OPERATIONS FORCES AND UNMANNED AERIAL VEHICLES:
THESIS PRESENTED TO THE FACULTY OF
SCHOOL OF ADVANCED AIRPOWER STUDIES
THE COMPLETION OF GRADUATION REQUIREMENTS
OF ADVANCED AIRPOWER STUDIES
AIR FORCE BASE, ALABAMA
The conclusions and opinions expressed in this
document are those of the author. They do not reflect
the official position of the US Government, Department
of Defense, the United States Air Force, or Air
P. Howard was commissioned through the Officer Training
School, Lackland AFB, San Antonio, Texas, in 1982. Graduating
from Undergraduate Navigator training in 1982, and Electronic
Warfare Officer training in 1983, he went on to fly
AC-130H "Gunships" as an electronic warfare
officer in the 16th Special Operations Squadron, 1st
Special Operations Wing, Hurlburt Field, Florida. In
1987 he went to the Joint Staff, J-3, Joint Operations
Division, for an Air Staff Training Assignment. He was
subsequently selected to transition into EC-130H "Compass
Call" aircraft and served as a Mission Crew Commander
with the 6919th Electronic Security Squadron, Sembach
Air Base, Germany. While serving there he was selected
and served as the interim squadron Commander for the
6915th Electronic Security Squadron, Bad Aibling Station,
Germany. During DESERT STORM, he flew missions against
Iraq as the Mission Crew Commander on the EC-130H and
served as the wing Electronic Combat Coordinator and
Combat Mission Planner, with the 7405th Composite Wing
(Provisional), Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. After the
war, he was assigned to Headquarters United States Air
Forces Europe in the Operational Requirements Division.
Major Howard is a senior navigator with over 1,500 flying
hours. He has a bachelorís degree in History from the
University of Maryland, and a masterís degree in International
Relations from Troy State University. In October 1995,
Major Howard was assigned to the United States Special
Operations Command as a strategic planner.
I would like to
acknowledge several people without whose support and
help I would have never gotten off the ground with this
study. I want to thank Colonel Howard Chambers and Colonel
Scott Stephens for opening doors which allowed me to
re-enter the Special Operations world. I also want to
thank Frank Strickland and Karen Ackley for allowing
me access to their "special" world. I also
want to thank Ray Colemon, the Public Affairs Officer
for the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Joint Project Office.
The research materials he provided were extremely helpful.
I especially want
to thank Major Bruce Deblois for the many discussions
and long hours he spent helping me focus and formulate
this work. His perspective and insight have been invaluable
in helping to eliminate inconsistencies in this study.
I also want to thank Lieutenant Colonel Robert Owen
for his assistance and guidance. I thank both Major
Deblois and Lieutenant Colonel Owen for their support,
for reviewing the draft, for commenting constructively,
and for keeping me on track.
I have a special
thanks for Doctor David R. Mets. He has been my guide,
advisor, and mentor since 1983. He has threatened, cajoled,
despaired, and grown weary, while trying to help me
develop as a professional military officer. I still
have a long way to go, but I hope some of his efforts
have paid dividends to both him and the Air Force.
I want to express my sincere appreciation to my wife,
Glenda, and daughter, Jenessa, for their love, patience,
and understanding during those times when I was struggling
with this paper. Their presence (or lack of it) was
very important to me and made all the difference in
ensuring my success in completing this work.
This study analyzes
whether Special Operations Forces should use Unmanned
Aerial Vehicles to support intelligence, surveillance,
reconnaissance, communications and re-supply capability
deficiencies. The authorís objective is to review the
missions and requirements of the United States Special
Operations Command, examine current and future unmanned
aerial vehicle technologies, and analyze whether unmanned
aircraft technologies are mature enough to meet the
demanding Special Operations missions. The result of
the analysis is that unmanned aerial vehicles have tremendous
potential. But, due to technological limitations and
a lack of systems maturity, unmanned aerial vehicles
lack the range, reliability, datalink capability, and
size to meet Special Operations Forces needs at this
time. However, in the future, UAVs should be able to
fulfill several SOF capability deficiencies.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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2 SPECIAL OPERATIONS
TASKS AND CAPABILITY DEFICIENCIES 5
3 CURRENT AND
EMERGING UAV TECHNOLOGIES . . . . . . . . . . . . .
4 ANALYSIS AND
CONCLUSION. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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2-1 USSOCOM Mission
Area Plan Capability Deficiencies . . . . . . . . .
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UAV Capabilities/Relationships . . . . . . . . . . .
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Chapter 1: Introduction
is called Ďforeknowledgeí cannot be elicited from spirits,
nor from gods, nor by analogy with past events, nor
from calculations. It must be obtained from men who
know the enemy situation.
Art of War
"Cold War" may be over, but there are numerous
smaller conflicts raging around the world. Because the
United States is not always "invited" to intervene
in local or regional squabbles, there are still significant
areas of the world where overt United States action
is discouraged. Many of these regions are important
to US national interests and may require fast, politically
acceptable uses of force that provide information and
firepower without needlessly endangering lives.
Forces (SOF) are capable of dealing with sensitive situations
by using overt and covert means. As situations and adversaries
become more complex, SOF leaders will need a greater
capability for observing their targets. Surveillance,
reconnaissance, and communication assets that deliver
near-real-time, full motion video for extended periods
of time will be required. They will also need communication
systems that are secure, have a low-probability-of-intercept,
and which extend beyond traditional line-of-sight capabilities.
To successfully achieve these increasingly difficult
tasks, SOF leaders will need specific and responsive
intelligence information that may not otherwise be available
through conventional National assets.
Vehicles are among the many tools at the disposal of
Special Operations Forces leaders for dealing with difficult
situations. The objective of this paper is to explore
and evaluate current and future UAVs and determine whether
they solve any of the capability deficiencies affecting
Special Operations Forcesí ability to meet future tasking.
Consequently this study also addresses the question
whether SOF leaders should continue relying only on
manned aerial assets and national space assets for reconnaissance
and surveillance, or if they should shift to developing
unmanned aerial assets for some of these purposes. This
paper gives military and civilian leaders within the
Department of Defense background information to make
informed decisions about using unmanned aerial vehicles
in the future.
Forces traditionally have relied on manned aircraft,
special reconnaissance teams, and satellites to provide
timely surveillance, reconnaissance and communications
information. All of these assets have proven useful
as information providers. Still, recent unmanned aerial
vehicle successes during Desert Shield and Desert Storm
have created new tension between groups advocating unmanned
systems versus manned systems for high risk operations.
With the fall
of the Soviet Union and the emergence of a multi-polar
world, Special Operations Forces are being tasked with
more missions and challenges than ever before. Since
the Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986,
Special Operationsí missions have expanded from the
traditional unconventional warfare and foreign internal
defense tasks, into several new areas of responsibility.
These new areas include combating terrorism, halting
the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and
information warfare, to name just a few. The United
States Special Operations Command is aware of its growing
responsibilities and is trying to meet these future
challenges by developing new weapons and assets today.
Chapter 2 summarizes SOF mission areas and responsibilities.
The chapter concludes with a presentation of SOF capability
Once SOF capability
deficiencies are exposed, Chapter 3 will introduce the
reader to one possible technology solution: UAVs. This
chapter provides basic, unclassified characteristics
and capabilities of many of the unmanned aerial vehicles
currently developed or in the prototype stage. It also
discusses civilian uses and potential programs which
offer cost sharing between commercial and government
agencies. Foreign technologies are not discussed in
this chapter because the details of these programs are
Chapter 4 marries
the capability deficiencies highlighted in Chapter 2
to a variety of potential resolutions. Mission Area
Plans, Mission Need Statements, and United States Special
Operations Commandís list of Technology Development
Objectives are used to analyze the advantages and disadvantages
of numerous assets used to support Special Operations.
The purpose of this chapter is to systematically evaluate
the tools used by SOF to determine if there are scenarios
that are better served by assets not currently being
used or considered.
The final pages
of this thesis will offer some conclusions and recommendations,
that are straight forward deductions from the analysis.
There are certain SOF missions that need manned systems.
There are also other places, times, and situations when
unmanned assets are a logical alternative. In the situations
where UAVs are useful, the paper will suggest ways to
integrate the assets into current force structure. This
research is intended to provide rudimentary inputs for
commanders and planners to help them integrate UAVs
into their planning process. Many of the UAVs mentioned
in this paper are currently available and can be procured
by Special Operations Forces within a few months. Other
systems may never be available due to inefficient programs,
cost over-runs, and lack of support by either the Department
of Defense or the Congress. Several previous unmanned
aerial vehicle programs have been started and canceled
over the years.
What is the bottom
line? Should SOF continue relying solely on the aircraft,
ground teams, and satellites which have served them
in the past, or, should they divert some of their limited
resources toward adding a fourth dimension to their
repertoire of assets?
Chapter 2: Special Operations
Tasks and Capability Deficiencies
revolutions which gave us birth ignited, in the words
of Thomas Paine, Ďa spark never to be extinguished.í
And across vast, turbulent continents these American
ideals still stir manís struggle for national independence
and individual freedom.
for national independence, and groups yearning for individual
freedom are causing strife and discord around the globe.
Guarding against threats to the interests of the United
States requires the appropriate use of military force
in concert with political, economic, and informational
elements of national power. Therefore, the Armed Forces
of the United States are engaged in accomplishing two
national military objectives--promoting stability and
are a form of warfare characterized by a unique set
of objectives, weapons, and forces. These forces are
best used when large, conventional forces, requiring
extensive support structures, are not militarily required
or are politically unacceptable to host nation and regional
Forcesí (SOF) capabilities are a function of individual
and small units proficient in a multitude of specialized,
often unconventional, combat skills using innovation,
improvisation, and self-reliance. Special Operations
size, self-sufficient nature, and capabilities provide
a military response that entails less political liability
or risk of escalation normally associated with employment
of larger, more visible, conventional forces.
have certain characteristics that distinguish them from
conventional operations. They are principally offensive
in nature and incur high physical risk while limiting
political risk for the United States. However, if things
go wrong and their mission fails or becomes public knowledge,
then these operations can involve very high political
SOF units are
regionally focused and primarily directed at high-value,
critical, and often perishable targets. Special Operations
Forces conduct fast, surgical operations at great distances
from established support bases by using sophisticated
communications, aircraft, and specially trained forces.
These forces infiltrate and exfiltrate areas that are
hostile to the United States, or politically sensitive
to overt displays of U.S. military forces. Timely, relevant
intelligence is crucial to successful Special Operations.
Very short contingencies
using shock and surprise, or long-term commitments requiring
patience and cultural understanding are typical of Special
Operations. Combining high and low technology weapons
and equipment, these forces can provide security assistance
to friendly nations by training and organizing indigenous
forces internal or external guerrilla forces. In depth
knowledge of the region and its inhabitants means the
difference between success and failure.
Forces are often tasked by political leaders and monitored
at the national level. These operations cross all services
and need detailed planning and rapid coordination with
other commands, Services, and Governments agencies.
Because of the nature of the missions, joint ground,
air, and maritime assets must communicate quickly and
efficiently. Therefore, a common, responsive command
and control network is needed that interconnects the
various commands, Services, and Government agencies.
Forces are responsible for several activities. These
are broken down into seven principal missions or "Core
Tasks," with additional "Collateral Tasks,"
and "Emerging Tasks."
Section 167 of
title 10, of the US Code defines 10 special operation
activities. For strategic planning purposes, SOF tasks
are identified as core, collateral, or emerging tasks.
Seven of the ten activities are described as "Core
Tasks." These seven "Core Tasks" are
Unconventional Warfare, Direct Action, Special Reconnaissance,
Foreign Internal Defense, Combating Terrorism, Psychological
Operations, and Civil Affairs.
tasks" need real-time intelligence, redundant,
long range communications, and the ability to re-supply
operators working in the field for extended periods
of time. These tasks have always been supported by manned
aircraft, tactical and national reconnaissance assets,
and the ingenuity of the personnel on the ground.
Warfare is a "core task" that includes guerrilla
warfare and other low visibility, covert, or clandestine
operations. It also includes subversion, sabotage, intelligence
activities, and escape and evasion.
usually occurs in enemy-held or hostile territory by
military and paramilitary forces. Unable to attack the
main enemy force, these irregular troops raid and ambush
enemy forces where they are most vulnerable. Guerrillas
use subversion and sabotage against their targets. Subversion
undermines the political, economic, and military morale
of a nation or regime. Sabotage selectively destroys
or disrupts the infrastructure of the target government.
The primary guerrilla objective is to discredit the
legitimacy of the government in power. This is the area
which Max G. Manwaring believes is the single most important
dimension where a government either succeeds or fails.
The organization with the most effective intelligence
and communications systems is usually victorious.
operations are short-duration strikes designed to seize,
destroy, capture, recover, or inflict damage on specific
personnel or assets. Highly trained teams are used for
time-sensitive, high priority targets. These operations
are usually conducted against perishable or fleeting
targets. SOF units must frequently accomplish the mission
with little preparation time and limited intelligence.
These missions are particularly high risk if the situation
changes before the teams involved get updated information.
Typical missions include locating and recovering persons
held captive and isolated, and often occur in parts
of the world that are sensitive or denied to conventional
military forces. The "Son Tay Raid," during
the Vietnam War is a good example of a well planned
and executed operation that failed because it lacked
timely intelligence. When the Special Forces teams arrived,
the American prisoners of war had already been moved
and the camp was nearly empty.
task," Special Reconnaissance, is human intelligence
that places special teams in hostile or politically
sensitive areas of the world. Their mission is to provide
strategic or operational intelligence that complements
or supplements national and theater intelligence assets.
Special Recce teams are often the "eyes and ears"
of unconventional warfare, direct action, counterterrorism,
and foreign internal defense operations. Long range,
low probability of intercept and detection radios are
needed to improve team communications. The ability to
broadcast digital imagery over long distances is also
needed to increase the teamsí overall "eyes and
Defense primarily helps host nation political and military
leaders eliminate internal instability and insurgency
operations. Like Unconventional Warfare, Foreign Internal
Defense is made up of several different skills, tactics,
and capabilities. SOF involvement requires cultural
awareness and linguistic skills. Additional requirements
include strong medical skills, basic construction, and
engineering skills, in addition to traditional weapons
and demolition skills. However, the United States Special
Operations Forces assisting the host nation do not become
directly involved. They are advisors and observers,
teams in the field is often challenging because the
SOF teams can work great distances from base camps and
major supply points. Teams traverse difficult terrain
or parachute into extremely isolated areas where ground
transportation is nonexistent. Once in place, the team
members soon exhaust the limited supplies they brought
with them. Reliable, accurate aerial re-supply is crucial
to allowing the people on the ground to continue their
Task" is Combating Terrorism. This task requires
highly trained personnel who can preempt or resolve
terrorist incidents outside the United States. There
may be no task more intelligence intensive than finding,
isolating and capturing terrorists. The secretive nature
of terrorists cells makes neutralizing their activities
very difficult. Elements of Special Operations Forces
will rescue hostages, attack terrorist infrastructure,
and recover sensitive materiel from terrorist organizations
when sufficient, timely intelligence is available to
successfully complete the mission.
Operations (PSYOP) are the sixth "Core Task."
These operations "convey selected information and
indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions,
motives, objective reasoning . . . and behavior."
This task has received a lot of attention because of
numerous successful leaflet drops during military operations
in Panama, Iraq, and Bosnia. These Psychological Operations
were effective when the leaflets were accurately delivered
to the right targets. Currently there are no dedicated
delivery systems for getting leaflets on target over
friendly or hostile territory. Available aircraft are
tasked to drop the leaflets, thus sometimes having limited
results because aircrews were improperly trained and
equipped to do the mission.
The final "Core
Task," is Civil Affairs. In this capacity military
forces may assume functions normally the responsibility
of the local government. The objective is to establish,
maintain, influence, or exploit relations among military
forces, civil authorities, and civilian populations
to facilitate military operations. Communications and
re-supply are important aspects of accomplishing this
Operations Activities apply special operations capabilities
in areas beyond the "Core Tasks." These areas
include Security Assistance, Humanitarian Assistance,
Peace Operations, Coalition Support, Counterdrug Operations,
Personnel Recovery, and Special Activities.
is a group of programs authorized by the Foreign Assistance
Act of 1961. Under these programs, the U.S. Government
sells defense articles and services, including military
training, to eligible foreign countries. Personnel providing
Security Assistance are prohibited by law from performing
activities of Special Operations Forces are Humanitarian
Assistance, Peacetime Military Operations, and Coalition
Support Operations. Humanitarian programs are primarily
designed to promote nonmilitary objectives within a
foreign civilian community; and are usually conducted
to relieve or reduce pain, disease, and hunger that
results from natural or man-made disasters. Peacetime
military operations are a nonhostile situation where
political, economic, psychological, and military measures,
short of US combat operations, are employed to achieve
national objectives. SOF uses their skills to help host
nation agencies train personnel to develop military
and paramilitary infrastructure and capabilities. In
many cases SOF units need to apply their unique characteristics
and provide liaison to coalition partners. Their linguistic
abilities, regional orientation, and focus on independent
small unit actions make them one of the principal forces
of choice to complement and support coalition warfare
activity for SOF is Counter Drug operations which are
designed to disrupt, interdict, and destroy illicit
drug activities. To the extent permitted by law, Special
Operations Forces lend operational and training assistance
to U.S. federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies.
As a general rule under the Posse Comitatus Act (Article
18 of the U.S. Code 1385) Department of Defense personnel
and equipment may not be used in a domestic law enforcement
capacity. However, in 1981, Congress enacted an exception
that authorized specific Department of Defense assistance
in drug interdiction and drug eradication operations
(Article 10, U.S. Code 371-380). SOF has traditionally
provided special reconnaissance and surveillance technology
and techniques to law enforcement agencies. Therefore,
the ability to have reliable, 24-hour sensor coverage,
and communications systems that can transmit and receive
large amounts of information over long distances, are
very important capabilities for aiding civilian law
Although the conventional
forces have the responsibility to search for and recover
downed or stranded personnel, Special Operations Forces
may be needed to perform Personnel Recovery operations.
Not organized, equipped, or trained to conduct search
and rescue operations, SOF can none the less use their
sophisticated airpower assets to find and extract personnel
needing assistance. Personnel Recovery missions resemble
Direct Action operations and often occur in hostile
or denied territory.
The last of the
"Collateral Tasks," are Special Activities.
These operations are governed by Executive Order 12333,
require a Presidential finding, and also call for Congressional
oversight. These "activities" may involve
any of the primary Special Operations tasks and missions
and are conducted abroad in support of national foreign
policy objectives. Special Activities are extremely
low profile so U.S. Government participation is neither
apparent nor acknowledged. Sophisticated, high technology
equipment of all types are important for accomplishing
these high risk, potentially sensitive activities.
Forces are also preparing for future tasks. Some of
the emerging missions that may affect Special Operations
are Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Counterproliferation,
and Information Warfare. These areas have the potential
of becoming either core or collateral tasks. Because
of the increasing threat from WMD, Special Operations
Forces may need to become involved in counterproliferation
If countries and
organizations hostile to the United States continue
to acquire weapons of mass destruction, Special Operations
Forces may have to carry out intrusive verification
measures to support compliance with international arms
control agreements. The ability to unobtrusively sample
the air and environment for toxins or radiation is needed
by both military and civilian agencies and organizations.
The ability to provide deep reconnaissance, surveillance,
and precise Direct Action attacks will continue to be
a cost effective means of reducing proliferation of
weapons dangerous to U.S. national interests. Timely
intelligence, advance sensors, and a reliable means
to communicate the information are needed to thwart
continued proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
task for Special Operations Forces is in the area of
Information Warfare. This is a new realm of warfare
that is still ill-defined. One definition for information
warfare is "...any action to deny, exploit, corrupt
or destroy the enemyís information and its functions;
protecting ourselves against those actions; and exploiting
our own information operations." Finding means
to exploit information and employing that information
against the enemy will be needed. Direct Action teams
and Psychological Operators may be well suited for supporting
like Counterproliferation, are methods, technologies,
and techniques that are rapidly changing. The challenge
to Special Operations Forces is to find a way to be
proactive instead of reactive. The nation that gets
in front of these two areas may be the nation that stays
in front for the next hundred years.
In order to meet
the myriad of tasks facing Special Operations Forces,
and to ensure that Special Operations Forces have the
appropriate equipment and resources, Congress authorized
USSOCOM its own program, budget, and head-of agency
authority for research, development, and acquisition
of Special Operations unique material and equipment.
In keeping with these directives, USSOCOM has established
a system for determining resource requirements.
USSOCOM is currently
using a Modernization Process that begins with a strategy
review to determine where the capabilities and attributes
of Special Operations military power are incorporated
into various joint strategy documents. The process follows
an approach of Strategy-To-Task, Task-To-Need, Need-To-Concept,
Concept-To-Technology Need, Technology Need-To-Technology,
and Technology-To-Execution (or acquisition). Based
upon the myriad of requirements dictated by the core,
collateral, and emerging tasks, the 1994 USSOCOM Mission
Needs Analysis process produced the following capability
Mission Area Plan Capability Deficiencies
Control & Communications
accessibility, coverage, bandwidth, size, and
for enemy to monitor or destroy our information
real/near real time imagery from National systems
real time interface between aircraft, planners,
and Intel systems
real time imagery for target study
automatic en route threat replan
data file for possible contingencies
all source threat location data
target identification and marking capability required
resupply of expendables (batteries, food, water,
medical supplies and ammunition)
to deliver leaflets over high risk areas
HQ AFSOC/XPP Mission Area
Plans, "Force Application," "Joint Air-SOF
Battlefield Interface," and "Psychological
Operations (PSYOP)," 1 December 1993, and the USSOCOM
Mission Need Statement for the Psychological Operations
Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Payloads (UAV-P).
In addition to
the Capability Deficiencies, the USSOCOM Requirements
Review Board established a priority listing of eleven
Technology Development Objectives as a means of consolidating
material solutions to the given capability deficiencies.
The list which follows is their list of technology goals
for all exploratory and advanced technology research
and development efforts:
Technology Development Objectives in Order of Priority
1. Weapons of
Mass Destruction (WMD) detection, classification, neutralization,
and protection systems.
low-volume survival, sustainment, and personal equipment.
low-volume power supply, storage, and generation technologies.
low-detectable, all-weather SOF mobility platforms.
5. Improved communications
6. Passive shallow
water/terrestrial mine, explosive, and booby-trap detection
and neutralization equipment and systems.
7. Target locating,
tracking, and marking technologies.
8. Future force
application weapons and munitions and enhanced explosives
9. Advanced vision
devices, sensors, fire controls for SOF weapons, and
human sensor enhancement equipment.
Warfare (IW) and Command and Control Warfare (C2W) systems.
11. Advanced learning,
training, and mission planning/rehearsal systems.
objectives are not a violation of Kentís notion that
operators should or need only supply capability deficiencies.
The technology objectives are so general that they still
allow innovative technological alternatives from the
science and technology community.
these capability deficiencies and technology development
objectives with a multitude of potential solutions,
the next chapter offers a detailed description of a
single material option: UAVs. This is not presented
a priori as the capability deficiencies resolution
of choice, but only as informing of one possible alternative.
Chapter 3: Current and Emerging
that will not apply new remedies must expect new evils;
for time is the greatest innovator.
The purpose of
this chapter is to describe current and projected unmanned
aerial vehicle technologies, and provide unclassified
characteristics and capabilities of a few unmanned aerial
vehicles that either currently exist, or will be available
within five to ten years. But first, in order to have
a common vernacular and to avoid misunderstanding, it
is important to define unmanned aerial vehicles, drones,
and remotely piloted vehicles. Unmanned aerial vehicles
are defined as powered aerial vehicles sustained in
flight by aerodynamic lift over most of their flight
path and guided without an on-board crew. They are expendable
or recoverable, and can fly autonomously or be piloted
remotely. There are two main sub-categories of unmanned
aerial vehicles, drones and remotely piloted vehicles.
Drones are autonomous and automatic pilotless aircraft
carrying a mechanism to sustain stable flight which
will fly an uncorrected steady heading, and usually
programmed to be a target. Their course is pre-programmed
and cannot be altered during flight. Remotely piloted
vehicles are unmanned aircraft capable of being controlled
from a distant location through a communication link.
They are normally designed to be recoverable and nonautonomous.
They are capable of transmitting mission related data
to a remote controller and reacts to operator commands
as well as to other control inputs.
Because of the
special requirements and needs of Special Operations
Forces, this paper examines unmanned aerial vehicles
that are remotely piloted, re-programmable, and capable
of receiving inflight course changes and corrections
from a controller site. As discussed in the previous
chapter, Special Operations Forces have a critical need
for vast amounts of real-time or near-real-time intelligence.
Sensors that provide video images, 24-hours a day, regardless
of weather conditions, are needed to provide information
to special teams operating on land, sea, and in the
air. Currently these forces rely on manned aircraft
and National sensor assets, like RC-135 and U-2 aircraft,
and various satellites, for their information. However,
these information providers are too few, have no real-time
capability, and are very difficult to task for small
operations that may not have sufficient priority. Operational
security also becomes more difficult when RC-135, JSTARs,
or AWACs aircraft loiter along a hostile border.
In addition to
real-time images, the SOF community needs portable,
lightweight communications equipment that transmits
and receives beyond line-of-sight. This equipment also
needs to be sophisticated enough to be difficult to
intercept or detect because many SOF teams perform their
mission by remaining concealed. Current radio and communications
equipment is susceptable to jamming and interception.
This gives away the teamís location, prevents their
information from reaching command authorities, and endangers
their lives. Directional, high frequency, low power
transmitters and receivers that can be relayed around
the world are more difficult to jam or intercept. Current
satellite communications systems that are secure and
difficult to intercept tend to be bulky. Miniaturizing
the communications system, while increasing range and
effectiveness, is the desired end result.
SOF also needs
to re-supply these teams. Already overburdened with
equipment, weapons, and ammunition, the average team
member carries a 72 hour supply of food, water, and
expendables. Air Force Special Tactics Team members
are typically loaded with tranceivers, navigational
aids, medical supplies, weapons, ammunition and food
weighing between 70-80 pounds. Safe, reliable re-supply
vehicles are needed to support the teams. Unmanned aerial
vehicles are one of many areas being examined to meet
the intelligence, communications, and re-supply needs
of Special Operations Forces.
Emerging Unmanned Aerial Vehicles
vehicles are classified according to two primary categories--Tactical
and Endurance. Tactical unmanned aerial vehicles typically
have a flight time of 10 hours or less and an operating
radius no greater than 150 miles. Endurance unmanned
aerial vehicles exceed these capabilities. Therefore,
this study uses range, radius, and endurance as the
dividing line between systems.
This paper does
not examine all the UAVs currently available or in prototype.
This chapter should provide a rough overview of technologies
that are becoming available. The specific UAV is not
what is important. What is important is whether UAV
technologies can be readily modified to meet SOF capability
deficiencies in intelligence, communications, and re-supply.
When evaluating UAVs, keep in mind the SOF need for
reliable, long range systems that require little logistical
support, or, air vehicles with sufficient range and
endurance that they can be launched hundreds of miles
from the teamís location, provide support, and not alert
the enemy to the pressence of a ground, sea, or air
Close Range Unmanned
Aerial Vehicles are designed to support land forces
in the "Close Battle." These aircraft support
commanders in Urban Operations, Reconnaissance, Surveillance,
Target Acquisition (RSTA) Operations, and Battle Damage
Assessment (BDA). The area of operation for these aircraft
is usually within 30 kilometers of the Forward Line
of Own Troops (FLOT). Initially these UAVs have been
designed to support conventional forces in the field
with no consideration for SOF unique needs and requirements.
Some of the UAVs currently in this category are the
"Pointer" Hand Launched Vehicle and the BQM-147A
Hand Launched UAV
Hand Launched system is a low-cost reconnaissance unmanned
aerial vehicle designed to support maneuver battalion
commanders or other users needing a short range "eye
in the sky." This aircraft is powered by a 300-watt
electric motor with a folding pusher propeller. The
flight control system consists of an uplink which only
allows a range of about 5-7 kilometers from the ground
control unit. It is made of composite materials and
is easily assembled from six parts which are interchangeable
with other air vehicles. It has a 9 feet wingspan and
a 6 feet fuselage length. Its total takeoff weight,
with payload, is 8.5 pounds. It currently carries a
payload of either a color TV camera, or a black and
white low-light-level TV camera, which provide real-time,
high resolution video imagery. This hand launched system
performs numerous close-in reconnaissance and surveillance
missions without endangering ground personnel. Itís
small size and battery driven engine make it very difficult
to see or hear. Missions are relatively short, normally
lasting one hour or less. The aircraft is under positive
control by the three-person ground crew and possesses
no autonomous capability.
The positive aspects
of Pointer include its low cost, rapid response
time, minimal crew, and limited logistics burden to
the Field Commander. The system has the flexibility
to provide real-time video to the front echelon Commander
during hours of daylight. However, the negative aspects
of the system are also significant. The "users"
have determined that it needs an improved navigational
and night imagery capability. Currently the system provides
video only during daylight and twilight hours.
A Pointer package
includes a 3-man operations team, 3 UAVs, and a man-portable
ground control station. In order to keep a Pointer
UAV airborne for the duration of a typical mission,
the three-man ground team is in a state of constant
launch, control, and recovery. If they come under hostile
fire while servicing the UAVs, launch and recoveries
may be delayed or terminated until it is relatively
safe to resume operations. If the system is located
safely in the rear, there is insufficient flight time
to get to the enemy location, survey the area, and return
before the batteries run out. The Pointer is
so small that increased payload size may never be possible.
Advances in miniaturization are needed before additional
features and functions are added to increase the capability
of the vehicle. Without a night imagery capability this
aircraft will have limited "real world" uses.
system is a low-cost reconnaissance unmanned aerial
vehicle designed to support regiment and brigade size
commands. It is a delta platform flying wing air vehicle
that is 5 feet long and has a wingspan of 8 feet, powered
by a small one-cylinder, two-cycle, air-cooled engine
with a two-blade propeller. The flight control system
consists of a UHF uplink receiver connected to a Global
Positioning System (GPS) based autopilot. The autopilot
is a 16-bit microprocessor controlled system which provides
up to 5-pre-programmable waypoints. The air vehicle
is gyro stabilized and capable of programmed autonomous
flight. It uses microwave energy to downlink information
to the ground control stations.
When tasked, the
Exdrone launches from a secure area behind the
Forward Line of Own Troops (FLOT). It has a launch weight
of 89 pounds and a 25 pound payload capacity. It is
launched by a pneumatic rail. Once airborne, the launch
pilot flies the air vehicle to the cruise altitude.
The vehicle service ceiling is 10,000 feet, however,
the mission altitude is usually between 3,000 - 4,000
feet above ground level. It has three modes of operation:
Manual flight, manual override autopilot, or full autonomous.
began as a research and development effort to build
a low-cost expendable drone capable of carrying a VHF
communications jammer. The aircraft have since been
modified with several different payloads to provide
reconnaissance. One of the payloads is the Pulinex TM-7i
down-looking color TV camera. It is a commercial-off-the-shelf
color camera that provides 570 lines of resolution and
a six power zoom lens. This particular camera has a
national imagery interpretability rating scale (NIRS)
of 4 at 3,000-4,000 feet above ground level. Other payloads
available include an Image Intensifier, and Forward
Looking Infrared (FLIR) cameras.
and testing continue for additional payloads. These
payloads include a communication jammer, communications
relay, deception decoys, mine detection capabilities,
and an airborne nuclear, biological and chemical detection
suite. Most of these payloads are commercial-off-the-shelf
or government-off-the-shelf technologies.
unit consists of ten air vehicles, two ground control
stations, a pneumatic launcher, associated ground support
equipment, and crew of six people. The system is small
enough to be transported over land in two High Mobility
Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV), or flown into
the theater of operations by one C-130 cargo aircraft.
The 101st Airborne and 1st Cavalry Divisions currently
operate the system.
Once the vehicle
is launched and reaches cruise altitude, the launch
pilot activates the autopilot which takes control and
proceeds to the mission target area. The aircraft has
a top speed of 100 miles per hour and a mission endurance
of about two-and-a-half hours. The vehicle is controlled
by the launch team if the operating area is within line-of-sight
of the ground control station (usually about 50 kilometers).
To extend operational range, a forward control team
equipped with a Ground Control System can be positioned
closer to the objective and extend the range. The Exdrone
can loiter for about two hours. After reaching the target
area the autopilot is programmed to loiter, fly a fixed
track of way points, conduct point reconnaissance with
the forward control pilot directing the flight, or conduct
point reconnaissance with the launch pilot in control.
When the mission
is complete the autopilot guides the aircraft to a predetermined
recovery point where it is recovered by parachute. If
more coverage time is needed, another vehicle is launched
and sent to the objective before returning the first
aircraft. The Ground Control System can control two
has several limitations. First it has a short range
because it is restricted by line-of-sight controls.
Measures are needed to increase its range. Second, the
UHF uplink control frequency band is often used for
tactical communications. If proper frequency coordination
is not made, the Exdrone can be jammed by friendly
forces. If "friendly" forces can jam it unintentionally,
it seems obvious that "unfriendly" forces
could intentionally jam it. Finally, the aircraft has
a very small payload, putting severe limitations on
the amount of equipment and sensors that can be mounted
on a single aircraft.
unmanned aerial vehicle was first developed for the
U.S. Navy in 1986. The system provides the operational
forces with deployable tactical assets that furnishes
day and night near-real-time reconnaissance, surveillance,
and target acquisition, as well as battle damage assessments,
artillery fire correction/adjustment of fire, and battlefield
air vehicle is a short-range, remotely piloted, pusher-propeller
driven, small fixed-wing aircraft that is powered by
a gasoline 26.8 horsepower, 2 stroke, reciprocating
engine. It can either be controlled remotely from a
ground station or programmed to fly independently. Its
primary function involves relaying video and/or telemetry
information from its reconnaissance systems. However,
the aircraft must be within line of sight of its ground
control system at all times for positive flight control
and imagery data link. It can be handed off from control
station to control station, thereby increasing its range.
The aircraft is
relatively small. Its wingspan is 17 feet and fuselage
length is 14 feet. It weighs 450 pounds and can carry
a 65-100 pound payload. Pointer will loiter on
station collecting and passing data until it has finished
the job or runs low on fuel. The unmanned aerial vehicle
is then flown back to the recovery area where it is
flown into a net or landed on a runway that has arrestment
equipment capable of stopping the aircraft.
system consists of five air vehicles, one ground control
station, a portable control station, four infrared payloads,
one to four remote receiving stations, a pneumatic or
rocket-assisted launcher, and a net or runway with an
arrestment recovery system. The system can control two
A typical mission
for the Pioneer lasts five hours or less. The aircraft
is pneumatically launched and cruises at a speed of
185 kilometers per hour to its assigned area of responsibility.
As previously mentioned, it may be passed from one control
station to the next until it reaches its target area.
It has a maximum altitude of 15,000 feet, but usually
operates lower than that to optimize its imagery capabilities.
Its maximum range, with staggered control stations,
is 240 kilometers.
was extremely successful during Desert Shield/Desert
Storm. The U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Marine Corps
used it in combat. Six operational units flew over 300
missions. Only one aircraft was shot down while three
others were hit by ground fire during combat missions.
Even these were safely recovered.
was highly praised as "the single most valuable
intelligence collector" in the war against Iraq.
The U.S. Marine Corps successfully used it to direct
air strikes and provide near real-time reconnaissance
for special operations. Due to this success, investment
in UAV technology has already produced the Pioneer
follow-on: the Hunter.
is an unmanned aerial vehicle intended to provide real-time
reconnaissance, target acquisition, and other military
missions by flying over enemy territory and transmitting
video imagery back to ground stations to inform military
commanders of the enemy situation. It flies missions
up to eight hours in duration, out to 150 kilometers
beyond the Forward Line of Own Troops (FLOT), day or
night, and in adverse weather.
system includes eight aircraft, a launch and recovery
station, a mission planning station, two ground control
stations, remote video terminals, ground data terminals,
assorted payloads, and sufficient vehicles and trailers
to carry and power everything. The Department of Defense
is currently planning to purchase 24 systems for the
Army, 18 for the Navy, 5 for the Marine Corps, and 3
for training. Airlift or naval shipping support would
be required to transport these systems to the battle.
concept of operations is very ambitious. According to
the current plan, two air vehicles are launched from
a runway that is at least 200 meters long and 75 meters
wide. One vehicle is the mission aircraft while the
other is a relay. The relay UAV is positioned in an
orbit behind the FLOT. The mission aircraft flies to
the target area and sends intelligence data to the relay
vehicle. The relay aircraft then sends the intelligence
data to the ground control station. The maximum altitude
for both aircraft is 15,000 feet; and total loiter time
cannot exceed eight hours.
This UAV is designed
to accommodate numerous payloads. These payloads include
a moving target indicator, an Electronic Intelligence
(ELINT) capability, electronic countermeasures packages,
the ability to act as decoys, Communications Intelligence
(COMINT) systems, and communications jamming capabilities.
Some payloads can also be modified to carry a laser
designator/range finder, mine detection equipment, and
Nuclear, Biological and Chemical sensors.
program is in trouble and wonít be fielded in the
numbers previously mentioned unless it can demonstrate
logistic supportability, improved performance, and that
it represents a valid joint-service effort as mandated
by Congress. According to the General Accounting Office
it is logistically insupportable, and tests have identified
serious performance problems that adversely impact the
systemís effectiveness. Its performance has not met
minimum standards and may not be suitable for use by
operational forces. Until these shortcomings are rectified
(the program management office responsible for the system
has worked diligently to correct the problems), the
project may be slowed or halted.
The General Atomic
GNAT-750 may be one of the most thoroughly field tested
unmanned aerial vehicles in todayís inventory. According
to Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine,
several GNAT-750 UAVs have been deployed to Bosnia,
Croatia, and Albania to monitor air bases, entrenchments,
supply caches and troop movements. According to the
article, success in the area was tempered by the need
to relay data from the UAV through a manned aircraft--the
RG-8 Schweitzer--that could only stay on station for
about two hours at a time. Although the RG-8 has an
8 hour flight time, 6 of each 8 hours was spent getting
to and from the relay orbit sight. While the GNAT-750
has a 24-30 hour endurance, the manned relay aircraft
greatly limits the overall effectiveness of the system.
The GNAT-750 is
a long-endurance tactical surveillance and support system.
It can fly up to 48 hours without landing for fuel.
It has a service ceiling of 25,000 feet and can climb
at a rate of 1,100 feet per minute. It has a wing span
of a little over 35 feet, the fuselage is 16 feet long,
and its gross take-off weight, including a 330 pound
payload and gas, is 1,140 pounds.
According to an
article in the July 11, 1994 issue of Aviation Week
& Space Technology, the Central Intelligence
Agency would like to buy more GNAT-750s and modify half
of them to act as relay aircraft. This move would allow
the 24-30 hour endurance capability to pay off. The
CIA would also like to modify the newer GNAT-750s with
the Rotax 912 engines which have more power, are quieter,
and are more fuel efficient.
In addition to
the electro-optics currently on the GNAT-750, David
Fulghum writes in Aviation Week & Space Technology,
that he believes the CIA wants to add a signals intelligence
payload to the UAV. The new sensors will pick up both
communications and electronic intelligence information.
This would give the NATO and United Nations forces additional
information from Bosnian radars and communications systems.
One concern for
the GNAT-750, as well as other unmanned aerial vehicles,
is its vulnerability to inclement weather. For any UAV
deployed to the field, measures need to be taken to
protect the delicate internal electronics from dust
and moisture, particularly in climates that are damp
and contain sea spray. Protecting the personnel, avionics,
and maintenance areas are important factors that should
be considered when planning deployed operations. Portable
maintenance hangars are particularly important for maintaining
clean and dry work spaces for the UAV technicians.
Of the unmanned
aerial vehicle programs fielded to date, the Central
Intelligence Agency appears to have provided more capability
for less time and money. While the Department of Defense
continues to run tests, the Central Intelligence Agency
has fielded a working system that provides near-real-time
information to the field Commander at what appears to
be a very low cost. The GNAT-750 has numerous shortcomings,
but it at least has been put to work in the operational
environment where it can provide real-world data while
its technicians continue to work out the bugs.
models of unmanned aerial vehicles are the next generation
of UAVs and have tremendous potential for future operations.
Their purpose is to provide near real-time imagery to
the Joint Task Force (JTF) Commander. If these aircraft
can be properly designed and fielded at a reasonable
cost, they will give the JTF Commander an expendable,
long-dwell, tactical UAV system with continuous, all-weather
narrow area search capability. This class of UAV will
remain on station at extended ranges for periods exceeding
24 hours. With this asset, the on-scene Commander can
receive direct reconnaissance, surveillance, and target
acquisition information over defended hostile areas
without waiting for "national assets.
of UAVs also has several prerequisites before they will
be accepted and fielded. The endurance unmanned aerial
vehicles must be affordable, use commercial-off-the-shelf
devices, have a quick reaction capability, and be capable
of carrying payloads large enough to support a synthetic
aperture radar and other imaging devices.
Altitude Endurance Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Tier II Predator
The Medium Altitude
Endurance (MAE) UAV Tier II program, also known as the
Predator, is designed to remain over distant
battlefields, monitor enemy actions, target threats,
and conduct bomb damage assessment.
incorporates technological improvements pioneered by
previous unmanned aerial vehicles. It is powered by
a 85 horsepower, 4-stroke, fuel injected reciprocating
Rotax engine with a variable pitch propeller. Unlike
most unmanned aerial vehicles, the Predator is
not restricted to direct line-of-sight data transmission.
The flight control system consists of a UHF uplink receiver
connected to a Global Positioning System (GPS) and Inertial
Navigation System (INS). This system is relayed through
a Ku-band, 1.5 Mbps Satellite Communications systems
(SATCOM). It uses a line-of-sight datalink for take-off
and landing. The aircraft operating range is greater
than 500 nautical miles (over 930 kilometers) because
the SATCOM allows the aircraft to fly either through
direct control or autonomously.
wing span is over 48 feet and the fuselage is over 26
feet in length. Its maximum take-off weight is 1,873
pounds. This includes 650 pounds of fuel and a 450 pound
payload. It has a maximum altitude of 25,000 feet, can
stay airborne over 24 hours, and flies at speeds of
70-130 nautical miles per hour. It can be transported
in one C-141 cargo aircraft or multiple C-130 aircraft,
and can be made operational within six hours of arrival,
assuming it has a runway for take-off.
include the Versatron Corporation "Skyball"
multi-payload electro-optical sensor. This surveillance
system has a platinum silicide staring array infrared
imager with six field of view optics. This provides
"TV-like" images in visibility conditions
ranging from full daylight to total darkness. It also
has a high resolution color CCD daylight television
camera with a ten power zoom capability, a "spotter
scope," and an eye-safe laser range finder. Other
sensors include additional optics capabilities and a
synthetic aperture radar (SAR) capable of one foot resolution
at 15,000 feet. The sensors used on the Predator produce
releasable, unclassified products and does not compromise
sensitive technology if lost over enemy territory.
call for 10 aircraft and three ground stations. All
ten aircraft will be delivered with an electro-optical/infrared
payload and a Magnavox UHF Satellite Datalink. Modifications
will be made, after delivery, to install Westinghouse
Synthetic Aperture Radar and Unisys Ku Band Satellite
Data Links. At $3-$5 million per aircraft, the Department
of Defense hopes to field a system of unmanned aerial
vehicles that can provide "eyes on target"
for the JTF Commander 24 hours a day, regardless of
Altitude Endurance (HAE) UAV Tier II Plus
The program goal
of the High Altitude Endurance UAV is to develop and
demonstrate a long dwell UAV system capable of affordable,
continuous, all weather, wide area surveillance in support
of military operations. Two complementary UAV systems
are being developed under this program; a Low Observable
HAE (Tier III Minus) and a conventional design HAE (Tier
II Plus). The object is to get a "satellite like"
surveillance and reconnaissance capability in the hands
of the theater Commander so direct operational control
and tasking can be made by the warfighters.
The Tier II Plus
air vehicle should be capable of sustained high altitude
surveillance and reconnaissance. It will operate at
ranges of up to 3,000 nautical miles from its launch
area. Once launched, it should have the capability to
loiter over the target area for 24 hours at an altitude
greater than 60,000 feet.
The Tier II Plus
system is composed of three segments: air, ground, and
support. The air vehicle segment consists of air vehicles,
sensor payloads, avionics, and line-of-sight and satellite
communications datalinks. The ground segment consists
of a launch and recovery element, a mission control
element, and a ground communications element. There
is also a support segment, and the operating personnel.
All of these segments are the same for both the Tier
II Plus and Tier III Minus systems.
The Tier II Plus
will carry electro-optical, infrared, and synthetic
aperture radar sensors which will include a Ground Moving
Target Indicator (GMTI). This UAV is linked to the ground
control station and theater commander by line-of-sight
or satellite relay communications. The air vehicle will
be capable of fully autonomous take-off, flight, and
recovery. There is no need for a person to remotely
fly the aircraft; however, it is capable of in flight
route and mission tasking changes, allowing it to be
dynamically retasked at any time by the mission control
element. If the uplink control communications is lost
at any time, the aircraft is programmed to automatically
return to the base from which it was launched.
This program is
subject to numerous changes. One of the key factors
of the program is its cost. The Defense Airborne Reconnaissance
Office Investment Strategy mandates that the program
must obtain the maximum capability possible for a set,
non-waiverable Unit Flyaway Price of $10 million per
aircraft. This price includes the airframe, avionics,
payload, and airborne data link elements. The ground
segment components, personnel, training, maintenance
and logistics costs are not included in the $10 million
limitation. Therefore, this program will change as it
becomes constrained by fiscal limitations.
Observable High Altitude Endurance UAV Tier III Minus
The Tier III Minus
is a complementary high altitude endurance unmanned
aerial vehicle with low observable technology features.
The exact capabilities are still classified, but this
vehicle will be capable of sustained high altitude surveillance
and reconnaissance over and into high threat areas.
It will operate at ranges in excess of 500 nautical
miles from the launch area and be able to loiter over
the target area for more than 8 hours at an altitude
in excess of 45,000 feet. This UAV will carry either
electro-optical or synthetic aperture radar sensors.
This aircraft will employ both wideband line-of-sight
and moderate bandwidth satellite communications.
table summarizes the three "Tier" programs:
I On Contract
SAR or EO
Defense Airborne Reconnaissance Office briefing presented
to the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems, dated
24 January, 1995
There are several
types of UAVs that are still in prototype stages. Due
to the scope and size of this paper, these will only
be briefly mentioned. Since most are still experimental
and not operationally available, size, shape, and payloads
may change over time. The significance of these prototype
systems is not the product itself, but the emerging
UAV technologies that they demonstrate.
The Tilt Wing/Rotor
UAV System (TRUS) is being developed to offer a combination
of rotary and fixed wing technologies. It provides a
vertical take-off and landing capability, as well as
the ability to hover. It provides a mix of speeds that
are slower than fixed wing aircraft and has cruise and
dash speeds which exceed conventional rotary wing aircraft.
and recovery systems include numerous experimental combinations
of lift and propulsion. Included in this group are ducted
fan, jet lift, vertical altitude, stopped rotor, conventional
helicopter, as well as tilt rotor aircraft. The requirements
for this program include the ability for unassisted
vertical take-off and landings. They must also be capable
of maintaining controlled hover for a minimum of three
minutes in a zero knot wind condition. The program hopes
to achieve a 200 pound payload, 5 hours endurance, a
10,000 feet service ceiling, and speeds of at least
150 nautical miles per hour.
The Bell Eagle
Eye is a combination Tilt Wing/Rotor Vertical Take-Off
and Landing UAV. It is powered by an Allison 250-C20B
heavy fuel engine capable of speeds from 0 to 220 knots.
It has a service ceiling of 20,000 feet and can fly
for over 2 hours. This aircraft will be equipped with
a variety of multi-mission payloads including TV, FLIR,
Radar, Electronic Countermeasures, Data Relay, and a
Laser Designator. This UAV is scheduled to become operational
in the late 1990ís.
The United States
Navy wants a small maritimized vertical take-off and
landing UAV for use on board small naval combatant ships.
Known as MAVUS, this technology has bee used to demonstrate
automated launch and recovery techniques on board ships
at sea. Naval officials hope the MAVUS will eventually
provide covert high resolution coastal surveillance
in support of amphibious operations. The Navy wants
a system that will also provide visual identification
of ships without exposing or risking friendly surface
ships and helicopters. These aircraft will eventually
provide over-the-horizon surveillance and target classification,
allowing the naval commander to position forces and
target the enemy without risking manned assets.
Many aspects of
UAV development depends on surpassing limitations caused
by inadequate equipment and technologies. Some of the
primary areas needing further development include propulsion
systems, vehicle control and management, airframe development
and construction, data link vulnerabilities, communications,
mission sensor payloads, mobility and transportability,
and aircraft survivability systems.
The most critical
aspect of producing effective and dependable UAVs is
engineering flight control redundancies that allow the
aircraft to operate autonomously and return to its original
base if the data link control signal is severed or jammed.
Most aircraft are using a common datalink used for transferring
signals and imagery intelligence.
The Tier II Plus
and Tier III Minus vehicle command, control, and communi-cations
area implemented using either Intelsat satellites or
one or more of the space-based, cellular satellite systems
is expected to be operational by 1998. Program managers
hope diversity and the hesitancy to jam multinational,
commercial communications provides adequate anti-jam
Due to the current
state of technologies there is no way to avoid enemy
intercept of global communications. Although the enemy
canít be stopped from intercepting transmissions, exploitation
is denied using encryption. UAV to UAV relay is also
a possibility for extending line-of-sight operations,
but this increases risk and costs because you have to
depend on getting more than one UAV airborne and operating
at all times. If the developers of the various systems
decide to "harden" the data links, the much
more expensive, but jam resistant solution, is the Milstar
UAV overview was designed to give the reader the background
from which to fairly evaluate UAVs as one of several
options available to satisfy SOF capability deficiencies
highlighted in Chapter 2. A comparative analysis of
UAVs and alternatives is presented in the next chapter.
Chapter 4: Analysis and Conclusion
are no whole truths; all truths are half-truths. It
is trying to treat them as whole truths that plays the
of the matter is that in place of the "Cold War"
framework, there are now new dangers which fall into
four broad categories: (1) Dangers posed by nuclear
weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. This
area includes the dangers associated with the proliferation
of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. (2) Regional
dangers, posed by major regional powers seeking hegemony
that is counter to U.S. interests. (3) Dangers to democracy
and reform in the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe,
and elsewhere. (4) Economic dangers to the United States
by competitive world traders fighting for market share
in areas normally dominated by the U.S. economy.
In light of the
"Cold War" changes and emerging new dangers,
Special Operations Forces provide combatant commanders
unique capabilities to fight enemies of the United States
of America. On the very first mission of DESERT STORM,
Special Operations Forces employing sophisticated navigation
equipment, specialized flying techniques, and their
own "stealth" capability raided Iraqi early
warning and ground control intercept sites. This freed
the U.S. Air Force F-117s, originally slated to target
Iraqi early warning radars, to strike higher priority
targets in Baghdad.
The key to effective
Special Operations is getting the right people, to the
right place, performing the task, and returning safely
without being detected or harmed. In order to accomplish
these tasks, they need equipment that is sufficiently
versatile and reliable.
To ensure the
right equipment for the job is acquired, USSOCOM has
and examined non-material solutions. For those cases
where changes in doctrine, tactics, or training fail
to resolve the deficiency, then the research and development
community is called upon for assistance.
The United States
Special Operations Command and the Special Operations
Component Commanders have enumerated their capability
deficiencies and the 11 technology development objectives--listed
in priority order in the previous chapter-- which show
several areas where they have deficiencies in warfighting
capability. They have numerous requirements for improved
equipment and mission enhancement. Some of these areas
include Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence
(C3I), navigation subsystems, aircrew-vehicle interface
subsystems, defensive subsystems, sensors/fire control
subsystems, armament subsystems, air vehicle subsystems,
power generation subsystems, logistics support systems,
intelligence support systems, mission planning/rehearsal
support systems, training support systems, and personnel/life
support systems. Of the eleven listed Technology Development
Objectives, unmanned aerial vehicle technologies may
have a positive affect on eight of the areas.
Due to the scope
of this research, the focus of this comparative analysis
only includes three capability deficiencies and the
corresponding Technology Development Objectives (TDOs)
that may warrant a UAV material solution. Problems like
upgrading the weapons on AC-130 "Gunship"
aircraft, improved avionics for MH-53J "Pave Low"
helicopters, and improved weapons for Direct Action
Teams have no applicability to unmanned aircraft. Because
of this, only SOF deficiencies and TDOs which might
have a UAV solution are examined in this chapter.
The most prevalent
capability deficiency in the Special Operations community
is a lack of timely intelligence. Effective intelligence
must assist commanders in identifying Special Operations
objectives that support the overall theater objectives.
All aspects of military operations are dependent on
the determination of relevant, clear, and attainable
objectives. Intelligence should provide the commander
with an understanding of the enemy in terms of their
goals, objectives, strengths, weaknesses, values, and
A great deal of
information is available to commanders through Service
and national intelligence organizations. Special Operations
usually need "target specific" intelligence
that requires more research, analysis, graphics, photos,
and textual elaboration.
Added to the complexity
and demand for information is that Special Operations
tasking often occurs very fast. Urgent, short-notice
missions are not unusual. Therefore the intelligence
system "feeding" the Commander and planners
must be flexible enough to satisfy both time sensitive
and deliberate mission planning processes. Additionally,
intelligence requirements and Operational Security
(OPSEC) should be considered carefully to ensure
that adequate information can be gathered without compromising
the mission or the location of the participants.
Given these criteria
for detailed, target specific, fast, and secure intelligence,
USSOCOM has listed intelligence as a deficiency because
they can not receive "real/near real time imagery
from national systems," and "no real time
interface between aircraft and teams to Intel (sic)
systems." They have also determined that there
is "no automatic enroute threat replan" capability,
and "no all source threat location data."
There is also "no real time imagery for target
study." Every aspect of Special Operations is affected,
good or bad, based on how fast and accurately it receives
Three of the eleven
USSOCOM "Technology Development Objectives,"
ask for technologies that would assist the intelligence
community. Finding technologies for detecting and classifying
weapons of mass destruction, detecting passive shallow
water and terrestrial mines, explosives, and booby-traps
are high on the priority list. The Special Operations
people also want to find technologies that locate, track,
and mark targets, as well as advanced vision devices
According to various
USSOCOM documents, their solution to the problem is,
"field deployable imagery systems for Joint Force
Commanders and his (sic) components." The "Joint
Air-SOF Battlefield Interface," and "Force
Application" Deficiency/Solution Matrices recommend
Special Operations Forces field the Multi-mission Advanced
Tactical Terminal (MATT) and the QUIET KNIGHT technologies.
Both programs are specifically designed to provide enhanced
situational awareness to Special Operators by exploiting
enemy communications and by manipulating tactical and
national intelligence data. Through these programs mission
planners gain access to real time imagery, an aircraft
interface capability, and an enroute threat replan capability.
The "Force Application" Matrix also recommends
fielding a capability to get all-source data, and real-time
imagery hardware and software. What does all this mean?
one on the ground or in the air is getting real/near
real time visual information. As a hypothetical example,
a Special Reconnaissance Team is observing a nuclear
weapons production facility in a country hostile to
the United States. The team is concealed and has been
observing the facility 24 hours a day for the last three
days. Their only contact with their military leaders
is through a secure, UHF Satellite Communi-cations radio.
They have no way of passing visual information. They
can speak into the radio and describe what they see.
Each time they "key" the microphone on the
radio to transmit a message, they endanger themselves
by electronically giving away their position or by being
overheard by someone nearby. These people provide the
"eyes and ears" to the commander, but are
limited in how they can communicate what they observe.
On the positive
side, they can remain in place as long as necessary
and provide 24 hour observation regardless of weather
conditions. Their stay is only limited by food, water,
and being discovered. On the negative side, they have
limited means for communicating what they see and hear
to their command authorities. Without some means of
re-supply, they are unable to observe the area beyond
72 hours. After that length of time, they are low on
food, water, and batteries for their equipment. The
longer they stay, the greater the risk of being discovered.
where real-time information is crucial is during Direct
Action operations. If hostages are being rescued or
a sensitive target is being "taken down,"
the Commander and men about to attack want the most
current on-scene information available. If the enemy
situation changes and the attacking forces are unaware
of new developments, careful planning and rehearsal
can quickly be overcome by events that were not planned
for. The previously mentioned Son Tay raid is only one
example of "perishable" intelligence. A simple
thing like changing guards at a different time, or the
arrival of fresh troops or hostages, can all add "fog
and friction" to an environment full of uncertainty.
Could an unmanned
aerial vehicle be useful in providing necessary intelligence
for a situation like this? Currently, no. Sensitive
surveillance, as described in the previous example,
needs to be unobserved and unheard. The Tactical UAVs
discussed in Chapter 3 have numerous limitations that
preclude them from current consideration. Range, payload
size, and endurance lead the list of limitations. The
hypothetical Special Reconnaissance team is deep in
hostile territory. The closest "friendly"
nation that would allow the United States to operate
from its territory is in all probability, hundreds of
miles away. Naval based assets are also limited by distance.
Therefore, none of the Tactical UAVs are useful for
this type of mission.
If, on the other
hand, certain innovations could be achieved, then UAVs
might support, reduce, or even eliminate the need for
the Special Reconnaissance team. If the Exdrone
or the Pointer could be more logistically supportable--small
enough that the team could parachute into hostile territory
and carry everything they need to launch and recover
a few UAVs--then its use might be practical. The team
could conceal itself farther from the facility they
are observing and have less chance of being discovered.
They could then launch a UAV which loiters over the
facility at an altitude high enough to remain unseen
and unheard. Ideally, such a UAV would also be capable
of sending real time video imagery to the Special Reconnaissance
team and to a satellite for relay to higher echelons.
Currently, this suggested scenario is science fiction.
None of the UAVs are small enough, flexible enough,
or capable enough to assist the manned teams on the
A potential solution
available within the next five years is the Tier II
Plus Medium Altitude Endurance (MAE) UAV. This UAV has
characteristics that might replace the need for risking
a team on the ground. When the Tier II Plus is fully
operational it can orbit at 20-25,000 feet for 24 hours
at a time, and send, via satellite communications, high
resolution real/near real time electro-optical, infrared,
and synthetic aperture radar imagery to a ground control
station near the Joint Force Commanderís headquarters.
If the scientists
and engineers developing this system can make it dependable
enough, then UAVs may in some circumstances replace
teams on the ground. There would need to be a sufficient
number of air vehicles available to provide continuous
coverage for as long as necessary, and the sensors would
have to operate in all levels of environmental and meteorological
conditions. Using these assets to augment a team in
the field is more likely than replacing the team. The
value of the information will determine the level of
effort put forth by both manned and unmanned assets.
There are numerous
Special Operations scenarios where 24 hour visual surveillance
of a target or potential target is extremely useful.
Dependable real time imagery of suspected terrorists
compounds, weapons of mass destruction facilities, and
drug traffickersí movements and activities are just
a few examples where real time intelligence would help
Special Operations planners and warfighters accomplish
their missions. But for the systems to be useful to
Special Operators they must be very portable, easy to
conceal, and require very little logistical support.
The system has to be small enough for a team to carry
without overburdening them with weight. If the UAVs
canít be made small enough, then aircraft that are large
enough and can operate at high altitudes over long distances
are the best direction to follow when looking for an
unmanned aircraft that can support Special Operations
Operations Forces deficiency is Command, Control, and
Communications (C3). USSOCOM and its components have
a mix of communications subsystems which are not always
compatible nor interoperable. Communication systems
for Special Operations must be Jointly interoperable,
reliable, secure, redundant, lightweight, flexible,
highly mobile and should provide low probability of
intercept/ detection (LPI/D). They must be capable of
furnishing weather and intelligence information (data,
imagery, and/or narrative) to all levels of the Command.
These systems must be time-sensitive for Direct Action,
Counterterrorism, and Special Reconnaissance missions
where direct contact with the highest tasking authority
Forces often use space-based systems for both tactical
and long range communications. Because these forces
operate at all levels and spectrums of conflict, they
must be able to communicate with a very diverse group
of communication systems. The SOF communications criteria
boil down to secure, reliable, inter-Service and
intra-Service communications connectivity capabilities,
down to the team, squad, and aircrew levels.
the communications deficiency, USSOCOM has listed several
deficiencies in both the "Joint Air-SOF Battlefield
Interface," and the "Force Application,"
and "PSYOP" Deficiency/Solution matrices.
The deficiencies include: "Limited accessibility,
coverage, bandwidth, size, and weight." A "lack
of standardized equipment and procedures." As well
as "potential for enemy to monitor or destroy our
information systems." There is also a concern for
"inconsistent theater Command and Control for Special
Operations Forces." Some of the other deficiencies
include "limited SATCOM capability," and that
the "SATCOM is jammable and spoofable." They
are also disturbed by the fact that "no aircraft
are low probability of intercept or low probability
of detection capable." The "USSOCOM Technology
Development Objectives," has "improved communications
systems," listed as their fifth priority out of
eleven technology areas needing improvement.
To solve this
deficiency, the Special Operations community is trying
to acquire more satellites, better radios, procure common
systems, develop counter-countermeasures, and field
low probability of intercept/low probability of detection
radios. This will be extremely costly and take several
years to implement, and given that these systems only
address some, and not all of the SOF communications
criteria. This modernization program will soak up a
lot of resources that might be used for other pressing
One solution Special
Operations has not considered extensively is funding
unmanned aerial vehicles as communications platforms
and relays. As described by Doctors Will and Pelton
in their article on high altitude long endurance UAVs,
a UAV at 13 miles in altitude can be used as a "poor
manís satellite." Geostationary satellites require
funding of up to $250 million, a "13-mile"
UAV could cost as little as $10 million for an entire
systemís operation and spare platforms. At a regional
level, these UAVs could offer the same capabilities
as satellites at a greatly reduced cost.
Long Endurance (HALE) unmanned aerial vehicles are being
developed to meet this need. Because of the spread of
cellular telephones many developing nations are looking
at satellites and UAVs for communications instead of
laying miles and miles of telephone wire. A UAV at 13
miles altitude can receive radio communications from
earth and redirect them within a 300-mile diameter.
This actually services an area with a diameter of 181,000
square kilometers. Thus, it acts like a low-cost, low
orbit geosynchronous satellite.
Operations community have considered such a relay platform.
The EC-130 VOLANT SOLO and COMMANDO SOLO aircraft perform
the task of airborne broadcast services. These aircraft
receive, analyze, and transmit various electronic signals
in order to exploit the electromagnetic spectrum for
Psychological Operations. They can broadcast in AM and
FM radio, short-wave, television, and military command,
control, and communications frequencies and channels.
But, both of these
airborne platforms are limited by range and power. This,
coupled with the saturation of satellite communications
systems may open a window of opportunity for UAVs. According
to Headquarters Air Force Special Operations Command,
"A space-based system or remotely piloted vehicle
(UAV) which could relay or reflect transmissions from
ground sources would also be much cheaper and would
involve less risk than an aircraft capability. A space-based
(or UAV) system could also be employed easier and perhaps
faster than the requisite number of aircraft. A direct
transmission capability would save the time and effort
of getting recorded material to the aircraft, would
permit PSYOP Commanders in theater to be much more current
in their propaganda, and could provide more responsive
In addition, the
Air Force Special Tactics Teams need an enhanced capability
to conduct local weather observations and the ability
to access the global weather network via satellite (or
other communications) and computer modem. They need
to do this from a deployed location to update the theater
weather forecast. A communications UAV tied into the
worldwide weather service network could provide information
feeds to numerous squads and missions, simultaneously,
without increasing cost or complexity to the overall
Is there a High
Altitude Long Endurance UAV currently available that
meets the requirements? No. Again, this concept is still
on the drawing board, awaiting technologies and funding
to catch up with what is needed in the field. There
are plans for this type of UAV, but no one knows when
it will become operable and fully mission capable.
need is a means to carry a payload large enough to drop
printed products (leaflets) or resupply Special Operations
teams on the ground or at sea. USSOCOM has a validated
"Mission Need Statement for Psychological Operations
Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Payloads (UAV-P)," which
asks for the capability to deliver a minimum of 200
pounds of leaflets with a point accuracy of 200 meters.
This is considered a critical need because there are
no other assets in the U.S. inventory that can deliver
leaflets over a high risk area without endangering aircrews.
The Navy SEALs,
Army Special Forces, and Air Force Special Tactics Teams
also have a requirement for being resupplied. Expendable
supplies like batteries, food, water, medical materials
and ammunition need to be replenished when forces are
in the field. Rapid employments to forward areas are
conducted using battery powered equipment for communications,
navigation, and other tasks. These highly trained teams
normally deploy with a 72 hour supply of equipment.
If the teams have to stay deployed for extended periods
of time they need to be resupplied.
only means available for resupplying these teams in
the field is by helicopter, or airdrop. Both of these
delivery systems expose the aircrews and teams
on the ground. An unmanned aerial system capable of
arriving undetected during hours of darkness would greatly
enhance the survivability of the forces on the ground
and extend the length of their operations.
There exists a
need for re-supplying or delivering supplies/leaflets
accurately without unduly endangering aircrews or the
teams on the ground. Is there a UAV that can deploy
200 or more pounds of payload? No. None of the previously
mentioned UAVs are capable of supporting this requirement.
The Tier II Plus is currently the best candidate for
meeting the re-supply/leaflet drop capability deficiency.
Again, this system is in development with no definite
date for actual deployment.
These are but
a few of the many Special Operations deficiencies that
unmanned aerial vehicles might someday resolve. However,
until the time comes when these systems are fielded
and proven reliable, the Special Operators will have
to continue using skill and ingenuity to reduce the
risk they face accomplishing their mission.
Forces need the capabilities that unmanned aerial vehicles
offer. The payloads that can be uploaded and sent aloft
can dramatically improve Special Operationís ability
to perform many missions and tasks. Long loiter times
and high resolution sensors providing surveillance and
reconnaissance can greatly reduce the number of missions
where people on the ground are exposed to danger. High
Altitude Long Endurance UAVs can improve command, control
and communications deficiencies by acting as "13
mile" high relay platforms that replace more expensive
satellites. UAVs with cargo carrying capacity can deliver
food, water, or leaflets to areas of the world which
were previously inaccessible or too dangerous to fly
stated, there is a significant intelligence deficiency
that can be solved by real time video furnished around-the-clock
by unmanned aerial vehicles. Special Operations Forces
need target specific intelligence that requires more
research, analysis, graphics, photos, and textual elaboration.
It must be fast, and the information source cannot disclose
the ground teamís location. The UAV "concept"
can provide these capabilities to the warfighter.
UAVs can solve is the current inadequate communications
capability hindering Special Operations. As previously
presented, SOF needs a secure, reliable, inter-Service
and intra-Service communications connectivity capability
that reaches down to squad and aircrew levels. High
altitude relay unmanned aerial vehicles provide a cost
effective means for extending the range and capability
of current and future communication systems. The ability
to rapidly change components of the UAV payload to adjust
to the dynamic communications environment allows Special
Operators to install and update low probability of intercept
and low probability of detection technologies at much
lower costs than switching out the "black boxes"
on a satellite. UAVs can greatly extend the communications
capability of Special Operations teams working the land
and sea environments by providing secure, low-cost systems
that directly support the warfighter.
The final capability
deficiency, the "resupply" dilemma may, in
some ways, be solved or assisted by unmanned aerial
vehicle technologies. The Psychological Operations community
has already determined the need for an unmanned system
to deliver information over areas too dangerous to fly
a manned platform. They have seen the wisdom of using
technology to "go where no man wants to go."
Dropping information leaflets over hostile territory
without endangering U.S. personnel seems like an extremely
reasonable approach. If 200 pounds of leaflets can be
accurately dropped, then 200 pounds of food, water,
and expendable supplies can also be precisely dropped
to Special Operations teams in the field. Resupplying
teams in hostile or isolated regions of the globe without
endangering aircrews is a worthwhile pursuit. Therefore,
continued efforts toward developing reliable UAVs are
important to the Special Operations Community.
The concept of
unmanned aerial vehicles seem to answer many of the
Special Operations capability deficiencies. However,
none of the current configurations come close to meeting
SOFís unique needs. They have the potential for performing
a multitude of surveillance and reconnaissance missions,
for acting as communications relay platforms, and for
delivering payloads large enough to resupply forces
or drop leaflets. However, currently there are no UAVs
in production that can reliably correct any of the SOF
deficiencies to the degree of reliability needed. Each
system, although striving to improve, fails to deliver
sufficient endurance, reliability, maintainability,
and sensor connectivity to help Special Operators see,
hear, and resupply their battlefield better.
of Defense and civilian contractors are trying to field
systems that work for the warfighters. But until the
technology and integration of systems is mature and
dependable, the concept of UAVs complementing SOF capability
will be "Later" instead of "Sooner."
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