMs) and not specific to one platform (i.e., an IADS on a warship by itself or a specific individual SAM such as an SA-20).

Notional Integrated Air Defense System 
The joint forces do not currently have adequate ways to fully plan, integrate, or synchronize the effects delivered by UA swarms. This requires development and testing of a foundational CONEMP offering an effective planning methodology for delivering integrated effects of UA swarms against advanced IADS protecting targets with threat SAM arrays.

The joint force is currently over-reliant on standoff weapons (SOW) and 4th/5th generation strike platforms to address the A2/AD challenge. UA swarms represent a potential additional approach, complementing existing platforms and weapons systems. Despite rapid technical advances in UA swarming development and demonstrations, the joint force lacks a CONEMP for operations requiring UA swarm-delivered effects. The lack of a CONEMP or other supporting documentation hinders requirements development, A2/ AD countering, and precludes integration and synchronization with the rest of the joint force.The joint force is currently over-reliant on standoff weapons (SOW) and 4th/5th generation strike platforms to address the A2/AD challenge. UA swarms represent a potential additional approach, complementing existing platforms and weapons systems. Despite rapid technical advances in UA swarming development and demonstrations, the joint force lacks a CONEMP for operations requiring UA swarm-delivered effects. The lack of a CONEMP or other supporting documentation hinders requirements development, A2/ AD countering, and precludes integration and synchronization with the rest of the joint force.


The Approach – Addressing the Problem 
Combat capable and survivable UA with the capability to perform swarming functions are a new but quickly growing aspect of modern warfare. The JUSI QRT will take the first step to characterize, develop, and evaluate a CONEMP for using multiple UA of various sizes to deliver coordinated EA to enable other weapons and platforms (i.e., various types of SOWs, decoys, jammers, and 4th/5th generation platforms) access to counter A2/AD approaches. With the short lifespan of the JUSI QRT—one year—the effort will focus on CONEMP development supported by a series of modeling and simulation (M&S) runs over the course of three test events. Integrated support by Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory’s (JHU/APL) experienced M&S personnel during each of the test events will enable the QRT to gain data collection for the equivalent of hundreds of swarm flights; thus providing a cost saving aspect concurrent with data analysis to support CONEMP development. JHU/APL will provide M&S and analysis of the execution of UA with EA payloads against scenarios developed to test the UA’s ability to deliver desired effects against an advanced IADS as part of an A2/AD environment.

The resulting qualitative and empirical data, once analyzed, will enable the JUSI QRT Team to assess findings, conclusions, and recommendations to revise the CONEMP between each test event with JUSI QRT’s first test event, which wrapped up on November 20, 2015. Additionally, upon completion of each test event, a Joint Warfighter Advisory Group (JWAG) will be convened to receive test event results—the first JUSI QRT JWAG occurred on December 9, 2015. As the QRT process continues, it will lead to development of a finalized swarming UA CONEMP to provide the link to requirements development and capability integration for the joint force to have a distributed approach to complement existing solutions which focus on 4th/5th generation strike platforms and SOW.

The Way Ahead 
At the end of the JUSI QRT, the resulting CONEMP will provide an effective operational context to inform requirements development, roadmaps and, eventually, tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP) in several areas, including communication, automation, UA, and EA to deliver intended effects. The CONEMP will also serve to help focus future Department of Defense and industry investment. Future considerations related to swarming UA with EA payloads may include development, testing, and validation of TTP for UA with EA payloads. Such TTP would further reinforce the use of swarming UA by empowering the commander to develop standards in the areas of man- ning, equipping, training, and planning in the joint force. In the interim, the JUSI QRT developed CONEMP will provide planners, trainers, and their supporters with a start point for employment of this capability.

JUSI QRT website: https://intellipedia.intelink.gov/wiki/JUSI

The author would like to thank Lt Col Matthew “Bulldog” Nicholson, Andrew “Wooly” Wolcott, Don Murvin, Brendan “K-PED” Pederson, and Brock Schmalzel for their guidance and feedback during the writing of this article. 
1 Martin, Jerome V. Lt Col, USAF, “Victory from Above: Air Power Theory and the Conduct of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm,” Air University Press, Maxwell Air Force Base, AL, June 1994. 
2 “New Delhi could have anti-missile shield by 2014,” defencenewsofindia.blogspot.com, August 29, 2011, http://defencenewsofindia.blogspot. com/2011/08/new-delhi-could-have-anti-missile.html#!/2011/08/new-delhicould-have-anti-missile.html, accessed October 8, 2015.

Reprinted with permission from 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. The inclusion of these links does not represent an endorsement of the organization, service, or product.

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