Home' Defence Technology Review : DTR OCT 2015 Contents INNOVATIONS
DEFENCE TECHNOLOGY REVIEW | ISSUE 14 | OCT 2015
The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
(DARPA) recently demonstrated its Persistent Close Air
Support (PCAS) prototype system on an A-10 Thunderbolt
II ground attack aircraft by co-ordinating airstrikes using an
Android tablet device.
The demonstration marked the debut of PCAS on a US Air
Force platform and involved 50 successful sorties near Nellis
Air Force Base in Nevada. They proved that a warfighter
acting as a joint terminal attack controller (JTAC) on the
ground and in seamless co-ordination with a pilot, could
“successfully command an airstrike with as few as three
clicks on a tablet”.
The PCAS program envisions more precise, prompt and
easy air-ground co-ordination for CAS and other missions
under stressful operational conditions and in complex
environments. It aims to achieve this through the development
of a system that enables the sharing of real-time situational
awareness and weapons-systems data, using technologies
compatible with almost any aircraft. Among the system’s
envisioned benefits is a capacity to use smaller munitions to
hit smaller, multiple or moving targets while minimising the
incidence of friendly fire and collateral damage.
Of the A-10 tests, which were conducted in April through
June this year, 10 of the sorties were live-fire engagements
using a mix of laser and GPS-guided munitions. All were
completed successfully within the 6 minute objective time,
meeting one of the program goals of reducing the time from
calling in a strike to the weapon hitting the target by a factor
of 10 (from up to 60 minutes down to just 6 minutes),
According to DARPA, co-ordination was enabled by
PCAS-Ground software called the Android Tactical Assault
Kit (ATAK). Developed by PCAS program partner Air Force
A-10 airstrikes called in
on Android tablet
Research Laboratory in conjunction with the US Special
Operations Command, ATAK is a situational awareness and
targeting tool that has transitioned to thousands of personnel
across the joint services. Raytheon is the systems integrator
for PCAS and leads an industry team comprised of Rockwell
Collins, General Electric, BAE Systems and 5-D Systems.
The PCAS-Ground/ATAK software ran on customised
tablet computers and worked in conjunction with PCAS-Air,
an onboard, automated targeting system. PCAS tactical data
links facilitated data sharing between the pilot and JTAC to
determine the timed release of precision-guided munitions.
The A-10 tests were preceded by similar successful tests
conducted in March this year with the US Marine Corps
using an MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor. DARPA is also working with
the US Army on other PCAS transition activities relevant to
ground forces and manned and unmanned aircraft.
Of the 50 PCAS tests with the A-10 Warthog
conducted in April and June, 10 were live fire
engagements. Image: US Air Force
The USMC version of the PCAS-Ground system in tablet
form (shown) is called Kinetic Integrated Low-cost SoftWare
Integrated Tactical Combat Handheld (KILSWITCH). KILSWITCH
made its debut when DARPA provided more than 750 systems
for testing in Afghanistan in early 2013. Since the initial DARPA
fielding, Marines have implemented Android tablets in their
thousands, and field reports document dramatically improved
navigation, situational awareness, fires co-ordination and
communications. Image: DARPA
MQ-8C Fire Scout has got legs
The US Navy (USN) and Northrop Grumman have
successfully demonstrated the range and endurance
capabilities of the MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned aerial
vehicle (UAV) as part of USN testing to validate concepts of
operation and previously tested performance parameters.
The MQ-8C’s 11-hour flight on 25 August extended out
to 150nm from Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu,
California, and included more than an hour of fuel reserve.
“Today’s MQ-8C Fire Scout performance matches our
model exactly. With adjustments, our production aircraft will
have 12 hours of total endurance on a standard day,” said
Northrop Grumman’s George Vardoulakis, vice president of
medium range tactical systems.
The MQ-8C’s long endurance – for a rotary-wing UAV
– enables increased time on station and fewer launch and
The flight also set a new record for the MQ-8C, which
has been designed to provide persistent reconnaissance,
situational awareness and precision targeting support for
ground, air and naval forces.
The MQ-8C is the USN’s next-generation rotary-wing UAV/
unmanned helicopter and has the ability to autonomously
take-off and land on any aviation-capable ship and from
prepared and unprepared landing zones. Compared to the
original MQ-8B Fire Scout UAV, the C model has more than
double the range and payload.
The MQ-8C Fire Scout’s airframe is based on the
commercial Bell 407, a mature helicopter with more than
1,400 airframes produced and in excess of 4 million flight
hours that is combined with Northrop Grumman’s unmanned
The MQ-8C made its first sea-based flight on 16 December
MQ-8C FIRE SCOUT
Blades Folded Hangar
Rolls-Royce 250-C47E with Dual Channel Full
Authority Digital Engine Control
Maximum Sling Load
1,200kg (Bell 407 feature)
radar (future), COBRA Mine Detector (future)
2014 from the deck of the guided missile destroyer USS
Jason Dunham off the coast of Virginia. The MQ-8C has now
accumulated over 513 flight hours and flown 353 sorties.
The MQ-8C completed its developmental flight test
program during early 2015, with operational assessment
scheduled to commence later this year.
– Staff Reporters
The MQ-8C Fire Scout during its record-breaking
endurance flight. Images: Northrop Grumman
RIGHT: The MQ-8C Fire Scout sits on the deck of the
destroyer, USS Jason Dunham, after making its first flight
at sea on 16 December 2014.
Links Archive DTR SEP 2015 DTR NOV 2015 Navigation Previous Page Next Page